As a change from reporting on finds from the various vintage fairs and antiques shops that we happen upon in our travels, I thought I’d dedicate this post to a project to restore one of those finds that has been lurking at the back of the cupboard under the stairs, patiently waiting for a bit of TLA. We found this nifty 1950s lamp a few years ago on a trip to Rye. As usual, I’d been tempted by a knock-down price reflecting a rather battered condition and unchecked electrics, and applied my usual over-optimistic assessment of my ability to bring it back to good condition – then added it to the heap of projects in the ‘to do’ list. However, as a souvenir of one of our first trips away together, this little item was rightly at the front of the queue and a few hours spare during a week off gave me the chance to get to work.20150528 Lamp 1

A closer inspection revealed that the paint on the figure was quite badly crazed, and had peeled off in places, but that the basic material (some kind of resin, I think) was sound and offered a good surface for restoration. From the holes drilled through her lobes, it was clear that the figure had lost a pair of ear-rings; more seriously, the light fitting had lost the ring to secure the lamp shade and appeared to be a different diameter to modern standard fittings. So, although we quickly picked up a suitable shade from our local Dunelm Mill, I was going to have to find a way of making the lamp stable. An afternoon spare in London gave us a chance to pop into Heal’s, where we’d seen some nice retro-styled light fittings and electric cord, but nothing was suitable for the metal pole that formed a vital part of the lamp’s design. Fortunately, we stumbled on Romany’s Hardware shop in Brewer Street, Soho. Founded in 1925, and in the heart of Soho, this little shop is a treasure trove of ‘proper’ hardware supplies, including a wide range of electrical fittings in traditional styles. The helpful assistant turned out a complete socket, nicely finished in brass, wired safely for an earth lead (unlike the original) and, most importantly and almost unbelievably, with exactly the right size bore and thread for the pole. To complete the purchase, I had a choice of original pattern 3-core braided flex to replace the tired and probably unsafe old plastic-covered 2-core, so set off clutching a bag of goodies and filled with enthusiasm for the task.

Work proper began with a good sanding down to remove all the crazed paint and smooth the surface, plus just a touch of filler where I found the odd deeper chip. Our local Wilkinsons came up trumps with a small pot of satin finish black wood paint, plus a packet of brass shower rings of just the right size for ear-rings and for the vast sum of 49p. Two coats of the paint flowed on easily, creating just the right lustre – I kept having to check the tin to make sure I hadn’t accidentally bought some vastly expensive craft paint. The paint for the sandy-coloured base came from the remains of a tin for the front-room woodwork (spot the man with a shed full of useful left-overs), and the shower curtain rings snipped open cleanly to fit securely in place.
So came the moment of truth – and for once all the electrics went back together without a hitch, even down to the rubber grommet at the bottom of the pole. With absolute faith in my own sparks skills, I stood well back and turned it on at the plug – and it worked!!

20150528 Lamp 2Shade in place, grass skirt reattached with the help of a suitably qualified grown-up, here she is – restored to her original glory. I’m not completely sure about the shade; it works, and the proportions are just right, but I’m keeping my eye open for something a bit more striking. Now I just need to get on with restoring the cocktail bar for her to sit on, but that might take just a little longer…

An update – at one of the Rockabilly Rave weekenders, we ran into Mark Welland and his RetraShade designs. They’re worth an article in their own right, but we just had to have one of his designs, based on authentic 50s originals both in look and construction, to give our lady that extra something…