1) Dean......if your volt meter has a built-in audible continuity feature, (without any power connected) place 1 probe inside the light fixture socket and touch it to the threaded shell portion. Place the 2nd probe to either of the 2 wires. When you get a continuity beep, that is your neutral wire.
2) Repeat the same test with 1 probe directly onto the internal tip inside the threaded shell. This is the portion where the light bulb makes direct contact with the tip of the internal socket. Place the 2nd probe an either of the 2 wires, when you get a continuity beep, that's your hot wire. This is how you can test any electrical threaded light socket to identify the hot and neutral.
The internal screw threads on any electrical lighting socket are always the neutral and the bottom tip portion of the socket is always the hot connection where the very bottom portion of the light bulb tip makes contact with the socket.
3) Reverse continuity presents a safety issue. Remember, the neutral wire in any electrical connection is called the "grounded wire". Your exterior ground rod or cold water pipe ground is connected to the main electrical panel neutral bus bar, thus providing the neutral wire as a grounded connection. If you have reverse polarity ( hot to neutral and neutral to hot), electrically, the circuit will still work producing 120 VAC and the light will illuminate and work. However and most important....... any lighting fixture, table lamp, floor lamp, etc. typically has exterior metal components. These exterior metal components are often touched by our hands and come in contact with the metal when the lighting fixture is powered up.
If you have a hot wire connected to a neutral fixture wire in a reverse polarity situation, then the exterior of the metal portion components (stem, metal pole, metal ON/OFF knob, etc) of the lighting fixture now just became a hot conductor. Thus when touching the exterior lighting metal portion, you will get a shock or get zapped!
4) Another option is to splice the wires either way. Power up the circuit. Remove the light bulb. Set your meter to AC voltage @ the 120VAC or 200VAC range. Then very carefully, place 1 probe only to the interior threaded shell of the light socket and the 2nd probe to a bare copper wire or metal box for a ground. You should read 0 VAC here if the circuit is properly grounded (remember, measuring from a neutral to a ground is always 0 volts since they are both at the same potential). If OK, then that's the neutral wire. If you read 120 VAC here, that's the hot and you need to reverse the wires.
Then repeat the test and place 1 probe to the bottom socket tip portion and the 2nd to a bare copper wire or metal box. If you read 120 VAC, then you know the wire is the hot and is wired correctly. If you get reverse measurements doing this test, just reverse the wire splices and re-test to make sure. You have a 50/50 chance on the 1st attempt. If the 1st attempt fails, the 2nd attempt will work!
Once you know the proper polarity, place a piece of black electricians tape on the hot lighting fixture wire that you just identified. This is the hot wire.
Let me know if this makes sense. If you run into any problems, just give me a shout back and I will reply...........Thanks..............Kevin!
P.S..... Am doing well here. Swamped with work load between 2 factories that my company maintains. Have only had 1 day off since May 1st. Have even worked many Saturdays this past summer. Had to hire 3 more electricians to keep up with the work load. Am up to 6 full time electricians plus myself now. I am slowly no longer working with the tools, all I do is design, layout jobs, sell jobs, purchase materials, play material delivery driver and inspect the final project and move onto the next project.
Next month, I will be trying to obtain UL listing for a few electrical control panels that my company also manufactures. 3 years ago, I developed some innovative emergency lighting control panels that can be deployed in any residential, commercial or industrial application which can provide power failure lighting to any standard 120 volt lighting fixture and not just a separate emergency lighting fixture. My invention can provide immediate emergency lighting within a second or so upon a commercial power failure for numerous hours at a time and not just 90 minutes maximum like the emergency lights found in commercial and industrial applications today. I installed my 1st control panels in my home 3 years ago and they work like a charm. I no longer chase for a lighter or candle or flashlight during a power failure or electrical lightening storm. My selective lights in my home come on and stay on for over 12 hours upon a commercial power failure and can be deployed anywhere in the world. Hurricane prone or other natural disasters areas that occur with the loss of commercial electrical power will appreciate my invention. In addition, I'm also immediately informed via a voice mail message or a text message that my home lost commercial electrical power. I can also control the lighting via my Smart Phone or Tablet or any computer PC from anywhere.
In addition to being a licensed electrician for the past 26 years, I also have a degree in Digital Electronics which I never really utilized to my full potential. I'm finally utilizing my 8 years of college at DeVry Institute of Technology where I graduated twice from in 1986 and in 1988. Needless to say, I'm having much fun designing and prototyping numerous electrical control panels for a variety of applications. If everything goes my way, I intend on launching our control panel products to the general public by year end. Hopefully you will see my control panels in the electrical aisles of Home Depot and Lowe's.......we'll see what happens.