Plate perfection: The art of license plate restoration

1-OCAR-131000-PLATE-01By ‘Rotten’ Rodney Bauman

While I don’t necessarily recall the exact statistic, it’s been said that the average worker-bee changes career courses seven times in his or her lifetime. Although I could have been a doctor, a lawyer or a famous underwear model, I’ve made a career of straightening body parts of old cars. Early on, I was warned of the “occupational hazards,” so the trick knee, junk rotator cuffs, tennis elbows, carpal tunnels and the recent double hernia are nobody’s fault but my own. Now in my mid-50s, I find myself still swingin’ heavy hammers, and just between you and me, I could really use a break.

A typical workday here at our shop would likely include rolling around on a concrete floor while absorbing all the not-so-good vibrations from pneumatic tools, such as a DA (dual-action) sander, or worse. In the body and paint departments, even on hot days, a respirator is a must for survival. But the strap-on device will elevate the human body’s operating temperature as recycled breath has negative effects of its own.

 

Bad Dust

BAD Dust® Containment Systems

Reusable, modular containment bags designed to shield airborn dust and friable materials created by treating surfaces with media-blasting equipment or other mechanically operated hand held tools. www.baddust.com

APS

Auto Paint Specialists

Tower Paint™. APS/Tower Paint
The Original Custom
Color Spray Can Leader
2120 West Nordale Drive
Appleton, WI. 54914
1-800-529-0579

www.apstowerpaint.com

 

 

It was right around 3 p.m. on one of those typical workdays, during peak summer heat, when I had to walk away. I pulled off my respirator, elbow braces and sweat-filled latex gloves. Then I grabbed a cold beverage, sat down on a stool and let my macular-degenerative eyes wander around the shop where all manner of unfinished projects began to confront and all but gang up on my guilt.

So, I took a ’63-issue California license plate off the wall and got to thinkin’. Perhaps I could straighten it up a little. I wouldn’t need a respirator or those uncomfortable elbow braces for such a small job, so it seemed like an OK idea at the time. I proceeded to clear the welding table, made myself a place to work, and about an hour later, the progress was quite encouraging.

 

 

Bobs Speedometer

Gauge Repair & Restoration – Bob’s Speedometer has been repairing and restoring gauges since 1929 – For over 80 years. No other gauge shop in the world can make this claim. We service most brands and types of gauges – speedometers, tachometers, clocks, oil, fuel, amp, volt, pressure, and a host of others – for all American makes/models & years, and most foreign, no matter the vehicle – Automobiles, Boats, Buses, RV’s, Fire Trucks, Tractors, Motorcycles – Anything with a gauge!
Free estimates

www.bobsspeedometer.com

1-800-592-9673

 

 

That tiny bit of success got me to thinkin’ some more. I’ve never had any desire to restore license plates before, but these days, it’s good to have extra tricks in the bag. So, as long as we’re all together here, I’ll show you how it’s done.

2-6

Here’s another good example of how specific-purpose tools can be fashioned from ordinary household items. As it turns out, pencils can take a tapping. This particular pencil is a perfect match for the rounded ends of the characters.

Here’s another good example of how specific-purpose tools can be fashioned from ordinary household items. As it turns out, pencils can take a tapping. This particular pencil is a perfect match for the rounded ends of the characters.

 

 

 

Northwestern Auto Supply

Northwestern Auto Supply

An old time parts store since 1946 with 4 buildings full of old inventory of antique and classic parts for the quality minded owner who wants to avoid off shore products. Engine, chassis, ignition, and brake parts shipped world wide. Machine shop and babbiting also. 800-704-1078 www.northwesternautosupply.com

Sullivan’s Garage

From Model T, A to Early V8 Ford Reproduction parts, supplies, books and manuals. Stocking over 3000 parts, from nuts and bolts to grilles, gas tanks, running boards and more.
Daily worldwide shipping. Secure 24×7 online shopping at www.sullivansgarage.com.

Monthly specials, Model A shocks, speedometers many street rod items. 1-855 – 785- 5988.
1-855- SULLY -V8

 

 

 

8-13

 

14-15

 

16-19

 

20-23

 

24-27

 

28-OCAR-131000-PLATE-28

We’ve passed the lettering chores along to McPeak Painting & Pinstriping. Come to find out, McPeak also restores old license plates from start to finish. After all we’ve been through, we’ll keep that in mind for next time.

 

29-OCAR-131000-PLATE-29

Having restored a license plate, we came away with new respect for the professionals. This type of work takes a lot of time, with an extra helping of patience thrown in for good measure. As with any other auto-restorative process, speed comes with experience. We’ve gained a little of both. There’s another trick for the bag.

 

 

 

 

 

If you liked this article on license plate restoration, you might be interested in our other restoration products:

More Resources For Car Collectors:

 

COMMENT