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Techniques: Perfect Paint

You may have a torrid time when tin tidying with aerosols, but the paintwork on your classic bike need not look like a badly bespattered botch job. Claude Nomonet knows how to do it right...

Anyone reading Frank W's recent tale of the terrors of tinware can probably sympathise fully, not only with the hidden horror of previous repairs, but the time and aggravation involved in trying to get a decent finish from pesky aerosols. I'm sure I am not alone in having squandered a small fortune on the things in the idle hope that this time - this time! -- the result will be the concours finish of my dreams.

It's not concours, but if there was a prize for Bright...

The real problem with aerosols is that the paint film deposited is very thin. As a result, the need for surface preparation is paramount, as every sub-surface defect will show through like a relief map of the Himalayas. If the piece you're painting has been filled, sand it to smoothness, working through progressively finer grades of wet and dry (always used wet, but let it all dry out well before attempting to apply primer), until it is perfectly smooth, and free of flatting marks.

The next stage is applying primer, so make sure the can is very well shaken, and consider putting it into a bowl of hot water to aid thinning before you start wearing your arm out. When you are ready to apply the first coat, invert the can and release a short blast of paint, this will remove any blobs hanging around near the nozzle. In fact this should be an automatic action every time you use an aerosol.

Having a tank suspended in limbo is a real boon...

Start spraying before you reach the edge of the panel, and do not stop until you have cleared the other side, thereby ensuring constant pressure over the whole of the workpiece. Do not try to apply the paint thickly; a slow build up, with a short time gap between coats to allow the solvents to flash off, is best.

Once primed, a gentle flat sand with a lightly applied piece of 800-grade paper should suffice, readying the surface for the application of the top coat. There are then two options. The most commonly followed is to apply gloss paint, usually in a car colour as they are the most readily available. If you follow the application steps outlined for the primer, it should all go on well, but may result in a disappointingly flat finish. This can be rectified by a gentle flat with 1200s, wet again, followed by a little brazing paste (fine grade) applied with vigour. The problem then is that you can rapidly discover just how thin the paint really is!

There are two solutions. First, buy decent paint, put into aerosol cans by a professional paint supplier, which will give a far higher build to the surface. The drawback to this choice is it is likely to cost at least three times more than cans from your local car accessory shop.

Inhaling solvents can have strange effects...

The second option is to use base coat and lacquer, which is cheaper and gives a far better finish. Base coat is easy to apply, and benefits from only being dusted on in a fine spray. No depth, other than that required to cover the primer, is needed. You do not even have to go for anything approaching a finish, as long as it is even. Once dry, apply a couple of coats of lacquer, and the results look great, plus you still have the facility to flat and polish if it is not up to scratch, as the surface is fairly resilient. It gives a shine out of all proportion to the effort expended or the money spent, which is probably why modern cars are finished in it, even in straight colours.

Whichever method you plump for, the only real thing between you and the finish you want is the amount of time you are willing to spend getting it. Have fun!


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