Questions from a newbie about restoring an old Fisher (Grandpa III perhaps?)

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New Member
Oct 27, 2019

I grew up in the city with central heat and air. When my husband and I moved to a more rural area we were excited that our home already had an old Fisher wood stove. We've trying to fix it up, but there is quite a bit of rust and pitting on the surface. Using a wire brush and steel wool removed much of the rust, but there is still a visible orange color to the metal.

Do we need to remove evidence of the rust to the point that the surface of the steel is silver again? Or, is it acceptable for there still to be an orange color to the metal after brushing and scouring?

We plan to apply stove polish next. I know stove polish is sort of a controversial application here, but we'd really prefer it to paint. Although, admitting my own ignorance, I am open to any considerations you might offer.


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Wipe it down with mineral spirits and then paint it. Why would you want stove polish over paint?
If you still want to remove more rust from any pitting, a wire wheel in a drill works wonders.
Sand paper doesn't get down into the low spots, it only shines up the upper surfaces it comes in contact with.
It doesn't have to be shiny silver, steel when new has more of a dark gray surface, it is only shiny when machined. (drill, grind, sand) Look at new angle iron in Home Depot for the color of bare steel.

Stove polish is for porous cast iron which is not what you have. When it gets hot, the pores open up and stove polish melts into it. It was used on antique cast iron stoves. Steel plate is made from the same base material as cast iron, it is just smooth and cools with a different molecular structure, "grain" if you will, compared to a sand or cement like structure, randomly course when poured in a mold called casting.
Those stoves had to be cast in pieces, bolted together and gasket material or cement between pieces replaced as they leaked. A steel plate prevents a lot of maintenance. So does paint!

Stove polish is waxes and carbon (soot) to make it black. It is put on cold, left to dry and polished dry until shiny, like shoe polish. As it dries, the swirls will stay visible on smooth surfaces. Like painting on smooth glass. You will see brush strokes unlike paint on a rough surface. So you will see like brush strokes and swirls from a rag. If you try to put it on and rub it until smooth, you will just remove the polish and have nothing to buff when it dries. It is not an even coating in appearance. You have to rub it onto rough surfaces and get used to polishing it smooth to realize it's not for already smooth surfaces. Paint was invented to prevent the need to polish the stove constantly. This could be needed on a weekly basis, letting it cool to be redone. Normally it was left to cool every Sunday when the family was in church. It was serviced that evening for the next week. It is no longer necessary to let a steel plate stove cool to renew the finish. Most run 24/7 as the sole heat source, so it would be impossible to keep it looking good all winter. It would be a rust mess by spring. It's not a controversial thing, the problem is stove polish is not impervious to water. Paint repels water, and protects the surface. Water and water vapor (during high humidity in summer) go right through polish, so it will rust underneath the coating until you see rust coming through, and you simply keep covering the rust up. So if you're concerned about getting all the rust off, it would not be necessary before stove polish since it will rust very shortly through the coating anyway. (and continue to rust under the polish) It only colors the rust !

Stove polish was used on the rough cast iron of stoves, NOT the cooktop. (like your smooth surface of entire stove) Boil overs and water kettles (you want one on top to humidify the air all winter) wear it right off. The top of cookstoves was cast iron, but machined smooth like your entire stove is when rolled from steel. So the smooth top was oiled and seasoned like a cast iron pan. So stove polish was not used on stoves where it was smooth like yours. (bacon grease and lard was different back then with pigs eating a different diet, it polymerized differently, the grease becoming a different material when cooked on having a much higher smoke point. There is an entire science behind it. The grease in your oven polymerize (links together) and becomes a different material than the grease it was, with a higher melting point, becoming much harder to remove - that was the coating on smooth surface tops) Your doors are cast and you could use it there, but Fisher painted all parts to prevent maintenance, and is highly recommended over polish for sure. Once you use polish, it is extremely difficult to remove. Paint doesn't stick well with wax under it, and even when you think you have removed it, heating the stove will bring the wax and pigments out, so wiping with a rag, the rag is black again! Very frustrating. Notice it cleans up with soap and water. Water base under coating is not compatible with oil based paints.
If you want to try stove polish, get an old antique stove as a conversation piece, and you'll find not even using it you need to repolish from time to time, as rust specks show through. Without using the stove it will need to be done a few times a year to keep it looking like new.
I have a collection of them. When I dust, I polish bad spots. It blends in well. If it wasn't so difficult to remove, I would paint them all. The coating doesn't take away from the value since it can be put back to original. Paint simply protects the metal better.
Most Series III stoves will have a UL tag on the rear shield, Cathedral style arched doors, and not have angle iron corners.
The only exception is 1979 when the Cathedral doors were introduced as an option, the old flat top doors were still used until 1980 and considered a III. That is the only year a III can have flat top doors.
To further complicate identification, most fabricators continued to make the old style box after 1980 with angle iron corners as an unlisted model for use on non-combustible surfaces such as on a hearth where UL Listing was not necessary. If you have Cathedral doors not shown in your pictures, chances are you have the $100 cheaper version made after 1980 without rear shield and baffle. 1980 and after Series III will have a baffle.
If you do have the 1979 flat top version, your screen will not have the flat top, rectangular frame. (Chrome frame, called Contemporary Style) it will have a black painted arched top screen frame for arched doors, even though the stove is fitted with flat top doors.
Welcome to the forum @FirstFisher !

Like you, I grew up without a wood stove. We bought our current house in 2008, and it had a small Fisher Baby Bear in it. It wasn't hooked up, and I could find any information about it back then, so we stored it in our detached garage. Fast forward 4 years to 2012 and we wanted to install that Baby Bear. By then I was able to gather some valuable information from this forum, and @coaly was a big help. To our surprise, that slightly rusted Baby Bear was now completely covered in rust. We used PB Blaster and wire brushes on a drill to clean it up. We almost had it ready to paint when we realized it wasn't big enough to heat our 1600 sq ft, 2-story house. So we found a Mama Bear on Craig's list and repeated the PB Blaster/wire brush method and painted the Mama Bear with Rutland Stove Paint. We used the spray paint, but they make a brush on paint as well. The Baby Bear went back into hibernation in the garage, and rusted again before I finally restored it last fall.

Below are three links to some Fisher stoves that I restored.

WD-40 and PB Blaster both do about the same job. Clean it with mineral spirits (the kind that evaporates) or lacquer thinner and let it dry before you paint it. Best of luck with your "new" Fisher stove!