User Name:   

Thread Number: 33957  /  Tag: 50s/60s/70s Vacuum Cleaners
Rob's Tradition restoration...
[Down to Last]

Vacuumland's exclusive eBay Watch:
scroll >>> for more items
Post# 368286   3/12/2017 at 11:44 by texaskirbyguy (Plano, TX)        

...the one that sparked a new interest!
This was the Kirby bug that bit me and got me interested in restoring these fine machines.
While on a routine thrift store run on 1-18-17, I was quickly drawn to a dirty old blue and grey Kirby vacuum. I have always seen newer plastic vacs at thrift stores, but this was the first Kirby I ever remembered finding at one. I do not even have to wonder why, as Kirbys were either not broke, easily repaired, or were sold or kept because of their well-known value. I did not need this machine but of course the price would determine if I WANTED it or not. I was expecting $50, since it was a Kirby, at then I would walk away (money is tight with me). However it was only 19.99, the going price of any upright vacuum at that store. My eyes lit up... I tried it out and it ran good, but the brush did not turn. The belt was off but I could not get the nozzle on with the belt on the belt finger. I knew that should be an easy fix, or I was doing something wrong. It was dusty and the aluminum discolored, but nothing nasty. It looked complete and not abused. Needless to say, it came home with me. While I certainly did not need it, I thought I could use another vac for my next property (retiring to the beautiful state of Oregon in 6 years!) where I will have a detached garage with a guest quarters upstairs in the loft (where the Tradition will reside). This would eliminate the need to haul my Omega from building to building and up stairs. I never thought about owning a blue vac, but the color is quite tasteful, and for the price, it was worth it.
When I got it home and looked it over, I noticed it used disposable bags with a weird oval inlet (I never knew there were 4 types of Kirby bags!) The bag that was in there was a Type 1, was yellow in color and half full of dirt, so I removed it and inspected the vacuum well for possible bugs (there were no signs) before taking it to the garage. It would not enter the house until it had been torn down and completely cleaned up, as I do not know where it has been all these years. I figured I would then change the bearings and anything else needed while it was apart. I currently have a Classic Omega (which has been my 'daily driver' for the past 20+ years) which has developed noisy bearings, so I thought rebuilding the Tradition would be a good training experience before doing the Omega. I have done many other vintage restoration projects including cars, fans, mixers, phonographs, radios, toasters, tube amps, TVs, VCRs, etc, so I thought this would be a fun one - I never did a vacuum before!

  Photos...       <              >      Photo 1 of 4         View Full Size

Post# 368287 , Reply# 1   3/12/2017 at 12:27 by texaskirbyguy (Plano, TX)        

Upon initial disassembly and a good inspection, I found the Tradition was used quite a bit. Brushes in the motor were 2/3 gone and the commutator did have a light groove worn in it. It was not nearly as bad as my mom's D50, so I knew the Tradition would still last a long time with it, especially considering its use would be limited in the 400 sq/ft loft in my future property. The motor shaft had some resistance when turned by hand and had a quick spindown time - I figured the bearings were tight. The fan was the newer plastic type. The rug nozzle would go on normally with no belt but when the belt was stretched on the finger, the viewing lens and dial assy was pulled in and it would hit the motor shaft. I just could not get this to work - something big was wrong... There were grooves in the lens as well from contact with the motor shaft. The inside of the rug nozzle was full of dust clumps, as if the brush roll has not turned for years. The em-tor tray was half full of gravel and crap so I bet the last owner did not know about emptying it since there was a bag in it. The gravel probably explains the fan replacement, too... I am guessing this unit was used with no brush for a long time and the owner, thinking it was a crappy hard-to-push vacuum, donated it as a result. Or it could have been inherited from the previous owner who knew nothing about it. The unknown history of old stuff really gets me wondering!

Tearing it down was pretty easy; I went slow and documented everything, much of it with the digital camera. I did discover that it had been rebuilt in the past... The fan is the ivory Amodel one with a date year of '04' stamped in the back side. The old fan must have broke. There was also a bushing with a rubber seal stuck on the shaft behind the fan, which just didn't look right. The rear bearing had "HOOVER" printed on the brown rubber seal. The front bearing looked like a Kirby part; not sure of its age but it was sure dirty. Both bearings were smooth and tight but I would replace them anyway while it was apart since their age and history are unknown. Now who would want a Hoover bearing in their Kirby anyway? :o)
Since the fan was replaced, I looked into the fan kits available and noticed there are three kits available. One for vintage machines, one kit for the middle year machines and one for the G series and newer ones. Only the newest ones came with the rubber seal so perhaps there were differences in the bushing and shaft lengths? Well when I was at my local Kirby shop getting parts (were cheaper there than online!) they confirmed I had the wrong kit - the bushing is different, the shaft is a different length, and no rubber seal should be used on pre-G models. He had a variety of old shafts and bushings in a bin so he kindly gave me the correct ones I needed. The shaft he gave me was about 1/4" shorter than mine so I bet the nozzle would then attach with the belt on (and it did at the end!)

  Photos...       <              >      Photo 1 of 8         View Full Size
Post# 368289 , Reply# 2   3/12/2017 at 13:00 by texaskirbyguy (Plano, TX)        

Restoration went well. It was torn down to the last nut and screw (no rivets or wires were cut though), everything washed and cleaned (including the outer bag), plastic hand-polished, metal hand-polished, bearings & motor brushes replaced, belt replaced, and a new paper bag installed. Brushroll was disassembled, cleaned, lubed, and reused since it was in good shape.

It is close to new now I had learned a lot of tips and tricks during this job which I will share in another thread - hopefully it can help others work on their machines. Sadly, this unit had been rendered almost unusable by an incompetent repair person who used the wrong parts. I have seen this happen to many things, even including cars. One crappy repair attempt can ruin a perfectly good item, and many will know no difference. However, a competent hobbiest/engineer bought this Tradition and restored it right, and it will live out it's life doing what it does best - beating rugs and sucking dirt! I also bought a good used attachment set for it from my Kirby shop, because with the rug nozzle only, it is only half a vacuum. I washed up all the attachments so that they look close to new, aside for some scuffs here and there. The Tradition with rug nozzle was $22, parts and bags was $34, and accessory kit was $38 (less the two wands which I still seek - ANYONE HAVE A SET?) So for just under $100, I have a close-to-new beautiful Kirby vacuum system that will most likely outlive its new owner.

Now the Tradition was finished just one day away from my quarterly house-cleaning day. Therefore I just had to give the restored vac a run for its money. Would it work flawlessly, break soemthing, blow the bag off, or burn up? Then was the time to try it out...
First was dusting with the hose. Suction was great, operation was very smooth with the signature Kirby 'whine'. It sounds quite different (higher pitched and quieter) than my Omega, perhaps as my Omega was wired to run on low with the hose, has a metal fan (the metal fan does emit harmonics from the motor itself), and had bad bearings. The Tradition ran perfectly for hours, without any hiccup. When sticking my nose in the motor cooling air flow to the side of the bag, I smelled a slight electrical smell, but nothing acrid or bad. I assume this was just from the tiny blue sparks from the brushes on the commutator. This slight smell remained from the beginning to the end. Again I think this is normal. Current draw remained good, dropping slightly as it warmed up through use.
With the carpet nozzle, it ran perfectly also. Sound was still different from the Omega, assuming it was from the fan types and the Omega's bad bearings. Now the Tradition beat the bag off the Omega for lint pickup! I have throw rug runners in the halls that collect black fuzz from my socks and holds it like velcro. The Tradition removed it all in 4 passes. The Omega would have taken 12. Now I did set the bristles 1/8" past the rug plate, twice as far as the manual recommended. Perhaps that's why? Brush rolls are both single row and there was no belt slippage (which is something I can hear quite well).

Current draw during normal vacuuming (empty type 1 Kirby bag), 2-18-17):
With hose and bag - cold (70*) 5.2A, warmed up (after 3hrs continuous use) - 4.9A
With carpet nozzle while warmed up - no load (brush up) 4.1A, with load (brush on carpet, moving forward) 4.5A.
In conclusion, the Tradition did a wonderful job of cleaning - just as good as I did with its restoration.

  Photos...       <              >      Photo 1 of 10         View Full Size
Post# 368291 , Reply# 3   3/12/2017 at 13:20 by jimjimmunster (Hammond, Ind.)        
HOOVER bearings...

jimjimmunster's profile picture
Those bearings aren't for a hoover upright, there probably HOOVER bearings. Hoover is a manufacturer of bearings for everything. But that vacuum looks pretty good for what it was.

Post# 368293 , Reply# 4   3/12/2017 at 13:25 by KirbyClassicIII (Milwaukie, Oregon)        

kirbyclassiciii's profile picture

That Tradition sure looked like it went through heck and back!

The Style 1 disposable bag system, dare I say, wasn't very good. In the future, may I suggest you change the setup to a Style 3 type (Heritage II thru G5)?

The parts you will need to convert your Tradition to Style 3 disposables:
190181 - bottom adapter
191481 - bottom adapter mounting screw (2 used)
192981 - bottom adapter gasket
190384 - fill tube
190484 - top adapter

Yes, it is true that besides the introduction of the Amodel fan, Kirby also changed the fan case gasket on the G5. The two previous models, the Generation 3 and the G4, both still used the old-style O-ring (122068).


Post# 368297 , Reply# 5   3/12/2017 at 14:57 by texaskirbyguy (Plano, TX)        

So Hoover bearings is a different company from Hoover vacuums? Never would have thought... I just figured they were the same, making parts to go into competitor's units for increased market share. Afterall, Motorcraft (Ford) parts are available for GM cars and AC Delco (GM) parts for Fords...

Yes I had read up on the inefficiencies of the Type 1 bag, and had strongly thought about the upgrade you mentioned (I think you mentioned it in another thread). But out of historical correctness, I kept it as is. It works pretty well as it is. I doubt I am loosing much in hose mode, since the intake and outlet hoses are about the same size. However in carpet mode it would limit airflow.
Therefore, when deep cleaning is needed, I bring out my secret vacuum weapon - the Legend II bag assembly from my Omega! I got this back in 2003 or so because I did not like the dust buildup on the machine from the dump bag. Below are some pictures from last week, right after it had been disassembled, washed up, and reassembled. I use the white cloth micron-magic HEPA bags in it and it works quite well. Less airflow than the dump bag but less dust back into the air.

  Photos...       <              >      Photo 1 of 2         View Full Size
Post# 368299 , Reply# 6   3/12/2017 at 15:08 by KirbyClassicIII (Milwaukie, Oregon)        

kirbyclassiciii's profile picture

I think you already know this, but Kirby did still market the shake-out bag as an option for the Tradition, Heritage, Heritage II (Legend) and Legend II.


  Photos...       <              >      Photo 1 of 4         View Full Size

This post was last edited 03/12/2017 at 16:09
Post# 368301 , Reply# 7   3/12/2017 at 15:28 by texaskirbyguy (Plano, TX)        

I heard about the dump being available for the Tradition but not for the newer models. I have not seen any of the later ones yet with dumps so those options must have been a bit unpopular. (Of course I have only recently started to look very closely at Kirbys).
I recently found out that the Heritage units were also available with the 13" nozzle option. They way I found out is when I ordered a Heritage two-row brushroll, it was 13" instead of 15". Length was not given in the listing. However it will work great in my mom's D50 that I will restore later one.
Some things I learn the easy way, some the hard way......

Post# 368304 , Reply# 8   3/12/2017 at 16:12 by KirbyClassicIII (Milwaukie, Oregon)        

kirbyclassiciii's profile picture

They did become less and less common the more advanced the disposable bag system got. When the Heritage II came out, its disposable bag system had been perfect enough to outsell the dump bags... and lasted all the way up to the G5.

And yes, the 13" nozzle option was also not very common. It was desired by those individuals who had a lot of areas the normal 16" nozzle couldn't get to. A lot of people say its airflow was better than the 16" nozzle, too. It was also introduced at the same time as the COMVAC 1300, which was a commercial-duty model. That, and the larger COMVAC 1600, also shared the same belt and respective brush rolls as the Heritage series.

While both the 1300 and 1600 were obviously commercial-duty machines with non-removable nozzles and three-wire cords, each one markedly stands out for different reasons: on the 1300, the motor assembly was essentially carry-over from the Sanitronic VII, employing the same side-mounted foot switch; but the 1600, whose nozzle and motor design looked like the current Heritage I, actually has a fingertip toggle switch mounted on the handle assembly itself. With only a three-year production and sales run, neither machine is common to find these days.


  Photos...       <              >      Photo 1 of 4         View Full Size

This post was last edited 03/12/2017 at 16:50
Post# 368305 , Reply# 9   3/12/2017 at 16:27 by texaskirbyguy (Plano, TX)        

Ben, nice scans of the manual - first late model dump system I have seen now.
It makes me wonder though, after the disposable bags came about, how many average users would still pull the em-tors off to check for large objects? Typically they were hard to get on and off (to the average user of course who did not know of silicon grease.) As I had found with my Tradition, they just changed the bags and did not even open the trap door on the em-tor to empty it also.
BTW, any idea on the age of the yellow bag pictured way above (any date codes on them)? Or perhaps when the colors changed from yellow to brown? I am just curious to how long this machine might have been in storage.

As my house gets more cluttered from stuff on the floor, I can see how the 13" nozzle would be helpful! Looks like my 505 that is in the resto process will have some use around the house after all!

Post# 368306 , Reply# 10   3/12/2017 at 16:34 by KirbyClassicIII (Milwaukie, Oregon)        

kirbyclassiciii's profile picture

At first, these disposable paper bags were white. It was in January 1988, during the Heritage II Legend run, that Kirby finally made them yellow. The yellow disposable bags were improved so there was not only better filtration but also less of a chance of pinholes. Then, Kirby came out with the "Micron Magic" bags for its new G4 in 1993, which were still yellow; a year later they were finally brown.

Speaking of Traditions, though, there actually is one rare variation: the Golden Trophy. This limited edition was handed out as a sales award (so to speak) to the manager of whichever Kirby dealer per state had sold the most Kirby units a year; at least 50 were made, one given to each state's best-performing Kirby dealer. Less than about 200 of these were built. They used anodized gold plating for the exposed parts in place of aluminum, and also used the same rosewood trim as the Classic Omega.


  Photos...       <              >      Photo 1 of 2         View Full Size

This post was last edited 03/12/2017 at 20:56
Post# 368308 , Reply# 11   3/12/2017 at 17:45 by jeschbac (Texas)        
Tradition Dump Filter Bags

Rob, several years ago I acquired a factory rebuilt Tradition. It was still in the Kirby packing, in other words, no use since the rebuild. I was extremely disappointed in the power, and of course, this was due to their failed first attempt at paper disposable bags. Since Tradition dump bags are still readily available on Ebay, I converted it and essentially doubled air-flow. It's now the first thing I do when I rebuild a Tradition. Come visit Will and me in Denton!

Post# 368312 , Reply# 12   3/12/2017 at 18:23 by texaskirbyguy (Plano, TX)        

Ben, do you happen to know when they changed the style 1 color from yellow to brown? Was it also in the mid 90's? If so then my Trad has seen little use since its botched repair job in around 2005 (and I can see why!)
As for the trophy versions, I had seen a couple on this site, and there is one at my local Kirby service shop - beautiful machines! Given the anodizing used, it would be for display or demo only. You cannot just buff them out every 10 years or so to remove the battle scars. This is something I love about these aluminum vacs.
BTW Ben, I see you reside in my future retirement state! Sure is nice up there, isn't it!

jeschbac, nice to see we have another Texan! Do you do rebuilds as a hobby or a career? I have not met Will yet, but I have only been here a day so far. Sounds like a mini-meet may be in order!
As for power, I noticed one thing for sure - the crystalator makes for a lousy air-intake guard - it is much too restrictive. I am surprised there is not an "air intake" control for maximum flow. I tried to blow the leaves from my patio with it and it was easier to just kick them off. I pulled the crystalator and the leaves took flight.

  View Full Size
Post# 368321 , Reply# 13   3/12/2017 at 18:53 by KirbyClassicIII (Milwaukie, Oregon)        

kirbyclassiciii's profile picture

I'm pretty sure the disposable bags for the older machines didn't turn brown until around 2009. I know they still made both the Style 1 and Style 2 paper bags in yellow as late as 2008.

It is nice over here in the good ol' Pacific Northwest!

The Tradition's Crystalator is quite rare with the transparent blue body! I know the prior Classic III also could be had with either a transparent red or clear crystal body, and both versions were produced through 1979.

There is a slide on the Crystalator, which is only used in the "open" position if you are to use the paradichlorobenzene crystals; for other uses it stays in the "closed" position.


Post# 368322 , Reply# 14   3/12/2017 at 19:16 by texaskirbyguy (Plano, TX)        

That year on the bags makes sense now. The service done around 2005 or so, and a few frustrating years for the owner (given the dust clumps in the nozzle), then probably 5-8 years of storage before donating.

Interesting to know about the crystalator body color! I have seen the clear-bodied ones more often then the blue ones. This attachment set has the pins for the headlight switch so they were the early version, perfect to go with my early unit. I wonder about the rug nozzle as it does not have the pin and the section dial is clear...
The slide control on the crystalator works for crystalating but does not open enough to give the machine any breathing room. That long slot inside is not near enough, even after pulling the end cap off. Anyway I have an 18V cordless blower for outside, so the Kirbys stay in the clean indoors. :o)

Post# 368486 , Reply# 15   3/15/2017 at 17:32 by CharlesKirby66 (Manteca, CA)        

charleskirby66's profile picture

BEAUTIFUL restoration!  Bravo!

Post# 368502 , Reply# 16   3/15/2017 at 21:51 by texaskirbyguy (Plano, TX)        

Thank you - I even impressed myself, given that was my first vacuum to restore!
All of the metal was hand polished, so it is far from perfect, but still wonderful. My Omega (which will star in an upcoming resto thread) was buffed with a wheel and it came out far better than the Tradition.
"Trial and error" and "practice makes perfect" are phrases I live by...

Post# 369042 , Reply# 17   3/23/2017 at 21:14 by texaskirbyguy (Plano, TX)        
Attachment set is complete...

...with many spares as well!
As mentioned way above, I only needed the straight and curved wand to complete the attachment set I had. I scored an attachment kit off fleabay for just over 20 bucks which included those wands, plus many more attachments in the blue case... These looked to have been used maybe once. Many not at all. They were a bit dusty but they all washed up very well. I even got a suds-o-gun!
So now I have attachments for use and some for show - yay!

  Photos...       <              >      Photo 1 of 2         View Full Size

Forum Index:       Other Forums:                      

Comes to the Rescue!

Woops, Time to Check the Bag!!!
Either you need to change your vacuum bag or you forgot to LOG-IN?

Discuss-O-MAT Log-In

User Name:   Password:      

New Members
Click Here To Sign Up.


Vacuumland home
Discuss-o-Vac Forums
Vintage Brochures, Service and Owners Manuals
Today's Vacuum of the Day
Photos of our Collections
Vintage Vacuum Cleaner to sell?
Technical/service questions?
Looking for Parts?
Website related questions?
Digital Millennium Copyright Act Policy
Our Privacy Policy