Introduction: Retro Fan Restoration
I procured this antique desk fan at a garage sale on the cheap (~$5, pre-pandemic). The owner said it worked intermittently and was ready to get rid of it. I figured I could breathe new life into this retro fan and quickly snatched it up. At that price, I had to! Trying to find a cheap retro fan like this online, even a junky one, is nearly impossible (depending on your budget, I suppose).
Step 1: Initial Assessment & Disassembly
Initially, I figured that the plug was worn or corroded. I plugged it in and flipped the switch. Sure enough, it ran when it "felt like it."
The issue: The switch's contact were not connecting properly and after a quick sanding & bending it back into position, it worked like a charm.
RANT: On the one hand, I got this super awesome retro fan for $5 because the owner had enough, so yay for me. On the other hand, the throw away culture is mind boggling to me...Either way, do the easiest fix first (it is usually the power supply)!
Next, I began the tear down and for my own benefit I filmed it. This came in handy too often to count since it served as a road map I could come back to if I got turned around on the rebuild. I highly recommend it (especially for the different fasteners).
Getting the fan disassembled was the easy part. I just worked my way through to get each individual piece separated. The "hardest" part of this restoration was, in my opinion, getting the cage away (and reinstalling) from the blades. The rotor had some rust and wouldn't initially pull away from the housing but as you can see from the pic, slight sanding corrected the issue.
Step 2: Test & Strip
I didn't want to take a chance on the paint and picked up a lead paint test kit. Luckily the test was negative (not pink).
I promptly put the stripper on the base, the little cap in the middle of the blades...the nose? whatever it is called, and the motor housing and let it do it's work. The old paint was no match and fell away with ease. After a quick sanding with 220 grit sand paper, I geared up to spray a coat of primer.
NOTE: You really don't want to let the bare metal be exposed for too long as rust is your enemy. The quicker you go from strip/sand to prime is for the best.
The real pain was getting the cage clean/rust busted and took the longest amount of time. If only I had a sanding (or a vanishing) cabinet. I used left over bits of 220 and 500 grit sand paper to get all the nooks and crannies. I did try my Dremel with a brass wire wheel but I preferred a hand sand since that was a bit too aggressive. Once I was satisfied, I sprayed the grill with sealant to minimize corrosion.
The old grease was removed from the oscillator housing with the original intention to replace the missing hardware. I quickly found this to be too expensive for my purposes but will keep an eye out for a deal in the future.
Rust was busted from the hardware with otc white vinegar since it won't aggressively eat away at the bare metal (unless you leave it for day, which I do not recommend). After 1-2 hours, it was neutralized with a baking soda/water solution, I took the brass bristle brush to the nooks and crannies and dried it thoroughly.
Step 3: More Clean Up
To get the inside of the motor clean I just used compressed air.
The rotor shaft was really rusted, and I just stuck it on the drill press and let that do the work while I stood there with a 500 sanding wheel.
The chrome backer was cleaned with just dish soap, water, and some elbow grease. I was surprised when that simple method was the top contender found in my internet search. For me, this was sufficient, too.
The same soapy water was used for the fan blades. I did wind up using a nylon bristle brush to get all the edge gunk off (gross).
Finally, I wiped down the cord and the switch housing with a wet rag.
Step 4: Repainting & Reassembly
I chose to repaint with teal spray paint. I figured this was a good throw back color and added a better pop than the previously stripped black paint.
The brand plate was mashed up so to round that back out, I put some padding on a ball peen hammer and taped it down. You really need to take your time when pounding that out. Don't forget to protect the front from scuffs while pounding the back, as well.
Again, I was saved by my tear down video for reassembly of the unit in its entirety! Working the fan blade back into the grill area needed some finesse so as to not bend or ding the blade edges.
Looking at similar interweb images pointed out that the previous owner seemed to have the base backwards so this was corrected during reassembly. However, this was made to mount on a wall so it is really up to the owner, I suppose.
Step 5: Run It
Once everything was in its proper place, I fired this bad boy up and the fan runs like a champ!
This was a great weekend project and a fine addition to my home, especially since the price was right.
Again, I hope to add the linkage for the oscillator at some point in the future but at this point I just attached the fan to the wall in my shop. I did try to salvage a linkage from a modern oscillating fan, but spoiler alert, that didn't work. Even after grinding the pieces to appear similar to online images, it was a no go.
I hope you enjoyed this Instructable and if you have the chance to restore one of these retro fans, I highly recommend it. The construction is solid and with a little TLC, I hope this lasts a long time in my shop.
Of course, if you have kids or curious pets, keep out of reach as the cage is way open.
Participated in the
Anything Goes Contest
1 Person Made This Project!
- feranmiolatunjisamuel made it!