Monday, 28 October 2013

Restoring an old Die-cast Lantern....

My wife's away at the moment, visiting relatives and friends in her native country.   One of the list of '...orders...' she left behind was for me to tidy-up my workshop.  

She's been away for over three weeks but is due back very soon, and so I thought it best to tackle this particular item on the list....

As part of the clear out, I identified several non-electrical bits and pieces which could safely be stored in one of the unheated sheds in the garden.  So I hauled these items down the garden path, but when I was stashing them in the smaller shed I came across the old die-cast aluminium lantern that used to hang beside our front door.   

It was in a very sorry state, but despite the wife's objections I'd hung on to it with a view to one day perhaps cleaning it up and putting it back into service - when we bought the house, it was one of the first items to be ripped out during the refurbishment works.

So I dug it out and had a closer look at it.   With the nights closing in and the wife due to return to our local airport on an evening flight, I thought the illuminated lantern might be a pleasant 'welcome home' symbol after I'd picked her up from the airport, and therefore now would be the right time for a restoration.

After a little initial scraping and wire brushing....

There's one of the six original glass panels missing, although I could have sworn the assembly was complete when we removed it two years ago.  Anyway, I ordered an A5 piece of 3 mm clear acrylic sheet on eBay from which to cut a replacement.  Perspex will be fine since the low-energy bulb I intend to fit only generates a tiny fraction of the heat of a traditional incandescent lamp of equivalent brightness.

Also, one of the two lugs on the body which secures the top cover was missing, having snapped off at some time in the dim and distant past.  So I first spent a diverting hour in the workshop repairing the lantern lug using an offcut of aluminium angle, cutting and filing it to shape and then fixing it to the body with M3 screws and superglue.   Quite a delicate repair on such a thin-wall alloy casting, but I was quite pleased with the result - when it's all painted the repaired section will be very difficult to see under the shade of the top cover. 

the new lug - it looks quite rough at this magnification,
but remember those screws are only M3 !

It was then a case of cleaning up the lantern for re-painting, getting it all back to bare metal or at least to those few areas which still had properly-adhering paint.  After a lot of initial scraping and wire-brushing it eventually occurred to me that I had a virtually unused tub of paint stripper in the workshop, for which the original reason for purchasing is now lost in the mists of time.  After using the stripper paste the entire lamp was soon back to bare metal.

Getting fresh paint to stick properly to bare aluminium is always a problem, and ideally requires an etch-primer as a base coat.  However, I didn't have any to hand, and to buy a tin would have cost more than the lantern's worth, so I just sprayed it with a couple of coats from a can of grey automotive primer I'd picked up a while back from the local Poundland.  Then I added several top coats of gloss white acrylic spray.

The original external mains cabling for the lantern had never been totally disconnected, although it's been coiled up and tucked away under the porch canopy for the last couple of years, for protection from the elements.   It was a simple job to refit the lantern mounting plate to the wall and wire it up again, although I needed a new junction box.  This mains lantern will simply be switched on from inside the house whenever required - all the other lamps around the outside of the house are 12V DC LED spots and are automatically controlled by a dusk-to-dawn photoswitch.

Add a low-energy golf-ball type bulb, and it's ready to roll.   

installed and ready....

There's a school of thought among friends that I'm a bit of a sad bastard for spending a few pounds and several hours in restoring something which I could probably have bought brand-new for around £20.    

But I think they're missing the point - something which would otherwise have simply been discarded has now been brought back into use for just a little effort...

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