the Fire Gold paint shop

A workshop designed for painting
and gilding antique fire apparatus.

I have built three workshops in my career. The first two were built as sign shops with long easels and room to pull a truck inside for lettering. I have decorated antique cars and horse drawn vehicles all through the years. Sign painting was great preparation for working on fire apparatus. When I was an apprentice sign painter I was told to focus on painted lettering for ten years before learning to gild. This seemed severe at the time, but it prepared me for the demanding techniques needed in restoration work.

My previous shop was here in the same town of Tenants Harbor, Maine. It was attached to a humble sea captain's house, built in the 1860s. I like antiques and enjoyed living in an antique house. When fire engines became a large part of my work, my shop of 900 square feet often felt too small.

My present shop has 4000 sq. ft. of work space. I can have several restoration projects in the shop at the same time. There is living space on the second floor.

On the morning of Sept. 11, 2001 the roof trusses were going up on the new shop. I ran an errand that morning and heard on the radio of the attack going on in New York City. When I returned to the roof raising, the guys found my news hard to believe. They calmly went back to work, doubting that my story could possibly be true.

The restoration of these vehicles requires many skills and a lot of specialized knowledge. The engines were built in shops and factories by groups of craftsmen. My skills are limited to only painting, lettering, gilding, striping etc. There are many other artisans that restore the woodwork, metal work, mechanics, electrical systems and more on these engines. Below are some of the people that bring these pieces of history back to their original condition.

Most of the restorations I have worked on were for Andy Swift of Firefly Restoration. His shop is in Hope, Maine. Here are some photos of his shop.

Ken Soderbeck backing up a Knox fire engine.

Ken Soderbeck has been a driving force in the movement to preserve and restore antique fire apparatus. His skills go way beyond gilding and painting. They include making reproduction decals, metal work, upholstery, mechanical work and much more. He is a historian, a collector, and a teacher. I have learned many details about engine decoration from him. His company is Hand In Hand Restoration. Please visit his web site to see more. Hand-In-Hand sign on restoration shop.

hand-in-hand lapel pin.