How to Re-cover a Wire Frame Lampshade

Do you have a lampshade that’s damaged or looks a bit tired? Give your shade new life by taking off the existing cover and replacing it with imported or specialty paper. (You can visit our Downtown Courtenay store or check our online store @http://south-hollow-gallery.myshopify.com/collections/specialty-paperto see our amazing selection of paper options.)

Following are instructions on how to do this update project on your own. We will be working on a lampshade frame that has vertical wires at the corners in addition to the supporting horizontal wires at top and bottom of the shade. (Note: If your lampshade has only horizontal wires at top and bottom and no verticals, these instructions will not work for you.)

You will need the following materials:

  • Wire frame lampshade with vertical and horizontal supports
  • 1 to 2 sheets of imported or specialty paper – enough to cover all panels plus an additional margin allowance on all panel piece edges of about 1 cm, 1/2″. Suggestion: suitable papers are sturdy and somewhat translucent. We are using Japanese chiyogami (mulberry) paper in our example.
  • A large flat working surface
  • Light plastic protective sheet to cover work surface
  • Rubbing alcohol and cotton cleaning pads
  • Newsprint or other paper to use for pattern templates
  • Pencil, scissors, razor knife (eg. X-acto-type)
  • Extra strong, heat-resistant double-sided tape (eg. Sookwang) See http://south-hollow-gallery.myshopify.com/collections/adhesives-and-glues
  • Diluted white glue (mix 50/50 with water or up to 2 parts water to one part white glue). Standard all-purpose white glue works well although we prefer to use Weldbond as it is more durable once cured.
  • Foam brush 2 width
  • Cone shaped bottle or stand to hold shade while wet
  • Hand-held hair dryer
  • Seam ripper, glue stick, tweezers, flat pointed wood tool (optional but handy to have)

 

To re-cover your wire frame lampshade(also refer to photos below):

 

  1. Protect your work surface with plastic – split clear garbage bags work well for this.

 

  1. Remove the existing cover from your lampshade including any old material/ glue from the metal support wires. Use rubbing alcohol to clean off the wire supports.

 

  1. Lay frame on one side on newsprint. Depending on your lampshade you may have equal size and shaped sides or several pairs of different sizes and shapes. For every side, use a pencil to trace around the outside edge of the wire frame – top, bottom, left and right. Do your best to keep a consistent line but don’t worry too much about being exact. As long as you remember to add a minimum of the suggested margin allowance on all panel piece edges, you’ll be able to trim the paper as you go along in the project. To determine the suggested margin allowance, measure the thickness of the wire supports, triple that amount and add it to the outside borders of all pattern pieces. Eg. if the wire measures 2mm you’ll need to expand the borders by 6mm on all sides. Expanding the outside border allows for enough paper to wrap all the way around the wires which makes a nice finished seam on the inside.

 

  1. Lay the pattern pieces on your cover paper and trace around the edges. If your paper has a repeating pattern, place your paper right side up and position the pattern pieces so their edges will visually line up with each other where they meet. Cut out the pieces and set them aside.

 

  1. Now it’s time to tape and paper the edges of your metal frame, working on one side at a time. Position frame on side then lay a strip of Sookwang tape along the left hand vertical wire. You are doing this to help hold the cover paper and margin allowances in place in preparation for glueing. The tape should be applied slightly onto the front of the wire where the face of the cover paper will be, but mostly on the inside edge of the wire where the paper edge will wrap around the wire support. Do this for the top and bottom horizontal wires as well. DO NOT put tape along the right hand vertical wire at this point. Note: we like to use a tape width that can roll around the wire on at least two sides but sometimes we use two pieces of narrower tape placed along the front and the side.

 

  1. Lay frame on reverse side of cover paper. If the wire has a curving edge, you will need to create easement cuts to allow the paper to fit to the wire snugly. To create the easements, use scissors to make small cuts along the length of the curving edge. (See photo especially noting where A and B lines are.) These cuts will be at right angles to the edge. Note: be careful that your easement cuts stop short of the wire. If they are too long, this will allow holes that light will show through on finished shade.

 

  1. Remove Sookwang tape from the vertical wire and wrap the vertical edge of cover paper around the wire. A small flat, pointed wooden tool can help with this. Then remove the tape from the top and bottom edges and wrap with cover paper. Note: you will also need to make easement cuts along these edges to ensure paper lays flat, including at top and bottom of the corners in line with where the vertical and horizontal wires intersect.

 

  1. You should now have your cover paper attached on three edges. There will probably also be some stray tabs hanging out here and there. Leave these for now. DO NOT wrap the right hand wire yet!

 

  1. Turn lamp shade frame to next side and repeat steps 5 to 8. Do the same for the remaining sides.

 

  1. You should now have all four sides of the shade covered with the right hand edge unattached on each side. Lay a strip of Sookwang tape along each remaining edge, very slightly positioning the tape to the inside of the wrapped vertical wire on the next connecting side. This tape is intended to help secure that fourth edge on the front side. However since you will soon be trimming the cover paper tight to the connecting edge, you won’t want too much tape on the front part or it will show once it’s trimmed.

 

  1. Now to secure that remaining edge. On one side, place the flat of your hand on the cover paper and gently smooth it down onto the taped edge of the next connecting side. Use a sharp razor knife to carefully trim the cover paper tight/ flush with the edge of the connecting side. Do this for the remaining three sides.

 

  1. Now go around and finish wrapping the corners and generally tidying up, Here is where those extra tabs may come in handy. You may need them to cover little bits of metal that may be showing here and there including between sections at the corners. Use the glue stick to help fasten these bits down. Trim off any extras.

 

  1. Use a small brush to apply the diluted glue mixture to all the inside seams to tightly secure them. Let this dry for about 10 minutes. Using a sponge brush, lightly but thoroughly apply diluted glue first to the inside of the cover paper then to the outside – don’t press too hard, it can stretch the paper. A wet inside and outside will allow the glue mixture to wick completely through, effectively “plasticing” the paper and giving it more strength. Note on white glues: standard white glue works well in most paper projects but will not be as resilient or water resistant as white glues like acrylic medium, Modge Podge or Weldbond (our favourite).

 

  1. Place wet shade on top of a cone shaped bottle or stand so air can get at all sides. You might want to put plastic underneath the stand as the wet glue may drip. The wet paper may look loose and droopy at this point but don’t worry – it will tighten up once it’s dry. You can allow the shade to dry naturally or use a hair dryer on Low setting to speed up the process. Allow the glue to dry for about 10 minutes before using the hair dryer. This approach will help the cover paper tighten up faster and more evenly but can leave a slightly shiny finish. Note: you can use a hair dryer to tighten up or flatten down paper in many situations where white glue has been used as the adhesive. This can even work once the glue has dried since the heat makes the plastic in the glue become soft and pliable.

 

  1. Your newly covered lampshade is now ready to use.

 

 

A final note: we are often questioned about the fire safety of using paper to re-cover a lampshade. Commercially made lampshades are safe to use as the manufacturer has already taken the distance between the light bulb and lampshade cover into consideration. When in doubt, always choose a low bulb wattage and be sure to follow any recommendations by the lamp manufacturer.