There are many joys of working with your hands…the pride of bringing something back to life being foremost among them.

Unfortunately, there are many problems with “restoring” and “refinishing’ so we thought it would be useful to pass-along some of our lesser-known tricks.

Let’s begin with paint:  It can be miserable stuff to remove.  However, there’s a dandy product that removes paint like crazy, although from metal, not wood:  Rust-Oleum 255449 Aircraft Remover, 18 Oz Aerosol, Liquid, 18-Ounce, Clear.  Goes for $11-bucks a can at the ‘Zon.

This is mean, terrible, nasty stuff.  When applying it, make certain you have on skin and eye protection.  Don’t use when windy because the last thing you want is a trip to the hospital from breathing some in.  That said – along with stand in a neighboring county while spraying if possible – this is a GREAT product.  Spray on, wait 10-15 minutes, and then blast with a pressure washer.  Drive-through bays at a car was are ideal.

If you don’t have any remover handy, the second most-favored tool around here is a “needle scaler.”  It’s actually a small (noisy!) air tool that requires a reasonable compressor to run.  But, if you have that (and $47 bucks to spend), I’ve been using a Sunex SX246 Pistol Grip Needle Scaler for about 6-months now and it does a reasonable job of removing crap from metal.

What we have here is Mr. Ure’s refinishing of the cabinet for my Johnson Pacemaker Transmitter, which is the matching exciter for the Johnson  linear amplifier.

Using a needle scaler is not terribly difficult:  What you do is glove-up and cover the eyes, and yes, you wear a mask just in case although the operation is not particularly dusty.

The tool is held at a 30-60 degree angle from vertical.  This is NOT a tool to use on aluminum, however.  Since the kind of dieselpunk vintage radio gear I work on (tubes) was built before “value-engineering” became the rage, this radio has a steel cabinet that is not too difficult to clean up and make “purdy.”

One glitch with this one is that it was seriously damaged in shipping (the seller and I are dancing with FedEx about this) so there’s one ding on a corner that I haven’t decided how to repair.  One choice (Bondo) is easy to fill in, but the other (quick lay-up of filler rod with a torch, then hammering and grinding) is a little more risky and gets deeper into auto-body skills than I’d planned for this project.

This gets us to the next consideration:  Which metal primer do you use?

Most (shade tree) mechanics wrongly believe that “primer is prime is primer…:”  Nothing could be further from the truth.

When you’re going for a workman-like job, you need to understand that there is Shop Primer and there is Finish Primer.

Shop Primers are not especially tough.  The term ‘shop primer” means that it can be just enough to keep material from beginning to degrade prior to (on the assembly line model) moving on to the next “shop operation.”

Finishing primers are more aggressive.  These include etchants which ensures that the primer will cling like mad to the metal and, when the finish is applied, it will bond giving you a really nice finish.

For a lot of the radio gear I enjoy working on (old Hallicrafters, Johnson, and Drake gear) it’s fairly simple to come up with correct paint on eBay.

ideally, of course, we would put on a solid powder coat and bake until properly toughened.  But, it would be a bear to get the powder coating ready and con Elaine into going shopping and give me enough time to use the oven (plus air the house out afterwards), so I stick with the paint!  (See? Laziness and long marriages are compatible!)

The other thing to look for in your “etching primer” is the amount of build up that it provides.  I use SEM 42013 Grey High Build Primer – 16 oz.which, while not cheap (just north of $21) provides a good build-up for covering minor imperfections such as might come from grinding or sanding with something less than fine wet-or-dry paper.

This may seem like an absurd number of brain cells to toss at something as “simple” as making an “old radio work.”  But, it’s little-different than the mindset of the chassis-off auto restoration crowd.  We just have more wires to play with.  And none of the POR-15 rust-preventing chassis coatings.

Since Elaine and I don’t have kids coming around this weekend, we will be doing projects.  While it seems like we have “too much of everything” tool-wise, when comes to being able to turn out good work in a reasonable amount of time,. there’s nothing like the “right tool.”

Humans, being tool apes at heart, take no end of delight in turning everything in sight into a tool.

A while back, I was cutting up cardboard boxes with a reader comment sparked me to get an old “hand wipes” contain and load it up with pieces of cardboard like these…

The reason is simple:

How many times have you needed to start a screw or a nail and you just couldn’t get the tool and the fingers to occupy the same space without injury?

This little guys are so easy…take seconds to make by the thousands – and they are small enough to be picked up by the shop vac.

When you’re using these, if you put the nail right up into the groove, you can get them to be dead square which is something close to impossible to accomplish without a guide of some kind.

I have a pet theory that smashed fingers (which accompany using too much phone and not enough real tools) accounts for the huge growth in power screwdrivers.  Truth is, with enough charged batteries, we could probably disassemble half of our home for shipping, lol…

Oh yeah – one late entry for Santa:  If you don’t have a set of ‘quick change drills” they are THE most-used new item at the workbench for all of 2018.

For most “light home shop” applications, a set of these will generally get you into the “close-enough to work” range.  A Bosch 9-Piece Impact Tough Titanium Drill Bit Set, TI9IM set will nail you for $14-bucks and it’s tooltally )sic) worth it…

Off to play…moron the morrow…

Crashmas Eve Day
2019: Falling Markets, Digilantes Ride