Skip to Content

The Restoration Posts

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

3 mauls on Christmas

January 9, 2017 • jdonahue

ox_crib Wood splitting mauls, that is. The days just before Christmas, I was repairing an old splitting maul. I decided to try a fiberglass handle, instead of the usual wood one. You can see it in the first picture below. It was as rusty as the other one beside it. I’m trying something different with my mauls; I’m polishing the sides, and rubbing them with candle wax, before I use them. So they’re painted on the top, bottom, and back end, but not the sides. I used the parts in the first picture to start a shorter one for kindling wood. mauls_1In the next picture, I’ve used a 4 inch angle grinder with a flap disk to clean the rust, a with a wire wheel to get down into stamped lettering and rust pits, then a small wire brush on a drill to clean the inside of the hole. mauls_3I used my homemade card scarper to remove the old finish and dark wood from the handle.mauls_4I’m also experimenting with winding copper wire around the handle at the top and maybe the bottom, to prevent splitting the handle. here’s the finished short maul, and the kindling I tested it on. It works like greased lightening. It’s funny how a simple tool that’s usually disregarded can perform a lot better with a little thought. mauls_7mauls_9 Next, I had a surprise Christmas gift, a new splitting maul! This one is better though. It’s bigger, 8 lbs, it has a fiberglass handle, and the handle is bigger, like a mattocks. When I got it, the sides were rough, but painted. I tore off the paper sticker, ground off the paint and sand cast roughness, then coated it with candle wax. It too works very well.mauls_8mauls_10

I’m starting this new tool report, to show what I’m learning about tools, and how beneficial they are. In the book of Proverbs, it says: Where no oxen are, the crib is clean, but much increase is by the strength of the ox. (Proverbs 14:4)


No Gain? & 24 hour makeover

November 27, 2016 • jdonahue

We went to visit our in laws for Thanksgiving. They were giving us 2 Jersey-Angus cross cows; so we needed to take a trailer. We had one, but it was rough, in no condition to go. I have 11 children, the older ones are quite good at fixing things. We were all busy right up to the last day. So we did a 24 hour makeover on the rusted horse trailer. The pictures tell only part of the story. The first one gives you an idea of its condition. The rust places went all around it. Yes, those are gaping holes through the metal.horseTrailer1We cut this sheet metal out, as well as the box tube steel supports behind it. They were rusted too. I used one of the old corner pieces as a guide for bending the new ones. I have a pretty nice pipe bender, which works well for the box tube steel.horseTrailer2My oldest son Earl bought a new piece of sheet steel, and rounded the corners with a section of utility pole. Then, him and his brother Sean welded it in place. I was using a wire wheel on rust spots; and wiping the trailer down with solvent to prep for white primer. I used white primer because the cold night air would wreck fresh paint. If it caused a problem in the primer, I would just sand and reprime later.  Two younger brothers, Greggory and Luke, helped with the wire wheel work, and removed the old tires from the wheels. Then they prepped and painted the wheels silver. Sometime late at night Earl helped then put the new tires we bought on the wheels. The next morning, I primed the new sheet metal, and Earl made a plywood floor for the front area. I also mixed up a dark green paint similar to the color of the towing van, and painted in the strip area that used to be black. We still have more work to complete it, but it worked really well for the trip. I didn’t want an old junky looking trailer attracting the attention of Law Enforcement. horseTrailer3horseTrailer4This trailer was damaged by neglect; the previous owner left a roof vent open, and wet hay inside the front compartment for years. Nonetheless, steel is always reverting to its oxidized state, if it has no protective coating. Job security aside, the process can look like a curse. Maintenance, here, maintenance there, maintenance everywhere.

I had pretty much given up on finding a church to attend. Then I heard a radio program by a local pastor. It was relevant to a subject I had been thinking about, so I went to a Sunday service to see what it was like. I’ve attended probably 6 services, and man, do I like it. Of course, they might turn out to have some strange doctrine, you know how it goes. So far though, the more i learn about the church, the more I like it.

So it is, at this point in time, I highly recommend Christ Church Knoxville, on Alcoa Highway. Normally, pastor Nathan gives the sermon, but a few weeks ago, a guy named Chris gave the sermon. It was good. He started talking about the book of Ecclesiastes, which if you know the Bible, isn’t all sunny and cheery. He was saying that one of the messages of the book is that there is no gain in this life. We keep repeating the same activities, with no gain. My mind started relating this to things constantly deteriorating, rusting, and wearing out. Entropy, I guess.

Then Chris pointed out that once God became flesh, and dwelt among us, the parameters changed. Because of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross mankind could have eternal life. That changed everything. In fact, the apostle Paul went on to say that for him (Paul) to live would benefit the churches, but to die was gain for himself. He would gain eternity, where there is no sorrow, no crime, no greed, and…no rust.

Here’s a link to the Church website:  Christ Church Knoxville

Here’s picture from a roadside stop on the trip.overlook_1


October 10, 2016 • jdonahue

Not as in opposed to, but the opposite. I was asked to make a barn roof sign like the “See Rock City” that are around this area. This one says “see Blairs Valley Boarding Stables”. It was fun having a serendipity incident with the flaky paint stencil. I should finish it with another two or three hours of work.

I’m not comparing myself with these guys, but here’s an interesting Bible verse that talks about God giving people skill in a craft. It’s  from Exodus chapter 31:

1 And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, 2 See, I have called by name Bezaleel the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah: Exod 35:30; 1Chr 2:20; 3 And I have filled him with the spirit of God, in wisdom, and in understanding, and in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship, 4 To devise cunning works, to work in gold, and in silver, and in brass, 5 And in cutting of stones, to set them, and in carving of timber, to work in all manner of workmanship.

You can see the methods at this site:

See This Barn SignBlairs10_9Blairs10_9b