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Restoring the scale on engineering tools

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Steve35505/11/2021 14:27:29
259 forum posts
177 photos


I’m completely aware that I am an idiot for doing this, so please don’t think I’m under any illusions.

I recently got hold of a vintage Moore and Wright protractor from eBay, it looks like a fantastic little tool. However, being vintage, it was covered in years of gunk. In my infinite wisdom, I thought I would put it through my ultrasonic cleaner. However, as well as removing the gunk, my ultrasonic cleaner ultrasonically removed quite a lot of the scale ink.

I actually have several vintage engineering tools, which have been polished one too many times, and the scale has faded.

Does anybody have any tips for restoring these scales? The indentation marks are still there, I would guess it’s just a question of applying the right type of ink.




Mick B105/11/2021 15:30:30
2224 forum posts
125 photos

Similar instrument, similar issue:-


...though on mine, the filling looks more faded than removed.

I'll watch this thread, in hope...


Mike Crossfield05/11/2021 15:31:56
279 forum posts
36 photos

There are 3 techniques that I've used:

Firstly, you can fill the engraving with paint such as Humbrol, then wipe off the excess before the paint has fully dried. Trick is to use a piece of newspaper lightly soaked in white spirit as the wipe.. Done carefully, this will clean the surface and leave the filling intact.

Another method is to use engraving wax. Usual method for clock dials. Heat the surface until the wax will melt onto the surface, then when it's set hard you can scrape/sand the excess off. Warm up again to restore the gloss finish on the wax.

Last method is to immerse the item in blacking solution. After blacking, the surface can be polished up with very fine emery or wet&dry paper, leaving the scale blacked.

Example of a scale that I blacked using the last method:



Robert Atkinson 205/11/2021 15:33:23
1246 forum posts
20 photos

A Lacquer-Stik Paintstick is the best option for engraved marks.

Random googled supplier

EDIT:  Instructional video (reversed colour)

Robert G8RPI

Edited By Robert Atkinson 2 on 05/11/2021 15:38:40

Steve35505/11/2021 19:25:59
259 forum posts
177 photos

Thanks all, that is very helpful. I will give one of the above methods a go.



Samsaranda05/11/2021 19:51:20
1484 forum posts
7 photos

I think many years ago Indian Ink was used to fill the engraved marks although I have no idea how it was applied or how effective it was. Dave W

Mick B105/11/2021 20:45:22
2224 forum posts
125 photos

I think it's Mike's Humbrol method for me. The newspaper technique looks practical - last time I tried it I used a rag with white spirit and that washed out the paint from the engraving as well as the surface.

I've never come across engraving wax, I can't source LacquerStik for a sensible price, and gun blue ain't never gonna work on stainless.

Thanks from me too, folks.


Zan06/11/2021 00:13:03
313 forum posts
20 photos

Nowt to loose, if it pulls the paint out your back to where u started!

a wifi of meths on a felt pad worked well for me while removing the top painting on etched engine plates to leave the brass shiny against the sunken background

gerry madden06/11/2021 15:58:18
256 forum posts
136 photos

Thank you Robert for the pointer. I'll give this a try.


Clive Foster06/11/2021 18:51:39
3173 forum posts
113 photos

With any paint method its important that the paint is actually thin enough and flows well enough to fill the grooves. On fine scales ordinary paint tends to have enough surface tension to skin over however hard you try to work it in.

Multiple dust coats from an aerosol interspersed by careful polishing off every few dustings has worked for me but I'm not in love with the idea. If there is ever another time I plan to squirt some aerosol paint into a small container, thin it even more and try brushing with a fine artists brush.

But I shan't loose sleep if there is never another time.


Mark Rand06/11/2021 20:39:35
1314 forum posts
38 photos

I use Markal paint sticks applied cold, followed by wiping with a lint free cloth. I bought a box of them 15 years ago for stock marking and I've still got most of them.

Engraver's wax is readily available and can be found with the search engin of your choice.

bernard towers06/11/2021 23:25:13
691 forum posts
141 photos

If the scale has any chromium content the blacking idea won’t work, don’t ask me how I know!3230bd40-4d31-4e82-b089-a656c39d05de.jpeg

Mark Rand07/11/2021 10:10:45
1314 forum posts
38 photos

The result does look good though!

Adam Mara07/11/2021 11:06:34
172 forum posts
3 photos

When we were engraving brass or aluminium, we used black cellelose paint , cleaned off with cellelose thinners and polished. You could get it in small quantities those days (1/2 pints!), but it does not seem to be readily available these days.

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