Patina: Restoring an Old Garden Tractor


This old tractor had sat in the corner of a barn for decades. Covered in dust, the bright red paint had faded to a dirty orange. It was scraped up from use, scratched from abuse, and tired looking. The tires were cracked. It was cakes with dirt and grime. 

Over the last few weeks I have been working on restoring this old garden tractor. It is an antique- a 1976 Wheel Horse C120.

I realize that might be strange to some of you. Why an old lawn mower?  One, it is functional- they really don't build 'em like they used to, and two, it is way less expensive than than a classic car. 

There is something about bringing life to things that have become dilapidated that inspires and excites me. 

When the mouse nests were cleared out of it, with a bit of minor cleanup, an oil change and some fresh gasoline, the old engine fired right up and ran strong. 

After I dragged it home, I pressure washed much of the grime off of it, but then it sat again in my garage for over a year. I slowly made some minor fixes - a brake pedal here, a gas line there. I changed the transmission fluid. I acquired some new tires, and a few other parts. 

But the magic started a few weeks ago when I finally gave it some focused attention. I put a scotch-pad type attachment on my drill and grabbed some degreaser and roll of paper towels, and went to town. As I worked over the hood and fenders, the minor surface rust disappeared, and the worn out pallor was slowly scrubbed away. You see, under the old faded orangish paint was still enough of the fresh bright Wheel Horse red. The old tractor was coming back to life. 

I removed the wheels, and then removed the cracked rubber from the rims. I gave the rims a fresh coat of paint before installing new tires. 

After I had it all back together, it was starting to look sharp! I gave it a nice glossy clear coat to maintain the bright red. 

There is a community of people who collect these old tractors, and within that community there are a lot of opinions. Many like to keep their tractors looking old. Many others prefer to give them a fresh automotive quality paint job to cover over any scratches- making them look brand new. 

Neither is wrong. I enjoy both. But if you look close at this old tractor, you can easily point out where it has hit a few fence posts, scraped against some other equipment, or run into something that didn't want to move. While it has new life, it still owns its experiences. It has a beautiful character to it.

Some call it "patina."


As we ourselves are being restored, we are being made new. We may be tempted to lament our scratches, or desire to cover over them. We may choose to ignore our scrapes and gouges, choosing to disown them. We might even be tempted to bottle ourselves up and isolate. To allow dust to collect and mice to make nests in our souls. 

But those wounds are part of what has made us who we are. Our pain is integral to our character. To our strength. To our beauty.

We cannot become who we were made to be by sweeping our heartaches under a rug. We must engage them in order to heal and bless them. 

And then we can enjoy our patina. 

What parts of your story long to be 'pulled out of the barn' and restored? How might you engage that this week?


Cody Buriff | Director of Resource Initiatives