Polishing (by Dick Boswell)

Presented at Fan Fair '03

I know there are many methods (using many different products) of polishing paint and brass. I am sure that many of these work just great – some may certainly be better than the systems I use. Below are set out the systems I use.

Supplies suggested

A. Paint

1. Meguiars Polish -- #2 (fine cut cleaner), #9 (swirl remover), Laquer thinner and soft rags – old towels and old wash cloths are best

B. Brass

1. Spray, paint remover
2. Spray 409
3. Lysol Toilet Bowl Cleaner (white bottle)
4. 0000 Steel wool
5. Electric Buffer with 3600 speed
6. Rouge for buffer (white and red) Sears brand works fine.
7. Hand polish compound (SimiChrome, Mothers, Maas or Brasso)
8. Nikolas clear Lacquer
9. Hair dryer
10. Water to rinse
11. Clean soft rags – old towels or wash cloths are best


As a general statement, it is best from a standpoint of value and good looks as well, to preserve the original finish if possible. Sometimes it is not possible in which case a refinishing is reqd.

When we find old fans, we often discover that they have been painted by 99 Cent dime store spray can paint over the original finish (and over dirt, dust and oil as well. This was usually done with NO PREP at all so original finish is often ok under this new layer of bad paint. This spray can paint is usually lacquer and can be amazingly successfully removed with Lacquer Thinner and a cloth. After the repaint is removed, let fan dry over night and then apply the Meguiars Polish #2 and #9 as if bad repaint had never been there. Works many times – sometimes it does not! If painted with enamel, likely will not work even using enamel reducer to remove repaint.

Old Cast Iron bases and motor housings seems to polish up well due to wonderful paint applied when new. Called Japaning or Alkad Enamel . Used on old Emersons like this one we will be dealing with today. Is virtually impossible to polish “through” the finish if it is in reasonable condition. Results are wonderful. Oscillating gear boxes are not the same material and is easy to rub through – also Lacquer thinner will often remove the paint on the gear box.

Westinghouse finishes are great on Tanks etc, but become less good on newer ones and will not shine up well no matter what is done to them. Were not full gloss when new.

GE paint is better generally and will recover with #2 and #9

Others vary lots. Cheaper fans (when new) usually had cheap finishes and often will not clean up well.

Chips -- - usually there are chips around the base and will need to be touched up with just a “dab” of paint in the chip. Suggest go to Auto body Supply store and buy a small can of touch up with a tiny brush inside the can lid. Is very “black” and works well. Have found that hobby store, or hardware store black paint is not black enough to match.


One cannot polish the brass if the original lacquer is yet on (often partially) the blade or cage. Buy a spray can of paint remover or can with spray bottle attached. Spray on and use 0000 Steel Wool to remove the old lacquer. Wash with 409 and rinse with water.

Another thing to watch out for is brass PLATED blades. Jandus and other lesser brands are known for plated blades. There is likely very little brass plate left and any serious effort to polish it will result in a mess, less brass plate and poor looking blade. Approach this blade very gingerly with the below polishing ideas.

Pour supply of Lysol Toilet Bowl Cleaner in china bowl and saturate pad of 0000 steel wool in Lysol. Some folks use rubber gloves for this effort. I don’t. Apply liberal quantity of Lysol with the pad to the Brass. Let stand for perhaps one or two minutes – depending on how really thick the yuk on the brass might be. Then rub with the pad till the brass is nice and yellow. Does not take long. RINSE RIGHT AWAY with water and 409 – otherwise might turn brass red. Using a cloth, 409 & lots of water, be certain that all of the Lysol is gone. Dry with cloth so no spots will form from water droplets.

To the Buffer. A good buffer is necessary for good results on brass. I use a Grizzley Buffer -- one HP at 3600 RPM. Cost is reasonable - -- - greatly less than the Name Brands that one sees advertised. Mine has worked very well with much use – for years. Has very long shafts to the buffing wheel from the motor so that one has room to “maneuver” the cage and blade (even 16” ones). Being very careful, buff the brass to a great shine. NEVER buff against a leading edge – ALWAYS buff with the wheel “falling off” of an edge. Terrible results will come to pass if this rule is not followed. Everyone that has ever buffed, has found out the hard way that blades and cages, etc can be ruined for ever by buffing incorrectly. Emerson blades are the worst with their odd Parker shapes. Also use your “other eye” to watch the wings you are NOT buffing to be sure they are not about to come in contact with the buffing wheel. Hold on tightly to the material you are buffing. Some practice will be required. Use red rouge on one pad and white on the other – using the red first. The white will pretty much take out the buffing marks. Of course you will need to use good leather gloves to keep your hands from getting burned - -great amounts of heat are generated in the buffing process. One must hold very tightly onto the material being buffed so cool hands are a requirement for sure.

Buffing Cages – never but never try to buff the inside of a cage. The fast revolving pad will certainly catch those wires on the inside and you will have no control and it will be ruined for sure. Take a long hard thought if you want to polish any of the cage wires – sure easy to ruin.

MotoTool – one can’t get in to the hub area with the big buffer. I use my little MotoTool with a very small buffing wheel to do those parts.

I use the big buffer to do the struts and the brass nuts and screws too. Use a bolt that is the same thread as the nut to hold the nut while polishing it. Be very sure that the nut will not “unscrew” with the rotation from the buffing pad. If it does unscrew, that nut will be gone forever.

Hand polishing -- After Brass cools, use the hand polishing compound to further remove all of the buffing marks and to bring to a fine finish. I use SimiChrome – any of such polishes work fine.

Apply a second coat of Lysol at the sink. This time do NOT use the 0000 steel wool, but use a fine cloth. Apply a liberal quantity and wash off right away. It will not alter your shine at all, but will take off the polishing oils and such so that your clear lacquer will stick and will not blister and such. DRY carefully and completely.

After is completely dry, use a tack cloth or some such to remove absolutely all of the lint that is ever present with such operations. Spray with Nikolas Clear Lacquer so that the shine will not dull out with time. My conclusions – the brass will never look quite as good after being clear lacquered, but the small reduction in shine is a small price to pay for the long lasting shine.

Note – if one is spraying the Nikolas in weather that is damp, a bad haze may form on the brass right away. Have your hairdryer handy and give it a blast of very warm air right away – just as soon as the haze might appear. It will be gone before your eyes – and never come back.

Note 2 - -- - have the hair dryer “blown out” so that no lint comes with the blast of warm air from the hair dryer. This is done by being careful to not “set it down hard” or hit it with anything so as to dislodge lint that is always in the dryer. Run it just prior to the use on the brass so that the fan will blow out any lint that might be lurking inside the hair dryer.

Note 3 -- After application of the clear lacquer, it will appear to be dry right away. Don’t let this fool you – let it dry, perhaps over night so that when you handle it to put it on the fan or whatever, you will not damage your new finish.

Give me a call or send me an email any time – will be happy to visit with you on problems you might be having.


Thanks for coming.