Introduction: Tips and Techniques for Restoration Projects, Vintage Tools, Wood, Metal, and Plastic,

Over the years I have been asked to restore many items. These include spinning wheel, cider press, egg incubator, hand corn sheller, garden tools, seed cleaner, fire safe, hand tools, planes, spoke shaves, beam drill, convert a Edison phonograph (mechanical parts missing) to a wifi audio player, furniture, 1830's chairs and table, and vintage firearms.

Most of these restorations were what I call "functional restoration" that means the tool will function. but is not in factory new condition. I do not make all parts look factory new, there will be dents and dings that do not harm the function of the tool. I can reproduce wood, metal, and plastic parts. This includes, casting metal and plastic, forging metal, machining metal, wood, and plastic, cnc machining, welding, and 3d printing

I have written separate instructables on several of these individual projects.

Also check out my other build projects.

Step 1: Converting a Decorative Spinning Wheel Into a Functional Spinning Wheel

A customer had purchased a decorative spinning wheel (incomplete spinning mechanism), his wife wanted to spinning wool. They priced a working spinning wheel and wanted to get this one made to work. After researching, the missing parts were produced and install to make a working spinning wheel.

Tip #1

Some of spindles used in the treadle were salvaged from dining room chairs. The chairs were found set out for the trash man (the owner was contacted and gave permission to haul them off). Damaged furniture is purchased at thrift stores, garage sales, and auctions for veneer, vintage wood, and turnings and moldings. This is a source for wood with the look of the vintage projects. It is also a source hardware and fasteners for the period furniture.

Step 2: Restoration of Fire Safe

A local church was burglarized and the unlocked fire safe that was storage for the church achieve photos. The burglars vandalized the safe by stealing the brass hinge acorns and they smashed the internal drawers. The brass acorns were reproduced with the aid of Fusion 360 software and a Creality CR-10S 3d printer. See my instructables for details on producing the brass acorns. The drawers were made from an damaged executive desk from the 1930's. The safe was produced around 1900.


Download and learn to use Fusion 360 software. (it is free for educational purposes) With this you will be able to reproduce parts that are unavailable and have them manufactured either in the original material or out of plastic on a 3d printer.

Step 3: Learn How to Sharpen and Use a Card Scraper

I find the card scraper is the best kept secret in woodworking and restoration.Below is a partial list of how I use a scraper. Card scrapers really cut like a plane instead of pushing like a bulldozer.

-Wood smoothing I use the scraper instead of sanding 150 grit and below. Most projects I scrape and then sand with 220 grit sandpaper and then apply the finish.

-Scrapers work well on end grain

-Remove band saw and table saw marks faster than sanding.

-Remove chip out and marks or defects

-Level inlay or plugs

-Level paint runs and drips

-Remove old finish without chemicals

-Level and remove glue squeeze out

-Cut off residue from labels, decals, and tape

-Break sharp edges on material

-Remove rust after an application of rust remover

-Contour filler on repairs wood, metal, and plastic

-Make custom profiles for smooth custom moldings

I have had scrapers for many years, but only after I got an Arno burnisher was I able to consistently sharpen and burnish the scraper. I have tried several techniques and jigs, with results ranging from occasionally getting a working scraper with the a hand burnishing rod too maybe 50/50 with some of the specialty jigs.

The Armo burnisher is two carbide rods mounted in a metal handle, one rod is round and the other is a triangle. These burnishers are available in the United States from They also carry the cabinet scraper.

To sharpen a scraper there are several steps the first is to use a sharpening stone, sandpaper, or diamond hone to flatten and make the edge perpendicular to sides. The finer you finish this the finer hook you will get when you burnish the scraper. For general use I usually hone to 220 grit, when leveling paint or varnish I hone to 800 to 1200 grit. I use a marker (Sharpie) and when the marks are gone I know the edge is flat.(if the edge is in poor condition a file can be used to true the edge, then hone) Then the round side of the burnisher is used to burnish the side. The round is held flat on the side (stroke 5-6 time it should go from feeling bump to gliding smoothly). The the triangle side is used to burnish the edge (you only burnish the edge on the handle side, reverse handle to burnish the other side). Again 5-6 strokes should go from bumpy to smooth. Correct pressure is just firm pressure. (no playing King Kong pushing with all you weight) The handle is held level and the triangle will be at the proper angle to form a hook on the edge. If you have trouble lower the handle slightly and see if it helps. If you get a hook on the side opposite the handle you are holding the handle too high. To test for the hook push you finger against the side and raise your finger up to the edge you should feel the burr with your finger nail. The hook can be renewed several times before you need to hone the edge and sides again.

Tip #3

Learn how to use a cabinet scraper and consider making custom scraper from putty knives. Soft steel makes a easier to burnish scraper verse hardened tool steel.

Step 4: Cider Press Rust Removal

A customer wanted a 1871 cider press rebuilt into a functional press. The wood legs were termite eaten, the metal parts were rusted and some were immovable. The first item was to soak the metal parts in an electrolysis bath to remove the rust and free up the seized parts. A good sight for how to operate a electrolysis bath is I have a plastic bushel container, the power supply is a 12 volt battery with a trickle charge attached. Used rebar are used for for the electrode.

The old legs were used as patterns for the new parts and any wooden part that would contact the cider were replaced with food safe high density polyethylene.

Tip #4

Assemble a electrolysis cleaning bath for cleaning a rusted parts.

Step 5: Go to Finish for Restoration

The chest of drawer pictured was painted white with yellow painted drawer fronts. The paint was removed with a aviation paint stripper (methylene chloride gel stripper) stopping at the old varnish finish and the varnish was scraped. The procedure does not effect the staining under the varnish and the varnish protects the wood from the water used to rinse of the paint residue and stripper. The new finish is my go to finish for restoration. Two coats of my mixture 1/3 boiled linseed oil, 1/3 oil base spar varnish, and 1/3 mineral spirits or turpentine. These two coats are applied with 400 grit sand paper. The next coats are 1/2 boiled linseed oil and 1/2 oil base spar varnish. two or three coats are applied with a rag. After these are dry a coat of spar varnish is applied either spray or again wiped on with a rag.

Tip #5

Antique finish 1/3 boiled linseed oil, 1/3 oil based spar varnish, and 1/3 mineral spirits or turpentine. apply with 400 grit sandpaper

Build up coats 1/2 boiled linseed oil and 1/2 oil base spar varnish applied with a rag

Top coat oil base spar varnish applied spray or wiped on with a rag.

Step 6: Surface Rust Removal and Cold Blueing

Metal parts with surface rust are cleaned by soaking in Evapo Rust or if the part is too large to fit in a container of Evapo Rust soak a rag or paper towel with the solution apply to the rusted area let soak for a minute and then sand the area with 400 grit sandpaper repeat until bright metal is visible. Then polish with steel wool. Rinse the part with water and dry. Clean the part with brake clean let dry. Apply Brownells Oxpho Blue creme and allow to stand for a few minutes. Wipe off any excess creme. Repeat until desired color is achieved. When satisfied apply a coat of light oil to prevent rust.

Tip #6

Use Evapo Rust to remove surface rust. To blue or blacken steel use Brownells Oxpho Blue and oil with a light oil.

Step 7: Repairing Broken Parts or Damaged Wood

JB Weld Kwik Wood is used to repair damaged parts. The Kwik Wood is mixed and then formed into shape. After about an hour the repair is carved to approximate size then left to cure over night. The repair is then finished sized with a scraper and sandpaper. The repair is then stained or painted to match the surrounding material. Smaller damage can be repaired with auto body filler (Bondo). These repairs can be finished in minutes instead of hours.

For minor dents and dings or fill small cracks I use Elmer's wood fillers in the colors to match the wood I am working with.

Tip # 7

Repair damaged areas with epoxy filler, auto body filler, or Elmer's filler. Then contour to shape and paint or stain to match.

Step 8: Staining Parts to Match

Gel stain is used to match existing wood parts. Gel stain builds color more quickly than regular stain and also does not bleed into areas not needing additional stain. Several different colors are kept on hand for mixing to achieve the desired color.

In this example the old finish was scraped off and was stained to match the original color.

Tip #8

Use gel stain to match existing color, have several color on hand so you can make a color close to the original. Gel stain does not bleed and also colors filler better than a liquid stain.

Step 9: Beam Drill Restoration

Currently am working on a Miller Falls beam drill restoration. One of the drive gears is damage and a new gear has been 3d printer to use as a pattern to cast a aluminum bronze replacement gear. This will be cast when the weather is warmer since the casting is done outdoors. Photos are of a complete unit, currently mine is disassembled.

Tip # 9

Network in your area with people so that have different skills and equipment than you have access to.

Step 10: Summary

I have identified name brands of products in this instructable, because they are the ones that I have personally found to be the best for the job. You may or may not agree with my choices, if you have something that you think might be better let me know, when I find something that works I do not bother testing anything else. Also I do not have any photos of project I have plastic cast. I have done radio knobs and some emblems, but failed to take photos of the projects. I get my supplies for resin casting from There are several good videos on you tube on how to make molds and cast resin.

Restoration projects are very time consuming and in many case I accept the job for the challenge and knowledge I acquire on the item and not as a money maker. To make money your have to know exactly how to produce an item and be efficient. With restorations it is hard to know what your doing to be efficient.

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