A Before/After Involving A Magician


My online vintage lighting store.


For many years now I have worked with another lighting guy in Oregon, JR. We are not competitors as JR specializes in, for example, restoring huge old chandeliers from 1920s movie palaces, and in making huge new fixtures for restaurants and casinos.


A JR-restored theater light fixture. I soooooooo don’t work with fixtures of this scale!


To my surprise, JR is also happy to work on really small projects (“Sometimes it’s nice to work on something I can hold in my hand!”) and he has proved a lifesaver when I encounter X issue that I just cannot fix. So, each such fixture is put aside and when I have about six I send the problem parts to JR. He has skills and tools I do not have and is, obviously, also a magician. Soon, a box is returned to me with good-as-new parts. You can imagine my great delight.

About ten years ago I purchased online a remarkable fixture. But the seller packed it stupid and it arrived damaged.


The circa-1905 fixture is a large brass bowl held by three chains (not shown). Inside are five sockets each bracketed by mirrored wings! How cool is that! But the wings were in terrible shape and the bowl…


…had been bonked out of shape and the upper trim had broken off.


This is totally beyond my skills. So, the fixture collected dust in storage.

However, with my sales now essentially nonexistent because of You Know What, I have time on my hands. So, too, does JR and for the same reason. A silver lining during this global crisis is that I could focus on my next care package to JR, and JR has the time to help with these small projects. So, last month I sent JR a large box of pitiful fixtures, including the fixture shown above.

A few days ago JR alerted me that he was done with the numerous small projects and the care package was on its way back to me. Squee!

He also sent a tantalizing short video. Click here.

OK! How frigggin’ cool is that! I had no idea!

I said to JR: “I only needed you to repair the damage, so why did you rewire the fixture?”

He immediately sent me this image:




I had never seen anything like it, and had no idea that it was hidden under the center covering. “WHAT is that?”

JR explained that it was a very early relay switch. “These switches (I’ve seen a few) are awesome and as solid as a brick house, so it’s well worth making them work. Plus seeing them work makes my mechanical brain very happy.”

A man with a mechanical brain is a treasure, right?


Again, the before.


After. I am gobsmacked.


Absolutely gobsmacked. The mirrors were because early electric lightbulbs were not very bright.




Recently, I wrote about how indispensable Doug and Justin have been to the Cross House. Bo has, too, and JR has proven a lifesaver for my lighting business. I feel blessed to have such brilliant talent and expertise in my life.

JR and I had a long talk this week and both our businesses have been profoundly impacted by the current global disaster, as have countless small and large businesses. JR said he survived the 2008 financial crash by doing small-scale repair/rewiring work. “All the big projects had vanished.”

Thus, if you have some old lighting fixture stored away because it needs work you might contact JR here. Send him some pictures! And tell him Ross sent you! For, how cool would it be to work with a magician?



My online vintage lighting store.





  1. David McDonald on April 11, 2020 at 6:17 pm

    Wow! That video is sooo cool! Our great grandparents generation was sooo inventive and experimental! Mirrors?!? Cool. Especially in a time when there was NO precedent!
    When i get some cash, im definitely getting some things. I especially love that 40s red pendant you restored! My house was built in 45. And my kitchen colors: mint green walls, white trim, accented with yellow with bits of red splashes. I love that light! Just sayin!

  2. David McDonald on April 11, 2020 at 6:25 pm

    Bu the way, i still have the original two bedroom ceiling fixtures that were here when the house was built. (My grandmother’s house). White conical porcelain bases with gold trim with the electrical inside. The puffy and fluted pink and clear glass bowl hangs from the porcelain base by 3 metal ball chains. Ive always loved them. Wanted to put them back up!! They were saved and were at my parents house, but my Dad couldn’t find them when we were fixing the house. Years later, after id already decorated everything, He finds them!
    Im definitely having you fix them when i get back on my feet! They are cool. Simple, but cool vintage elegance!

  3. Leigh on April 12, 2020 at 12:52 pm

    Ross, you belong to the group of these talented, gracious people. It is heart-warming to see you help each other out; such a fabulous example to mankind.

  4. Derek Walvoord on April 13, 2020 at 9:43 am

    That is an awesome light! What a cool old rotary switch! Yes, to get that working again is amazing.

    And, I also am in awe of the people who do these specialized repairs – so interesting to learn about and see. Thanks!

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