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Restoration on a limited income

Jerry Glasspool

I really like mopeds, autocycles, small motor cycle, etc.  It must be the utilitarian in me that drives me to make the most out of the basics.  I feel a sense of freedom when I can enjoy a tour of Cornwall on my Raleigh Runabout with just £50 in my pocket.

Simple machines are about self-reliance; you don't feel so vulnerable when you break down in the depths of Dartmoor: all else failing you can still pedal or scoot your bike to the nearest garage.  The only spares that may be needed are probably packed away at the bottom of your pannier bag.  And when your well used pop-pop is in need of refurbishment you probably tackle the work yourself.  People with a wallet full of credit cards and insurance policies don't interest me; you can lose all that as easily as you can break your legs and lose your job.

A limited income is what I have had to cope with for a long time.  This has meant that I have had to look to myself to do every aspect possible in the renovation of my Raleigh and NSU.  With the awareness of cost in mind, I would like to show the reader a method of refinishing the paint-work on a motor cycle that could not be cheaper to execute and yet provides a truly lustrous and hard-wearing finish in any colour.  This method is unusual but it works and anybody can do it.  The only tools needed are a rubbing-down block and a paintbrush.

When in work, I was a specialist in the rebuilding of vintage and classic automobiles.  I have had more that one vehicle on permanent display at the Beaulieu Museum.  "And he uses a paintbrush!" I hear you say; no, I don't, not on E-type Jaguars; I spray them like anybody else.  But I never use a spray gun on any motor cycle, not even on an Ariel Leader; it would simply be a waste of paint.

In part 2, the process will be spelt out in detail.

First published - February 1996

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Restoration on a limited income - part 2

by Jerry Glasspool

Are you about to repaint your motor cycle and have not yet decided whether to spray or to brush the finish on?  Well, try the following way; it's cheap on materials and needs no special abilities.  A paint brush is used to apply the finish, but not in the normal way ...

We will start at the point where the item to be refinished has been stripped of all the old paint and any repairs have been carried out.  Using a piece of 180 grit wet & dry paper, and plenty of soapy water, give the item a good sanding down.  Rinse and dry.  Now apply red lead primer of the oil-based variety.  Finish your brush strokes all in one direction.  Leave it to dry overnight at room temperature.  Brush on another coat of red lead, this time finish the brush strokes at 90° to the first coat.  Carry on this procedure, leaving each coat to dry overnight, until you have about five coats of red lead.  Leave the item for a week at room temperature to fully harden, then rub down with 360 wet & dry using plenty of washing-up liquid in the water.  Use a cork or rubber block to hold the wet & dry when rubbing down the larger areas.

A note here for those advocates of cellulose primer/fillers: have you ever wondered why so many otherwise nicely rebuilt machines are cracking and losing paint under and around places like the mudguard stays?  It's because the cellulose product is full of chalk.  This may make it easy to sand down but it is hopeless under the compression of nuts & bolts; it just crumbles away.

After sanding down the red lead you have probably rubbed through to the metal base in a few places.  No worry, just touch in with a little primer.  Next choose your colour of paint from the range of household gloss that is available at the local store.  If you use a store that has one of those mixing machines, you should be able to get a near match to the original.  If not, look amongst the spray cans at the auto shop.

Now, don't be alarmed; I am not proposing that you finish your cherished machine in Dulux or aerosol cans, only that you use these products to give the base colour.  The final surface is one of clear lacquer, which will give a high gloss and a hard-wearing surface.

Back to the base coat: if you have chosen an aerosol, then spray away until the red lead is covered.  Use many light coats rather than fewer heavy coats.  We are not looking for a shine at this stage.  If your chosen colour is a household gloss (non-drip is perfectly OK) build up these coats as you did with the red lead, leaving 24 hours between coats.  Whichever paint you have used, sand down the surface with 400 wet & dry, again using plenty of soapy water.  When you have achieved a perfect surface with a nice flat or eggshell finish, dry it off and proceed as follows: dip your paint brush (2" or 2½") into your tin of Dulux, load the brush well, then press the brush against the edge of the tin so much as is necessary to have no paint dripping from the brush.  Apply to the item being painted.  Quickly and confidently brush in both directions, spreading the paint as far as it will go.  Then stipple the brush up and down on the surface; do this rapidly, as though you are shaking a pepper pot.  Cover the whole item in this way, overlapping all the areas.  This finish will settle down to what looks very like a sprayed finish.  In the case of an aerosol used as the base colour, just spray a couple of light coats over the previously rubbed down colour coat.  Again, you are not trying to get a gloss.  Any discrepancies can be lightly rubbed away with wet & dry paper and touched in again.

If you have any painted lines to apply or transfers to affix, now is the time.

The final stage is to apply the clear lacquer.  Use Blackfriar External Varnish - Clear Gloss, code UV66.  This will have a slight yellowness about it so bear that in mind when choosing the base colour.  I recommend this product on your first painting jobs despite its tendency to yellow, because it is slow drying and very easy to use.  When you have had a little experience with this, go on to using International-Japlac High Gloss Lacquer, UN1263 (from B&Q).  This is perfectly clear and very tough; it is just a little faster in drying.  By the way, this lacquer is very good at protecting a chrome finish; with just one coat brushed over your head lamp or handlebars, no brush marks can be seen.

Back to the item being painted: apply lacquer by brush, quickly brush and cross-brush, then finish off by stippling the brush up and down.  This settles down to a high gloss that looks for all the world as though it had been sprayed on.  Leave for 24 hours and rub down lightly with a bit of 600 wet & dry, using soapy water.  Apply one more coat of lacquer as before.  In a few days rub in some wax, and it's all done.  Total cost of materials: something like £20.

Part 3 will describe a modified version of this process used to restore a frame while preserving the original transfers.

First published - April 1996

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Restoration - preserving transfers

Jerry Glasspool

In response to Dave Beare's request for advice on the preservation of transfers (in February's Buzzing), may I put forward my approach to this problem?  If the transfers are only half decent, I would still be inclined to keep them; however this leaves four problems:

  1. How to remove the old paint from the frame without damaging the transfers;
  2. How to mask off the transfers without, as Dave says "peeling off the transfers when removing the masking material";
  3. How to paint up to the edge of the transfer without solvent creep softening the original paint underneath (not all that likely, but possible);
  4. How to avoid a nasty thick ridge of paint around the edge of the transfer; if you simply mask and spray you will get a ridge. 

Don't have the frame grit blasted; you must not trust any aspect of the work to anybody else.  Your transfers are too valuable and so are the threads and bearing surfaces.  Just a few bits of grit left in these areas can cause havoc.  Also, grit left inside a steel tube can promote rusting from within.  Cut a strip of tin foil wide enough to cover the transfer and wrap it around the transfer, securing it with masking tape.  Wind the tape around the frame, entirely covering the tin foil.  Remove the old paint with a solvent based paint stripper.  When you have done this - three day's hard work - wash off all trace of stripper with a brush cleaning fluid, then with white spirit, then hot soapy water.  No trace of stripper should be left.  Remove the temporary masking from around the transfer.  You cannot remove the paint from close around the transfer; you just have to sand around with 400 wet & dry paper and soapy water.  The edge of the paint must be feather-edged.  Any rust pits should be treated with a rust converter such as the one made by Kurerust, which is a thin white liquid.  In fact, you can brush a coat of this over the entire frame, upon base metal and on any bits of the old paint that may remain.  Before applying, clean the whole area with methylated spirit.  Some people object to rust converters, saying that they can cause blemishes in the final coat of paint.  It will not do this if you leave the frame in a warm dry place for a few days.  You now have a frame with a matt black appearance, ready for painting.

My painting technique was detailed in the February and April editions of Buzzing but I will go into the painting technique a little as it is relevant to obtaining a clean finish around the transfer.  I don't like to use a sprayed on primer/filler as it is too thick, too soft and too chalky.  I use an oil-based metal primer such as International red oxide primer - available from B&Q - which also has good filling properties.  Brush the entire frame with this read lead; go to within half an inch of the transfer.  Apply about three coats with 24 hours between each coat.  Finish each succeeding coat just a little further away from the transfer, so as not to build a thick edge.  Leave for a few days.  Rub down with 320 wet & dry and plenty of soapy water.  Dry it off and, after 24 hours, brush on another couple of coats as before.  Rub down with 400 wet & dry, finishing off with 600.  Check that there are no bits of bare metal showing.  If there are, dilute a little red lead with a drop of white spirit and brush a thin coat over the bare patches using a small soft brush.

Before you apply the colour coat you need to mask the transfer.  First clean well with methylated spirit; now brush a liquid masking agent over the transfer.  I use a PVA wood glue, such as is made by Evo-Stik, for this purpose.  Don't worry, it may be a glue but it will not stick permanently to your transfer.  Brush it over the transfer and overlap the edge by about a quarter of an inch.  When it dries you will be able to see through to the transfer.  Using a Stanley knife, carefully cut around the edge of the transfer and remove waste.  If you can't handle a knife very well, use the sticky bits from Post-It labels or a low tack masking tape from your motor factors instead of the PVA.  I prefer the PVA as it gives a very clean edge.

Now the finishing colour stage.  Either spray with a coach enamel (such as Tekaloid) or, my preference, an aerosol can.  As I said in my previous articles, this colour coat just provides the actual colour; it does not have to be of a high build or high gloss.  Spray the whole frame with a light coat.  Don't try and get a gloss; a nice egg-shell finish is fine.  Spray as thinly as possible around the masked transfer.  Spray as many coats as are necessary to cover the primer, and no more.  The key element here is the need to have the colour coat as thin as possible around the edge of the transfer.  Pull off the masking as soon as the colour coat is touch dry.

After 24 hours spray the whole frame with clear lacquer.  I use International Japlac high gloss lacquer UN1263, available from B&Q.  Apply one thin coat, over the transfer as well.  Two or three hours later apply a thick coat; this final coat will provide the build and the gloss, and it is very scratch resistant.

First published - June 1996

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