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You may have seen my tweets two weekends ago that I was at an amazing sale – so amazing that I brought My Sweet Hub back with me the next day. (You didn’t see these Tweets because you’re not following us? Click the red @TheAtticBirds or the Follow button on the left side of this screen!) Ralph Willard puts on one helluva estate sale!

At said sale, I fell in love with a few vintage fans. They were dirty, crutsy, cobwebby, heavy reminders of a time when thing swere made with iron and steel and goodness. They are an accurate symbol of America during that time – resilient and strong. But I saw what they used to be and what they could be again: shiny, strong, interesting, well-made pieces of machinery that are just as good to look at as they are functional.

When I got home, I did a little bit of online research, and found that my Emerson Electric was a 1939 oscillating model (see the 19 above the Amps box? add 20 and that’s the year made).

It still has the original cloth-wrapped power cord and certainly 70+ years of rust and dirt in and on it! I found a how-to that was easy to follow and gave great results. Note: I have only refurbished the outside. The re-wiring will take a bit more education … and may or may not happen, as I really like how this looks as decor!

Supplies: flathead screwdriver, pliers, steel wool, dish soap, old rags (champagne optional – but I found it helpful!)


  1. Using the pliers, remove the fan cage. It can take a minute to figure out the puzzle – the fan cage is all one piece. Just be patient, and don’t lose those screw caps!
  2. Set the fan cage to soak in luke-warm soapy water. Use the steel wool to get the excess dirt and rust off, but don’t scrub so hard you remove the paint.
  3. Lay the fan face down so the blades are hovering over the soapy water. If you plan on re-wiring the fan, be very careful to not get any of the electrical bits wet!
  4. Scrub the fan blades in a circular pattern with the steel wool. Most blades are steel, as well, so you’ll be able to get a lot of the gunk and grime off. Do both sides. Use a rag to dry off when you’re done, before you return upright.
  5. Refresh your soapy water and use the rags to clean off the iron base. If you’re planning on getting your oscillating fan back into working condition, don’t scrape of all of the gear grease – it has protected it all these years from rust, and you want that thing to be lubed when you’re ready to go.
  6. Turn the fan on it’s “back” and use your screwdriver to unscrew the bottom plate. Remove all dust, junk, leaves, bugs, etc that have squatted in there for who knows how long. Scrub the heck out of the base. Watch out for the wiring (again).
  7. Once your screw caps and fan cage are scrubbed and dried, reassemble.
  8. Wipe down the power cord. Using a binder clip, wind and secure the cord. Remove the silver “arms” from the clip.
  9. Sit back and admire you’re work!!!

(Click on the pics to make them larger)

(Thanks to Manly Vintage for your easy how-to!)

Have you done any quick or easy restorations?