How to find a bulb for a Tensor lamp

Plus, advice on where to get old plantation shutters repainted


There are a couple of companies online and locally that sell bulbs that should work in this old Tensor 7200 lamp. (Reader photo/Reader photo)
July 9

Question: I’ve been trying unsuccessfully to find a replacement bulb for an old Tensor 7200 desk lamp. I’ve gotten bulbs from a couple of Internet sites and a local auto parts dealer, none of which has worked. Do you have any suggestions?

— Arlington

Answer: Luckily your lamp is a vintage piece with some cachet, so there are others who have faced the same challenge. Invented in 1959 by Jay Monroe, the Tensor was the original high-intensity, low-voltage minilamp for close-up work and reading. When Monroe died, the New York Times published a full obituary; inventing the lamp was considered that significant. The lamp also warranted a footnote in the history books because the Nixon White House blamed the 18-minute gap in a recording central to the Watergate scandal on hums from a Tensor lamp and the electric typewriter used by the president’s secretary.

Some owners of this lamp recommend using the No. 93 bulb from EiKO Global. The detail specs should say “1.04A 12.8V BA15S 13.31W.” Type that into a Web search tool such as Google, and you will find companies happy to sell it to you. In case you’re curious, the code translates as 1.04 amps, 12.8 volts, single-contact bayonet style (the BA15S) and 13.31 watts. The bayonets are the two prongs on the base. The T in the original bulb’s code, 93T, probably also refers to the bayonets.

Another option is to order the WW-5DGE-3 bulb from Interlight (800-743-0005; www.interlight.biz). The company advertises it specifically as suitable for the Tensor 7200. One bulb costs just 77 cents, but you have to buy 10 at a time, and shipping adds almost $10. Still, you’ll have a supply for years.

Or, to save on shipping, you might try taking your bulb to Batteries Plus in Alexandria (www.batteriesplus.com; 703-575-7711). They have a bulb labeled 93BP that might work. You could at least compare it with your spent bulb and then decide whether to try it. Once you open the package, though, you can’t return it.

Question: I have five windows covered in white plantation shutters. The shutters were installed 24 years ago and the paint has faded and turned a bit yellow. Where can I get them repainted?

— Annapolis

You didn’t say what material the shutters are made of. Repainting is a lot easier if they’re wood than if they are plastic.

Assuming they are wood, Mark Coale, owner of Maryland Paint & Decorating in Annapolis (410-280-2225; www.mdpaint.com) recommends having them spray-painted. He had two suggestions: IE Group in Annapolis (443-686-2938) and Capital Coatings in Easton (443-623-6920).

Matthew Cheney of Capital Coatings said the price to repaint varies from about $65 to $85 per shutter (not per pair), depending on whether the existing paint is intact or peeling and on whether the old finish is oil paint or latex. If it’s oil — which is likely on shutters of the vintage of yours — he would stick with oil even though it costs a little more. Oil paint dries harder, a big advantage on plantation shutters because the paint layers don’t stick when one part presses against another for a long period. Latex paint stays somewhat sticky even after it dries, so if you don’t move the louvers for a while, when you go to open or close them, they might not budge. Or paint on one part might pull off and stay stuck to the adjoining part.

If the old finish is latex, he’d recoat with that because switching to oil might cause the new paint to peel.

If the shutters are made of something other than wood, ask the company to test the paint on a small area before you commit.

Have a problem in your home? Send questions tolocalliving@washpost.com . Put “How To” in the subject line, tell us where you live and try to include a photo.

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