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How to Restore Old Wagons

Old wagons can be restored to use as decorations or for functional uses.
old wagon image by James Lemmon from Fotolia.com

Wagon restoration can be an overwhelming hobby or profession if you don't have realistic expectations regarding the potential amount of labor, costs or time involved with these projects. Professional wagon restorers point out to beginners that finding the right wagon to restore can be challenging if you aren't certain of the quality of the wood, metal parts, axles and wheels. Locating replacement parts for these items may also be difficult, depending upon the style of wagon you are restoring.

Inspect the quality of the wagon wood, metal parts, axles and wheels. Ascertain which materials and parts will need to be replaced based on their condition and intended use. If you are going to restore the wagon to be a decoration in your yard, for example, you will not have to make sure that the axles and wheels rotate smoothly and can support a weight load.

Purchase replacement parts from wagon restoration dealers, other private wagon restorers or museums only after identifying the style and age of the wagon; this will ensure that the replacement parts are compatible with your wagon. Most wagons will have a maker's mark on the center of the rear axle (assuming the axle hasn't been replaced). If no maker's mark can be found, research your wagon type by looking at pictures online or in books containing historic images and information on old wagons.

Remove the old materials and parts that need replacing. Boards can be pried off using a crowbar. Most of the metal parts can be removed using a combination of wrenches, screwdrivers or hammers.

Replace materials and parts that have been removed with new replacements. Wood can be nailed back into place with a hammer. Metal parts can be attached using bolts or screws. Try to find hardware that is similar to the existing hardware.

Replace axles, if necessary, by lifting the wagon off the ground, removing the wheels, sliding out the old axles and replacing them with the new ones. Grease the new axles once reassembly is complete. Most wheels will cost more to repair than to replace, so it is recommended to purchase new wheels rather than trying to fix broken ones.

Repaint your wagon only if you know it has already been repainted and doesn't have the original paint on it. Repainting a wagon -- one with original paint work -- will decrease its overall value by up to one-half.

Things You'll Need:

  • Replacement parts (axles, wheels, nails, bolts, screws)
  • Replacement wood
  • Standard took kit (hammer, crow bar, screwdrivers, wrenches)
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