Noun: res·to·ra·tion \ˌres-tə-ˈrā-shən\
The act or process of returning something to its original condition by repairing it, cleaning it, etc.
Every collector has their own method of madness for restoring an old rusty kerosene lantern they purchased. Any information on this page is my own method which I’ve learned through trial and error. As you become more experienced with restoring, you’ll figure out all those little tricks on your own. What works for me may not necessarily work for you as each lantern is very different and can react in a negative manner to certain chemicals or cleaning processes that you use.
EXERCISE CAUTION WHEN USING CHEMICALS AND POWER TOOLS!
Q. Why restore? It looks old and rustic. Isn’t that fine?
ANSWER: If your intent is to display your lantern in “as found” condition, of course its fine. Or maybe you want to use the old lantern as yard art. It’s also possible the lantern is beyond any attempts at restoring. It is your call. You can either restore it or leave it as is. Keep in mind that there is a definition difference between 'PATINA' and 'RUST'. If the rust is not removed, eventually the lantern will be 100% destroyed and end its life on Ebay under the listing of "FOR PARTS OR REPAIR". It is a fine line.
Q. What tools/chemicals do I need in order to restore my lantern back to working condition?
ANSWER: Here is my list of all my ‘weapons’ on my workbench that I personally use. As stated above, you may have your own methods and you will learn your own methods of restoring.
· WD40 - Kano Kroil (This actually works far better than WD40 and has become my favorite for freeing up burners, etc.)
· Steel Wool in various grades (Medium, Fine, Extra Fine and Finest) I use more of the “Finest” grade steel wool than any other grade. A too aggressive steel wool can scratch the lantern. Better safe than sorry.
· Dremel tool. I only use certain attachments for final buffing/polishing. The one attachment I use the most is the Polishers Buffers Abrasive 1" Scotch Brite Wheels. They are fairly cheap and do the job. Once again, do not use aggressive attachments when restoring. The other attachment is the Dremel EZ472SA 120-Grit Detail Medium Abrasive Brush. USE CAUTIOUSLY! This is perfect for removing paint from tight, intricate areas on the lantern.
· Hook and Pick set. Invaluable for removing micro pieces of old wick from the burner.
· Blue Magic Metal Polish Crème and Mothers Billet Polish
· Minwax Fast-Drying Polyurethane Aerosol. *Satin, Semi-Gloss or High Gloss depending on what the original finish was
· Flitz Metal, Plastic and Fiberglass Polish Paste. This is fairly expensive, but you use only a very small amount. The final result is outstanding.
· Soft cotton rags; a bag of cotton balls; Q-Tips; pipe cleaners
· Workshop Hero Metal Rescue Rust Remover - 5 Gallon Pail. This is expensive ($90.00 for the 5 gallon pail). Worth every penny and I simply cannot stress the importance of having this on hand. BUY IT!
. Citric Acid update: For very little money, you can purchase powdered Citric Acid and it does an acceptable job of removing rust. I use about 1-2 pounds of powdered Citric Acid in a 5 gallon bucket of water. If after 2 days of being in the Citric Acid I'm not satisfied with the results, I then put it in Metal Rescue. That finishes off the job.
· It is worth noting that in my personal experience, the older WW2 German Lanterns do not react well to Workshop Hero as even though it generally does not remove paint, any rust that might be underneath the original RAL military paint will most likely start to deteriorate. PROCEED WITH CAUTION & MONITOR THE LANTERN.
Q. MY LANTERN HAS UGLY GOLD PAINT ALL OVER IT. HELP!
ANSWER: A lantern that has been spray painted by its previous owner will either work in your favor or against you. There could be numerous sins (Rust/holes) hiding underneath that lovely 1950’s gold or green OR because it was painted, it will be a real treasure hiding under the paint. You won’t know until you remove it.
Striping spray paint off of a lantern is one of the worst jobs. Make sure you wear gloves and do it outside. I’ve tried many various paint strippers and the one that works for me is Citristrip Gel or Spray. There are no harsh fumes. You can plan on at least 2 full days of a very messy striping process. I do know that other collectors and restorers of lanterns use other methods, but I prefer this one as I can monitor the lantern itself to make sure no further damage is being caused. Once again, it is up to you how you would like to approach stripping off the paint.
Q. How about using Lye or some other Drain cleaner?
ANSWER: I did experiment using Drain Cleaner (diluted) to see if it would take the paint off of an old Lantern. After sitting for a full 24 hours in the solution, the paint did just fall off. So, the paint did come off, but disposing of this potentially hazard solution is of concern. Once again, I use Citristrip as it is considered to be a 'safe' paint remover. The other product that I just recently started using is Mr. Muscle Oven Cleaner. "Easy Off" oven cleaner somewhat takes the paint off, but Mr. Muscle Oven Cleaner works fantastic; especially on old lead paint.
Q. I’ve removed the glass globe, but the burner cone won’t budge.
ANSWER: This is a common obstacle with restoring. All those years of heat and rust meld all the pieces together. If you have used Workshop Hero, it should be able to be rotated and removed. If the problem still persists, this is when you need to soak it for a few days bathed in WD40.
Q. Now that I've removed the globe, should I clean it with hot water and soap? Can I put it in the Dishwasher?
ANSWER: NO!!!! With these antique/vintage glass globes you run the risk of cracking the globe by putting it in very Hot/and or Cold water. Personally, I only use Windex. It may take repeated tries to get the globe sparkling again. I have also used Oven Cleaner around the rim to remove the baked on kerosene. Works very well and it has never harmed my glass globes. USE YOUR OWN JUDGEMENT THOUGH.
Q. I have everything apart, but the wick won’t come out of the burner.
ANSWER: Happens to me most every time. Once again, if the wick burner/driver has been in Workshop Hero, you should be able to gently massage the wick out of the burner. I have had to cut the wick off and then with my hook and pick tools, carefully extract the remaining wick pieces. Once again: CAUTION. You do not want to break or damage the little 'wheels' - those are the 'wick drivers'.
Q. The wick burner simply will not budge from the intake opening. Maybe it's time to trash this lantern.
ANSWER: This is not an easy problem to solve at times. For me, it is one of the most frustrating situations. You must be patient and soak the burner with WD-40 or something similar like PB Blaster (Do this outside as this is not a pleasant smell). Most burners simply 'sit' in the intake valve. Note the photos above where I discovered that the burner SCREWS into the intake. This lantern is the Bon Jour Lantern. The burner was frozen and the intake valve was cracking and becoming loose. I did not want to shear off the intake valve so I used Por-15 and secured that area. Por-15 is a liquid metal that turns rock solid and I use for sealing pin hole leaks in lanterns. This burner did sit for over 2 weeks constantly being bathed in WD 40/PB Blaster/Engine De-greaser. Finally, I had success and the burner was able to be unscrewed from the brass intake.
UPDATE: Kano Kroil works far better than WD40 or PB Blaster.
I have not used a Micro Torch yet to remove a frozen burner. Many other restorers do use that method of heating it up, cooling it down and doing that a few times in order to break the 'seal'.
Photos speak a thousand words. I'll be continually updating 'Before/After' photos.
You will see the various steps and then the final finished restored lantern. All of the restorations that I’ve done are a labor of love, but I feel compelled to bring these lanterns back, as close as I can, to their original state so that “she may burn again!”
And most importantly, have fun. Realize the whole process is a learning experience. Practice makes perfect....well, almost. Each lantern is so different. Be as serious as all heck with what you collect, but if you find yourself hooked on the challenge of restoring them, grab that steel wool, put on some music and enjoy yourself!