Atlantic Illumination Entertainment Lighting

(Image: Photographic Clamp Light)

AIEL Shop Tips

WORKLIGHT
MAINTENANCE

This is a simple procedure to maintain the worklights
described in the Kits section at this website.


It may seem that worklight maintenance is unnecessary
or intuitive. Regardless, a short tutorial cannot hurt.



INFORMATION BELOW MAY NOT BE REPRODUCED
WITHOUT PERMISSION FROM THE AUTHOR ©

Be aware that neither Atlantic Illumination, nor its owner or
employees will be responsible for any problems encountered as
a result of following or not following the procedures here. This
is strictly a guideline. You must decide the suitability of the
steps here and be responsible for the results of your work.


* INSPECTION

    Worklights are very basic and often taken for granted or ignored compared to stage lights when it comes to maintenance or overhaul. Nevertheless, they are an important fixture for any tech or backstage worker. Taking a close look at your lights may reveal distorted, bent, or broken reflectors, and/or cracked sockets, missing clamp hardware, non-functioning switches, and/or stiffness of operation. Now yes, these fixtures are cheap enough to simply replace, but suitable ones seem to not always be easily found. Besides, a Frugal Tech endeavours to maintain usable equipment, not replace it.


    You should have the following available:

* DISASSEMBLY

  1.     Remove the lamp and store it in a safe place.

  2.     Unmounting the reflector usually requires that it be turned, but there may be a bracket that must be loosened so the reflector can be taken off.

  3.     The socket is usually attached to the clamp with a semi-circular bracket using a bolt and wingnut. The bracket grabs a ball fitting. Remove these, but leave the ball fitting attached to the "spring" part, unless it's broken and has to be replaced.

* REPAIR

  1.     Regarding the socket, look at the internal threads and center contact. Buff off tarnish and then lubricate with silicone. If the center contact is one of the "hinged" types, you may need to raise it slightly with a screw driver or hook tool. This will make for a better connection between it and the lamp. Replace the socket if the metal contacts are damaged or if the outer housing is split or chipped and has exposed any metal. Be sure to observe electrical polarity if rewiring.

  2.     Try the switch. If it's stiff, use light spray oil or a contact cleaner with lubricant. This will usually make it operate more smoothly. If it remains difficult to operate and/or if electrical contact is intermittent, replace the switch. This is not always easy to do. If this is not feasible, consider shorting the switch by bridging its wiring points so that the light is always on. This is fine for one-nighter shows where the light will be unplugged after each gig. If using the lower wattage of recommended lamps as discussed in Worklight Kit, their life is so long, power consumption so low, and the heat generated is so minimal that they could be left on even for a few days. However, one should realise that energy is expensive in the 21st century, and so unplugging these lights after each show is the better option.

  3.     Inspect the line cord, especially where it enters the socket and the plug. This is where insulation often frays or splits because of stress at those points. Repair any abrasions or splits with electrical tape or preferably, heat shrink. Should you replace the cord, think about extending its length to 2 or 2.5 metres if it currently is any shorter. Use #18, flexible lamp cord in black.

  4.     Buff the prongs of the plug with a wire brush. Coat with a light oil. If the plug is damaged or has loose prongs, put on a new one. If replacing, use a polarised plug and observe proper wiring polarity. (The hot side of the circuit should run from the hot terminal of the electrical source through the switch to the socket's center contact.)

        If you find that the prongs slip too easily out of outlets, take two pairs of pliers, one needle nose, the other snub nose. With the former, grab one prong near the plug body, and with the snub-nosed pliers hold its other end about one third of the way from its end. Gently and slightly twist. Do the same with the other prong, being sure to twist in the same direction. Never twist with just one pair of pliers. That would stress the point where the prong enters the plug body and cause looseness. For the same reason, never splay the prongs apart.

  5.     Reshape the reflector if required, and pound out any dents. A ballpeen hammer is good for the latter. Be gentle, these reflectors are usually made from fairly thin aluminum. Should the reflector mount to the socket by pushing and turning, pay close attention to its bayonet section. If the edges are not flat and regular, the reflector will be loose and easily dislodged.

  6.     Clean the reflector using the toothbrush to get into small groves. Push rayon batting into the socket to protect the threads and button, then repaint both the inside and out with flat black paint. Consider using an aluminum primer if this is the first time it has been painted. Use several thin coats, not just one thick one. Haste to finish the paint job by coating only once will see it more easily scratched or worn off. Set aside to dry between coats.

        An alternative is to coat the outside with semigloss paint for a more professional look. However, when it gets scratched it seems to appear worse than a scratched flat-black finish.

  7.     Straighten the light's bracket and clamp. Remove any tarnish with a sanding sponge, emery cloth or steel wool. Repair and clean, or renew the vinyl coverings on the clamp parts. Replace any damaged, broken or missing hardware. Wipe the metal with an oily rag to provide a thin coating of protection.

  8.     Buff the base of the lamp with steel wool or a brass wire brush if it's corroded. Apply silicone to the threads and button. Clean the bulb using methanol.

  9.     If the clamp has a spring located near the grabbing end, clean and lubricate it. Tighten any hardware. If there are rivets, tighten them by placing one end on a hard surface such as an anvil and tapping the opposite end. A pin punch with a broad tip may be required to access those opposite ends that are partially enclosed. Tap until the rivet is tight enough to prevent movement, unless the rivet is a hinge point. In the latter's case, tighten enough to improve tolerances, but not so tight that movement is impeded.

  10.     Repair or replace any grip surfaces. These might be pads or rubber tubes. In some cases, one may be able to get away with rejuvenating them if they are not split. Use lacquer thinner on a lint-free rag to wipe the pads or tubing until dirt is removed and a new surface of rubber has been exposed. Do this in a ventilated area and protect skin and eyes from the thinner. Having proper grip surfaces makes for a better-working fixture. A non-slip light stays focused.

  11.     If your worklights have goosenecks, lubricate them with a bit of light spray oil. Wipe off the excess. Flex the neck; listen for squeaks and check for stiffness of operation. Lubricate the offending section and recheck.

* REASSEMBLY

  1.     Reassemble the clamp and its socket bracket. Note that there may be a square opening on one side for the bolt to fit into. Ensure the bolt comes through from that side. Consider adding a split lock-washer against the wing nut. It makes for an easier and more secure head adjustment.

  2.     Reattach the clamp to the light tightly enough to hold it in place. A final positioning will come later.

  3.     After the final coat of paint, restore the reflector to the socket.

* TESTING

  1.     If you have rewired the fixture in any capacity, use an ohm meter to confirm continuity from plug to socket including switch operation. Test also for shorts between hot and neutral, and between each conductor and the metal reflector and clamp.

  2.     Replace the lamp. Test that it works by plugging into an outlet. Check that the plug seats firmly in the outlet with no looseness. If not, perform the double-pliers procedure discussed farther back.

* ADJUSTMENT

  1.     Position the ball fitting's location by using a screw driver to widen the "spring" part ahead of where you want to push the fitting. If the light is to be clamped to a wall, the best position is likely to be center. If it is to be clamped to a table's edge, position the ball fitting toward one side of the spring. This allows one to shine the light down more on to the table.

  2.     Adjust the firmness of the socket bracket on its ball fitting with the wing nut. It should be loose enough to be able to set and reset the angle of the light, but tight enough to maintain that position when released.


You now have reliable, functioning worklights at
the ready to assist techs and your clients backstage.



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