Skip to Content

The Restoration Posts

Making 19th Century Paints

August 27, 2017 • jdonahue

This is a subject I’ve been interested in for years; I’m finally exploring it. HERE”S a page I made about it.Chef_LeVarneesh

Carbide Scraper Test

August 12, 2017 • jdonahue

Tried a very nice carbide scraper on some old planks today. Read more at THIS PAGE. plank_1

Experimenting with Oilcloth.

August 2, 2017 • jdonahue

For years, I wanted to make things out of oilcloth. It’s what they used before modern tarps. I experimented with a small one, made from Duck cloth, and Linseed oil. The stuff is DANGEROUS, so read the warnings At This page.


The Molly S. Wire Brush

July 18, 2017 • jdonahue

Serendipity can be awesome, and this time is no exception. A gal at Grainger help chat led me to make a wire brush that’s new to me. the details can be READ HERE.


Painted Rooster for Pigeon Forge.

July 8, 2017 • jdonahue

A recent project, more pictures and details can be seen at THIS PAGE


Tool report: different wire wheels

April 17, 2017 • jdonahue

ox_cribNot all wire wheels for a 4 inch angle grinder are created equal. Or I should say created the same. I’ve encountered 4 types: Cupped braided, cupped unbraided, flat braided, and flat unbraided. Since the cupped wheels spin in a smaller circle, they usually are less aggressive. Unbraided is less aggressive than braided, so the cupped unbraided is the least aggressive. I’ve heard people say that wire wheels don’t actually remove rust, they merely polish the surface. There is a lot of truth to that, but not always. The nice thing about a wire wheel is that it can conform to, or reach places that other tools won’t; such as around large rivet heads. The wire wheel is a tool I use a lot.

In these pictures, I’m cleaning some bronze mechanical parts, for the sake of appearance. That’s why it’s not necessary to polish the entire piece. In the first picture the bronze piece has been cleaned with the flat braided wire wheel visible at the bottom of the picture. The unbraided wire wheel is mounted on the angle grinder. The next pictures show what a difference the softer wire makes. The braided wheel is indispensable for steel, but not as good for softer metal.bronze_1bronze_2bronze_3

Seizing Ground

March 28, 2017 • jdonahue

This blog is of course, about restoration of “men, machines and things”. America also needs restoration. I’m a member at Gab, a relatively new social media site. It’s not censored like other social media, it’s populated by the gamut of those who are conservative. No RINOS, but just about everyone else. I recommend that you look into it. Being at that site, along with recent events, has inspired me to start a new blog called Its about retaking ground from the global liberal agenda by replacing the influences of education, news, and entertainment.


Old School Paint Making

February 12, 2017 • jdonahue

I’m in the process of restoring an old piece of equipment for a client. I’m using paint stripper to get the old paint off, instead of power tools. When I got down to the metal, I noticed something I’ve seen on other projects; a layer of brown dusty material.powderThere is no way the painters would have left the surface in that condition, besides, I’ve seen it on other equipment, I doubt there would be widespread mistakes of the same kind. Lately I’ve been wanting to start making period paints, so I’ve been investigating how they were made. Some were made with iron oxide mixed into linseed oil. The pictures I’ve seen of the pigment vary quite a bit in color, so at this point, I think it’s likely that this was primed with an iron oxide paint. The paint stripper probably broke down the binder (linseed oil) and left the powder.

It turns out that iron oxide powder is dirt cheap, $4.99 for 5 lb. What I needed was a tool called a Muller. They’re made of glass, and the larger one is around $70. I decided to make one from steel. I looked around for a small handle, but saw this railroad freight car pin, and used it. I welded it to a round steel base I made, and that worked really well. You can see it in the picture below. IO_primer_1Here’s what the powder looks like:IO_powderIn the next picture, you can get a better idea of the size of the tool. The length and weight of the handle make it work very well. It the middle of the picture is the paste made by grinding the powder with linseed oil. The plate I’m grinding on is a piece of leaf spring from a 1946 diesel locomotive. What’s interesting is how heavy the paste is. The powder takes up less space when wet. Grinding is mostly making sure there aren’t lumps in the paste. In the last picture, I’ve added more oil to the paste, along with some Japan drier, then applied it to the tool itself. My plan is to see if I can wet sand this primer, and use it to fill small pits in the steel surface. I’ll post the results later.mullerIO_primer_2

2 projects with the kids

January 22, 2017 • jdonahue

I try to help the kids with projects during the week, but often we do more on Saturdays. Today we did 3 projects. The first one isn’t a restoration, so it’s at another site. FIRST AID SUPPLY BOX

The other are a piano bench that Clara is working on; and a Kenmore dryer that Colleen is working on. I wish I had taken a picture of the dark Walnut stain going on the freshly sanded wood bench top. In the first picture, Clara is applying varnish over the stain with a brush. I wanted to her to get experience with different methods. In the second picture, the varnish has dried, we have wet sanded it with 400 grit paper, and wiped the dust off with a tack cloth. Then I showed her how to spray a coat on. The results are rather nice, but the picture doesn’t show it so well.Clara_bench_2Clara_bench_3Clara_bench_4The dryer that Colleen worked on is extra, my wife bought a new one, this one still works, but we’re free to use it as a teaching project. That we will, it will have flames and maybe pinstripes when we’re finished. In the first picture, she’s sanding it with a power sander and 320 grit paper. Then she blew it off, and wiped it with solvent and a tack cloth. In the second picture, she is spray painting with an HVLP sprayer. This was a good learning project, as there is some technique involved. The third picture shows the result, a very nice finish, clean, white, shiny, and no runs, She did a great job.Colleen_dryer_1Colleen_dryer_2Colleen_dryer_3

A mindset of improvement

January 17, 2017 • jdonahue

In the last post, I tried a new way to use my splitting mauls, by polishing and waxing them. It’s part of a continual mindset (when I can) to try things a different way. It has helped me very much over the years. Now this bit here with the left handed dental floss is pretty much just a joke; but it illustrates the continual mindset of exploring new methods. I don’t remember if I dropped the container, but I noticed that the assembly came out as a whole. You can access it by squeezing the container, pulling it out, and reversing it. Ta-da! Left handed dental floss. You saw it here first.


The mindset is usually a lot more practical. Like when using a pizza box to start a fire. I realized that I could make long cuts that didn’t go all the way to the edge, then twist the cardboard. This allows air to get in between the pieces. Works great. The grease on the box helps. Did you know that corn chips and potato chips are very flammable? cardboardfire