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I Forge Iron

Rebuilding a Fan...


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I'm the lucky new owner of a classic Emerson Silver Swan fan.... and it doesn't work.  I knew it didn't work when I bought it, but I had to have it.  It's an Emerson Silver Swan!

Now, the question is... what do I do with it?

I'm not an electrical guy so I'm a bit out of my depths here.  The previous owner said that it was working, then it slowed down and finally stopped.  You can tell that someone somewhere has redone the wiring on it; the head wire and plug are all new stuff.  Only the switch, rotor and stator are original to the fan.

Looking in the gear box for the oscillator mechanism, there's no side of congealed grease or the like that might have bogged it down.  When you plug it in, there's no hum like the motor is trying to turn but is jammed by something.  


I've got most of the parts removed and have noted that the cloth covering on the stator appears to have been charred and blackened.  There's no sign of fire damage to the finish on the motor housing, though, and no odd smells.



Not being an electrical guy, I'm taking this to mean that whoever did the rewire on it screwed something up and the motor is now toast.  Is this a fair assessment?  Did I waste a lot of money?

Can the thing be rewound?  Who do you talk to about that?  What kind of price range are we looking at?

Because this is a single-speed fan, I'm assuming that there should only be two leads coming off of the stator.  There are only two wires from the plug going to the switch and from the switch up to the stator, but I haven't pulled the stator out of the body to examine the connection because, to be honest, I'm a bit scared of what I might find.

I have my eye on a real clunker of a Silver Swan that I might be able to get for parts, but I'd like to consider repairing what I've got before I add to the mess that is my shop with even more stuff.

Any thoughts?



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I have a few old fans but that is a beauty! You have a couple options really. 1 look online for someone who does it and mail it/ the part out. 2 read up on it if you can and give it a go. 3 keep it as a lovely in functional antique. 

Personally, I love functional antiques but that could even be a looker at my place. If it were mine I'd see what I could do myself without getting too rough with it. 

Good luck. Hope you can get it going. 

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Thanks gents.  I've only recently been introduced to antique fans and I've become quite a fan of them.  There's nothing quite like picking up the thing to move it and feeling the weight of all that cast iron.  These things are not light and there's nothing about them that smacks of cheapness.

After the umpteenth time I had a modern store-bought fan crap out on me, I decided to try an "antique" Emerson 77xxx series.  Built post-1950, it is a tank of a fan and one of the biggest selling points is the fact that you can unscrew or unbolt everything about it to work on the things.  These old fans are quite similar to cars in that they are made to be worked on and require regular oiling.

Anyhow, I was blown away by the quietness of the 77xxx series and how much air it moved.  Being a 16" cage, the thing puts out far too much air to make it a comfortable bedroom fan even when it's on the lowest setting and she's now been relegated to use in the main hallway to help circulate air through the house.  It definitely moves air!!

If you get the least bit interested in quality fans for the home, antiques are definitely the way to go.  They might seem a bit pricey because they sell on the used market for $100 and up, but they're infinitely worth it.  The Silver Swan is the pinnacle of fan design, someone referring to it as the Aristocrat of fans.  I couldn't agree more and am very happy to have snagged this one.  Even with it not working, it uplifts the spirit just to look at it.

Now I just need to get it working again!

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The last time I visited my Sister she had my GrandMother's (Mom or Suzie) GE fan out on a table. It was given to her as part of a wedding shower when she married Pappy in 1903, she was 13.  I changed out the fabric and lacquer cord in the '50s, my Uncle Brent said he'd changed it once in the mid 20's as a middle school shop project. It still purrs like a kitten and moves a pleasant amount of air. Oh, it IS heavy, cast iron is like that.

Frosty The Lucky.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Any electricians in the house?????

I snapped a photo of the wiring of my fan so I could think about what I wanted to do, but I'm not an electrician and don't know that I'm understanding things correctly.

Does it look wired properly?  If I understand how this works, there should be two leads coming off the stator.  These are spliced to the head wire that goes down to the switch... which is wired to the plug wire.

I would have thought both of the wires coming from the stator need to go to the switch so when the switch is in the off position, none of the electricity is flowing through it.  The way this thing looks, you've always got electricity going into the machine.

Doesn't that build up heat to some degree?  Isn't the stator always going to be 'hot'?  Is that right?

The wire the guy used is "old fashioned" two-wire, cloth covered stuff that looks dang sexy.  But that means that there's electricity flowing from the wall all the way up to the stator.  I thought it was supposed to be stopped at the switch, isolating the rest of the mechanism from any electricity until you close the 'gate'.

The switch appears to be OEM and original to the fan.  

I peeled back some of the shrink wrap tubing on the one connection just to see if it was solid.  It appears to be, but I think a better job could have been done.

If I plug this thing into the wall, I get no sound from the stator/rotor to indicate that it might be wanting to spin.  I polished up the face on the rotor, but haven't taken the stator out to clean up its surface.  Maybe that's the problem?  Carbon buildup might interfere to some degree, right?

Do I want to check for continuity with the thing plugged into the wall socket?


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I'm not an electrician, but here are a couple of things I would do to this one.  First I would attempt to determine whether the switch had failed or the motor.  That should be as easy as getting a power cord wired directly to the motor, plugging it into one of the ubiquitous switched power strips we all have around these days, keeping all body parts far away from the fan in case there is a short, and turning the power strip on.  If the fan spins, replace the switch.  Of course you could just also test the switch with a continuity tester, but based on your previous questions I'm not sure you would have one.

If the fan spins rewire same through a new toggle switch switching the hot lead (hopefully you know how to identify the hot and neutral leads of an AC circuit, if not get a basic wiring manual and learn this before going any further).  Make sure before use to check the metal fan casing and ensure that it isn't shorted to power to avoid future shocks.

If the motor doesn't spin in the previous test, then it needs to be repaired or replaced.  A Volt Ohm meter might help in determining if the motor wiring has shorted (a distinct possibility given the signs of burning insulation you noted and the gradual slowing down the previous owner mentioned).  I'm not sure if these old motors had starter capacitors like newer ones.  If it does a simple capacitor replacement might do it.

I assume that you have already checked to see that the fan blades rotate smoothly without being powered to eliminate the chance that the bearing are seized?

That is all I got.  Hopefully a real electrician like Steve can chime in and assist.

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Latticino, when I first got the fan, I tested the blades for free play and they spun just as nice as you could ask for.  I checked the oscillator's gearbox to see if it was jammed up with old grease, but it was clean as you could ask for.  When plugged into the wall socket, there wasn't a hint of sound from the motor to suggest that it was trying to turn but was somehow jammed.


I reckon the best option right now is to try bypassing the switch like you suggest.  I wouldn't think this it the problem going by the seller's description of it slowing down and finally stopping, but I'm game to try anything at this point.  A new switch would be a sure site cheaper than getting the stator rewired!

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