Lighting Week- The Old Plug & Switch/ Hardwire to Plug In

Then I received a comment From Kimberly over at The Sterling Cherub:

I have the opposite problem with some lights I have in storage. I've got a couple vintage multi-arm crystal chandeliers that are intended to be hard-wired, but I rent an apartment and there's no way I'm hard-wiring them in a rental. One of the chandeliers was hung swag-style (but hard-wired) from a cathedral-height ceiling in a split-level, and I am not exaggerating when I say the chain and cord are about 30-40 feet long. I want to convert the hard-wire to an online on/off switch and plug (and of course chop the wire and chain WAY down in length to about 6-8 feet). Will you be doing a tutorial that will show me how to do that? *crosses fingers and hopes*



Totally doable, and I don't know why I didn't think to do a tutorial on this.  
My brain must be permanently hardwired.  

So the request line is open!
On today's playlist:


Materials list:

Your Light Fixture

Screwdriver, Utility Blade, Wire Strippers

Several Feet of 18/2 Electrical Cord (18 gauge 2 wire used for lamps)
A Straight Blade Polarized Plug
An In-Line Cord Switch
(the last three items come in a few colors, so choose whatever one will work best for you)

Lets start with your hardwired fixture.  
 You will want to make sure your fixture is in good condition and the wires look sound.  

Identify the live and neutral wires.
Live wires can be black, they are copper and are smooth along the outer side edge.
Neutral wires can be white, have a ribbed outer edge and are often silver. 

In the case below both of my wires were copper and looked the same.  I felt along the outside edge to find the smooth "live" wire and the ribbed "neutral" wire.  I then marked the neutral with white tape.
You will need to purchase 18/2 (18 gauge 2 wire) lamp cord.  It comes in many different colors, and you can buy it by the foot.  Measure the length you will need and add a few feet (just in case).
I purchased clear lamp cord.  You can easily see the silver and copper wire, which makes identifying live and neutral a breeze. I marked the neutral with tape as well.

Make sure you strip the ends of both wires with your wire stripper.
Twist both 'live' wires together and both 'neutral' wires together.
 Twist a wire nut to tightly bind the wires together...
Here is a little guide to color and sizes of wire nuts:
We have 18 gauge wire so that is why I used yellow.
I like to wrap the nut with electrical tape for extra reinforcement...

Now your fixture has a long cord, but it needs a plug.


Time to add a plug.
This tutorial also works for shortening or replacing an existing lamp cord.
I had a crazy long cord on this plug in light that needed a trim:

First you will want to determine how long the finished cord will be.
Use your wire strippers to snip the end of the cord.
(If you are replacing the plug, cut the old plug off)
 Take your straight blade polarized plug...
(the installation of these may vary so be sure to read the instructions on the one you buy-
I used a Pass & Seymour brand I bought at my True Value that simply pulls apart, ) my case all I had to do was pinch the blades together and pull them out of the plastic housing...
 I then bent them away from each other to open them...
 I took the end of my wire that was cut clean...
and slid it into the base of the plastic housing.
Now the next part requires attention.
Note the size of the plug blades.
The wider blade will need to connect to the silver neutral side of the wire.
 The smaller blade to the copper live side.  
You will see little prongs at the base of the plugs.  Align these with the correct side of the wire.  
(My packaging said to simply slide the silver wire in on the side marked with a "W". Let me tell you, unless it was microscopic, there was no "W", so pay close attention.)

 Once you have the wires correctly aligned, squeeze the prongs back together tightly.  
Those little prongs at the base will pierce into the wire and make all the magic happen.
 Slide the plastic housing back up over the blades and press together...
 and you now have a working plug!
Go ahead and give it a test!  
Just make sure your bulb is good.  
I kept re-doing my plug thinking I was doing it all wrong, 
only to find I had a burnt bulb in my fixture. Durr.


Now that you have a working fixture you can add an inline switch so you don't have to keep plugging and unplugging it.  SO much more convenient.

You are going to want to hang your fixture up and decide where you would like to have your switch.  Make a little mark with a Sharpie.
Take a utility knife and slice down the center of your wire about an inch,
taking care not to cut the actual wire inside.
 Now cut the live copper wire (smooth side if you are using opaque wire) in half:
 Open up your new In-Line Switch with a screwdriver.  Be careful not to lose the tiny nut on the back.
Set the half with a dial to the side.  
Take the hollow half and run the silver neutral side along one side.
The instructions on the back of mine were lousy and I could barely tell what end was up.
Heres the deal.  
You DO NOT want your copper wire to touch. 
 I cut 1/4" off the end of mine to ensure that. 
I jammed the wire in snugly, making sure there was plenty of space between the copper edges.
 Just to make sure I ran them over the right sides I placed the dial half back on and made sure the little copper prongs were directly over the copper live side:
 Those little prongs are now what connect the live wire.
Screw teh switch back together...
 cross your fingers, plug it back in, give it a click.

If for any reason it doesn't work, 
open it up make sure the copper prongs have penetrated the copper wire.

Happy Weekend!


Dana Frieling said...

You're a wealth of knowledge. Thank you!

The Sterling Cherub said...

Danika! OMG, thank you so much for this post! I feel like it was written especially for me LOL! :D I was having a rough day today and seeing this post just put the biggest smile on my face.

Again, excellent, detailed information that your readers can USE - often, as you've noted, the instructions that come with the lamp parts are so confusing and unclear as to be useless.

I am thrilled to have this information. Now to dig out my chandys and see about clipping the cords, adding plugs and switches!



Amber said...

thanks for the tutorials!

Robert Gomez said...

Love all of these tips! We’re entering a full kitchen rehab and I’m excited/nervous for it to begin and end. I just hope there aren’t too many surprises!office furniture Sydney :)

Nobanno said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

This is great, thank you.
What happens with the ground wire from the old hardwire fixture?

Anonymous said...

I am trying to so this but my chandelier has a ground. So do I use the 3 prong extension cord? And if so where and how would I place the switch? Thanks!!!


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