Old iron lamps are meant to be practical, as well as decorative, and come in every shape, size and design, from simple to ornate. Old iron has a higher carbon content than newer types of metal, making it less tensile and more brittle. Its worst problems are rust, time and old wiring. Cleaning and rewiring an old iron floor lamp will add to its value.
Things You'll Need
Fine-grit emery cloth
Paste wax -- optional
Cable with plug attached
Unplug the lamp, and remove the shade and light bulb. Set them aside.
Scrub the iron socket, pole, base and feet with a stiff wire brush to remove rust and dirt. Press hard to get the bristles into the nooks and crannies of engraved areas.
Coat all the surfaces except the inside of the socket with a light spray of lubricating oil. Rub the object with a piece of fine-grit emery cloth to remove remaining rust. The oil will prevent undue scratching and lubricate moving parts, while the cloth will get rid of the rust.
Remove the socket, and disconnect old wires. If screws are stubborn, use a squirt of lubricating oil to work them loose. Pull the wires out through the base.
Wipe the lamp parts with a soft cloth dipped in mineral spirits to remove oil and remaining rust. Wrap all parts of the lamp in old newspaper, and place them in a warm, dry place for 72 hours to remove all dampness that can lead to rust.
Remove the newspaper and wipe gently with a rag, sprayed slightly with lubricating oil. An alternative is to apply a thin coat of paste wax with a cloth, and buff to a shine. Either treatment will keep dampness away from the cast iron and prevent oxidation.
Rewire the lamp, threading new cable through the base and pole to the socket. At the socket end, strip 1/2-inch of insulation back to both bare wires. Loop the wires around the screws, and tighten them with a screwdriver. Restore the bulb and shade, and plug the lamp in.
If you must repaint the lamp, use rustproof paint in spray or brush-on form.
Don't use a sandblaster or chemical strippers to remove rust from antique cast iron, especially if the piece is valuable.