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Collection, Preservation and Display of Old Lawn Mowers

Restoration products and procedures

Just curious as to what other people use when restoring their machines? Could be a useful resource to share, perhaps? I am no mechanic, so I'm thinking a thread where people could get hints for their first restoration.

My Atco Standard really needs to be done properly (It sat in a barn for 25-odd years after I nearly finished it first time round), so I've got a guinea pig (when I get a mo...)

So first questions - what do people use to remove paint and corrosion? Chemicals? Abrasives and elbow grease? Or local blasters? And how much do they pay for them?

What about blacking cylinders?  What's out there that looks good and is heatproof?

I'm sure I'll think of more...

RansomesRob Sat, 04/12/2021





Hi Adrian.

Had some good results by soaking rusty screws,nuts etc in White Vinegar.



DJD Sat, 04/12/2021

Paint strippers for the public's use are now next to useless, Nitromoors used to be a good one, until a certain nasty but necessary chemical was taken out.

I tried some from Wicks a while ago which was like white PVA glue, in both looks, smell and action! Maybe it was in the wrong tin?

Stuff I buy now comes in gallon containers and costs over £40 a time, but then it does still contain that awful methyl whatever chemical, but thick old enamel paint on BSA motorbikes falls away.

Overalls, goggles, rubber gloves and plenty of water standing by are essential as a small splash from paint brush soon gives a burning sensation on the skin! 

Brick cleaner or 10 to 20% hydrochloric acid watered down is a good rust killer if used correctly, paint needs putting on before rust forms again. Preparation is everything though, as any painter will tell you.

Good old red oxide or even zinc chromate are good base coats, mowers out in all weathers need a better coating than a couple of once overs with acrylic rattle cans, in my opinion.

When I used to rebuild cylinder mowers for resale I used John Deer Green and Massey red for Qualcast machines, I used Pearl Paint Finishes, a gallon tin of each lasted a good while,

Spray on lacquers (clear coats)  are very popular now on cars and bikes, but not always compatible with other paints used on mowers say, for intance, check first on a waste piece for a reaction, or not, hopefully. HTH.

Will Sun, 05/12/2021

For small steel (not aluminium!) carb parts and greasy oily cogs etc you can't beat a small ultrasonic cleaner. I bought my Aldi version, used, for a tenner. I use a light detergent/degreaser as the bath and it's brilliant! The bits come out like new...

Adrian Sun, 05/12/2021

Splendid, gentlemen, exactly the sort of thing I was after - I shall certainly try soaking my nuts in white vinegar! (sorry, couldn't resist...)

Yes, I'd got the impression that paint strippers weren't what they were, hence my asking. I remember as a kid far younger than should have been let loose on the stuff helping Mum & Dad strip centuries (literally - very old house) of paint off doors, and it's a miracle I didn't skin myself - I clearly remember the smell, and also the burning sensation on bare skin!

I've got some paint from the local four candles-type emporium that I think will be a better match than the old Corrofast BRG which is much too dark, mind you the thing has already been repainted times when I got it, at least three logos visible on either side of the tank, so probably a different shade every time. But yes, I intend to prime to the best of my ability first.

Someone's advertising on the back of Grassbox who's not far from us (Witney?) who does blades, which will be handy - it's far too powerful for my postage stamp lawn, but it'd be nice to be able to mow a bit at rallies just for effect, if it wouldn't cost silly money. 


wristpin Mon, 06/12/2021

Paint strippers for the public's use are now next to useless, Nitromoors used to be a good one, until a certain nasty but necessary chemical was taken out.

Also applies to all sorts of other things, two come to mind; Hammerite paint is nothing like as good as when it was known as Finnigans Hammerite ; then there’s wood preservative, now in fancy colours that fade after a year or so .None as good as proper Creosote !

Back on the subject of paint strippers , a recent acquaintance recommends PeelTec as being the Dogs doodahs. Not yet used it myself but I wonder whether it will deal with powder coat  which, perversely lifts off in sheets if rust creeps underneath but otherwise resists anything other than “ sand” blasting.

Back to rust removal - as said, vinegar ,  but also,  citric acid, electrolysis, phosphoric acid ( an ingredient of a well known Cola!) . Everyone has their favourite , I favour electrolysis , particularly for cleaning the interior of steel fuel tanks.


U1 Mon, 06/12/2021

Newbie here posting for the first time - this thread has me pondering about using electrolysis for removing rust... is there any experience in the club of dangling rusted parts in a water tank and then hooking it up to a 12 volt battery?  (See 'electrolysis rust removal' on Youtube to see what I mean)  While it all looks nice and straightforward, I do wonder if there are some non-obvious pitfalls to this approach...

John.Sutherland Mon, 06/12/2021

Putting aside my Suffolk Colt, I primarily work on Side wheel lawnmowers and I get by on basics.  

Drill attachments - Standard wire brush type and the Nylon variety, both look like a chimney sweep brush to remove paint and rust on all parts of the lawnmower - including bolt treads 

Occasionally use paint stripper with a tooth brush for hard to reach places.  

To remove and reduce surface rust + pitting, I use another drill attachment - Sand paper flap wheel Grit 80# - I use this also on bolt heads, washers, Cylinder Knifes 

 KLINGSPOR 180 / 120 emery cloth, available on a reel - 1" x 1968 which has the benefit of allowing you to tear off as much or little as you need, it is great for cast iron pole braces.

 Epoxy two part super steel, good for anything tin

Halfords Cast Iron Primer with rust blocker . 

Kramp Paint in spray format and clear coat 400ml, I can pretty much get a close match for most colours using this brand.

Halfords or Ironmongers for spray lubricants to clear away grease or loosen nuts.

Copper Grease works and lasts longer than your traditional types of grease which tend to melt away in the summer heat.

There are other bits and bobs but this is all that comes to mind for the time being. 


U1 Mon, 06/12/2021

Superb - thank you very much for the pointers. I'm greatly encouraged by how effective and 'safe' the process appears to be.

DJD Mon, 06/12/2021

RE: electrolysis, I had a go myself once and was happy with the results. I used an old plastic washing up bowl and drilled several holes around the perimeter to allow me to run some pure copper strands of wire for the negative side, or work. It was simple to run other wires across to give me a place to hang the work pieces. I cleaned up some ancient old spanners I had no use for on my bench grinder wire brush for the other positive side. I left it going for a day or so and was impressed. I put ordinary washing soda, only about a tablespoonful into the water and it was enough for about two gallons of electrolyte.

It's not dangerous or nasty at all, except if you count the awful state of the positive 'sacrificial' sort of positive side metal you use.

Adrian Mon, 06/12/2021

Ah yes, ultrasonic baths - works of genius! I have quite a large one that fell off a previous employer, big enough that I could do the Standard's fuel tank in it, one end at a time. TBH, that's probably a good way to spring a seam, but my tank sounded like one of those rainmaker things if you tipped it up on end so I figured it was worth the risk. Carb cleaner - while it's great for cleaning carbs - doesn't do your paint a lot of good!

How about decarbonising an engine? What;s your go-to for that?


wristpin Tue, 07/12/2021

How about decarbonising an engine? What;s your go-to for that?

In a previous existence the company that I worked for used do employ a firm to periodically (usually over the Christmas break) “ deep clean” staff restaurant  kitchen. All the grills, fryers  and ovens etc were dismantled and taken out to the yard and immersed in some noxious potion held in tanks that they brought with them. No idea what the substance was but it removed all the burnt on fat and carbon etc and the components came up like new. 

Fast forward to when I had the mower business a supplier produced a few litres of “ stuff” for removing carbon from cylinder heads. Can’t remember what it was,  but it came with various warnings and instructions and had to be kept in a plastic tank with a layer of water separating it from the atmosphere.   A / it was expensive and B/ we decided too risky to have around , however it was very effective .

Adrian Tue, 07/12/2021

Hmm. The first one could well have been sodium hydroxide - not be used on aluminium engine parts if you want them to still be there when you next look in the bucket!  See also some detergents - I've known people dissolve aluminium test tube racks, especially in Decon90, when trying to clean them.

I've very little idea about the second and neither has SWMBO who knows much more chemistry than me - presumably a heavy hydrocarbon derivative, but as for which one not a scooby's.

Diverging from mowers I have a rail chair that might be worth trying electrolysis on - got some 50L drums at work that will come free in the New Year, and I expect I can find something sacrificial. You lot are leading me astray, which is a good thing in the circumstances. 

Google gives me lots of options on blacking cylinders - should have tried that first! 

The chap doing cylinders is in Wantage, not Witney, close but no banana.

wristpin Wed, 08/12/2021

I expect I can find something sacrificial. You lot are leading me astray

If you know any one in the commercial mower trade a good source is worn out bottom blades from gang units. Never ceases to amaze me how a 30” x 4” x 3/8” blade is reduced to very little. I have five or six hung around the inner perimeter of a 205 litre drum , and they last less than six months. 

Adrian Wed, 08/12/2021

I don't but after April I am likely to pay a visit to a local cricket club which has an astonishing amount of rusty crap behind the pavilion - I'm sure I can find a few choice bits in there!

Sadly the complete or near-complete mowers are all solid with no fuel caps - I wish I knew who dumped them like that. And it's a wonder the local scrap collectors haven't been in...