Vintage Fan Restoration Process
The fan shown in the pictures below is a circa 1915 Century Electric 60" ceiling fan in the process of restoration, with custom light attachments.
What is a “professional” restoration on an antique or vintage electric fan? Believe it or not, there is a wide variance of what people refer to as “restored”. To some “restored” means as little as installing a new line wire and spraying over the old finish with spray can paint available at the local hardware store.
At Vintage Fans, L.L.C., all of our restorations consist of a true restoration. Whatever the fan needs to make it run and operate as it did when it was new is the rule that we use in determining what each fan will need to complete the restoration. Nothing is overlooked and no short cuts are taken. Each fan is dealt with on a case by case situation. For example, on some early desk fans, the original japanned enamel finish is salvageable in some instances. We always recommend trying to save the original finish first. This is generally more time consuming than stripping the old paint and applying a new finish, but we feel it is worth the time to save an original finish. Whether we apply a new finish, or salvage an original finish, each electric fan that goes through a restoration is completely disassembled and labeled. The body of the fan either goes through a process of cleaning, or the old finish is removed completely and the parts are bead blasted in order to prepare them to receive the new finish. The electric motor and speed coil is cleaned, inspected, and a series of tests applied to check them for grounds, open circuits, etc. Once it is determined what the motor and speed coil need, they will be repaired and reinsulated to insure that they are electrically sound. If the motor needs rewinding it is sent out for that service. The motor and switch are rewired with the appropriate type wire for the time period of the fan. We use only new wire on all of our restorations. Old cloth wrapped wire deteriorates with age and can become dangerous. New cloth wrapped wire is now available and is used on the appropriate fans.
The bearings, rotor shaft, and other parts that wear are inspected and, if needed, replaced with new custom-machined parts. Many times we can search our inventory of vintage fan parts and locate an exact duplicate of the missing or worn part. Many of the manufacturers of early electric fans built their fans so well that many have endured the years quite remarkably. Numerous times there is minimal wear to some parts and there is no need to replace a part that will likely last another 70 to 100 years. We only replace what needs to be replaced in all cases.
The blades on antique and vintage ceiling fans are either repaired and refinished, or exact reproductions are custom built to maintain authenticity. Antique desk fans that have solid brass blades are cleaned, repaired and machine buffed to a high luster then finished with clear lacquer as they were when they left the factory originally. Vintage desk fans that have aluminum or steel blades are repaired, and then either machine buffed and lacquered, or painted depending upon the model. If the blade is completely missing or destroyed beyond repair and a vintage one can not be located, a new one can be built in some cases. All blades are also aligned and balanced to insure smooth running.
All brass trim and parts are cleaned, machined buffed and finished accordingly. Steel nuts or screws are blued or painted to maintain authenticity. Desk fans that have solid brass guards are cleaned, repaired, and machine buffed inside and out to a high luster then lacquered. The motor identification plate, guard emblems, and base switch tags are restored using a process that achieves their original appearance.
The fan is reassembled by hand and tested for several hours to make sure it is in working order. During this time we apply a final test on the assembled fan’s motor and switch. Once it is confirmed that the fan is operating properly and finishing touches are applied, the fan is ready for its new or old home. This is an abbreviated version of what actually takes place during a restoration. Its intent is to give the reader a glimpse at what is involved in restoring antique and vintage electric fans. Each restoration is as unique as the fans themselves are and has its own obstacles to overcome.