Vintage Telescope Restoration - Towa 339 - Page II

The Challenges "Mount"

Some decisions needed to be made about the finish options for the mount. One approach would be to strip the mount's finish back to bare metal and refinish.  The other approach is to clean up the original finish, smooth the edges of the paint chips and overspray. 

As this mount carried the "crinkle paint" finish, this was not an easy decision.  Overspraying done with too heavy a hand could mean that crinkle texture would be lost under the coats of paint necessary to cover properly.  On the other hand, a complete strip, prime and repaint would be a long and involved process. Further, managing the process involved with the crinkle paint is not as simple as your basic gloss or satin paints, making a successful outcome a bit of a bigger challenge.

After due consideration, I decided I would give the overspray a try.  After all, in the event it did not turn out satisfactorily, I could always strip it and try the other approach.

Preparation of the mount for paint was fairly straight forward.  Disassembly, cleaning of all paint surfaces again, and careful bagging and marking of all small parts to give myself at least a fighting chance of getting it all back together again!

I then masked all of the non painted surfaces.

The paint and primer I selected for the job were both Rust-oleum Products.  The primer is Painter's Touch 2X Ultra Cover in flat black.  The paint is Professional High Performance Enamel.  While not completely consistent with the original matte finish, I decided to go with a gloss finish for the paint.  I think it will give the mount's appearance a nice boost.

On a late fall day, I set up my makeshift "paint booth"  a step ladder with a bamboo arm extending from which I would hang the pieces while I painted them, and a line strung in the garage to hang them on while they dried.

I then applied a coat of primer to each part, followed by two very light coats of paint.  The paint coats were so light that I had to do a third coat to get the coverage that I wanted.  In the end, by working so lightly, I was able to perserve the texture pretty well and am very satisfied with the result.

I let the paint cure for a couple of days, and then reassembled the mount, relubricating the appropriate surfaces with white lithium grease.  The change in the mount's appearance is exciting, here is the "Before" picture:

And the "After":

With the new paint job done, there are plenty more small details to address, the first of which is replacing the protective felt in the cradle.  In another break with tradition, I decided to spice things up a bit from the boring black felt of the original manufacturer, and use bright red instead.

I was able to find the felt and a special felt glue at Hobby Lobby.  According to my measurements, the strips needed to be 1" x 4 7/8".  Using my rotary cutter and a straight edge, I was able to produce a couple of good strips.

I applied the glue and laid them in place.

When I had them where I wanted them, I simply clamped  the cradle on the tube to which I had applied some masking tape in the event some of the glue was squeezed out.

After leaving it overnight, it was dried and ready to go.

Moving on, I took some liberties by adding a couple of small enhancements on the eyepiece tray.

The first was to add some felt pads that would prevent the tray brackets from scratching my newly refinished tray.  I used a punch to make a hole through some felt furniture slides and applied them to the underside of the tray.

I also swapped out the old, hard to handle round head bolts and wing nuts for some cap screws and brass knurled knuts (the correct spelling for nuts that are knurled...).  These are much easier to put on and take off and are less likely to end up dropped in the grass, never to be seen again.  I think they look pretty sharp too.

This Story has Legs...

Time to turn my attention to the legs.  Their condition dictated that a refinish job was in order.  To start that process, they needed to be disassembled.  In my experience, when dealing with assemblies like these legs, where wood parts are combined with metal parts, it is often a real headache-saver to keep all of the parts for each assembly together.  The small variations in fit can be a real pain to deal with if the parts from different legs are mixed together.  To do that, I marked the pieces with a number using some metal punches.

With the legs disassembled and marked, I started work on the metal parts.  The tray brackets had suffered a good deal.  Bent, battered and rusty, they need some TLC.

I started by straigtening them as best I could.  Using  various hammers and my mini anvil I was able to improve things to a decent degree.

Once they were straight, I used the Dremel, sanding pads and steel wool to take the rest of the rust off, smooth the paint chips and generally prepare them for paint.

Then it was prime,

and then two coats of gloss paint.

On to the Wood!  

That old finish has to come off.  I was not looking forward to this part of the project, as stripping can be a messy business.  As it turned out, it was not bad at all, and I believe that was in large part because I got lucky and chose what turned out to be a very good product for the job.

Citristrip is a stripping gel instead of a liquid.  The gel makes controlling the application a great deal easier than using a runny liquid.  The product also has a relatively pleasant orange smell, much nicer than some nasty chemical odors of other products I have used.

When I was researching this product, some of the reviews of the product recommended wrapping the parts in plastic wrap while waiting for the stripper to work.  It was said that the wrap prevented the gel from drying out making it much easier to remove. There did not seem to be much to lose by trying it, and I am very glad I did.

The added benefit was that the wrap kept everything very clean.  In about an hour, I had all of the parts "cooking"

After an hour, as per the instructions, I unwrapped each of them, one at a time, and with a 3M Stripping pad and some mineral spirits, simply wiped away the old finish - Easy Peasy.   After washing all of the pieces in water, I set them aside to dry.

I had decided that I was going to go with a lighter color on the legs than the original dark brown.  After perusing my stain choices at the home store, I settled on Minwax Red Chestnut.  It seemed to be closest to the color I had in mind, but of course you can never be sure how any wood will take a particular stain, so it is always a bit of a leap of faith.

Wiped on the legs, it did give me a very pleasing warm color, one that will look great after the final finish is applied.

The stain applied, there was a detail I needed to take care of before applying the rest of the finish.  The legs had registration lines to assist in setting the legs at the same length.  They were originally painted yellow, and I decided that suited me fine. Using masking tape I prepped the lines for painting.

Once masked, I used a fine brush to lay the paint into the slots.

My choice for the final finish is an old favorite, Minwax Wipe On Poly, Satin Finish.  It is a polyurethane that you can wipe on with a cloth,  It offers a great deal of control, dries quickly, and builds to a very nice looking depth of finish that is not at all like the thick, plastic looking poly's of the past.

It is hard to beat the moment when you wipe on the first finish coat on a project. It is then that you get a glimpse of how it will look when completed, and I was very pleased with the results as I wiped it on the first leg.  Here is a shot commemorating the moment.

Another shot after four coats on the lower legs, you can start to see the shine beginning to build.

The job was complete after six coats applied over a couple of days.  

On to another of those small jobs.  One of the slow motion cables was missing the cap on its knob.  Examining the remaining one, the material appeared to be a white formica-like material.  While I did not have any white formica, I did have some of the smooth variety of the Ebony Star pattern.  As I thought about having two different colors, the idea began to grow on me.  Add to that the resemblance of the Ebony Star pattern to a star field or even a Hubble Deep Field galaxy study, and it seemed it was destined to be.

First, let's see what size we need this cap to be.

Transfer the radius to the  compass

I then drew the circle on the material and used a tin snips to cut out  the blank.  (I know, measure to the hundredth and then cut it out with a tin don't want to watch the sausage being made in my little workshop.)

As I am sure you can imagine, the blank need a bit of clean up, so using another of my precision tools , the Dremel with an abrasive cylinder, I shaped, tested, shaped, tested, shaped and tested some more until I had a pretty decent fit.

 I think the contrasting colors make for an attractive pair.  I later painted the knobs to bring the whole assembly up to snuff.

The tripod had hooks at that junction of the upper and lower sections.  Those hooks were for a safety chain.  The original chain was missing from my kit, so I took that as license to replace it as I saw fit.  My version was a bit "bling-ier", as I chose a gold tone chain instead of what was most certainly a silver colored original.  I just like the way it looked.

There were lots of little hardware pieces that needed rust removal, cleaning and polishing and I did a bit here and there all along the way.  But one product made a large portion of that job a good deal easier, a rust remover called Evaporust.   Simply place your rusted parts in this product, and let it set. In most cases an hour will do the job.  Here is a batch of hardware about halfway through a soak, you can see the rust starting to come free.

And the end result.

A real time saver!

After all of the refurbing was done, it was time to assemble the entire scope and enjoy the fruits of my labors.  Click below to see how it turned out.


Back to PART I

I welcome your comments and questions at

 2014   Rod Nabholz

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