Vintage British Industrial Desk Lamps. A timeless design and a classic of Industrial lighting.
In the early part of the 20th Century right through to the mid-century period, the UK had a wide-ranging and vibrant manufacturing base of large and small companies working in factories producing all types of products. Back then every major town had a manufacturing area where companies produced turned and machined metal parts and products. Standard issue lighting for these machinists was a bench mounted articulated angle adjustable lamp that allowed a spot of light to be focussed on a working area. These early and mid-century industrial desk lamps were really well made and were built in a period when cutting corners was not involved in manufacturing. The machinists lamps of this period were built to last with an all-metal construction made to take knocks, bangs and to be covered in grease and dirt.
For a number of years now these Vintage industrial desk lamps have been selling well online both as restoration projects and as already restored table & desk lamps. These excellent examples of Vintage factory lighting are becoming rarer with many good examples carrying high-end premium prices. Below are details of a project that I recently carried out to restore and bring back to life a dirty and forgotten vintage industrial desk lamp.
I recently received an email from a contact who wanted to move on a number of Vintage early 20th-century machinists Industrial desk lamps that had sat untouched and unloved for decades in dry storage.
The lamp dated from around the late 1930s period, it is beautifully made and has an entirely steel construction, it was manufactured with a really utilitarian feel. The lamp was found covered in light surface corrosion, grease and dirt. This lamp has three heavy steel arms, two that pivot and adjust and a lower arm that is fixed. The lampshade is the original green enamelled spot lamp type. This lamp was designed to be bolted to a heavy workbench so was found without an actual base. The old wiring and bulb holder dated back to the 1950s period and these were worn and not safe for use.
Here are some images of the desk lamp as found. Despite the corrosion, dirt and grease the lamp makes a really interesting and challenging restoration project.
Stripping and Cleaning.
The first place to start with a project like this is to strip it into its component pieces, the lamp was really well made and was held together with large nuts, bolts and machine screws. The wiring was removed and disposed of. On close inspection it was clear that the standard of construction on this vintage desk lamp was extremely high, this was made to last which is a great starting point for any restoration.
Here are the basic parts of the stripped-down lamp.
The first job was to free up the articulated pivoting points on the arms, these were soaked in a quality penetrating oil and left for 10 minutes, once these were freed up the parts were cleaned with oil, scrubbed and rubbed down with medium wire wool. Once the lamp was degreased and cleaned many little signs of the life of the lamp were revealed, there were brazing details, welded repairs and makers stampings across the lamp. At this stage, the old desk mounting bracket was put to one side as the lamp was to be restored as a stand-alone Industrial desk lamp.
Here are the cleaned parts of the lamp ready to be reused.
Rebuilding & Wiring.
The next task was to properly fit the enamel lampshade and run the new wiring. Once the wiring was run through the lamp arms it was time to fit a bulb holder, this lamp was fitted with a vintage style unswitched brass BC bulb holder. The wiring was also fitted with a modern inline on/off switch. Inline switches are always a good choice for adjustable lamps that are designed for desk use.
Note – If you are carrying out a rewiring project like this there are a few points to remember and to incorporate into your project.
• Make sure you use components that meet the safety standards in your country
• In the UK earthed (grounded) wiring must be used with metal components.
• Make sure the wiring route avoids sharp edges and use plastic grommets or sheathing for cable protection.
• Incorporate a cord grip or cable-stay to avoid loose and unsafe connections at the lamp holder in the event of the wiring is pulled sharply or the lamp dropped.
Now the lamp was back together and rewired it was time to sort out a mounting base, I wanted to make something that would suit the finish of the lamp. During its original use the lamp would have been bolted to a dirty, oily old workbench. I found a nice large lump of new teak type timber, the timber is new but had the right shape and weight to be used with the lamp. Using an angle grinder, a hammer and a blunt chisel the wood was distressed, aged and basically roughed up.
Once the timber was distressed it was cleaned and treated to a couple of coats of dark wax which helped bring out timber grains and its newly acquired distressing and aged marks. The lamp body was then bolted securely to the new wooden base and the lamp was complete.
The Finished Lamp.
Finally, the lamp was sealed and protected with wax. I use a top-quality wax for this purpose which is called “Renaissance Micro Crystalline Wax Polish” – This is the best wax finish for such a project as it cleans, protects and brings out texture and colour from any material, it is used and recommended by top museums. It is expensive but a little goes a long way and it is definitely worth the cost.
Here are some images of the cleaned, waxed and completely restored vintage industrial desk lamp, there are many similar lamps like this available, many that are very similar but this is really a one-off piece of antique industrial desk lighting.
I hope you like this restoration project, I am very pleased with the result and the way the revived & restored industrial desk lamp looks true to its original concept and designed use.
Materials – Wire wool. Penetrating and cleaning oils. Cleaning and Finishing Wax. Earthed Wiring. Earthed Brass bulb holder. Inline switch. Various wiring sundries. Timber block for the base.
Time Spent on the lamp – 4.5 Hours.
I often have a number of Vintage Industrial items for sale in my eBay shop here – Hertfordshire Lighting and Design
I would love to hear from anyone who has performed a similar restoration project; it’s always great to share ideas with other people.
If you have any questions or need advice on any item of Vintage lighting please contact me and I will do my best to help.
Michael Adkins. firstname.lastname@example.org