During a recent flea market trip my girlfriend and I picked up this really cool, vintage Kenmore fan. Her main passion is restoring and reviving old furniture and home decor for her website, Picklee. When we saw this extremely old fan we instantly knew it would be an awesome restoration project. Since Jordan has been so busy opening her first shop, Picklee on Spring, she handed this project to me. I have always loved taking things apart and putting them back together, mainly because I like to see how they worked and actually enjoy the challenge of putting something back together, so taking on this project wasn’t a problem.
Some would try to paint the fan without taking it apart and cleaning and painting each individual piece, but not me, I pay attention to detail. If we’re going to paint a vintage fan I feel like it should be done right. By right I mean, no overspray on the fan blade, shaft, or the other working parts. You could tape off certain parts, but it would probably end up taking a lot longer with poor results. To accomplish the look I was going after I thought it was completely necessary to disassemble this fan. I did run into some road-bumps along the way, which is expected when working with an old piece like this, which I will explain as I go through the DIY fan restoration steps.
I gladly took the fan restoration project on with enthusiasm, a few cans of spray paint, pliers, screwdrivers, allen wrenches, Worcester sauce (to clean the brass), tooth brush (to scrub the metal), paper towels, and some household cleaner. Lately I’ve been into classic looking furniture, fans, lamps, and decorations, so I wanted this fan to have that classic look. I thought a shiny black base and cage would be a great choice along with gold accents including the oscillating switch, side piece, fan blade, and fan shaft to achieve this classic look.
The first thing I did was take off the fan cover by removing a screw towards the back of the fan. The cover slid right off to reveal the motor and brackets holding it in. Before I got into cleaning the inside I figured it wold be best to remove the fan cage. I pried the cage off with a screwdriver, cleaned it, and set it aside. Throughout this whole project I cleaned every part and every particle of dust with paper towels and antibacterial cleaner so just assume that every step requires cleaning and scrubbing.
I removed the fan blade by squeezing an Allan wrench between the blades. I couldn’t use the wrench horizontally to get the leverage needed, so I used it vertically and used pliers to grab on and twist while holding the motor housing. It finally came loose and I tediously unscrewed it by hand from there.
Removing the fan blade from an old fan isn’t easy! It was stuck on there for so many years that I thought I was going to have to leave it on, obviously ruining my ideas for restoring it to perfection. I grabbed on with locking pliers (not sure the real name) and wiggled the blade while holding the motor shaft. It took A LOT of force, so be careful when removing it not to cut your arm on the blade or something else.
Next I had to remove the entire motor for two reasons. First, I wanted to paint the shaft gold, the same color as the fan blade, without getting paint all over the black motor body. There was also a metal lever hanging down from the back that I wanted gold. I knew you would see the sloppiness through the fan vents, so I strayed away from the shortcut. Secondly, this fan was so old that it had all kinds of dust and grime stuck to the vents, which you could also smell.
When it came to cleaning the grungy brass I thought I was going to have to wait and buy some brass cleaner, but I figured there must be something out there on Google that had an idea on how to clean brass without brass cleaner. I quickly found a few options for cleaning brass without actual cleaner. The easy brass cleaner alternative was worcestershire sauce. Apparently it works very well at cleaning brass because it’s very acidic. I grabbed an old toothbrush and scrubbed it a few times until it was fairly clean. It worked very well!
I was trying to think of a way to exclude the brass from getting spray painted and I thought about using blue painters tape as a template. I put the tape over the brass, then traced the outline following the groove with a ball point pen. After it was traced I went over it with a razor blade leaving a perfect cover. I have to admit, it worked a lot better than I imagined.
The wiring was all one color and I didn’t want to mix up the connections when I put it back together so I put a piece of blue tape on one side to prevent confusion when rewiring.
Next i removed the knob and bolt that allowed the fan to adjust vertically. This way I could paint the knob and the entire joint.
Now that i had the parts separated I could paint the gold pieces (fan blade, motor shaft, oscillating lever, vertical knob) and the black pieces (fan cage, entire base, cover) without any over spray. It took several coats of paint using one and a half cans of black and a quarter of a can or less of gold. The cage was a little difficult to paint since there were so many spots to catch, so I used quick bursts of spray in every direction.
I carefully put everything back together; it was tough because the weight of the upper portion and motor were very difficult to hold in place while bolting down, but I finally got it all together without pulling my hair out. The gold was a little darker than I expected, I was looking for a bright almost brass gold, but I think it still looks great. I can picture this fan on a modern industrial desk, in a classic styled room, or in an office.
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