How to Repaint Numbers & Graduations on a Steel Ruler: Restoring John Walters' Rusted Starrett Ruler - Popular Woodworking Magazine

How to Repaint Numbers & Graduations on a Steel Ruler: Restoring John Walters’ Rusted Starrett Ruler

 In Shop Blog, Woodworking Blogs

After finding a rusted old Starrett ruler in a ‘Free stuff’ pile left by a neighbor, I decided to restore it and repaint the numbers and graduations.

First, I placed it in a tray and covered it with a 20% vinegar solution for an hour or so. Then I scraped the ruler with a bread clip and #1000 grit wet-dry sandpaper to polish the surface. After washing and neutralizing the vinegar, I cleaned the steel with alcohol and I was ready to restore the black paint.

I used an oil-based black paint that I had, but acrylic paint could work too. Find a paint with a high concentration of pigment or go ahead and mix more pigment into your paint to increase visibility to the notches. I used a rubber applicator to pull the paint down the ruler. A cutoff from a car’s windshield wiper blade would also work.

Clean any spillover with a lint free cloth slightly moistened with mineral spirits (for oil paint) or water (for acrylic). After the paint dries, polish the ruler with 1000grit wet-dry sandpaper and apply a thin layer of wax on your tool.

– Yoav Liberman



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  • IrritableBadger

    Crayon also works really well for backfilling the increment markings on rulers and hand wheels. You can just scrape off the excess with a credit card.

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