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I bough a steampunk robot lamp from ebay. It is made out of (painted) metal fittings. After receiving it, I was a little concerned regarding safety and disassembled it. The plug suggests that this is a class II appliance, but the individual wires aren't double insulated and just connected via wire nuts. Is this safe? If not, what would be the best action?

I couldn't find any CE mark on the lamp. They also supply a super cheap looking 5W LED bulb, which has a CE marking on the package (but not on the bulb).

I kind of expected that this item would be safe, because it shipped from the Netherlands and therefore should conform to EU safety standards (it isn't like I'm directly importing it from China).

Update: I contacted the seller and according to him this is "not a problem", but they offered me to return the product (to a German warehouse).

Very regrettable. The European plug is like this, the product is no problem, If you need to return the product, please install it and send it to this address: Ma Kun (Jbingo) Tilburgstrasse NSR GMBH. 15, 41751 Wilson ☆Note: Please write down the product number, order number and eBay buyer ID on the paper, and put it in the return package so that our warehouse can identify it, thank you. ☆ Please provide us with a photo of the tracking number or logistics ticket, and then we will refund you in full. Thank you for your understanding and wait for your reply. Greetings

What a strange arangement. The seller is a Chinese company that ships the item from the Netherlands (according to the product description) and has a warehouse for returns in Germany. This sounds to me like an intresting way to get around safety laws and to be unreachable for any lawsuits.

robot lamp wirering of robot lamp lamp screw missing strain relief metal fittings

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    Shipping from the Netherlands doesn't help if it's coming through a drop-ship warehouse like Amazon Fulfillment. For whatever crazy reasons, the inside of these warehouses is like a "Free trade zone" or something wacky... – Harper - Reinstate Monica Sep 22 '20 at 18:48
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    convert it to a low voltage lamp – jsotola Sep 23 '20 at 1:11
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    @Neil I am not sure if there is a law but there is definitely a technical restriction used on British outlets which prevents to plug just 2 pins into it. However, the class II appliances simply use a third plastic pin to override this protection. – Melebius Sep 23 '20 at 9:53
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    Does it have a CE mark? – D Duck Sep 23 '20 at 15:16
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    A red flag is that there is no bushing around the hole in its ass. – Hot Licks Sep 23 '20 at 22:20
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It's dangerous. You've spotted one important flaw but it can combine with others to make a really dangerous product.

I originally suspected it was made in Europe by someone with more interest/knowledge in the sculptural aspect than the electrical one, but I've since spotted contact details in China for the seller. Either way it shouldn't be sold.

Here's why (as I only have a little training in designing stuff for mains, and haven't inspected it, this list isn't exhaustive):

  • It needs be earthed (assuming the metal really is metal and not plastic).
  • Wire nuts are rare in Europe and any decent solution shouldn't need tape.
  • Secondary securing on the wires near the joints is a good idea, even required in some cases but needs to be much more solid than tape.
  • I doubt the wire is properly strain-relieved where it goes into the assembly. This is now confirmed by the 4th picture. The wire nuts will take the strain of any pull on the cable, and the edges of the cable hole can abrade the insulation.

This adds up to a dangerous and easily foreseeable failure mode where you trip over the cable, rip the live out of the wire nut, it touches the pipes, making them live, you pick up the lamp, you wake up in hospital - if you're lucky.

I've been known to cut corners for something I'm using myself, but not to anything like this extent, and certainly not for something that's going to be used by others.

These days the preferred solution would be an external low voltage power supply (complying with the regulations and safe on the output), but it could be built safely for mains operation - it just hasn't been.

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    eBay will happily lie about the item location for Chinese sellers (at least) in my experience. – Ecnerwal Sep 22 '20 at 14:08
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    @someonr it's still worth raising a case. I've had a few successful "item not as described" cases for Chinese sales; they refunded or were made to refund without return shipping. I'm not sure whether eBay has a process for "unsafe product" – Chris H Sep 22 '20 at 19:20
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    Another problem is people and/or companies shipping from the Netherlands while they're basically a reseller. It comes in from China, they look at it once, often don't even repackage it and simply sent it on its way. Just because it comes from the Netherlands, doesn't mean a Dutchy has made it. The country is quite the trading hub. Source: I live in the Netherlands. – Mast Sep 23 '20 at 6:27
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    @ChrisH not even that, because I can order from Ali or Banggood just as well as they can. And often they hide that they're dropshipping. But we're digressing. – SQB Sep 23 '20 at 10:28
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    An alternative to earthing would be to insert the wires into a insulating sleeve, thus giving two barriers. There's plenty of double insulated metaliic apparatuses out there - including lamps from major brands such as IKEA. – vidarlo Sep 23 '20 at 16:29
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The safety solution is to either add a grounding using a grounded cord with the ground branching off and attaching to the metal as close to where it enters as possible.

Or you can convert the lamp to low voltage LED with the 220 to 5 or 12V conversion external to it so safety ground isn't a requirement.

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There is no need for wire nuts in any such appliance, and this is a design from someone clueless, and made in a shop that makes stuff for US markets. Nothing sold in Europe should ever have wire nuts in it - it's a clear giveaway. Unless you modify it to have double insulation or be properly grounded, and get rid of all the other design mistakes - I'd not even bother with powering it from mains voltage. Too much trouble for what it's worth. Modify it to be a low-voltage appliance, with a 12V or 24V lamp, powered from a trusted power supply (you want a current limit that actually works).

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Devices should be listed and approved by a recognized testing agency / authority, such as UL (Underwriter Laboratories). Anything that doesn't carry an approval rating by such an agency is potentially dangerous and should not be used.

Some great answers point out what's wrong with the design of the lamp, but an easy way to always stay safe is, always look for listed and approved devices. Devices should be listed by the agency, and approved for whatever location you'll be using it (inside / outside / etc).

Even hobby kits that give you all the parts necessary to create your own lamp use approved devices, and the instructions (when followed) result in a lamp that's safe to use.

It's often more expensive to get devices that carry a proper rating, but some of that cost is, well, the manufacturer needing to get the rating.

You could rewire it with 12V DC and easily use any number of readily-available Edison-style lamps and even keep the medium base socket. I did a search and found both filament and LED style available, so you could certainly complete the look safely.

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    In Germany (where OP seems to be from), this would be something like "UL-EU" for example (for Underwriter Laboratories - Europe). – TylerH Sep 23 '20 at 14:04
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    While similar approval agencies do exist in Europe, this is a very American-centred answer. CE marking is the relevant standard, which has some legal force but can be self-certified by manufacturers and has been known to be gamed by dodgy importers. – Chris H Sep 23 '20 at 17:53
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    @ChrisH The whole idea behind CE is that it's self-certified. That's also the major problem with it. For a whole lot of products, including a lot of consumer products, you can simply stamp CE on it, have a (self-written) declaration of conformity and keep going until someone calls you out on it. – Mast Sep 25 '20 at 7:46
  • @Mast yes, I've been involved in the process for UK manufacturer that took its obligations very seriously. Thinking about it again, I shouldn't have concentrated on the marking, but referred to EU directive Directive 2014/35/EU, which requires that the product is safe. It also requires CE marking as an indication that the product is compliant. My answer indicates that this product falls foul of Annexe I (2)(a), (2)(d), and (3)(a). The directive has the force of law – Chris H Sep 25 '20 at 7:54
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    Sorry, but looking for "listed and approved devices" is a complete waste of time at the moment - suppliers that can be trusted, can be trusted anyway, and those that can't be trusted just slap the markings on regardless. – Mike Brockington Sep 25 '20 at 12:27
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I finally fixed the lamp. It was a little more complex than I initially anticipated. I decided to run the lamp on 230V, because it is much easier to get 230V E27 bulbs than 12V. It is nearly impossible to find nice looking 12V E27 dimmable LED bulb. I used the following items:

  • brass screw-in E27 light socket (3,56€)
  • 3x0.75mm2 cable with Schuko plug and switch (4,98€)
  • brass strain relief with M10x1 (3,45€) thread

The following steps were necessary. I additionally disassembled the arms and legs, but this isn't really needed.

  1. Unscrew the old light socket from the head of the lamp, remove the cable

old light socket

  1. Widen the hole in base of the lamp to 9mm. Use M10x1 tap to thread the hole at the base. If you don't happen to own a M10x1 tap you have to fork out another 15€. Regular M10 has a thread pitch of 1.5mm.

tapping hole

  1. Put the strain relief on your cable and pull the cable through the lamp. A string proved to be helpful.

cable through lamp

  1. Wire the light socket and then screw it into the head of the lamp. You'll need to pull the cable back through the entry hole. Then you can screw the strain relief into the base.

wired lamp

  1. (Optional) Replace switch with dimmer. Nice ones with proper fuses and filtering against EMI can be expensive. I forked out 38.99€ for a rather nice one. Cheap one start at 5€.

  2. Get a nice light bulb. I got a super warm white (1700k) dimmable LED bulb (6W, 500lm), which fits super nicely. Especially if dimmed.

finished lamp

Was it worth it? Maybe. The lamp looks nice, but it took quite a few extra supplies and labor.

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