DIY – How to Wire a Pendant Lamp

How to Wire a Pendant Lamp

We’ve been reimagining our studio space and one of the things we all agreed on was the need for more lights. Being in NYC, we are lucky to have shops offering a wide variety of lamp parts a la carte so building a custom lamp requires a trip to canal street, $30, and little know how. If you’re not in NYC and want to build a lamp The Color Cord Company has a fantastic selection of everything you need to customize a pendant.

First things first, electricity can be dangerous, this is not a project for kids and we suggest building your lamp under the guidance of an electrician. For a more official take on wiring you can find helpful videos here and here.

411 on lamps

Simple incandescent lamps consist of three basic electrical parts: the plug, the cord and the socket. Each of these components are usually made with a neutral and a live (also called hot) channel. Electricity flows in a continuous loop, so if you imagine a lamp plugged in to the wall, the electricity flows from the hot prong of the plug, up the hot half of the cord, through the socket and into the bulb, which is also touching the neutral wire and as a result where a spark initiates the illumination. Then, the electricity flows back out the socket through the neutral terminal, down the neutral half of the cord and back into the source via the neutral prong of the plug. So what this means, when the neutral wires touch the hot wires and electricity is present, this creates a spark. Usually, this is a good thing- like every time you flip a light switch a spark happens inside your lightbulb. If this happens before the electricity meets the bulb, then a spark happens somewhere else, which is called a short, and this is how fires can happen.

How to know which is which

Different parts use different ways of indicating the neutral vs. hot channels. Here are some standard ways.

-Sockets usually have a brass screw and a silver screw. Brass indicates hot, silver means neutral.

-Lamp cords have a smooth side and the other either has a line or a thin ridge on the insulation, the line/ ridge is the neutral side and the smooth half is the hot.

-Polarized plugs have a wider prong, this indicates the neutral end. If the plug is symmetrical, it is not polarized and can receive either wire.


  • – lamp wire, it’s sold by the foot so decide where you plan to hang your lamp and measure the required length
  • – socket (the piece you screw a bulb into)
  • – socket sleeve (not necessary but looks nice)
  • – plug
  • – bulb
  • – screw drivers in a few sizes
  • – electrical tape
  • wire strippers with snip
  • – beads we used these (optional)

How to make

Wiring the Socket

Step 1. Unscrew the cap from the socket and string the cap onto the lamp cord. Identify the hot and neutral terminal inside the socket.

Step 2. If your cord has a cloth covering, expose a few inches of the insulated cord within. Carefully snip the center of the insulation to separate the two halves pull apart about 2″ of the cord. Identify the smooth (hot) side and the ridge (neutral) side.

Step 3. Insert one of the wires into the appropriate slot of the wire strippers. Make a break, about 1″ from the end, in the insulation but careful not to cut the wires within. Gently glide the insulation off the wires. Repeat on the other side.

Step 4. Divide the neutral wires in half and twist both halves into tight strands. Repeat with the hot wires.

Step 5. Make sure the terminals in the socket are open, this means the screw heads are not flush or tight therefore you are able to wrap the wires around the screw. Wrap half of the neutral wires around the silver screw in a clockwise direction, then the other half counter clockwise. Use a tiny screwdriver to tuck any stray wires under the screw head. Tighten the screw head slowly making sure the wires below are not squeezed out the sides.

Step 6. Repeat step 5 for the hot terminal (brass screw & smooth cord). Be very careful that the neutral and hot wires are not making contact. Use a tiny screw driver to tuck wires as necessary.

Step 7. Cut a couple inches of electrical tape and secure the frayed ends of the cloth cord against the insulation. Wrap tightly and trim any loose fibers if necessary.

Step 8. Slide the socket cap over the open socket and line up the screws with the screw holes. Tighten the screws to connect the cap tightly to the socket base. Slide the socket cover on.

* This is the point where you should thread on the socket sleeve and any beads you wish to have stacked on the cord.

wiring the plug

Step 1. Repeat steps 2-4 from above at the base of the cord.

Step 2. Unscrew the plug cover from the prongs and open the plug.

Step 3. Thread the plug cover onto the cord.

Step 4. Wrap the neutral wires around one of the screw terminals and the hot wires around the other screw terminal. The plug pictured is not polarized, so it doesn’t matter which side is which. If your plug has one wider prong, that is the neutral side.

Step 5. After making sure all the wires are neatly tucked under the screw heads, slide the plug cover over the prong piece. Secure closed with the screws.

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