Old metal porch gliders lend a vintage flair and a sense of Southern charm to porches and patios. In the years before air conditioning, porch gliders allowed families to cool off as they rocked gently in the outdoor breeze. While years of use and exposure to the weather has left many metal gliders in less-than-perfect shape, some simple techniques and a fresh coat of paint can help you restore an old glider to its former glory.
Rejuvenating an old metal glider begins with removing the layers of old paint and finishes. When you're dealing with vintage furniture, lead paint is always a concern. Start by testing the paint using a lead paint testing kit to determine whether lead is present. Keep in mind that lead may be hidden under coats of nonleaded paint, so plan to test chips from each layer as you work. If lead is present, use a chemical stripper made for lead paint and work in a well-ventilated area safely away from pets and children. Work over a disposable drop cloth and wear a respirator, safety glasses and protective gloves. Brush on the stripper liberally using a paintbrush, then use a scraper to remove the layers of lead paint. Check with your local government to determine how to dispose of the lead paint waste. If no lead is present, use sandpaper of various grits and a wire brush to remove all paint from the glider.
Rusted or damaged gliders may require some basic repairs before they can be refinished. Fill small holes with auto body filler, then sand smooth once the filler dries. Lubricate squeaky hinges and other hardware with a water-displacement lubricant product, or replace broken or worn hardware and feet with modern re-creations. Check for online retailers selling metal glider parts, or consult a local metalworking shop, which may be able to make replacement parts for you.
Once the glider has been stripped and repaired, it's time to paint. Start with a rust-inhibitive primer, which can be sprayed, brushed or rolled on to the metal. Choose an outdoor enamel paint to give the glider color, and apply the paint with a foam roller or brush. For the best results, spray the paint on using a spray can or a paint sprayer, which can be rented at many home improvement and hardware stores. Keep the sprayer moving constantly, holding the nozzle 10 to 14 inches away from the metal for best results. Brush and blend drips while they're still wet, or sand them smooth after the paint has dried.
If you find an old glider in need of major restoration, consider taking the glider to a professional restoration company. These firms generate high-quality results using special tools and techniques that handy homeowners typically don't have access to. For example, the firm may dismantle the glider and soak the parts in a chemical paint remover, then sandblast the parts to ensure that all rust and paint has been eliminated. Restoration companies can also use special powder coatings, which are baked onto the metal in large ovens to create a long-lasting, durable finish.