Restoring Vintage Fire Extinguishers

BEFORE                   &                       AFTER

Defining an Extinguisher's Condition.
1.  Completely Original.
2.  Cleaned with Brass Cleaner Only.
3.  Machine Buffed.
4.  Show Quality Restoration.

1.  Completely original.  These extinguishers are as they left the factory.   After 60 years or so, the lacquer is usually pitted with corrosion forming on the unprotected brass areas.  Also you can notice the lacquer will tend to yellow with age.  The label is loosing it's color.  If you are very lucky, you may turn up one that's been sitting in storage, hidden from sunlight and in very good condition. Most importantly, if it's dent free, it may be worth restoring.

2.  Cleaned with brass cleaner only.  This makes for a nice and shiny extinguisher but often the label loses some of it's color due to the rubbing.  Also, with out applying a lacquer protection coat, the shine will soon be gone.  Notice the fade of color in the logo area. Often, when you are using acetone to remove the old lacquer finish, you will remove the coloring from the label.
3.  Machine buffed.  The entire extinguisher is completely buffed to a brilliant shine leaving no label coloration.  Then given a protective lacquer coating.  If you don't have the patience to restore a label, then this is the easiest way to go.   Yet the label coloring gives quite a bit of character to these old extinguishers.  Save it if you can.
4.  Show Quality Restoration.  The object here is to restore the extinguisher to the original condition as it left the factory.  The same rule applies to judging the wooden boats if you want a perfect score.
Parts should not be over buffed that were not intended to be.  If the part originated out of a sand cast mold, then obviously it was not intended to have a super buffed and shiny finish.   The brass used on these casings was your basic sheet brass with a lacquer coating  to give it a protective shine.  Remember, these  originally sold for around $7.00.  It wasn't intended to be a show piece, rather a tool for putting out fires.
Refinishing the label is perhaps the most time consuming and test of patience you can have.  To get the right colors back in the embossed areas and keep the label looking original is very difficult. Some labels can take up to six hours to restore.  Finishing the casing is another challenge as not to over buff it.
A show quality extinguisher should have full color in all the correct label areas.  No major dings, that is a very minor scratch or  indentation should be allowed to age.  Buffed correctly to the proper sheen.   Bead blast the parts that were made from the sand cast molding process to return the appearance to original.  And lastly, two protective coats of high quality, non yellowing lacquer applied-without drips or runs.  Definitely practice on two or three extinguishers before you attempt your final "show piece".  But when you are finished, you will have a beautiful little piece of history that you have saved in your hand.

Extinguishers To Purchase

You can find these extinguishers at garage sales and swap meets.  Sometimes lying around in an attic or garage in a friend's house. If you enjoy the restoration part of this, I recommend you go this route. If you are interested in a quality restored extinguisher for your show car or boat, contact me to see if your model is available. From my overstock of collecting these and to cover my research I am now offering some for sale. Please keep in mind, the ones I do offer have had the color put back into the labels and are professionally refinished. These are "Show Quality".  Contact me with an e-mail with your request or questions and I can send you answers and a price list upon request. Thank you.

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