This past week was a real treat as I spent it at the Reynolds-Alberta Museum in Wetaskiwin, Alberta which is a little less than three hours north of Calgary. Folks may recall I last visited the Reynolds Museum last summer when we took my Father-in-law there to see the replica of the Avro Arrow. He has since passed away, but that day brought a lot of joy to him.
The occasion this time was the ‘Learn from the Experts’ series they offer on museum quality restoration techniques, as applied to the cars, trucks, motorcycles and farm implements that they have on display. These are typically restored prior to being put on display by the on-site restoration staff in the shop attached to the museum, and which is visible from the display areas as shown to the right.
The course itself covered five topic areas: the museum’s vehicle restoration process, restoration of wooden automobile bodies, metal finish repair, surface preparation, painting and types of finishes and finally automotive detailing, repair of small imperfections etc. Other than the fact I was suffering from a bad cold, the week was great and I learned a lot that will be direct benefit to me in what I am doing with the motorcycles I work on, as well as other projects I may try my hand at – much of the wood finishing, repair and refurbishment techniques are as applicable to furniture as they are to old cars.
What I’d call ‘old style’ vehicle repairs is becoming a lost art, so being able to be stepped through the thinking behind, as an example, which wood works best for a door post (ash as it happens) or for the roof bow of a car roof (often red oak) was for me at least fascinating. Likewise watching a flat 20 gauge metal panel take on the form of a rolled fender after a few minutes of metal bashing by someone who knows how to do this, or seeing someone make a huge dent on a fender, and then how to hammer it to the point it was ready for paint by using just hand tools, or the right way to use lead body filler rather than using plastic filler was great ! In many respects this style of body repair is closer to black smithing than modern auto body repair, as it uses many of the same tools and techniques – snips, hammers, dollies, heat and a good pair of safety glasses.
Needless to say, I learned a lot and I’m looking forward to trying a few of the techniques out on my next project – if there was a downside, it is that I learned that from a metal finishing perspective, I’d probably done the fuel tank on my GT750 project incorrectly and will want to do it over at some point. Of course, this just makes a good project for the future when I’ve run out of other things to do !