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Old 08-30-2009, 01:00 AM   #1
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Reviving the cool original lights in my bungalows living room


In the photos you see I have these cool original light fixtures in my living room. There are four of them. Apparently they originally were used for dim 25 watt bulbs. This house was built in 1908.
Unfortunately they are no longer hooked up to any switches. I'm trying to figure what the people did with the wires, and where they go. I wonder if they are just hiding behind some part of the wall that is now closed up? There is now a light in the center of the ceiling, and there's a switch for that, but I dug around back there and didn't see any lonely unattached wires.
Above this room is a mostly finished attic, and these light are under the floor up there, so I can't seem to really get access from above.
Does anyone have any guidance as to how to figure out where the wires are to try to bring things things back to life?
Mac

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Old 08-30-2009, 01:02 AM   #2
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Reviving the cool original lights in my bungalows living room


Oops, here are the photos
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Old 08-30-2009, 04:50 AM   #3
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Reviving the cool original lights in my bungalows living room


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.......... how to figure out where the wires are to try to bring things things back to life?
Mac
Mac The "Wires" in your 1908 coffered ceiling are most likely fed through K&T or RMC:
K&T (Knob & Tube) is the most likely method used in your ceiling:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Knob_and_tube_wiring

RMC, (Rigid Metal Conduit) similar to galvanized water or gas pipe that just has wires pulled through it.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Knob_and_tube_wiring

Some very old homes were first converted from gas lights by pulling wires through the existing gas lines to the existing wall mounted fixtures. Since your fixtures are on the ceiling it is highly unlikely that they were once gas lines.
Your ceiling lights still might have been fed through RMC that was designed from day one for conductors. Here in California I have seen 1940 structures wired through RMC.

Another possibility is that if the coffered ceiling was not original but added later, like in the 1930's,then the wiring could be Romex.

The only way that you can find which method was used in your ceiling is to do some careful exploratory surgery. Careful as to not assuming that all the hidden wiring is DEAD.
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Last edited by PaliBob; 08-30-2009 at 04:54 AM. Reason: sp
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Old 08-30-2009, 10:06 AM   #4
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Reviving the cool original lights in my bungalows living room


You could get an AC signal tracer and connect to the bulb socket with an adapter (or better still drop the fixture and connect directly to the wiring. this will give you a better idea on the type of wiring you have). Then use the signal tracer to follow the wiring in the walls and ceiling.
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Old 08-30-2009, 10:26 AM   #5
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Reviving the cool original lights in my bungalows living room


Make sure all the fuses or circuit breakers are good or on. Are there any wires behind the working light now that are not connected? How about at the switch?
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Old 08-30-2009, 04:21 PM   #6
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....There is now a light in the center of the ceiling, and there's a switch for that, but I dug around back there and didn't see any lonely unattached wires........... Mac
Mac, Your house electrical system over the years most likely has had a number of changes. One possibility is that there were two switches side by side, one for the center light and the second for the four fixtures. The wiring and switch may have been replaced but the switch for the four fixtures was ignored and the switch location just covered over.
  1. What kind of wire is in the existing switch Box? (Plastic or fabric covered)
  2. Is the Box a one gang box?
  3. Check the wall closely around the switch box. Does it look repaired?
  4. Take down one of the four fixture covers. What kind of wire?
Post the pics of what you see

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Old 08-30-2009, 05:01 PM   #7
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Reviving the cool original lights in my bungalows living room


The instructor in Electrical School told us about the origin of RMC in old houses. No one believed him. We thought it was legend. Thanks for the information. On your second statement that RMC was still used in houses built, in the 1940s, maybe in Calif. But here in NYC, I worked on a house (about 10 years ago) that was renovated in the '30s. I found mostly it was wired with AC (Armored Cable) or BX, as we like to call it. (Now more than ever)don't Drink and Drive!!!
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Old 09-03-2009, 07:14 PM   #8
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Reviving the cool original lights in my bungalows living room


Thanks a lot, everyone. OK, I just took some really horrible photos. If they don't cut it let me know and I'll try again.

One is of the only switch in that room. months ago I kinda destroyed the wall around it to try to get the box out and look around for other wires, but I couldn't get it out for the life of me. I had tried the various wires and one went to the ceiling light in the center that I no longer want. I can't remember what the other went to, but apparently not these lights I'm trying to get going, because I spent a bunch of time on it.

The other photo is of one of the lights I'm trying to get working.
The wires are dead according to my AC meter thing.

My stud finder has an AC detector in it so I used it to try to follow the wires but it didn't really work out.

So, let me know if these photos tell anyone anything. Not sure what my next steps are, besides maybe really digging into the wall around the existing switch to see if i find anything?
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Old 09-03-2009, 07:40 PM   #9
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Reviving the cool original lights in my bungalows living room


Switch wire is new. Fixture wires are K&T. Probably long ago abandoned. If you intend to revive these fixtures figure on pulling new cables to them. Are those box beams solid they are mounted to, or could you pull new through them?
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Old 09-03-2009, 07:58 PM   #10
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Yes, run new cables. If you use 12v lights running the wires may be easier.
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Old 09-03-2009, 08:13 PM   #11
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Reviving the cool original lights in my bungalows living room


99 miles (Poster #8) In the Second paragraph you mention that you "Tried to get the box out of the wall". "But for the life of me I couldn't". To me it looks like they're fastened with "Madison Clips". In the first pic. (of the switch box) look in the upper right corner and in the center left. Today they're probably called something else. The other day I went to the Home Depot and asked for "Madison Clips" The clerk looked at me as if I asked for something from outer space. But they were found, on one of the upper shelves, under a different name. Clamp something or other...! (No matter what)Don't Drink and Drive!!!

Last edited by spark plug; 09-03-2009 at 08:15 PM. Reason: Missing word in sentence
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Old 09-03-2009, 08:23 PM   #12
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Reviving the cool original lights in my bungalows living room


I really don't know much (if anything) about this stuff (yet!), but to me the black wires look the same in the box and at the light. Are you seeing the two black wires coming in the top of the box and not just the white wire? I'm sure you know what you're talking about, but just quadruple checking that you saw that

joed, not sure if the beams are solid or not, I'll look into it.

hmm, this might not be a job for me, but i'll keep trying a bit to figure it out!


Last edited by 99miles; 09-03-2009 at 08:25 PM.
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