Project: Rewiring a Mid Century Tension Pole Lamp

If you're here from Instagram, welcome to the original format my insane projects were presented in. If you're just a return reader, welcome back as well, and thanks for sticking with me as I sporadically update this page; social media has made things so much easier and faster than dedicating time to write a blog post, I tell you what.

I finished this project quite a while ago, and the house is still standing, nothing has burned down or fizzled out, and I can confidently say that this lamp was a success. Although this process is a bit more involved than your traditional single-bulb lamp, I think that it still covers all your bases, no matter what kind of lamp you're rewiring-- your typical lamp will just be much easier! 

I spotted this lamp in a grouping of very bad auction photos and was the only bidder on the lot. Two days and $6 later, I was the proud owner of the whole bunch of junk & one amazing mid century tension pole lamp! When I brought it home & tested it, only one socket worked, and the wiring was clearly way off from today's safety standards... so it had to be replaced ASAP.

Note: I used this YouTube video as a guide since it was the only one I could find for a similar lamp to mine-- hopefully between her video, this blog post, and my Instagram highlight video, you'll have an easier time rewiring your vintage lamp!

Supplies: ~$50

Step 1: Prep
Clean up your old lamp. In my case, it had been taped together probably 50 years ago with masking tape that was now dried up & brittle, but left a residue on the lamp body. Cue the Goo Gone, razor blade, and putty knife. While this part was fairly tedious for me, it may be just a simple wipe down for you! 

Moving forward through these steps, be sure to take plenty of photos so you can put things back together easily. My lamp had a lot of small parts so I needed to make sure that everything went back exactly as it had been.

Step 2: Disassemble and remove old wiring
Disconnect/remove all the old wiring. I found it was easiest to disconnect the original wiring from the sockets, then remove each torch (the socket head/shade on a tension pole lamp), so that the wires were only left sticking out of the body of the lamp.  I also clipped off the plug so that I could pull the base cord out of the lamp easily.

Once all three torches/sockets had been removed, all I had to do was pull the wiring out of the tube-like body of my lamp. This is where you'll see the original wire cap connectors and how everything was put together...don't forget to take a photo of this before you throw it away! This is also when I disassembled the cosmetic parts of the arms for the torches, revealing that the base was soldered onto the arms, and that this was going to be a bit more time consuming than I'd thought. 

Step 3: Replace wiring
Cut your new lamp wire (not the base cord with the plug, leave that alone for now). Home Depot sells this by the foot for ultra cheap. I believe mine was $0.34/foot, and since it was so close to the end of the roll, the gentleman writing out my tag threw in the last 2' or so for free. I planned on needing about 8' of new wiring, and that's about what I ended up using, but I was thankful I had a little wiggle room, so maybe add a couple of feet on top of your estimate, just in case; the extra $1 or less won't kill ya.

To cut my wire to size, I held it about 5-6" out from the "arm" section of my lamp (ample room to connect to the socket), and guided it down the length of the lamp base until it had about another 2-3" that would hang out of the brass section of my lamp (where it would later be connected to the base cord & other torch cords). 

Then I slowly pushed the wire through the soldered arms, down through the brass base, leaving that 5" or so out of the arms. This was the most time consuming part of this entire project for me, since the arms had been soldered on and were incredibly tiny, making pushing the wire through a pretty tight, thumb strength training, task. But after a couple hours of this & Netflix, all three torch wires were through. Your wooden dowel will come in handy here, as the cord will want to bunch up right inside the tube after being pushed through the arms; luckily, since tension pole lamps are several metal tubes put together, you can push the wires down (using your dowel) from the top of your wired section until they poke out of the bottom. 

Step 4: Reassembling and attaching new sockets to the torch wires
Reassemble any cosmetic parts of your arms, and reattach the torch shades with your extra wire coming through accordingly. Split your lamp wire along the center (it should pull apart easily) by about 2-3," and strip about 1" of the casing off of the ends using your wire strippers on both ends. 

Using the charts below, determine which side of your wire is "hot" and which is "neutral." In my case, the lamp wire from Home Depot was "hot" on the side with white text, and neutral on the plain side.

"Polarized" in these cases means "neutral"

From the wire coming out of the arm of the lamp base and into the torch shade, connect your "neutral" wire to the white/silver screw on your new socket, and the "hot" wire to the copper/gold/brass screw. To do this, you will need to create a "hook" of wire to wrap around the pitch of the screw, and then tighten the screw down around it. Repeat for all three torches.

For my lamp, I also had to put the top of the socket (the switch) through the torch, tighten it back down with the original nut, and replace the switch cover (top of cone).

Step 5: Attaching the base cord & plug to the torch wires
Thread your base cord through the bottom-most part of your tension pole lamp, where the original cord had been. The stripped wires should be going up through any lower piece that connects to your torched piece, and the plug should be stuck outside of the bottom piece. In my case, I had two lower black pieces before my brass torched piece.

Your base cord should come pre-stripped, but may not be pre-split. Using those charts from earlier, determine which side of your base cord is "hot," and which is "neutral." Gather all 4 "hot" wires (three torch cords, one base cord), and a medium sized wire connector cap (yellow, in this pack). 

Apologies, as this portion I only video taped, so no photos are available. Please refer to the Instagram highlight video for this step.

With all of the "hot" wires facing the same direction (like a bouquet of flowers: stripped wires up, cased cords down), place the connector cap over all of the stripped wire, and twist until tight, using a little bit of downward pressure to make sure it's staying all together inside the cap. Once tightened, wrap the bottom half of the cap and the next 1" or so of the cased cord in electrical tape to secure everything in place. 

Repeat with your neutral wires.

Step 6: Test out your handiwork
Plug in your lamp, and test out the sockets with a new bulb. If they all work as intended, find the perfect spot for your tension pole lamp, and enjoy!

I think that the most important thing to take away from this project is that you can do it. I know even simple electrical jobs intimidate a lot of people, but they don't have to be scary! Some projects (like this) have a lot of steps, but aren't really all that hard when you break it down. It's basically just a puzzle you're taking apart and putting back together. Take it slow, double check yourself, and you'll be all good to go!

Questions? Let me know below or over on IG messenger, and I'll be more than happy to help! Hopefully soon, IG will have an option to save a full highlight as a single video, because as soon as they do, I'll update this post with the full video at the bottom for easy reference.

Happy DIY'ing 😉


  1. I have a light pole and the spring tension does not function properly. How to I get the top part separated. I don't know if it's screwed in or pressed in. I would post a pic if I knew ho. thank you


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