How to Restore Antique Signs

Written by elyse twist
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How to Restore Antique Signs
Sometimes a gentle cleaning can restore an antique sign to its original condition. (Old Western Bank image by mcab from

Restoring antiques involves cleaning the piece thoroughly and retouching cracked paint or old wood. It sometimes entails refinishing the piece by removing the original surface and applying a new paint or stain to refresh the look of the sign. Most antique signs show wear and fading naturally caused by age and weather elements. When restoring an antique sign, it is a good idea to evaluate its condition before making any repairs, as it shows the authenticity of the piece. If you are planning to sell the sign to collectors, they may want it in its original state.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

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Things you need

  • Soap
  • Water
  • Soft cloths
  • Bucket or small bowl
  • Camera

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  1. 1

    Examine the sign carefully to figure out what kind of repairs it requires. When examining, look for a craftworker's signature or other identifying marks. Once you have identified the maker of the sign you can research it online or at a local library and find out its age or pictures of it during its time. This will help you decide if you want to restore or keep it in its original condition.

  2. 2

    Take pictures of the sign before you begin the restoration process. Include close-ups of labels or markings. In some cases, you may have to send it out to a professional repair place; these pictures can help them see the original condition of the sign.

  3. 3

    Clean the sign. Using a bucket or small bowl, add some warm soapy water. Wet the cloth and gently clean the sign. Dry with a clean cloth. In some cases, a thorough cleaning will restore the piece.

  4. 4

    Do only minor repairs. This may involve painting, staining or replacing old wood. It can sometimes be challenging to find the right hardware to match the sign. Researching and finding information about the piece is important. For instance, pictures can help you determine what repairs are required.

  5. 5

    Bring your sign to a professional for major repairs or restoration, if needed. Someone who specialises in antique or vintage signs will know what methods to use to achieve the job accurately without damaging your antique.

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