How to Restore an Old Wheelbarrow

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About: My name is Aaron Massey and I'm the DIY guy/ handyman behind mrfixitdiy.com. I focus on making fun DIY project and Home Improvement videos for a digital audience.

When I first moved into my house, one of the things I found in my backyard was an old, rusted wheelbarrow. Instead of throwing it away, I knew I wanted to restore it. It's been a few years, but the time has finally come to turn it from a rusty eyesore to a good-as-new piece of equipment.

Step 1: Removing the Rust

Before you can start to make the wheelbarrow look the part, you will need to take off all of the surface rust on the wheelbarrow itself, as well as the smaller pieces of hardware.

I started by soaking all the smaller components in WD-40 Specialist Industrial-Strength Cleaner & Degreaser and used some WD-40 Specialist Rust Release Penetrant Spray to loosen up the old rusted bolts on some of the hardware.

With them soaking, you can focus on the tub itself. For this, I used a flap disc on my angle grinder for most of the removal, alongside some low grit sandpaper on my angle grinder and a wire brush attachment on my drill. It took a while to get down to the bare metal on the whole tub. And then once the tub was done, I had to do the same thing to all the smaller hardware components!

Step 2: Priming and Painting

Finally, after a whole bunch of grinding and sanding, I had all the pieces brought back down to the bare metal and ready for primer. I sprayed the whole thing with a few coats of rust sealing metal primer with my Graco Paint Sprayer.

Originally this wheelbarrow was blue, which I didn’t know until I started sanding it down but since I’m redoing it, I decided to make it a little more “On Brand” this time around and painted the tub a bright orange. I couldn’t find the orange color for my sprayer so I got stuck spraying the whole thing with the trusty old rattle can method. For the hardware components, I decided to make those all black so I sprayed them with a few coats as well and then sealed the whole thing with a few coats of high gloss clear coat.

Step 3: Constructing the Handles

While all that set up, I started in on the new handles and wedges for the wheelbarrow. I started by milling down some hard maple that I had lying around into long rectangles for the handles.

Normally I probably wouldn’t use maple for this because it’s a pretty nice hardwood for a wheelbarrow that’s gonna get some abuse outside but I wasn’t about to go buy something else. And yes, I could’ve bought pre-made handles too but again, Where’s the fun in that? It’ll just be the nicest handled wheelbarrow around when it’s done. The handles ended up being about 61″ long by 1.5″ thick.

When it came time to shape the handles I wasn’t really sure how I was gonna do it but I decided to try and just use the angle grinder and the flap disc since I used it for just about everything else and it worked out great. I was able to rough shape them into something that was pretty ergonomic and then finish them off with some sandpaper. Then I started figuring out where the hardware was going to line up on the handles and drilled some holes in them.

Step 4: Rough Assembly

Since I didn’t have any old parts to base the wedges off, I didn’t really know what the angle needed to be or how long they needed to be so I rough assembled the wheelbarrow to try and get a sense of how it was going to be so I could figure out how to make them and also where the wheel was going to fall. The old wheel was pretty dry rot so I did end up spending money on a new one and decided to go with a solid rubber tire. I also bought new galvanized nuts and bolts to hopefully stop the rust from happening again down the line.

Once I had an idea of what to do for the wedges, I cut them on the table saw and then used the drill press to mortise out some holes so that I could have an area to adjust them if I needed to which ended up working out pretty good. The finished wedges ended up being 19″ long by 1.5″ wide and tapered from 1 3/4″ to 1″. I didn’t do the math on the angle.

Before I did the final reassembly of everything, I wiped down all the maple with a couple coats of Danish oil (I said Tung Oil in the video but I actually used Danish Oil) finish to help it withstand the outdoor elements. I’ll have to reapply down the line but for now a couple coats should be fine.

Step 5: Final Assembly

I’m pretty sure there was an easier way to get this thing back together than the way I did it, but after a bunch of messing around, I finally got it all put back together and tightened down.

I added one last thing to this wheelbarrow and that is this wheelbarrow liner insert to try and keep the paint job on the inside of the tub intact for a little while and hopefully protect it for a little while. These are manufactured by a local company and one was sent over to me to test out so I figured I’d give it a shot and see how it works out.

Well that is it for this project! I hope you guys enjoyed it. I know I had a ton of fun bringing this old wheelbarrow back to life. It’s not something I do very often so it was a fun little restoration challenge and I’d definitely like to do some more of it down the line. I want to say a quick thank you to WD-40 for making this project possible and I encourage you guys to check out some of their new line of products for your DIY and home improvement projects at http://www.wd40.com/.

If you liked this project and would like to see more useful DIY projects I've done, check out some of my other work!

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Thanks again for checking out this project, I hope you learned something helpful, and I'll see you next time!

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    35 Discussions

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    sarah05148

    Question 5 months ago on Step 4

    what kind of spray paint did you use? what primer?? I didn't see a tools list. looks great , ready for fun.

    1 more answer
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    MrFixItDIYsarah05148

    Answer 5 months ago

    I'll adjust. Primer was Rustoleum Rust Preventive metal primer. Paint was Rustoleum gloss protective enamel

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    Kane Measham-Pywell

    5 months ago

    great project there are always wheel barrows around that are destined for the tip. I might give this a go.

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    jay_70

    5 months ago on Introduction

    You could have measured the wood tapered part (high-end height : taper length) on a new similar model to establish the various angles?

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    VincentT57

    5 months ago

    Wood racks to hold 30-50kg of load... wood... wood... I definitely studied something wrong about material strongness!

    This barrow worth only to make braai :) It's wrongly balanced, keeping all load on your hands.

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    MrFixItDIYVincentT57

    Reply 5 months ago

    Never seen a wheelbarrow with wooden handles before? Not sure where you're from.

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    chris.gaines.71MrFixItDIY

    Reply 5 months ago

    I understand VincentT57, every wheelbarrow has a balance point weight that distributes the load on the wheel and makes it easier to push.

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    MrFixItDIYchris.gaines.71

    Reply 5 months ago

    It seems perfectly balanced to me and I have no problems with it. What is it that you're suggesting?

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    chris.gaines.71MrFixItDIY

    Reply 5 months ago

    The length of handles for each wheelbarrow model is different. In the rebuild you put "The handles ended up being about 61″ long by 1.5″ thick.' You did not clearly state or show in the pictures that you copied the original handles. This length will be different for many barrows as the balance point differs ... try several barrows at the hardware store with a bag of mulch and you will find some are easier for you to handle. That is due to your height, and the balance point that puts the load on the wheel.

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    VincentT57MrFixItDIY

    Reply 5 months ago

    I'm from the country where things made with quality. Wood is just for carrying 10kg watermelon. Anything heavier requires strong iron support. Or titanium. :)

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    chris.gaines.71VincentT57

    Reply 5 months ago

    Yes, the the balance point is governed by several measurements: Operator height, arm length, distance from wheel to back of load and length of handles. I do like wood handles on my barrows, the steel is worse for vibration on long hauls! I've used both.

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    MrFixItDIYchris.gaines.71

    Reply 5 months ago

    I get what you're saying but this was a restoration project. I restored it to it's original look and design. I didn't redesign the wheelbarrow.

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    ZaneEricB

    Question 5 months ago

    I assume this means there were no rusted out holes in the bucket? if there were... any suggestions?

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    MrFixItDIYZaneEricB

    Answer 5 months ago

    You could always weld in a patch and/or use a liner like the one I have.

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    GregH104

    5 months ago

    Enjoyed your post, I have an old rusty wheelbarrow that was on my property when I moved in too! Like you , I love it and plan on restoring it. Hopefully your video will inspire me to finally get it done.

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    MrFixItDIYGregH104

    Reply 5 months ago

    Takes a little motivation to get started for sure!