Plant Stand From 1920's Heater




About: I enjoy taking a pile of junk and making something unusual out of it. I like wheeled vehicles, and currently own two motorcycles, two electric bikes that I've built, and an electric scooter pushed by a soc...

The above photo is the restored version of an old gas space heater my wife and I found at an estate sale in a house that had been built in the 1880's and had been basically unchanged for the past 90 years.  This heater had been discovered in the attic of the old house, and I'm guessing it dates back to around the 1910's - 1920's.  It was an interesting style -- it was all metal and had a fairly large opening in the bottom front.  It stood off the floor on four cast metal legs, and had four cast metal corner pieces at the top.  The only markings on this heater was the word "Efficient" on a cast metal plate on the front, "402" stamped on the lower front, and "Limited Guaranteed Warranty" stamped on the back.  I didn't check, but I assume the limited warranty had expired.....

Having absolutely no idea what we would do with this rusty old relic, of course, we bought it and brought it home.

Since I recently updated an ancient electric space heater for our bathroom (  ) we decided to turn this old gas heater into a plant stand.  It had a rather unique style, and I figured that once it was restored, it would be an interesting addition to our collection.

Step 1: Material and Tools Required

Materials used were as follows:

- an old metal heater
- sandpaper
- Krylon paint and primer

Tools required were minimal:

- wire brushes
- screwdriver
- pliers and wrenches

Step 2: Disassembly

The first thing I did was disassemble this heater -- down to every last panel and part.  There was quite a bit of rust involved, so I wanted to get at every nook and cranny.  As I took it apart, I photographed every part as I went so I would remember how it went back together.

It wasn't a difficult disassembly.  Basically every part was held on by machine screws and nuts.  The only hard part was figuring out the order to remove things.  After careful study, I removed the legs first, then loosened the top corner pieces (and turned them sideways), and removed the top.  After removing the top I could get to the nuts that held the corner pieces in place.  Everything else was relatively straightforward. 

The sides and back of the heater were fastened together by a folded seam, so they had to stay together.

The burner was a single pipe running the width of the heater.  I removed the end cap and slid it out.

Step 3: Sand and Prime

Wire brushing and sanding came next.  I wire brushed the metal plate removed from the front (photo 1) and the legs and corner pieces.

All of the panels were sanded with 220 grit sandpaper, then 400 grit.

After wire brushing the trim and sanding the panels, I sprayed them with Krylon rust resistant primer.

While the primer was drying, I wire brushed every machine screw head and sprayed them with primer as well.

Step 4: Paint the Housing

After the primer had cured, I applied the paint.  I was initially going to paint each individual part, but decided to pre-assemble the main part of the stove before applying the paint.  Some of the inside pieces were a bit of a challenge to get positioned, and I figured I would risk scratching the paint on the inside if I did that.  So, I pre-assembled the interior parts of the stove, then painted it as a unit.

Next, I painted the top and front panel as separate pieces, and a shelf I had made to go into the bottom of the heater (in lieu of a curved diverter that had initially been there).  This panel would allow plants or candles to be placed inside the bottom of the heater.

For all these parts I used Krylon hammered finish black paint.

Step 5: Paint the Trim

For the trim pieces, I first sprayed them with Krylon gloss black paint.  After this was dry, I lightly "dusted" them with bronze paint, so some of the black would show through.

I used the same process on the machine screws that held the trim parts onto the heater.

Step 6: Install the Lower Shelf

I made the shelf for the lower part of the heater out of plywood that I cut to fit the braces at the bottom of the heater.  To install the shelf I merely set it on top of the braces.

Step 7: Final Assembly

Once all the paint was dry, reassembly took less than thirty minutes.  I have posted a few before and after photos to show how far this old heater has come in its restoration.

Even though this heater will be used as a plant stand, no change was made to prevent it from being used as a heater should the need arise.  All I would have to do is remove the bottom shelf and reinstall the curved panel that was in the bottom, and it would be a heater once again.

Step 8: Finished

This old heater should serve for at least another 90 or so years as a plant stand in our kitchen.  Well, actually we won't last that long, but it can serve someone well!

This was not a difficult project -- very messy & dirty at times, but not overly difficult.

I enjoy saving old rusty things from the scrap heap and making something useful out of them.  Plus, at least in this case, it gives me pause to wonder who actually used this back in its day?  What was their life like?  Where did they come from?  And, did they ever wonder if someone someday would turn their old rusty heater into a plant stand?



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    10 Discussions

    That looks great! i like the bronze over black, gives it a nice touch. still, if it was a bedside heater, i would have used it especially since it just snowed 6 inches by me last night in wisconsin..

    1 reply

    Thanks for the comment! I've been in a few Wisconsin snows, and you folks can have some pretty serious winters. Where I live it was 80 degrees yesterday....


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Beautiful! I love the whole reuse concept.

    We have a large, old parlor-style German Heater my husband has halfway restored... to what, I'm unsure. ;-)

    1 reply

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Thank you for your comment! I just hate to see some of these old things rust away.