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Rewiring Antique Fans

Rewiring Antique Fans
Old GE oscillating electric fan

Brief History

An antique fan is considered to be any fan that is 25 years or older and one that does not have "not so cooling" plastic blades. Back then many types of fans were made, including electric fans, fans powered by wet cell batteries, water fans, hot air fans and wind-up fans.

At the turn of the last century (the early 1900s) electric fans ran on DC (direct current) and AC (alternating current). There was no national electrical standard, so AC or DC current (20 to 250 volts) ran with currents of 25, 33, 50, 60 and 133 cycles. Manufacturers had to know what current your house ran on in order to guide you to the right fan for your home.

The fans that ran on both currents would make a radio buzz, so they were discontinued. There were no two-prong plugs at that time or electrical wall outlets, so plugs screwed into light sockets, the only source of electrical power. (The lights connected to utility poles outside the home through a hole drilled in the wall.) Power cords for fans were no more than 10 to 15 feet long.

Cage and Motor

If the original wires are still intact, they usually exit the motor at the bottom front cover. Remove the cage of the fan and its blade and then unscrew the brass oiler under the front bearing. Unscrew the slotted screws and slide the front motor cover off the rotor shaft.

Clean the shaft with steel wool and a few drops of oil to protect the bearing and replace the grease in the oscillator gearing, if necessary.

Rotor Housing

Rotate the rotor a little, then remove it. You should be able to view the internal screws located on the inside of the rear motor that houses the rear oscillator.

It is OK to clean off the gunk from the stator, but do not remove it.

If the oilers need cleaning, remove the spring and wick assembly first. Replace the wicking (possibly with Duro Felt) with wicking of the same length as the original. Fill the oilers with 10 to 20 weight non-detergent motor oil (not the red 3-in-1 for electric motors).

Replacing Old Wiring

Where the cord is connected to the stator windings, carefully and delicately cut off the old wire and then solder the new wire (at least 18-gauge gold-twisted rayon for the switch and motor and 18-gauge brown rayon for the power cord) to the connections.

The connectors (called "pigtails") have a varnish that should be removed. Remove it with a small-bladed knife, and scrape pigtails lightly. Heat-shrink tubing or liquid electrical tape will insulate the solder connections.

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