Old Fluorescent Lamp Help Needed

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Old 10-07-14, 08:06 PM
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Old Fluorescent Lamp Help Needed

Hi all - I have a pair of pretty cool old (1940s) fluorescent lamps. 18 inch 15w bulbs. With one of them, the bulb only seems to light on the ends, but not the middle. I did some reading on the basics of fluorescent lamps, and one thing I read stated that this often means the starter is on its way out. I see that starters are pretty widely available, buuuuuut, I am not even sure if what I have is actually a "starter." As seen in the pics, there is an aluminum box at the base, and two wires emerge from it, and run through a switch. It gets very, very hot, very quickly. In fact I found some old wire insulation that appears to have been melted as a result.

So my roundabout question, is this indeed the starter, and is there anything available that could replace it? Could I somehow use one of the new cylinder shaped starters that are available? Thanks so much for any help [/ATTACH]Name:  100_6311.jpg
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Old 10-07-14, 08:10 PM
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Usually when you have buttons like that for starting..... you hold the "on" button in until the lamp is lit.
 
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Old 10-07-14, 08:20 PM
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Yep tried that. Only the ends of the tube light.
 
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Old 10-07-14, 08:24 PM
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The switch acts as a starter.. It takes the place of the heater and bimetallic strip that open the contacts after the light starts. With a switch you manually open the contacts by releasing the switch.
 
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Old 10-07-14, 09:30 PM
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Possibly the tube has an open/defective filament.
 
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Old 10-07-14, 09:47 PM
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Okay, and that reminds me of a detail I forgot to mention - when I plug in the lamp, it comes on (well, partially) automatically. In other words, the red "on" button does not do anything really. The black off button will turn it off while the button is held in, but when releasing the black button, the lamp comes back on.

So the aluminum box to the side, what is that and why is it getting so darn hot?? Is it the ballast?
 
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Old 10-07-14, 11:24 PM
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That silver box is the ballast.

It sounds like your "on" switch is stuck in/on. That will keep the tubes from lighting.
 
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Old 10-08-14, 06:15 AM
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Grew up with a fluorescent desk lamp. Every few years we had to replace the switch..

Example: SPST FLUORESCENT STARTER PUSHBUTTON SWITCH
 
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Old 10-08-14, 09:48 AM
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Thank you that looks like exactly the switch I need so I ordered some, and with some luck it will fit right into the old holes.
 
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Old 10-08-14, 04:20 PM
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If both ends of the lamp light up then the filaments are probably good. But leaving it with the ends lit will wear out the filaments.
 
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Old 10-08-14, 08:07 PM
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I decided I won't use it until I get the new switches. I did notice the new switch has 3 terminals, and my old one has 4 wires connected to it - main power, two for the bulb, and one to the ballast. Once again wiring has made me feel quite stupid lol....
 
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Old 10-08-14, 10:05 PM
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I did notice the new switch has 3 terminals, and my old one has 4 wires connected to it
You might need to go to a lighting specialty store to match what you have.

This is how I think it works. For simplicity I have divided the two parts of your switch in the diagram. If I'm wrong someone please correct me.

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Last edited by ray2047; 10-11-14 at 07:58 AM.
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Old 10-09-14, 12:39 AM
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Sorry Ray but the momentary normally closed switch needs to be a maintained switch. It is the lamp's on-off switch.

Jaybake, you can use Ray's diagram (with a maintained switch) or you can substitute a starter for the momentary normally open switch, providing you can find a socket for the starter. Understand that the starter needs to match the lamp wattage.
 
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Old 10-09-14, 09:36 AM
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Thanks so much and it is starting to make more sense to me. One (likely dumb) question, would it be feasible or possible to just operate the lamp on/off by simply plugging it in, using the new starter switch? The new switch will fit the lamp just as the old so the appearance would be the same. I am assuming in this that the new lamp would make the bulb activate fully rather than just on the ends.
 
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Old 10-09-14, 03:05 PM
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I had wondered about doing something like that, just leaving the old switch in for appearances as there really is quite a bit of room in the base. I was wondering what kind of starter I would need though, as the ones I find available today are the type that seem to pop in, with the two fitters at the end.
 
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Old 10-10-14, 10:09 PM
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If I were to replace the starter and ballast, in other words, retrofit it using the new three terminal starter, but keep the same upright fluorescent bulb configuration, what would be the best parts to use? It seems there are so many parts out there, but that this could done fairly easily with the right parts.
 
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Old 10-10-14, 11:11 PM
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If you replaced the ballast you might be able to find one that doesn't require a starter.

Otherwise pickup a starter socket and an FS-2 starter.

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Old 10-11-14, 01:05 AM
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If you can't find a starter socket or the base does not have enough room for the socket then you can bend the clips on the starter can, remove the innards and solder them into the circuit.
 
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Old 10-11-14, 08:10 AM
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If you go with a starter or all new parts and leave in the old switch you can use a line cord switch on the lamp.
 
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