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I've recently purchased a couple vintage sconces, and I'm having a hard time figuring out how to install them safely over a standard junction box.

These sconces came with what I'm now learning is called a nipple mount, which went through the hole in the large white metal panel visible in the photo below. It includes a bracket that attaches to the box and a cap inside the fixture acting as a nut to tighten it against the wall. This does indeed attach the fixture firmly to the wall over the junction box. Unfortunately, that white metal cover is just large enough to cover the entire front opening of the box, so there's nowhere for the wires to go -- they emerge from the fixture about four inches below the hole for the nipple, way larger than the radius of the box.

Back of sconce, showing a hole for the nipple and the wires emerging through a gap 3-4 inches below.

Any ideas for safely mounting this?

  • Squeezing the wire between the fixture and the wall seems risky.
  • Moving the sconce up so that the opening at the base of the sconce overlaps with the box means that the sconce barely covers the opening. It also means I'd need to find some other way to attach the sconce to the wall than the bracket it came with, and just hanging it like eg. a painting means that it would be very easy to push aside and expose the wiring, which seems risky.
  • Drilling holes feels like it must be overkill.
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  • What's that hole in the back of it? Is it about the size of the center mount on amazon.com/uxcell-Crossbar-Mounting-Universal-Chandelier/dp/…?
    – popham
    Jan 13 at 5:29
  • The hole is about 3/8" diameter, centered 2 1/4" from the top and bottom of the metal panel. So yes: if not exactly the same measurements, fairly close!
    – Ben Kirwin
    Jan 13 at 17:56
  • with only one support, I imagine they put it so high so that the center of gravity wasn't above the mount, avoiding upside down as the thing's natural position. Depending on how accessible the inside face of that mount plate is, you might drill two support points for mounting so that the wire/cable isn't pinched on its way to the box. Might be difficult to install the screws, though.
    – popham
    Jan 13 at 18:23

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Lamps used to be sort of the Wild West of electrical standards. Appearance came first, and safety came a possibly distant second. Because of that, I suspect I know how this lamp was wired: through that nipple.

You can get a hollow nipple for mounting use. Then you can use a piece of lamp cord (yes, that's what it is called) between the connections in the electrical box and the area down by the lamp holder. Connect with wire nuts both in the box and down in the bottom of the fixture.

It will require attaching everything in a specific order. It won't be particularly safe. But I would be very surprised if it wasn't the way the sconce was installed when it was new.

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  • Agree, though a perfect world would be running longer wires and not having junctions outside the j-box. Jan 13 at 13:45
  • Thanks! I have some lamp cord and mocked this up. The cord ends up running extremely close to the bulb, which seems sort of alarming: it might be safe with today's cooler LED lights, but I feel like an incandescent would end up baking the cord in short order. But as you say - maybe I'm just holding this old lighting to too high of a standard.
    – Ben Kirwin
    Jan 13 at 18:15
  • The original light probably used asbestos wrapped wire, which could be right up against the bulb with no issue at all. And @AloysiusDefenestrate I agree, though junctions outside the box happen in light fixtures, usually with crimps.
    – KMJ
    Jan 14 at 7:13

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