Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Thrift Store Lamp Restore

Guess what. I actually finished a project. Unfortunately, it was not one of the projects I discussed back in February but we can look past that and just focus on Briana actually completing something in its entirety. Prepare yourself, this post is super long and full of steps within steps. It is a miracle I finished within a few months of purchasing the lamp.



I bought this lamp for $5 at Habitat for Humanity. I really liked the glass base and immediately thought about gold leafing the brass on the bottom. Then I took a really long break and totally forgot about the lamp (J did not). While the lamp worked, it was in rough shape. You can see the rust between the glass and brass in the picture below.


J took the lamp apart for me, thank goodness. I prefer to let him handle dismantling things that eventually need to go back together.


He tried polishing the brass with a brillo pad but it didn't do much good. I upgraded to a sanding block, which made more progress. Melinda finally took pity on my frustrated efforts to sand away the rust and googled home rust remedies. Some internet source said to soak the rust in white vinegar/water mixture and then sand away. It really worked! The rust came off so much easier.


1. Just brillo pad - could not see a difference
2. Sanding block - a lot of the raised up rust came off, but there was still quite a bit
3. Vinegar + sanding block - the rust came off with a lot less sanding on my part, but I still couldn't get everything clean. I finally decided that it was good enough since I had a sealing spray to lock in whatever rust was left.

 Next step was my sealing spray primer. I used X-I-M primer 400 clear, which was recommended to me by my paint store guys. I let the first coat dry for more than a day before applying a second coat, just to be sure that everything was fully sealed. My paint store guys strongly recommended that you seal immediately after wiping down the piece with a dry cloth. And I strongly recommend not spraying primer over the price tag. My fingernails were tacky for days after peeling the sticker off through a layer of wet primer.

Then came gold leafing. As I tweeted a while back, I don't enjoy this task. It requires steady hands and patience, but the final look is well worth it. I ordered this gold leafing set on Amazon because my local Michaels store's only set had broken up gold leaf sheets. There are plenty of online tutorials about gold leafing, so I will just give a brief summary.

Apply the adhesive in a thin coat, but not so thin that you don't get full coverage of the area. The leaf will stick wherever there is adhesive, so stay within the lines! Wait for the adhesive to turn clear (15-20 minutes for me) and apply the gold leaf. I found it was easier to cut the sheets into smaller pieces as they were easier to handle. Move slowly and turn off the fans and air conditioning, you don't want a breeze. These leaf sheets very easily fold into themselves and then you have to start with a new sheet.

in the middle of the leafing step
Once you get all the surfaces covered with leaf (it is ok to overlap), take a dry brush or cloth and rub off the excess. All the bits that are creased or overlapped will flake off and you will have a textured yet smooth to the touch surface. Apply the sealer if you are not using real gold leaf so your color does not tarnish. Let dry, and you are done!

I gold leafed all the exposed metal: the whole base, the center pole that goes through the glass, and the cap on top of the glass.


I went to my local lighting store to finish up my lamp. I bought a shorter 9" harp for $2, a square finial to coordinate with the glass for $11, and an off white silk shade for $42 (on sale 25% off). Overall the lamp cost me $60 plus tax and $11ish for the gold leaf. I had all the other supplies on hand and I used less than three of the 25 gold sheets. I could have saved money on the shade and skipped the finial, but even J said the silk shade is definitely worth it.

I need to touch up the front of the lamp base; I accidentally scraped off some leaf before it fully dried. I recommend you let your project cure for at least a day before flinging it around to a lamp shop like I did. Another note is that the lamp works with our incandescent bulbs but did not work with our CFL bulb.

I'm thrilled with how my lamp turned out! Now I need a break from DIYing before I attack anything else on my long list of thrift store rescues.