REMOVING THE OLD PAINT
Removing the old paint and preparing the frame set for painting are two similar but different tasks. And preparing the frame set means that you should first ensure that the frame set is straight and mechanically sound.
The thought of stripping all of the old paint, off of a frame and fork set, can seem like a daunting task, at the onset. Be prepared to spend three or four hours of intense focus and effort to get the job done properly. There are options to paint stripping that can save you a great deal of time and effort but only at the expense of cash outlay. For example, you could take the frame and fork set to a sandblaster. But that costs money and do you really want to trust that incredible thin frame tubing to someone who might not appreciate the nature of the material he or she is sandblasting? To much blast in one spot will remove the spot and create a hole in a piece of chrome moly tubing.
Or you could take the frame set and have it chemically stripped. The problem here is the need to remove all of the chemical after the stripping process is complete. And the chemical will get into every nook and cranny on a frame set and there are a lot of nooks and crannies. If you don't remove all of the chemical stripper, your paint job will be negatively impacted. Any residual paint stripper will prevent the paint from drying properly. And, to this annoying, but not insurmountable dilemma, consider the stripper remaining inside of the tubes. What does one do about that? Will that left over material cause damage further down the road?
Finally, and this is a personal issue, what does one do with the paint stripper once used? It is a hazardous product, to say the least. Sure you can throw it away but then it becomes Mother Nature's problem and I try to stay away from damaging Mother Nature when engaged in my bicycle recycling efforts. With this in mind, I avoid chemical strippers and aerosol paint cans most of the time. I have found that, more often than not, I can get along without either. There are some situations where an aerosol can is the best way to go and when those situations crop up I try to use them with caution and minimal overspray.
With sand blasting and chemical paint stripping issues considered, that leaves good old abrasion as a paint removal vehicle and good old abrasion works just fine. Abrasion includes various grades of sand paper, wire brushes, scrapers and textured scrub pads. Then there are powered abrasion options to choose from including wire wheels and my personal favourite, rubber disc wheels.
I do recommend the use of a machine powered rotary wheel of some kind. However, there will be a considerable amount of suspended particulate in the air, from time to time. Particulate that you will want to avoid sucking into your nose and lungs.
With that in mind, it is a good idea to wear a face mask to filter out the fine particles of paint and sanding material that you will release into the air. It is also a very good idea to protect you eyes with safety goggles or glasses of some kind. Any rotating element, such as a sanding disc or wire wheel can throw off bits and pieces and at a considerable velocity. You would not want to get hit in the eye with one of these flying projectiles. Protect your eyes. Finally, in the interest of safety, you might want to consider wearing some form of hand protection. The use of gloves is a good idea but only if they are relatively clean. Using an oil and grease soaked pair of gloves will only serve to contaminate the bare metal surface produced when you remove the paint. And the last thing that you want is a contaminated surface to paint over.
The materials that you will need to complete the paint stripping task are fairly simple and should prove to be relatively inexpensive. A bit of sand paper is the first thing that will be included on the list. Get several sheets of wet or dry sanding paper in different grits - 280, 400 and 600 should do the job satisfactorily. To this list of sand paper add a sheet or two of emery cloth. One hundred and twenty grit should be just fine.
I like to use one of those nylon scouring pads commonly used to wash dishes with as an abrasion cleaner. And I use the scouring pad over and over throughout the entire paint removal process. If there ever was a non-destructive way to clean metal, this is it. The plastic pad is used to sort of polish the metal, removing any little bits and pieces that might still be clinging to the surface. Have a look at the difference in appearance between the nylon pad polished down tube on the PX10 and the not yet polished seat tube. The down tube actually shines when compared to the seat tube.
Not only does the down tube metal appear more shiny, but the surface also looks cleaner. However, the proof in this pudding comes with feel. The two surfaces feel different. Naturally, the unpolished surface of the seat tube, feels much rougher than does the surface, of the down tube, that has been rubbed smooth, with the scouring pad. And, feel is very important when preparing a surface for painting. Sometimes, what the eye cannot see, can be felt by the hand. If a surface has a rough feel to it, that roughness will be transferred to the paint surface. If you can feel any irregularity in the surface, that irregularity will appear again once the paint has been applied. One simple rule to acknowledge here - if you can feel an it you will see it once the paint work is complete. Look at the bits of debris that was missed before applying the first coat of color paint. They telegraph right through the paint application. Not the end of the world when the first coat of color is applied, but certainly one when the last coat is the issue.
Before applying any coat of paint, always clean the surface to be painted with a tack rag. A tack rag is a sticky piece of cloth prepared to pick up all small particles that might otherwise cling to the surface of the frame tube. Lightly but thoroughly wipe the entire surface down with the tack rag and take extra care in the nooks and crannies. Do your best to get the rag into tight places, give the area a good blow of air and then wipe again. A compressor works well but so does blowing with your mouth. You are just trying to get rid of any little bit or piece that the rag could not reach. Of course, when blowing out the nooks try not to spit into the crannies.
Now don't get all excited if the first coat is contaminated with a few bit of debris. Don't worry too much about runs in the paint. You will have a chance to fix these problems as you become better at preventing them from reoccurring. With each color coat application, your painting skill level will increase and the results will become better and better. You will see what I mean as you progress through the exercise.
You will need a small soft steel (cheap) screwdriver for getting into many of these nooks and crannies. The last thing you want to do is be hasty when cleaning off paint near any surface details. The edge of lug work, for example, is what I consider to be a surface detail. Pantographing is a surface detail. There are two surface elevations to deal with here and if paint removal is too aggressive, as it would be when using a rotary wheel of some kind, some of the detail might and probably will be lost. In other words, the edges of the lug work or pantographs might get rounded off if you are not really careful. And trust me when I suggest that once the edge worn off, it will be really difficult to put back!
Go slowly near detail! Use the little screwdriver or scraper to pick away at stubborn bits and pieces that still cling to areas near detail. The Nervex Professional lugs on the PX10 are loaded with detail, or at least they should be but more on that later. A rotary wheel, be it made of wire or rubber filaments, will wear away detail very quickly. Do not go near any kind of detail with a rotating paint remover! You will be taking too big of a chance by doing so.
Other than a couple of rags for cleaning your hands and wiping off a bit of dust now and again, that's just about it for the materials needed to remove old paint from a frame set. You will have to add some of your own elbow grease to complete the task but that is about it.
Before you actually begin to remove the old paint, consider any reference situation that you will encounter later on. How much fork blade or stays chrome will be exposed once the paint job is completed? Now is the time to measure where the original paint ends and the chrome begins. In the case of the Peugeot, the stays have 9 1/2" to 10" of exposed chrome work. I take the time to use a felt marker to identify this measurement on the chrome work itself. The black marker will come off easily with a bit of cleaning later but I will at least have a reference number readily at hand to work with when the time comes to mask the forks in preparation for color application. With any references identified and recorded, its time to remove paint.
But before you get at it, remember once again to go slowly and take the time to get a feel for what you are doing at every stage of the process. Do not start by pressing the rotary wheel to the frame set as hard as you can and then pull the trigger on the drill motor. You might get a nasty surprise when you discover just exactly how good a rotating element can remove paint, and metal. Yes, some of the rotating paint removal elements that you will have access to will actually remove metal and you do not want to remove metal! With this in mind, start softly, slowly and with great care every time that you try something during the paint removal process. Go slowly and check your results very frequently. You cannot put it back once it has been removed!
Rotating speed will also have something to do with how fast material is removed. A 10,000 rpm mini grinder will be far more dangerous to use than a 3,600 rpm drill motor. The faster the wheel, the more damage you can do in a very short space of time. A rubber wheel, like the ones that I use for example, can actually remove brass and do so quite quickly. Be careful! Try a little and check results. That is the mini process throughout the entire paint removal procedure.
Now I do not mean to dramatize this endeavour. I only want to warn you to go slow and learn as you go. You will find that the paint will come off quite well and with no damage to frame tubes, if you work slowly, gently and carefully. You will also find that you will have to exercise even more caution when that rotating wheel gets close to frame details. For example, be really careful near lugs work. The different surface elevations can create problems. If the rotating wheel is allowed to rub an edge, the edge will likely be worn round, or completely off, if you are not careful. With this in mind, put the rotating wheel away for work that is anywhere near detail of any kind. Use you little soft steel screwdriver to carefully scrape off any paint found in those pesky nooks and crannies discussed before.
You will get the feel for what you are doing in fairly short order. Once confident that you are doing things properly, you will be impressed with how quickly the whole process is proceeding. I like to start in one area, say the head tube and completely strip it before moving on to another area. In the space of an afternoon I can completely strip all of the old paint off of a frame set. And I do try to do the entire job in a single sitting.
Keep in mind that once you expose metal to the air, the process of oxidation begins. Leave an unpainted surface exposed long enough and you will be facing a surface of oxidation on the metal and the other word for oxidation is rust! You want to strip all of the paint off and then get the frame set painted with primer as quickly as you can. This does not mean work in a mad panic but neither does it mean strip the paint off of the frame and then get around to priming it a week or so later.
Once you have most of the paint removed, perhaps even all of the paint removed, you must carefully inspect the frame set for any paint chunks that have remained. Run your eyes and your hand over the surface, every surface, looking and feeling for anything that is still clinging to the tubing or lug work. Trust me, you will find bits and pieces that you missed, here and there. Simply scrape these lumps off and/or sand smooth with some fine sand paper. Finish with a wee polish with your nylon scouring pad. Sooner or later, you will have removed everything and be prepared to paint. Or are you?
All of the old paint and debris might be gone but my guess is that there will still be other irregularities that you might want to consider dealing with before getting to the painting stage.
Quality control over hand built vintage road bicycle frame sets seems to have been pretty much non-existent when the PX10, and many other high end bicycles like it, came into being. The frame set sports a host of manufacturing blemishes that will show once the paint work is complete unless you do something about them now. The question, of course, is should you make the appearance of the frame set better than it was when first built? This is the original vs restored issue taken a bit deeper.
Many builders of vintage road bicycles did sloppy work. I cannot say it more simply or honestly than that and I base my comments on the hundreds of bicycles that I have found, street restored and ridden. Most bicycles, be they of entry level quality or top of the line stuff, boasts a manufacturing blemish or two. And some, like this top Peugeot dog, have more than there share of builder boo-boo's built into the assemble. Take a close look at the head tube lugs work, for example.
There are lumps of brass everywhere. Filing and grinding marks are all too common. Worn off lug edges prevail. This is not what I would expect a top of the line vintage racing bicycle to look like! This is, in my humble opinion, shameful work on the part of the people who assembled these bicycles. Or was it the fault of the managers who demanded assemble speed in an effort to meet a much increased demand for road bikes? Anyway, all that is of secondary concern. What is important is do you leave the built in flaws or clean them up?
I tend to believe that the installation was intended to be clean to begin with and with that in mind, I will make every effort to clean up sloppy workmanship. I file down the lumps of brass. I try to polish out light filing or grinding marks. I try to redefine detail when it is possible to do so. But I also remember that doing all of these things is irreversible. I cannot put the lump of brass back. Once the original filing marks are gone, they stay gone. And the frame set can no longer be considered to be in original condition.
Of course there just might be after manufacturing blemishes plaguing the frame set. It is not the least bit uncommon to find that the tops of the seat stays have experienced maintenance damage. Often times the seat stay tops will be gouged from use of the wrong kind of wrench when adjusting saddle height. The wrong wrench, in its arc of travel as it tightens up a bolt, might come into contact with the seat stay top and gouge it just as is the case with the PX10. Marks like this should be cleaned up if possible.
Now is the time to check for any surface irregularities. Are there any dents or gouges in the steel tubing? If so, you will need a good body filler compound to fill in the offending area. And you will likely find a wee blemish or two or three. Light sand the dent or gouge with sand paper. Wipe off any residue and, following the body filler instructions, apply a bit of body filler. Allow it to dry or set if a two part compound was used, and then lightly sand the spot ensuring that edges of body filler are tapered to a smooth edge. Feel your work as well as look at it. If you can see anything that looks like an edge, that same edge will show through the painted surface and look awful doing so. Ensure that everything is smooth.
Once you are sure that everything is as smooth and as clean as you can get it, apply a coat of primer. Though the primer is not going to be seen and there will be many opportunities to smooth it out as you go do try to apply it as evenly as you can. This is where and when you will begin to develop your painting skill. This is the best time to make mistakes and experiment with ways to correct them. And I assure you that your skill level at applying paint will improve with each coat that you slap on.
But do try your best to get the primer as smooth as you can with each coat. And it will take about three coats, each sanded lightly, before your frame set is properly primed. With the priming out of the way, the serious painting begins.
I must admit, that I used an aerosol can of primer to paint the PX10 frame set. Though I really do not like to use aerosol cans, I do choose to spray primer, if I can. And, "if I can" means spraying outside, where I will not be too worried about a little bit of overspray or toxic vapours building up. If I am painting a bicycle frame set, in the middle of the winter, I prime with a brush, even though it is more work.