About ten years ago, while cleaning up my mother’s garage for her, I asked if I could take this old Speedaway sled. It had belonged to one of my younger brothers. The thought I had in mind was to one day restore it. It’s been sitting in my garage and/or shed since bringing it home. I finally took it out this past November and began the restoration.
I really enjoy the show “American Restorations” that appears on the history channel. It is a spinoff of “Pawnstars”. Rick Dale, the owner of Rick’s Restorations in Nevada, takes on restoration projects of every kind and sort and the work he and his crew put out often amazes me. Some restorations are to basically fix and clean up the item, leaving its patina, others are made to look like the original product, as if just placed on the showroom floor. On this sled, I was going for the latter. Rick sets a high standard of workmanship and seeks perfection in every job his company takes on. This was my mindset as I began the project.
The three slats are only 3/8” thick so my first thought of sanding them was not going to work. New ones had to be made. That caused me to decide to manufacture all new wooden pieces. I bought some ash and, using the original pieces as templates, made new ones.
The fasteners on the sled were rivets. Some were quite long and all but one was 3/16” diameter. The rivet that holds the middle slat was ¼”. I looked into purchasing rivets and then into how to install them. Long story short, I scrapped the rivet idea and went to ¼” carriage bolts and nuts. The sled will be used as a decoration, not actually used for sledding. Therefore it did not need the functionality (steering) rivets afford. Still, I was hesitant because of my desire to keep things original. I enlarged the necessary holes in the metal to accept the carriage bolts. In order for the bolts to sit flush on the metal, I had to grind the square portion on the underside of the bolt head. In the wood, I was able to countersink for the bolt heads. I added some Locktite to hold the nuts in place.
I looked into having the metal sand blasted but with an estimate of $40 to $80, it was more than I cared to spend on this. I have some wire brush drill accessories and used them to strip the metal of rust and paint. I couldn’t get to the underside of the trusses so I used a paint stripper and small hand held wire brush there. Once the metal was clean, I sprayed it with two coats of Rustoleum Rust Reformer and followed that up with 2-3 coats of Rustoleum Protective Enamel spray paint, red for the runners and black for the upper portion. As this will sit outdoors as a Christmas decoration, I applied two coats of marine varnish to all wooden parts.
Before applying that varnish, I had to do the graphics and lettering. This was easily the most tedious aspect of the project. The graphics and especially the lettering were faded and difficult to see in areas. I did my best to outline with an ultrafine Sharpie, what I perceived to be the correct lines. I then used a clear mylar product from an art store to trace the letters. Next, I used transfer or carbon paper to transfer the letters onto the new middle slat. Finally I hand painted the letters one by painstaking one. I noticed that the slats were attached to the base via domed-head nails. I found some stainless steel escutcheon pins online that matched well and ordered them. I added a length of rope and voila!
I am also posting this as a project.
-- On the eighth day God was back in His woodworking shop! Lenny, East Providence, RI