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Refinishing a rusty wheelhouse frame (with pics!)


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After four years of owning this pre-owned fish house, I decided some restoration was in order. Since it would be too far to drive and too expensive to bring it out to Rick's Restoration in Las Vegas (LOL!) I decided to tackle the job myself. Armed with a couple days of vacation, nice weather, a borrowed sandblaster, and a wire wheel grinder, I began the task at hand.

I put the House up on jack stands, removed the wheels and started assessing the rust damage.


The steel wheels were very rusty. I had the tires unmounted and then sand blasted and used a wire wheel grinder to clean them up. The results were satisfactory. A friend of a friend is going to powder coat the wheels for a nominal price.

Here is the wheel before:


And after sandblasting:


Here are some pictures of the rusty frame before I started:





I started by using an aggressive wire wheel on a grinder to knock as much loose rust off the frame and pivot arms as possible. What a dirty job! I wore a heavy duty dust mask, gloves, goggles, and over the ear hearing protection. The results were good. Here is a picture of the pivot arm. The top of the arm is wire wheeled and the frame behind it is not. Gives some perspective of how well the wire wheel worked.


I had to remove both side cranks for the pivot arms due to rust and frayed cables. Here is a picture of a portion of the cable I found on the right side of the wheel house:


I also found a broken leaf spring bolt on the left side of the wheel house. I replaced the bolts on the leaf springs on both sides with new grade 8 bolts.


The next step was even dirtier. I have never sand blasted before this project...and it goes everywhere! I borrowed the sand blaster, but had to buy a new hose and gun for the machine as well as the bags of sand. The sand blasting portion cost me about $80. I wore gloves, a dust mask, goggles, and a sand blasting hood. I started on the tongue of the fish house. The results are pretty amazing.



Here are a few pictures of the pivot arms and frame rails after sand blasting:



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After cleaning piles of sand from all over the driveway, the pockets of my jeans, and other parts I won't mention, I began the process of painting the frame with a product called rust encapsulator by the Eastwood company. It is similar to POR15. Using a brush, I painted the frame and pivot arms with the product which I purchased in a gallon can. I used just over a half gallon. The rust encapsulator is black. This product was just over $100 per gallon. Steep, but hopefully it will work as advertised! Here are some shots of the encapsulated frame:




I masked off the frame using a tape and paper machine and plastic to prep it for spray painting to protect from overspray.



The final step of the painting project was to spray paint the frame. I used two different products, both from the Eastwood company. The first was a chassis paint with hardeners in it that was a 50% gloss finish. I used that on the tongue and pivot arms. The other product was a rubberized undercoating paint that I used to paint the entire rest of the frame. The chassis paint was about $10 per can (I used 2) and the I bought a case of the rubberized undercoating at about $115. I have three cans left. Again wearing goggles and a dust mask as this stuff has a lot of solids in it. The front of my dust mask was black when I got done. Here are some pictures of the areas painted with the chassis paint:




Here is what the rubberized undercoating paint looks like on the frame:



Finally, here is a picture of the reassembled pivot arm minus the winches.


The next steps will be replacing the winches and cables and remounting the wheels once they get powder coated. It was A LOT of work! I am sore from trying to work in an 18" tall space for 3 days on a hard surface. Overall I am happy with the results...hopefully it will withstand the rigors of ice fishing and the salty MN roads. Total investment after replacing broken parts, paint, etc. will be close to $700. Thanks for reading!


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