[10.2020] Give me a lever long enough...: Refurbishing two Johnson Bars

Description of Project

If you have ever had to deal with moving large and heavy objects, you may have come to appreciate the value of a good lever. When it comes moving heavy equipment, nothing quite beats the stout johnson bar. In this project I set out to refurbish two johnson bars purchased at auction.

Processes Applied:

Refurbsihing Steel


I will try not to bore you with too much detail in this summary because of the glut of old cast-iron and steel refurbishment projects on the internet/youtube these days.

The why; My friend Rob and I have spent too many weekends moving heavy industrial machinery that we purchased for scrap metal prices. The equipment ranges from large lathes, to industrial gear hobbing and shaping machinery, to a wire edm, to a precision bandsaw. In all of this moving there is one tool that becomes invaluable when shifting these machines around... The Johnson Bar. The Johnson bar is a pretty simple tool, it's comprised of a steel plate bolted to an extremely long piece of wood (+6ft), with two cast iron wheels just above its natural pivot point. This tool allows you to sneak under the corner of machines weighing upwards of 2 tons and lift up the corner of them; allowing access to slip a lifting strap into the right place, or jockeying the machine over the lip of a door or rut in the floor.

In all of our machine moving to date we have relied on the kindness of strangers to lend us their johnson bars when the need arised. Now with a bit of luck, I was able to snag two old johnson bars that needed some TLC. In this project I striped the tools to their bare components, cleaned, greased, oiled, and painted them. The paint used is an military green paint that we have a surplus of due to a 1938 Clark Fork truck restoration project that is still in progress.

To wrap this up succinctly, these johnson bars are like new and have already proven to be extremely useful. Not the most technical of projects, but sometimes the simplicity and usefulness of a project can be more fulfilling than the technical challenging ones. And in my opinion, both types of projects lend themselves to keeping your attention to detail and troubleshooting skills sharp.

Project Photos