It’s kind of a problem for me that you can buy AC and DC lightbulbs with the same socket size and design. Often Chinese-made, they sometimes don’t even have identifying markings which means if you store them carelessly – and of course how could that ever be a problem around here – bad things can happen. Screw a bulb meant for 120 volts into a DC12 socket and it just won’t work. Reverse the process and after a very brief popping noise the bulb will never work again. But all of that can be avoided with the use of a marking pen and separate storage spaces. There’s one application that has perplexed and annoyed me for months…
For personal reasons, this happens to be my favorite lamp. There’s nothing special about it but it’s the single possession I’ve managed to keep with me literally since high school. I got a gas money gig doing yard work and hauling trash for a little old lady – we’ll pause in a moment of silence for the dignity of my lifetime career arc – and among boxes of other stuff she was throwing away this really cool (I thought, and kind of still do) old brass lamp with nothing wrong with it except it needed re-wiring. Even oafish late-teenage me could re-wire a lamp without danger.
So I kept it. It stayed with Big Brother – who happened to need a bedside lamp, which I didn’t – for a year or two until I left the state. And somehow, through more moves than I could remember if I cared to try and after literally abandoning much baggage on numerous occasions when my life situation became unsuited to owning more than a car’s trunk full of possessions, this thing stuck with me. I’ve inadvertently crushed a lot of lampshades, but never quite managed to lose the lamp. And at this late stage of my life, I guess that makes it special.
It only just this moment struck me that there’s a certain irony to one of my favorite personal possessions being my earliest recorded scrounging score. I like to think I’ve grown since my teens – but maybe not so much.
Anyway – all of the above is a digression I didn’t sit down intending to write. What I meant to write is that some five years ago I re-wired the lamp for use directly connected to the Lair’s retrofitted 12-volt DC circuit. It was an effort to save a little battery juice and also keep a lamp useful in that corner of the cabin on occasions when the inverter wasn’t available.
And it worked fine in that capacity until a few months ago when the bulb started flickering annoyingly. I brought a replacement out of storage – and it didn’t work at all. I tried another bulb – nothing. I screwed one of those new-but-apparently-faulty bulbs into one of the bedroom sockets – worked fine.
Huh. Now I had a mystery. Maybe it was just that the lamp’s socket was old and not making contact? I replaced the socket. Nothing.
I still assumed the problem was these Chinese LED bulbs. BB recently sent me a new supply of 12-volt DC LED bulbs. I tried one of those. Nope. They simply didn’t work in the lion lamp, though they worked fine in the bedroom lighting.
It’s still a mystery – I never did figure it out. But whatever – I needed that lamp to work, it’s right over my desk. So yesterday I sacrificed a light-duty extension cord and re-wired it for AC. Screwed in a bog-normal hardware store LED bulb. Plugged it in.
So after something like five years my (antique?*) lamp has gone back to being something you can just plug in anywhere.
*I got to wondering about this in an idle moment and looked up the definition. And it seems the answer is no. Vintage, certainly, though not in original condition. But probably a few decades from antique.