London Underground Button Restoration

March 2020


Back at the begining of February I was still in the process of restoring my vintage and old fountain pens. I had the tools to do other resoration sorts of things but never really thought about branching out. I have always been facisnated with everything London and remember the London Transport Mesuem selling really cool but really expensive vintage signs and retired parts. I then came across these old retired button. They were on sale for $23.00 + shipping so I figured, why not. I knew I could find a use for it but didn't quite know what that was yet. If anything, it could be a cool wall piece. Here I have breifly outline the steps of refurbishing this London Underground Button with steps and tools that I used. There is no one right way, so feel free to do what you feel is best. Note: Links found in this post are not affiliate links.

Ordering the button.

Before you start, you need to order the button from the London Transport Museum website. This is the only place to purchase this online. I've heard you can purchase one in person when the TFL has sales periodically throughout the year. The button will run you around $25.00 + Shipping. There is no difference in the left or right facing button, choose one you like best. I went with the right facing button. You can find the button here. Or if you want to browse the rest of their vintage items, click here.

Opening & Initial Cleaning Process

When you first open the button, it will be absolutuly filthy and gross. Many years of Underground dirt, dust and grime will cover this thing, inside and out. The photo on the right is what it looked like right out of the package. Nothing a few rags or anti-bacterial wipes can't fix. Wipe it down as much as you can, be sure to wash your hands afterwards.

Opening the Button.

Opening the button isn't too difficult as long as you have the right tools. The bolt holding the plastic backing and the front metal part are tiny and it might be hard to fit your tool in the little space. What I did was whip out the WD-40 and spray each of the six bolts with a handsome amount. Remember, there is still a lot of dirt and grime in the screws from over the year, so it will be tough to unscrew. In this case, I had a pair or forceps that I used for my fountain pens to grab the tiny bolt and slowly unscrew it after the WD-40 set in. Some were easier then others but in the end I was able to open it up. 

The Guts.

When I opened it up, there was a electronic board that had a few wires attaching to the button part. From what I have read online, the parts on the board are sensors and the wires are connecting the lights that used to light up the button. I didn't bother trying to get mine to work, it was not worth fighting with. With a few clips of scissors and pliers ripping the parts off of the board, I had separated the button and the board. When you open it up, you also will notice the bottom of the plastic piece is heavy and filled with a hard plastic, that is where I suspect the sensor for the button is. I haven't bothered digging it out, it's in there pretty well. I moved onto the actual button part next.

The Button

You will find a bunch of small bolts connecting the button part with the front of the metal plate. Unscrew those and remove the button, spring and button case. Again, these will be really dirty. Clean these up, whatever you when you originally cleaned it is good. On my button, the plastic button case was in rough shape. It was cracked in multiple places and was broken in one part. I did my best to clean it and sand down the sharp parts, then super glued the broken part back on.

Polishing your Button

Congrats, if you have gotten this far, you're doing pretty well. By now you should have everything disassembled from the button. The button should be opened, electronic board cut and the button itself unscrewed and cleaned. From here you will want to take you micro sandpaper and get to work. I personally use this sandpaper on my pens. It is probably not the best thing to be using but I was just using the tools I had available to me. Start with the lowest grain and work your way to the highest making sure you mix in water while sanding. I found sanding the button the hardest as it has little tiny groves and sections. I wasn't able to 100% clean out all the dirt and grime, it was just in there too well.

After going through all your sanding, take your metal polish and a paper towel. Do this is small sections on the button face plate. Put a couple pea sized drops on the front of the button and spread it around with the paper towel

Other notes.

So now you've polished