So many people enjoy the warm ambiance of a cast iron pot belly stove and look to restore older ones found in garage sales and antique shops instead of buying new. They are using them for heat as well as for decorations in their homes. There are a few tricks you can use to bring the old stove back to life and refinish it as long as it hasn't rusted through.
Move the stove outside where you won't have to worry about making a mess. Set it on newspaper if you don't want the ground to be soiled. Make sure it is in a position where you can work on it from all sides.
Use a stiff wire brush to scrub away any rust or scale. If the whole thing really needs a lot of scrubbing, it might be faster to use a wire brush attachment on an electric drill. Make sure to wear eye protection to keep the bits of iron out of your eyes.
Wipe down the surface of the stove with a damp rag to see how clean it is. If there are still areas of scale, continue with the scrubbing. Make sure you get into all the crevices. If you notice that some of the bolts are too corroded, take the time to replace them. Make sure the firebox is sound.
Wipe down the surface of the pot belly stove with hot soapy water, such as laundry soap to remove any grease or grime that might have accumulated. Let the stove dry completely.
Apply the stove black paint either with a paint brush or by spraying it on. Wear a dust mask to keep the paint from getting into your lungs. Allow it to dry for about 15 minutes if it is about 70 degrees or more outside and then work it in with a circular motion with fine steel wool. Wear work gloves to keep it off your hands.
Add another coat after letting it dry for an hour to make sure you have covered all the rusty areas and to provide a uniform coating. Polish it again after 15 minutes with the steel wool. This might take a little elbow grease but it will give it a smooth a hard finish.
Put some dry paper and kindling into the firebox while it is still outside. You need to get the stove temperature up to about 300 degrees and then keep heating it until the stove black no longer smokes. If you have to do this indoors, make sure you have fans blowing on high speed to bring fresh air into the room and to remove the fumes from the room.
Cool the stove down completely, clean out the firebox from any leftover wood and ash. It is now ready to use as a heat source.