Before and After: A 1940s Fan Found in the Trash Gets a Groovy Orange Redo for Just $20

published Apr 22, 2022
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Before: black metal fan

The thriftiest and most sustainable projects are the ones that take discarded junk and turn them into functional treasures. For example, check out this locker set-turned vanity, this free vintage sofa set, or the mirror in this historic bedroom redo for some major inspiration — and perhaps even envy.

The latest entry in the trash-to-treasures category? Justin Labinski’s retro 1940s Eskimo fan that he found in the garbage and restored for under $20.

“I knew this cool piece of history needed to be saved,” Justin says of the vintage fan.

But when he found it, the fan was a bit dinged up and rusty. Most unfortunately, when he took it home and plugged it in, “it just sparked and did nothing,” he recalls.

All of those details weren’t an issue for Justin, who has restored other appliances before. He took the fan apart and found that there was an electrical short on the winding inside, so he re-soldered the wire and lubed the bearings with some 3-in-1 oil to get the thing spinning again.

To update the appearance of the fan, Justin wire-brushed and sanded all of its painted parts down to bare metal. Then he resprayed them with a fresh coat of bright orange paint. “I love the new color,” he says.

Justin shined up all of the metal sections by hand, using steel wool followed by metal polish. Then he let the paint dry overnight and reassembled the fan the next day.

“It was a quick weekend project,” Justin says of the redo — extra impressive, given the drastic transformation. And now he has a funky orange fan for a desktop, bookshelf, or kitchen counter. He also got a great deal, considering that similar working 1940s countertop fans are going for about $200 on Etsy and are in the $800 to $1,200 range on 1stDibs.

Justin’s advice to aspiring trash-turned-treasure hunters is to start with small-scale projects like this one. “Take it one step at a time, and don’t be afraid of color and changing things to fit your style,” he notes.

His advice is important to keep in mind all year, but is particularly sage during Green Week: “Remember that older, quality items wear in and not out,” Justin says.

Credit: Apartment Therapy

This piece is part of Green Week, where we’re talking about ways to make eco-friendly choices and contributions at home. Head over here to read more!