While on vacation a couple of weeks ago, we were able to pick up a few lamps along the way. We typically look for the ones that appear on their last leg and are sitting off in the corner. Sometimes they end up as parts, other times they can be brought back to life. In this case, I found this Rodale #87 behind a display case. In the 30’s and 40’s, the American Industrial Age was in full swing. Several manufacturers made these highly durable desk (goose neck) lamps for businesses and manufacturing settings. The first picture is before we started. Follow the story to see the process.
Lamp Assessment: The lamp was intact and other than the cord, appeared functional. Electrically, it didn’t matter as it would be completely rewired. The decorative base was a bit tarnished, and clam shell cover had a couple of “character dings” in it.
Disassembly: I took the lamp apart and found it structurally sound. The goose necks are usually the problem in these types of lamps. Sometimes they can loosen up because the inner flange is just flared to keep them in place. This one looked good. These lamps were built tough.
Per the designer, she wanted to leave as much of the patina as possible on this one. It had some white speckles, from some unknown source. So the plan is to just clean it as best as possible.
The Restoration Plan:
- Use light bodied solvent to clean the surfaces
- Lightly polish
- Replace the electrical socket, switch and cord
- Re-surface the base so it will sit flat and not wobble and add felt to the base.
- The cleaning and polishing proceeded as expected. I did take a little of the finish off, but not enough to change the appearance
- We replaced all the electrical parts including the socket, switch and cord. The wiring and cord were replaced with a period correct lamp cord and plug end.
- Using 80 grit sand paper combined with a flat surface, I was able to smooth the base. Then I added a piece of felt to the base so the metal surface would not scratch a desk top.
As you can see in the final picture, the appearance didn’t really change much in the picture as that was the plan. If you look close, you can see the built in paper clip holder and pencil rest. To add a 21st century touch, I also dropped a 2g zip drive on the base as well. I consider this a survivor project as it turned out to be a nice functional, safe working lamp that will give many more years of service. I like the way this one turned out, I may actually keep this in my office for a while. If it grows on me, it may stay.
If you have an old lamp on its last leg, let us help you bring it back to life or give it a new home. We can either keep them intact as we did this one or do a complete “like new” restoration.