(To be carried out by responsible adults only)
Old Meccano parts can be easily restored to shine like new and save great expense on the purchase of new or replica parts. I have successfully used the following method to restore hundreds of old damaged parts
Many Meccano enthusiasts have piles of old parts lurking in boxes that are serviceable but not like they were when new. Why not bring these parts back into use? The first thing to do is sort through your old parts and identify which are worth the time and effort. Moderately bent parts can be coaxed back into straightness using a combination of fingers, metal working vice, hardwood blocks and a hammer. Avoid striking the Meccano hard with a hammer as this will further distort the part, Meccano parts are made of soft mild steel that easily stretches and distorts. If you have a strip roller this can be of great use in smoothing out bent parts, run the parts through several times turning over at each pass.
Badly distorted and twisted parts are often beyond restoration but it worth looking to see if these parts could be cut down for instance 25 hole girders can be cut down to less common and more expensive parts such 15 or 18 hole girders. The same applies to strips and flat girders note that 15, 18 and 25 hole strips are made of thicker steel than the other strip lengths. Cutting down can easily be done by putting the parts in a metal working vice and cutting though with a fine blade hacksaw. Shorter thin strips can also be cut with aero shears. It can be a help to use another old part as a guide bolting it over the part you wish to cut down. Once cut the end can then be curved by clipping off the corners at 45 ° then using a flat file or bench mounted grindstone shape to a curve. Once this is done use a fine file to smooth then finish off with emery paper (wet and dry paper).
Removing the old paint
Your collection of parts should now be stripped of their paint; this can be done using caustic soda. Caustic soda is also know as Sodium hydroxide or lye. Lye is sold in North America as an ingredient for making soap. All chemicals and paint removers are hazardous so please use extreme caution using these. Make sure you wear strong rubber gloves and eye protection and use in a well-ventilated area. Caustic soda is relatively cheap and can be reused. I mix no more than a litre at a time, mix in an old plastic container (not clear types), fill this with cold or luke warm water and add a few table spoons of the soda. DO NOT USE HOT WATER this causes a reaction with the soda and gives off dangerous fumes. Please note never add water to the soda powder when mixing. Another warning DO NOT use aluminium containers the caustic soda will destroy these.
The parts should be left for about 15 minutes, during this time make sure the parts are agitated to keep them separated. Remove the parts wearing strong rubber gloves and thoroughly rinse under hot running hot water. The parts should now be dried using an old towel and then put in a warm oven or left out in the sun to dry. (see picture above) The parts will probably now have some fine hair lines of rust on them this should all be removed using fine steel wool. The parts should not be allowed to become damp and if not going straight on to painting should be put somewhere dry and warm. If you are not keeping the caustic soda this can be safely poured down a sink drain as it is sold as drain cleaner. If there is any light rust left this can be treated using rust remover deeply pitted rusty parts are not worth treating.
Old zinc parts often become very dull, tarnished or have white effervescence on the surface this can be cleaned up by rubbing down with fine steel wool. Lime scale cleaners containing phosphoric acid can also clean zinc parts but leave only for a few minutes check with a small plentiful cheap part first. I have found this method works well on zinc nuts and bolts too.
Rods. I find it a good idea to polish up rods with fine steel wool this makes for much smoother running in bearings. Some rods are made of very soft steel and can become damaged by tightened bolts the rods can be smoothed off with emery paper or course steel wool and finished off again with fine steel wool
The above concerns constructional parts , similar methods can be used for braced girders, perforated, flexible and flanged plates. Flexible plates though are difficult to get flat if bent several times, again a plate roller can be a big help. However creased parts are best discarded unless they can be cut down to a smaller size avoiding the crease. It can be useful to have a collection of old plates when building a model that requires these to be bent to experiment with before using a good quality part for the model.
Colour finished parts produced in the past few years are powder coated, this is quite difficult to remove but some commercial paint strippers will remove this. Some of the recent parts have a foil covering this can be lifted off using a sharp craft knife.
Leaving as plain metal
Another thought at this point is to just polish the parts this can be done using fine steel wool, scotch bright pads or a fine wire wheel on an electric drill. Although every imperfection in the parts will show. The parts can then be polished with a silicone spray furniture polish and buffed up with a yellow polishing duster, I have quite a lot of parts that I have used this method on and they have remained rust free over many years of use.
Before spraying the parts should be thoroughly clean with no trace of dirt or grease, it's a good idea to wipe them over with a cleaning cloth soaked in white spirit, then dry with a lint free cloth.
I use a wooden frame with wire fitted into slots to support my parts for spraying (see picture above). Follow the instructions on the spray can, it is always best to build up coats do not over spray. When the parts are touch dry turn them over and spray the other side. It is important to spray in a warm dry atmosphere do not spray when there is high humidity. Please take care spraying and always wear a face mask of the type available in DIY and hardware stores.
Leave for at least six hours to become “air dry” check at this stage to see if any more coats are required. If not the parts should now be baked to harden the paint. I use a fan oven pre-heated to 150c. Using the Plastikote paint I have never found any residual smell but please check with other users of the oven first. On no account should you bake parts at the same time as cooking in the oven! Place the parts on a special unpainted metal mesh rack making sure they do not touch each other and place in the oven and leave for no longer than 10 -12 minutes, the parts can be stored away or be ready for use as soon as they have cooled, although I usually leave them for a few days before using.
A batch of parts in pre-war red and gold air drying awaiting baking. The gold colour is Plastikote "Brass" a very good match for the pre-war gold. The red road wheel rims are sprayed with Plastikote Bright Red.
If you look at my beam engine, rotating big wheel, road sweeper, jumbo crane and nineteen thirties models many of the parts used are restored using the above method.
Useful non-standard easily made parts.
A very common part, number 215 the slotted curved strip can be made into two useful parts not produced by Meccano. The first is to simply straighten it out this makes a useful 3” flat strip the slotted holes give versatility on cross bracing or can be used to make up a non standard strip length. The second is to make the flattered strip into a double angle strip I made this to fit inside the cylinder part number 216.
Non standard double angle strips can some times be useful, Meccano never made 6 x 1 hole and 4 x 1 hole sizes although other four hole and six hole parts are in the standard range of parts. These can be easily made from old 6,7,9 or 11 hole strips, and you could end up with a few bonus three hole strips too!
Page created August 12 2011 Revised January 20 2019
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