Game Changer

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

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If you know me personally, or if you've read even a little bit of my blog, there is likely one thing you've learned: Ikea and me, we's like peas and carrots.

Ah, Ikea. My mother ship.

People get all super snarky and put their noses in the air sometimes when I mention my love for Ikea.

"Don't you have to put it, like, together?' and there are usually insinuations that it's cheap.

And well, you do, and it is. But the quality (on most pieces) is there! I've have things from big box stores fall apart in less than a year, while I have Ikea furniture from when I was 16 still trucking through multiple moves and kids.

One thing I hadn't ventured into until recently was Ikea's lighting. Mostly because (cover your ears Ikea), it's not really my style. But then I kept seeing these awesome dome lights that I wanted for the playroom, but they were all plug-in, meaning I'd have to plug-in and then unplug the lamp every time we wanted to use it. I bought one anyway and guess which lamp didn't get used because no one wanted to crawl under the table and behind the bench to turn it off and on every time?


Cut to Christmas and I bought this super cute airplane lamp from Land of Nod, with a switch, but when I got it, the switch was like a whopping 8 inches from the plug-in site and was not going to work at all with where I wanted it.

That's when my father-in-law (who owns and runs his own electrical company) says, "Oh yeah, you can just get another switch and install it further up. They sell them at any store really, it's easy".

Easy, you say?

So here we go... if you ever see a very well priced, OK OK cheap, lamp that you aren't sure of because there isn't a switch, you now have no reason not to get that bad boy and bring it home...
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I am going to start with a flat cord. I walked around my house and discovered that most of the cords around here are flat cords. Basically it's two small cords fixed in the center. One side will be totally smooth which is the "hot" side you'll be cutting, and the other side, which will remain intact, will have little ridges you can see and feel.

Step 0: Unplug the cord. Duh, I know, but just covering the bases.

Step 1:
Gather Materials
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You don't really need a wire cutter/stripper, we just happened to have one. You can use plain old scissors, too. Just be more careful when you are using them not to snip right through the actual copper wires. You'll see more what I mean in a few.

Instructions will come with every switch you buy. They read mostly in ancient hieroglyphics, and I want to show you in a less confusing way. However, please read them and follow any warnings or instructions specific to your switch. Mostly this is all the same, but I am not responsible for any electrical mishaps or fires that may result in not installing your switch properly. You should also only install in-line switches on polarized cords, or cords that have plugs with one prong larger than the other. We don't have a single new lamp/cord that isn't polarized like this, but just double check in case.

Step 2:
Figure out where you want to install the switch. I marked below where I wanted to put mine with electrical tape, but just know where you want to put it.
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Step 3:
Use your knife to separate the two wires. How far you separate it will depend on how big your switch is. My slit is about 3".
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Step 4:
Cut the smooth wire in the center like so with scissors or wire cutters
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Step 5:
Our set is old, but you can even see where it says on the tool itself "Wire stripper" with arrows to show you which part to use, and then further up it says "wire cutter" where it's sharp and will cut through the whole wire itself. If you use scissors for the part just go carefully!
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Start pinching and turning
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You will then see the wire and remove the sheathing
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Yay! Exposed wire.
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Don't be jealous of my amazing manicure and black paint splattered hands. (I was painting our front door earlier in the day and I'll be a monkey's uncle if oil based paint isn't hard to get off skin.)

Check to make sure you have removed enough. My instructions called for 3/4" and yes, I totally use my second knuckle to measure an inch all the time
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Step 6:
See how those wires are all separated? Twist them around to make them a nice, neat little wire bundle.
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Step 7:
Do this to both sides of your cut, smooth, "hot" wire
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Step 8:
Take the outside screws out of your switch
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and open it up
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Step 9:
Loosen the copper screws inside the switch
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Then put your newly twisted wires under the screw 3/4 of the way around, and then tighten the screw to firmly hold the wires in place
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To make this easier, put the wire in from the left side of the screw. I tried to show that with the arrows. When you turn the screw to the right (righty tighty! lefty loosey!) it will keep the wire under the screw. I also used my knife to sort of hold the wire in place while I screwed it down so it didn't get squished out.

Clear as mud? I think once you go to do it, it will make a lot more sense. If you put the wire in and wrap it around the screw from the right, when you go to turn the screw that direction, it will push the wire right back out and make it hard to get it all under there nice and tight.

Step 10:
Once you have your wires screwed down well, place the ridged side of the cord into the channel on the other side, and run the both out of each end. It will look like this
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Place the top back on and screw it back into place. (Not an actual picture of this step obviously but it will look like this, only with wires attached and screws back in)
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Step 11:
Plug it in, flip the switch and pat yourself on the back. You did it!
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Since this lamp already came with a switch lower down on the cord, I simply left that switch in the "on" position, and use this newly installed switch to turn the lamp off and on.


In case you have a round cord, as my Ikea lamp that started this whole thing does, just know it's only a little different, and equally as easy

Round cord:
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Step 1:
Use scissors to carefully! cut through the outer sheathing. I keep saying carefully because this is where I almost severed the whole dang thing. Apparently my scissors are really sharp.
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Side note: There was a lot of insulation, papery type stuff inside this sheathing, I just cut it away where I didn't need it for inside the switch.
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Step 2:
Cut away as much of the sheathing you need by putting your scissors lengthwise in the wire and cutting to your desired point. Don't pull it; cut it. Seriously, don't be like me and end up with a tattered end from tearing it
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Was it so hard to pick up the scissors, Amy?!

Make sure it's just the right length to fit inside your switch
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Step 3:
Cut the BLACK "hot" wire, then strip the end of each side just as you did in the flat wire tutorial above
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Step 4:
Install twisted wire ends of the black wire into your switch just as before. Also, put a slice of electrical tape over any compromised sheathing on wires you may have accidentally snipped in the process (Oops!)
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This switch was bigger and easier to fit the wires into. It also had these neat little metal clasps to screw down and secure the wires in place at the ends which I liked

Step 5:
Put the top back on and screw it into place. If you decided to be awesome like me and pull your sheathing off your wire and you have insulation poking out the back, just wrap a piece of electrical tape over that, too. It's just insulation, not an exposed wire, so it's fine, just cosmetic and something I don't want my kids to see and pick at
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Step 6:
Plug it in, turn it on, and you're ready to go!
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See, that's not so scary, right?

I definitely thought dragons would come out to eat me and the whole house would catch on fire if I ever touched anything electrical, but it was really simple and I am so glad I got those things done and the lights are actually being used now.

Now you can feel free to buy any cheap-o light without a switch you want. Spray paint and add crystals or twine like you saw Pinterest to your hearts desire!

Game: Changed.

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