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5 tips for Upcycling and Renovating a Second Hand Lampshade

Updated: Nov 23, 2023

Stumbling across a second-hand lampshade that has potential, whether vintage or relatively new, opens up a Pandora’s box of creative possibilities, but how do you prepare it for its new life? In today’s post, we share our tips, and those from our expert makers, on how to lay the foundations for taking an upcycled frame from someone's trash to fabulous lampshade treasure!

1. Stripping the frame

Traditional style lampshades tend to be made of fabric and the majority are lined, therefore both layers will need to be removed to reveal the frame. To start, snip the fabric at the bottom of the frame and gently pull the fabric away from the struts, taking care not to pull the frame out of shape. If the fabric doesn’t pull away easily remove each panel of the frame with a Stanley knife or craft knife so that you can then work on each strut individually. Traditional shades have binding around the frame and if you can see that this is intact and not discoloured in any way then it will save time to preserve this.

For a more modern shade, that uses lampshade making PVC such as a drum shade, Amanda Wheattie of @wyreandgimble offers this expert advice:

To remove the firm covers you can use a Stanley knife inserted in between the ring and the liner on the top and bottom edges. There's usually a little space or dip and then you can pop the knife in there and cut round. Then the remaining scrap of fabric attached to the rings can usually be pulled off in one clean sweep.

Finally, before moving on to the next step, check your frame is symmetrical, by looking at it from all sides to check the spokes line up and view it from the top and the bottom. Any obvious bends should be straightened gently by hand.

Image Credit: Mono Handmade |

2. Saving original features

You may not be able to save the fabric from a traditional lampshade but how about saving the trim?

Joanna, of Lume Lighting, says in her blog post, Reuse, recycle and recover your lampshades;

With the two lampshades below, I recycled and reused their original trims, which is what the customers asked for. Fortunately I managed to remove the original trims without too much difficulty, and even washed some of the trim to bring it back to life! It was a great way to retain the original features of the shade, and give a nod to what it looked like before.

3. Removing the glue

Our Professional Lampshade Makers have many different - and sometimes novel - ways of removing glue from the frame, but for many, the first port of call would be to use a solvent like acetone, a mineral thinner, such as white spirit or a petroleum-based solvent like lighter fluid, all of which can be rubbed over the rings and glue. Always read the safety instructions and take the relevant safety precautions before using any solvents.

In the case of more stubborn glue removal, heat is useful to warm this, making it easier to remove. A hairdryer is a great household tool to use and by focusing its heat on a small area at a time, the glue can be scraped off the frame using a narrow paint scraper or a knife. A more unusual tool is a dishwasher and Jayne Russell offers this advice:

Jayne Russell of @Distinctive Lighting says:

I cut the old fabric off, then I put the rings in the dishwasher. It removes a lot of the old glue and softens what’s left.

And finally, one of our professional makers suggested using olive or its oil-based cousin - mayonnaise! Rubbed onto the glue this can help to loosen it, although we suggest washing the frame in hot soapy water afterwards!

4. Prepping and painting the frame

The key to having a perfect frame to work with is to ensure it is rust free. Any rust that remains on the frame can spread, due to the heat from the bulb and lead to discolouration of the fabrics or trims you add to the frame.

To remove rust or lumps and bumps on the frame, rub the frame down with fine sandpaper. For small patches of the frame, that show through the painted or plastic coating, these simply need a touch-up. Small tins of enamel modelling paint work well, painted on with a small brush; alternatively, white nail varnish will do the trick.

If the damage is extensive, the frame will need sanding back completely to the metal frame, then respraying or painting with a suitable paint. Spray paints that are used on metals, for example, radiator paint, car paint, Rustoleum gloss or Plastikote are a good choice, but check the label for priming instructions. If you use a primer, go for a lighter base than your topcoat, similar to if you were painting woodwork at home.

When spray painting, spray either outside or in a box, preferably with the frame hanging to ensure an even coverage. Check out how we used the same technique when making our

And when choosing a top coat colour it doesn’t have to be dull! Alice Witheridge of @housealiceuk has an inspiring range of neon frames, paired with her own fabulous organic fabric designs.

5. Making your shade

You’ve done the prep and it’s now time for the fun bit – making your lampshade!

If you’ve upcycled a hard shade, so a drum, empire or conical lampshade that was made with fabric adhered to a Lampshade Making PVC, then you can replace this with one of our range of Self Adhesive Lampshade Making Materials.

If you’re a beginner lampshade maker, we’d recommend using our Standard Lampshade Making PVC and dependent on the size of your rings you can find the measurements for the PVC by matching these to those used in our Lampshade Making Kits. You’ll also need 9mm Double-sided tape and a Rolled Edge Tool to re-make your shade, but don’t worry help is at hand with our series of YouTube videos, that will show you exactly how to make our shade up – simply select that shape of shade you’re making.

To revamp a traditional or soft shade, take a look at our Soft Shade Making Series, here on the Dannells Blog. From binding the frame to making a pattern to making an outer cover, by following our step by step guides, your upcycled frame will soon take on a unique and bespoke lease of life!


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