Restoration advice

In this this article I hope to answer some of the common questions regarding buying, moving and restoring your kiosk but please bear in mind, these kiosks are extremely heavy and therefore are very dangerous and virtually impossible to move or transport without the proper lifting equipment.

How much?
It depends on a number of things. Your main obstacles with kiosks are moving them, repairing them and stripping. Sometimes you can find a very cheap kiosk but there can be hidden costs. At 750kg you will need mechanical lifting equipment like a Hi-Ab to move them.

Does the deal include delivery?

Does it mean delivery to the front of your drive or to the spot where you want it to live? If not, every time you move it is an expense.

Is it in a safe state to move? We always remove any remains of the concrete floor before lifting, it takes off a lot of weight and there is a danger of debris falling out in transit if you don’t.

Is the cast sound?

If you have ever broken up a cast iron bath then you will find that you can pound it with a hammer with no effect and then suddenly if you catch it on a weak spot it shatters like glass.

Although the cast iron does not rust, the steel panel bolts can. A common mistake is to pick the kiosk up through the roof, where the “Telephone” signs are. This puts all the strain on the bolts in the four corners and if these have corroded the roof breaks off. This is bad news, as if you have not damaged yourself when the kiosk dropped, the damage you cause the kiosk may require welding. Check for cracks in these corners and in the base.

Unfortunately I am often called after a kiosk has dropped and sometimes it is cheaper to buy another kiosk and scrap the damaged one. If you remove the top large panes either side of the door or one pane and go through the door with the sling you will lift under the transoms which are much stronger.

If there are any major cracks or detached pieces they need cast welding. There are many welders available but you will need a professional who is mobile and proficient in cast welding.

How is the finish?

Kiosks will usually have been painted numerous times with different types of paint. For the best restoration you will need to strip the kiosk of all fittings and glass and then strip back to bare metal. Unless you have understanding neighbours this is best done by taking your kiosk into a shot blaster. Remember though, every move is a cost. Ideally you want you kiosk blasted before it comes to your house.

Some people find they have to disassemble their kiosk to take it to the blasters, but we recommend moving in one piece. Reassembling a kiosk is a major task.

Look at the fittings of the kiosk. Is the door closer working?

How much glass is broken or replaced with plastic?

What is the condition of the door?

Unicorn can supply all these parts, but if the originals are good then it is a bonus point.

So with these considerations, if you can get a solid, shot blasted kiosk body stood upright on the spot where you want it for £ 2000 you would be paying a reasonable price. The cheaper kiosk can end up costing the same once you have moved, welded and stripped it.

So you now have a kiosk in front of you.

It may look in a very sorry state. It may be covered in dozens of coats of flaky paint. The door may be in need of repair, the glazing may be a mix of old glass and polycarbonate. However, if you have made sure to buy a solid kiosk, these problems may not be as bad as they first appear.

Strip out door, backboard and windows

In order to carry out the best possible restoration job, you will need to strip the kiosk down to a carcass and work back up.

Remove the door closer, door handle, door and the backboard. Try to save as many screws, shackles, straps and bolts as possible. It is unlikely that you will salvage all of them but Unicorn can supply all the replacement parts needed.

Remove the windows. Often the kiosk will have a mix of large polycarbonate and small glass windows. The polycarbonates take the form of an all-in-one window and frame and are fixed by a headed pin and crimped with a grey plastic washer. They scratch very easily and fog yellow in the sun. These cannot be restored and are not worth saving. To remove them, simply take a hammer and a round flat headed punch and knock the pins up and through. The Polycarbs will then fall away. The glass windows may be fixed with an original cast-glazing frame. These are puttied in and secured with a tapered pin. As before punch the pin through, prise out the frame and the glass. However it is unlikely that you will remove all the frames without snapping some. The “Telephone” signs are only held in by four pins covered with putty. Then with a hammer and chisel and eye protection remove any old putty from the glazing insert. This putty is very tough to remove. We shot blast the stripped kiosks and even this cannot remove old putty. So it can take some time, but it is essential to clean off the putty completely otherwise you will have problems re-glazing. Drill out any pins that you cannot punch.

Strip paint

Most kiosks will have been painted numerous times, some were even varnished afterwards. Often they were not washed down and degreased before painting so the coats did not bind. Again, for the best restoration job you need to get back to the bare metal and wood. Although it is tempting to slap a coat over the top, you are painting over layers that aren’t bound together so it will just flake off. Also the spirit in fresh paint reactivates the old and it curls up. If you strip back to the bare metal you will see the finer detail on the kiosk such as the fluting and, especially, the crown.

Options for paint stripping can be blasting, needle gunning, chemical stripping or hand chipping/scrapping:

A) Blasting by sand or steel shot is a violent process resulting in a huge amount of debris if done in the open air. It is usually an option if you can transport your stripped out kiosk to a professional. Most people cannot move a complete kiosk to the blasters and some disassemble into panels. This can be done, but the reassembly will be a tough job. We only disassemble as a last resort. If you blast the door avoid the wooden surround or else it will look like driftwood.

B) Needle gunning or de-scaling involves an air tool running off a compressor. It does strip well but it is very noisy. Like blasting it is really an industrial process.

C) Chemical stripping works but people find that only one layer comes off at a time, so you will get through a lot of stripper. Remember to clean all traces of stripper from the surface before you paint.

D) Finally, there is hand-stripping. For most it is the only option. Chipping hammers, scrapers, electric sanders and sandpaper.  Pick a nice sunny day, put some relaxing music on and don’t expect to do it all in a day. In honesty it is a hard job, but it really does show on the finished kiosk. Remember: you are only doing it once, and once completed, you will have broken the back of your restoration.

Once back to the metal you need to get a coat of red oxide primer on. The cast won’t rust away, but if left overnight the moisture will leave fine orange surface rust.

REMEMBER! Protect yourself against chips, noise and dust with safety equipment.

Now that you have got the really hard work out of the way, it is time to dress your kiosk.

If you have blasted, you may see some small holes. These are just minor casting faults that were originally filled by hammering lead into them. Blasting picks the lead out. I have received panic phone calls from customers that think the kiosk is disappearing before their eyes. You can fill and smooth these holes with the same metal filler that is used on car bodywork.

Around the seams of the panels you may find rough putty that squeezed out when the kiosk was first assembled. Chisel this away and dress over with acrylic sealant. Lay a bead in the seam and run a wet finger along to shape, but avoid over-smoothing; you want to retain the rugged cast iron surface. Do not fill the slits under the transoms or at the bottom of the panels. These act as air vents and sloshes to drain away water.

Now is the time to apply two brush coats of red 539 enamel over your door and kiosk, except for the ceiling; this is primed and glossed white. Take an imaginary line across from the red ledges under the ‘TELEPHONE’ signs as your cut-off point. The area above this line is to be painted white. There is not an obvious seam to follow; you can use masking tape to give a clean edge as you may go over a screw head.

Then, make sure all the holes in the glazing bars are clear by running a drill through them. Run a 3/16th Whitworth tap through the three holes found in the centre of the ceiling where the light fitting will be. We use original pattern brass fittings. You can re-use the fluorescent fitting but often they are in worn condition and have fatigued wiring, so we tend to avoid these.

If, at this stage, you find your kiosk has sustained damage, such as a cracked base or broken glazing bars, you can patch these with plates or replacement bar. We will weld as our kiosks go in public spaces, but for the enthusiast at home you can find cheaper solutions like bolting in plates.

If your kiosk is in place on a solid base (8 inches of concrete 4ft square), you can fill your base with concrete screed, level to the top of the base. However, we can supply you with a wooden base on runners in case you wish to move the kiosk at a later date. The power and phone lines can come in through the ovals in the back panel. If these have not been opened, you can knock them out with a ball pein hammer. An earth stake is a good idea in case of lightning. The power cable comes through the right hand hole from the inside and runs up through the conduit across the ceiling.

Clear the eight outer bosses in the back panel with a ¼ inch tap. There may be other additional bosses screwed in, but if you are fitting a Jubilee interior you will only need the four each side. Clear the holes in the three door hinges, the two shackles and above the door where the door closer will be affixed.

Clean the hinges and shackles of all paint. They should now boast a bright, brass finish. Now you can hang the door. Fix the hinges on the kiosk and position them as if the door is open. Raise the door on parallel blocks so it clears the base and offer it up to the hinges. Drill and screw the hinges to the doorframe. If you are hanging a new door, you may need to plane the edge to make it close properly. You should leave a quarter inch gap to allow for swelling in damp weather. Re-attach you door closer.

Fix your “TELEPHONE” signs in with silicate. Once this is dry, lay a bead of white acrylic along each edge and shape into a bevel with your thumb.


For the main glazing, you have three options; glass with cast frames, glass with steel frames or polycarbonate. Polycarbonates were used by BT for ease of fitting, but fade yellow and scratch easily. Steel frames are one strip of steel bent square and welded in the corner and are fitted with a headed brass pin with a grey plastic washer that are crimped together. If you go for this solution, you need to create the crimping tool; basically a pair of pliers with a hole in one jaw. Unicorn fit the cast frames; these have a more square edge than the steel ones. They are fixed with brass pins that are sunk through the frame and glazing bar into the frame below. They give the tidiest appearance and honour the original style.

For the fixing of the glass, lay a bead of silicate along each vertical edge of the glazing insert then place the glass up to it. Give it a shimmy to bed it, and then run a second bead that overlaps the edge of the glass and the glazing panel. This makes it watertight. One of the small glasses will be a PUSH/PULL sign, which is to be placed adjacent to the door handle. Remember to get this the right way round! If you have any silicate that has bulged out, leave it to set for a couple of days, then you can trim it with a Stanley knife blade. Do not try to wipe it when wet, as it will smear endlessly. We usually glaze half a side then frame while the beading is soft. Afterwards, you can fill the gaps between the glazing frames with red acrylic. Unicorn can supply this colour-matched to 539 to save painting.

If you fancy, you can gild your crown with gold leaf. You can use gold paint but this will fade in time.

And that is the restoration virtually finished!

Nearly there!

Of course, a kiosk isn’t truly complete without an interior. Perhaps a Jubilee?

It is important to consider the setting for your kiosk. Dark green, evergreen foliage always works the best against the red of the kiosk, especially if the trees or shrubs are large in relation to the kiosk. A kiosk half-hidden makes for a pleasant surprise as guests notice your new feature and say:

“Oh! You’ve got a phone box in your garden!”


Of course if you have any questions about your restoration you are welcome to contact me. Good luck and be safe.

Tony Inglis

020 8651 2436