Q&A With Rick Dale of History Channel’s American Restoration Rick Dale Talks About Transforming Trash into Treasure

April 10, 2012

By: Abe Abbas

Rick Dale hosts American Restoration on the History Channel. The show has managed to pull in a large audience, boosting the Friday 10-11pm slot by 140%, no mean feat.

Transforming trash into treasure requires a lot of know-how, skill, and patience among other things. Rick Dale, who owns Rick’s Restorations, a Las Vegas restoration shop, has all of those and along with a high level of infectious enthusiasm for restoring objects from the past. These are family heirlooms, garage sale finds, or found objects that may not be of great value in themselves, but are given a second life through painstaking restoration.

The objects that he has so far restored on season one include a clock, some lamps, juke boxes, tables, trash cans, a home refrigerator, playroom popcorn machine, and a penny scale.

Here’s what Rick Dale had to say in a Q&A about his show, restoration, and collectibles.
How did you get started doing this?

Rick Dale: At 9 years old my dad gave me a bicycle (junk) and told me if I wanted to appreciate something I needed to build it myself. Later I started building a soap box derby and that’s where I learned to work on wood and fiberglass.

What is the greatest appeal to you in restoring these objects? What keeps you interested?

Rick Dale: The complexity of each piece is attractive to me, and lately making sure that each customer is emotionally attached to each piece. And that drives me to make them “feel” the finished item.

How do you determine how to fix these collectible?

Rick Dale:: I try to make them work first, then tear them down piece by piece to build our own instruction manual with pictures.

Do you try to restore objects with historic accuracy, or do you sometimes change things around for better aesthetics?

Rick Dale: Most of the time I restore everything to its original look and function all the way- to every fine detail. But some things get a little customized at the customer’s request. The customer is always right.

How do you conduct research on how to restore rare objects?

Rick Dale: Research is crucial in every way. Internet, old books, and a little through my own memory.

Where do you find the materials and supplies you use for restoring objects?

Rick Dale: There are a lot of people that have old parts available so I ask around, and call and order. The last resort is to re-manufacture the parts.

When should someone ask a professional to restore something and when is it safe to do it themselves?

Rick Dale: I tell most of my clients if you don’t have patience or perseverance, don’t try. The worst thing you can do is tear something apart and then lose the parts.

What should some one look for before buying collectibles? How do you know that it is worth buying, and when to pass?

Rick Dale: I would suggest research your item first. There are a lot of websites and books out there to give you an idea of what it is worth. Most of my customers are people wanting their “memory” restored. It’s not always about the money!

What was your most difficult project?

Rick Dale: To date, it’s the Graphotype! Over 2,500 moving parts with electrical and mechanical parts from the early years – a big challenge to rebuild. It was built in 1943 for the war effort to make dog tags. As of this interview, I’m STILL working on it. It may show up in this season’s show.

What would be a dream project for you? What would you really like to work on?

Rick Dale: My dream is to do a whole building restoration, such as a an old diner or old gas station, from the ground up, something that all would consider a pure museum!

What do you want people to learn from your show?

Rick Dale: An appreciation of things in the past and the way they were built to last a lifetime. And kids are our future so we need them to start young!

And finally, how does one contact you if they want to bring something to you?
Rick Dale: Visit – the best website ever, built by my fiancé, Kelly.

American Restoration is produced for the History Channel by Leftfield Pictures. Brent Montgomery is Executive Producer for Leftfield Pictures and Matthew Braley is Co-Executive Producer. John Verhoff is Executive Producer for History.

Leftfield Pictures (An ITV America Company)