How To Refresh Vintage Sleds

Vintage Sleds

Wayward vintage sleds have a way of finding their way to me. Their well-used and well-loved derelict condition speak of a classic American bygone time that I wish were still here, before technology needed to be carried around in our pockets.

When I owned the store, I refreshed many of these orphans and dressed them up with greens, pinecones, scarves. All gussied up, customers would snap them up, excited to lean them up outside their winter entry or sometimes lean up to the wall next to their fireplace. There’s just something about these vintage runner sleds that appeal to the Norman Rockwell inside many of us.

These 4 kiddos are staying with me, because my fake farmhouse needs some of their wintertime charm. Here’s what Mr. Fix-it and I do to refresh vintage sleds, and keep their well-earned charm:

Vintage Sled in need of a refresh

The greenish runners on this tall one were more unusual. This sled was structurally good, but critters had tasted of it’s sweetness and it had gone through a bad makeover at some time. The peeling paint hinted at it’s original glory and it’s owner had obviously been possessive of his prized sled.

Vintage Sled in need of a refresh.

Vintage Sled personalization

I got to work sanding the two structurally sound sleds with 120 grit sandpaper in my palm sander. I sanded the wood parts to reveal the original paint and sanded the metal parts to smooth out the rust and give it a brushed effect.

Here’s what the metal parts look like once I’ve sanded:

Vintage Sled refreshed

Vintage Sled refresh.

Sanding the metal keeps the vintage charm and brings out the patina. Once treated to a coat of poly, the rich colors of the metal will really come out.

With a little sanding, the bad makeover was erased…

Vintage Sled refresh

and I really kind of like the white wash effect over the top!

While I was sanding, Mr. Fix-it was addressing the structural damage, probably caused by many years of fun. I suggested the slats of an old crate we had laying around might be just the right thickness of boards to replace the damaged boards. Having a lot of junk around comes in handy;)

Vintage sleds with structural damage

In some places he replaced sections of the boards, in other places he used a board behind to strengthen the cracked boards. We wanted to keep the graphics intact, if at all possible.

Vintage sleds refreshed


Vintage Sled refreshed

I decided it was easier to just cut the bottoms of these slats off in order to save the graphics on the middle, wider piece.

From the back, here are all the places he needed to structurally strengthen:

Vintage Sleds refreshed

It was a little time consuming, but when you find things for free, it’s usually worth the effort!

Once he was done I sanded these two like I had the others. I then gave them all a brushed-on coat of poly (because it’s too cold in these parts to spray poly outside in December). The poly just pops all the time-worn character of the wood and the metal.

Vintage sleds, refreshed

Vintage Sleds, refreshed.

I think the variation of wood actually gives them even more earned character. If you like more uniformity, you could stain the wood before you poly. I like things a little wonky. You also could make up some of your own graphics with a cutting machine and stencil them on. I thought “Vintage Flyer” or “Vintage Racer” or “Vintage Speed” could be fun, but I decided to keep mine neutral for flexibility.

Here’s the whole family that will be decorating the Fake Farmhouse:

Vintage sleds, refreshed

So, the next time you see one of these well-used sleds on someone’s garbage pile…rescue it! They’re made so much heartier than the modern plastic ones, and it will look so cute next to your entryway or fireplace! Enjoy a piece of classic Americana!


How To Refresh Vintage Sleds Pin


Sharing at these lovely parties:

Talk of the Town

Wow Us Wednesdays

The Scoop

To Grandma’s House We Go

Vintage Charm

Farmhouse Friday

Friday Favorites

DIY Salvaged Junk Projects

16 thoughts on “How To Refresh Vintage Sleds

  1. Oh my goodness, I am so jealous of your sled collection, Lora! They are hard to come by here because they are snapped up fast or cost an arm and a leg. Thank you for sharing how to repair them with us at the Talk Of The Town Party. Pinned to share 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. All the more reason you need to make a trip down to MN and go junking with me in the spring, Marie;) I actually just saw a sled for sale online somewhere for $400! We used to sell them at the store for about $45! Maybe I should start selling them online…


  2. Love that you can always see the potential in the “discard” pile! Amazing what a little elbow grease (& sandpaper+poly) can do. Makes me a bit sad to think of the VERY loved sled I left behind at a sale last spring. Next time!😊

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yep, there’s hardly anything beyond saving, Shelly! Which can be a gift …or a curse;) If I can’t put it back together, it’s always fun to take it apart & use the pieces! I’m sure you’ll have another chance at a sled once spring comes!


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