Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Refinishing a Narragansett Machine Company speed bag platform- part 1. ( Or- how to deal with 80 year old cast iron that badly needs to be refinished.)

I recently acquired an old , antique and  very desirable piece of gym equipment. It is a speedbag platform made by the Narragansett Machine Company. It is pretty old , my guess is that it is about 80 years old. I enjoy hitting the speedbag and have wanted one of these old school Narragansett units for a long time . It took me 4 years to find one that I could buy, so the process to clean and refinish it seemed worth the trouble.
 I arranged to have it shipped to me from the seller’s site on the East Coast. It  got here and was damaged in shipment. Since I had to replace one part ( the height adjustment wheel ) , I decided to refinish the entire unit.
I bought a brand new replacement wheel , a beautiful new quality cast iron piece, and it was obvious that I really had to refinish all of the cast iron on the original piece.

It is noteworthy that the original finish was not paint, but it was done with a process that was widely used in early 20th century industrial equipment. That process is called Japanning, or Black Japan finish. Henry Ford used it on the early Fords, Singer sewing machines used it as well as many other hard-wearing industrial equipment makers.
Looking into re-doing the finish with Japanning , I realized that I did not want to do that process. ( Parts must be heated to 400 degrees, it includes Bitumen, asphalt, turpentine,
Naptha and more. It also can take months to complexly dry. Well, that was out.

I decided to simply repaint it with engine enamel or Rustoleum, both of which have given me great results on many pieces I have done in the past.

OK- first step-remove the old finish. I used Zip Strip paint remover and all I got for the trouble was a bubbling , messy, incomplete finish which looked worse that the original.

Original piece, about 80 years old. Still serviceable, but pretty rough.

The NMC cast into the middle of the unit stand for Narragansett Machine Company.

Broken Cast Iron adjustment wheel. Thanks, UPS.

The closer you look, the worse it gets.

Sandblasting was the answer. These pieces are very heavy cast iron ( the entire unit weighs 320 pounds (!! ).  I took the cast iron pieces to Blast-Tech in Englewood, Colorado. Gary and his crew did an outstanding job to make the parts look like they just were removed from the original mold.
The Morale of the story- Don’t mess around with half measures. If you have cast iron or steel parts and need them stripped, take them to a good sand blaster and have at it. You will save a lot of time and effort.

I have included the before and after pics for your review , as well as a pic of what the completed assembly looks like. I will post more pics after I have painted and finished the project completely.

New sandblasted pieces, a big difference ...

The monstrous overhead arms that hold the 100 pound wooden platofrm. Looking much better that before.

Beautiful , heavy original castings. Cannot wait to prep and paint it.

The excellent sandblasting work was done by Blast-Tech in Enlgewood, Colorado.
Here is their contact info, we recommend them.

3775 S Kalamath St  Englewood, CO 80110
(303) 806-9992   ask for Gary.Nardi.

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