Thread Number: 36739  /  Tag: 50s/60s/70s Vacuum Cleaners
Restoring a Kirby Classic III.
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Post# 393083   6/10/2018 at 20:48 by Rougemacintosh (North Carolina)        

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Hey there everyone. I've had an interest in vacuums for a long time, and have restored several, but I have just now finally got the Kirby Classic III I've had sitting in pieces for close to eight years working, and I'm ready to restore it. Only problem is I've admittedly never restored a Kirby (give me an Electrolux, those are easy) and am kind of lost. I know how to do the basic cleaning and oiling and what not (side note: what is with the brushrolls on these things? I had to sit down and straight-up reverse-engineer it just to get it apart), but as far as getting it looking aesthetically nice, I'm absolutely clueless. I've never worked with polished aluminum (if that's what it is) and am not really sure the approach I should use with it. I know plenty of members on here have had lots of experience restoring these old machines, so I'd very much appreciate some tips on not only getting the shine back into it, but also other little tips and tricks to getting this thing looking great again.


Post# 393093 , Reply# 1   6/11/2018 at 08:41 by human (Pines of Carolina)        

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Polishing a Kirby isn't terribly difficult, just time consuming. There are numerous discussions on this forum about it. Specifics may vary but the basic common denominator is to use increasingly finer abrasives and finishing up with a metal polish like Mother's or Flitz to achieve the desired level of gloss. My personal quick and dirty method is to begin with Barkeeper's Friend to kill the oxidation and clean the metal, then assess how bad things really are. Getting out deep scratches is a process of sanding perpendicular to the scratch with something like 120-200 grit, then working up to finer and finer grades, changing the sanding direction 90 degrees each time you change to a finer sandpaper. For best results, final polishing should be done on a buffing wheel, either attached to an electric drill or a bench grinder. The big thing is to just be patient with it.

Post# 393099 , Reply# 2   6/11/2018 at 11:13 by Rougemacintosh (North Carolina)        

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Thank you for the advice! This one doesn't actually appear to have any deep scratches surprisingly, just very bad tarnishing and rust (on the interiors.) By finer abrasives do you mean something like a wire wheel/steel wool or something like sandpaper? Luckily I do have an extra powerhouse housing I can do some testing on, so I'll have to experiment with that.
(Also here's a link to a quick video I took of it running yesterday)

Thanks again.

CLICK HERE TO GO TO Rougemacintosh's LINK

Post# 393100 , Reply# 3   6/11/2018 at 11:32 by KirbyClassicIII (Milwaukie, Oregon)        

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Your Classic III... appears to be a mid-1978 or a 1979 model. Looks and sounds pretty good!


Post# 393101 , Reply# 4   6/11/2018 at 12:07 by Rougemacintosh (North Carolina)        

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Oh, really? How can you tell, Ben? The motor is actually not original to the rest of it, as the original motor/powerhouse was so rusted I couldn't even get it apart to replace the horribly broken fan (and assumed ruined bearings). But it does sound great! Especially considering the fact that the brushroll was seized almost solid hours before that video, and it was running with an old Royal belt on it temporarily.


Post# 393105 , Reply# 5   6/11/2018 at 14:53 by sptyks (Skowhegan, Maine)        

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The Classic III brushroll is actually very easy to remove or replace. There are numerous videos on Youtube that show exactly how to completely disassemble the machine to replace the fan and brushroll and also replace the motor's carbon brushes if they are worn.


I've found that #0000 steel wool with some Mother's Aluminum Polish works wonders for removing fine scratches and blemishes. Then move on to Mother's with a buffing wheel on a drill, then finally by hand with some microfiber cloths.


There are also polishing videos on Youtube as well.





Post# 393114 , Reply# 6   6/11/2018 at 19:50 by texaskirbyguy (Plano, TX)        

Congrats on the beginning resto of your Classic III! Kirby vacs are pretty easy to work on and most all parts are still available.

Below are some threads that should help you out. I created these after my initial hands-on experience, to pass the knowledge on to others...

Start here for resto tips and tricks for most Pre-G Kirby models:

Here is my first resto, a Tradition:

Here is my second resto, an Omega.

Your Classic III will be very similar to these, motor-wise. Cleaning and polishing will be identical.

I have also done a 505 and D50, but they are a little different.

Keep us posted on your progress!

Post# 393115 , Reply# 7   6/11/2018 at 21:36 by KirbyClassicIII (Milwaukie, Oregon)        

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I didn't realize that (about the motor unit). I knew what I knew going simply by the bag and the handle fork assembly.

I am also sorry to hear what you pointed out about the Classic III's original motor unit being so bad because of the broken fan and all that rust. An impact driver would probably have helped you for some of those rusty screws!


Post# 393519 , Reply# 8   6/19/2018 at 12:01 by Rougemacintosh (North Carolina)        

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Thank you everyone for all the advice! I've been busy with work the past few days, but did get all the parts I ordered in and installed, so now it's complete and working as it should. I'll start the metals restoration next time I get some free time. And as for the old powerhouse, I actually did have to use an impact driver just to get the main housing off, but I couldn't get any of the other screws out; they were so rusted I'm afraid they would have just sheared off anyway.
(Here's a video of it in action, before I replaced the belt lifter front piece.)

CLICK HERE TO GO TO Rougemacintosh's LINK

Post# 393613 , Reply# 9   6/20/2018 at 19:49 by broomvac (N/A)        

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Congrats on embarking on your first Kirby restoration. I can help you out with lubricating the vacuum's bearings.

Starting with the brush roll: I'm assuming your Kirby has the original-style brush roll, which will have grey-painted wood and uses brass sleeve bearings, sometimes referred to as "bushings." The tell-tale sign that your Kirby has this style of brush roll is that the end caps will turn together; they cannot spin independently.

It sounds as though you have already discovered the trick to disassembling this brush roll, which is to fully remove the screw on each end and pop the end caps off. To lubricate the sleeve bearing, use a light, non-detergent oil on the end of a Q-tip to clean contaminants from the bearing surface. Once it is clean, simply soak a few drops of the same oil into the bearing and you should be good to go! The only thing to look out for here is over-oiling, which could leave you with oil stains on your carpet.

Next up: Motor bearings. These are ball bearing units, with one on each end of the motor. If you choose to lubricate these rather than downright replace them, be sure to fully clean out any of the old, original grease before re-greasing. Not only is the old stuff likely contaminated with gritty dirt, which can accelerate bearing wear, but it may also be incompatible with the new grease you install. Depending on which greases mix, mixing incompatible greases can give you either sludge or a runny mix. Neither is good.

Once you have cleaned the ball bearings thoroughly--break cleaner works wonders--liberally pack new grease around the ball bearings. I find syringes to be perfect for this, but Q-tips, tooth picks, or even your finger can also get the job done. The grease I prefer is a substance called "Mobil 1 Polyrex EM," which is a high-temperature synthetic grease designed specifically for the ball bearings used in small, high-speed electric motors (EM), such as what you have in your Kirby. In fact, it is actually the grease that many bearing OEMs install in the bearings they manufacture. The stuff is fantastic and a huge tube is not that expensive. I have pumped life back into many vacuum motors with this grease. I have put a link for it below.

One final, very important note. Sleeve bearings strictly require oil and rolling element bearings (ball bearings) strictly require grease. Putting grease in a sleeve bearing will quickly ruin it and putting an oil into any ball bearing would be similarly disastrous.

Good luck! I think we are all excited to see the end results of your restoration.


Post# 393678 , Reply# 10   6/21/2018 at 21:42 by rivstg1 (colorado springs)        

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Thanks so much for that info broomvac!!! Texaskirbyguy thank you as well for those links!

Post# 393685 , Reply# 11   6/22/2018 at 02:54 by huskyvacs (Northern Indiana)        

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Thanks for the help too, broomvac! I too have a bunch of old Kirby's.

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