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  1. #1
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    Frame painting: The Basics for a DIYer?

    Hi All,

    I picked up an old lugged steel Schwinn frame not long ago with the intent of just cleaning the components and converting it to a beater of a fixie. Naturally, things snowballed, and now I'm in the process of hand-sanding it with the intent of painting it and making it a cruiser to take to football tailgates.

    I figure I've come this far, so I'd like to keep the do-it-yourself factor going. The problem is that I have NO painting equipment, and I'm on a budget. My idea is a solid color frame with white lugs and a couple stripes. Pretty basic, so it may not be terribly expensive to have a shop do it.

    My main questions are:
    1) What kind of paint works best?
    1a) Where is best to get it?
    2) What's the best way to apply the paint?

    Reading the threads, it doesn't look like there is a lot of love for rattlecan paints, but if I go the route of having an automotive shop put auto paint in rattlecans, will that do the trick? The frame had a decent amount of surface rust but minimal pitting, so I'd like to be careful about rust protection as well.

    I won't outright reject the idea of picking up an airbrush, but that would get expensive pretty quick.


    Thanks,

    Ben

  2. #2
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    Krylon. It dries pretty hard if you do not apply the coats too thick.

  3. #3
    Senior Member Fissile's Avatar
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    Bike manufacturers use catalyzed auto paints. You can buy catalyzed auto paints at an auto body supply house -- not an auto parts store. No offense to you, but catalyzed paints should not be handled by noobs. The uncured stuff is highly toxic. My advice is take your frame to an auto body shop, or a motorcycle custom shop. See if someone there will paint your frame. Expect to pay $100.
    Critical Mass

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fissile View Post
    Expect to pay $100.
    I doubt you'll be able to find someone who will do a quality paint job for only $100. I would expect to pay $200 or more for a quality single-color job with primer and clear.

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    " No offense to you, but catalyzed paints should not be handled by noobs."

    The main thing is you need to have a pressurized air source (scuba?). That can be a line from your compressor if it's the oiless type. Of course a noob may shoot a mess... but at least he won't die.

    On the price stuff you will pay a lot if the person spraying is a bike painter, and why not. But there are tons of people out there who may do it for way less if they aren't specialized in bikes. You can get a car shot for a few hundred. The problem is that bikes have their unique problems, parts that are hard not to get drippy or areas that shouldn't be painted, so there is a risk going to a part timer.
    Last edited by NoReg; 09-15-08 at 07:31 PM.

  6. #6
    Senior Member Fissile's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sstorkel View Post
    I doubt you'll be able to find someone who will do a quality paint job for only $100. I would expect to pay $200 or more for a quality single-color job with primer and clear.
    Let's say that you do all the prep work -- remove all the parts and strip to bare metal -- you can get a good deal, if you're not picky about color. Take the bare frame/fork to the body shop, and tell the dude to paint it next time he's painting a car black/blue/white/silver or whatever color it is you want. Once he's set up to paint the car, it'll take him very little time to shoot the bike frame as well. Depending on your area, he may be willing to do it for $100 or so. Of course, you don't get any graphics with a job like that, and any decals you apply will not be protected by clear-coat. You will have a diamond hard paint job that's as durable as the factory original.
    Critical Mass

  7. #7
    Decrepit Member Scooper's Avatar
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    Here's a short tutorial:

    Frame Painters
    - Stan

  8. #8
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    I appreciate all the responses. I assume the toxic stuff you're talking about are the isocyanates, and I'd definitely like to not kill myself painting up a bike. I read about those, and they can be pretty nasty if you don't know what you're doing...which I don't.

    I've called a body shop or two, but they haven't been much help. I also got a quote from a frame shop in the area at $400, which I just can't pay when I could get a compressor, sprayer, paint, and some nailers/brad guns thrown in for that much. I will say that the general design and scheme as well as actually doing it myself are more important than a 100% professional-looking bulletproof finish. I'm hoping this is the first of many such projects, so I'll have time to get better as I go.

    I'll keep looking, but in the event nothing works out on that end, can yall recommend a paint that would do a passable job and not kill me? I'm planning on using the Rustoleum rattlecan primer in the next couple of days because I know this thing is just waiting to explode in rust.

    And thanks for the link, Scooper. I've been going through that some too. Thanks for your service in the military too.
    Last edited by Scriffer; 09-16-08 at 12:26 PM.

  9. #9
    Dr.Deltron
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    Quote Originally Posted by Scriffer View Post
    I appreciate all the responses.
    ... I also got a quote from a frame shop in the area at $400, which I just can't pay when I could get a compressor, sprayer, paint, and some nailers/brad guns thrown in for that much.


    And thanks for the link, Scooper. I've been going through that some too.
    While I agree that $400 seems high to "just paint an old bike", you would have more fun with the compressor, sprayer and the nailguns!

    It's the cost of the PAINT that'll getcha!

    Because they are packaged for the automotive industry, ie; LOTs of paint to paint ONE car, the minimum amounts are usually quarts. Colors are usually mixed by the body shop using a mixing system. So the store that sells you primer & clear, may not have base coat colors. If they do, they can usually be had in pints.

    Let's review;

    $400 to get a professional paintjob or...

    Spend the following on materials...

    PPG primer, catalyst & reducer, in quarts..$100
    Pint of basecoat color $40-$135
    PPG clear & catalyst, in quarts..$100
    Jasco stripper $15
    sandpapers $10+
    Tape $6
    charcoal mask $35

    $300+ so far.

    and now it's time to get dirty!

    First thing you'll notice, Jasco is nasty, but effective, stuff to work with.

    Next, you'll spray the first coat of primer & get shiny spots. The primer will not harden.
    Likely due to an insufficient rinsing of the Jasco.

    Now you get that fixed & re-primered. Then you discover how nuts it is to try and sand the back of a bottom bracket shell, especially if there's a chainstay bridge.

    Got it all cleaned & primered with a final, complete primer coat.
    You now have less than 24 hours to get the color/clear sprayed to avoid having to scuff the primer.

    The first coat of color will go well.
    On the 2nd pass, a gnat will land in your metallic blue.
    Pick out the body, but forget the wings, they're there!

    Persevering, you spray the clear.

    Next day when it's all hard, you find the really spiffy crystal drips, handing from the seat cluster or brake bridge. Nothing you can't "fix" with a number 11 Xacto.

    and then lets check your timecard....

    Aaaah,...37 hours total, not counting the hours of lost sleep, sweating the details.

    $100 divided by 37...you got $2 & seventy cents per hour.

    So.....$400

    DEAL or NO DEAL?

  10. #10
    Senior Member Fissile's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dr.Deltron View Post
    While I agree that $400 seems high to "just paint an old bike", you would have more fun with the compressor, sprayer and the nailguns!

    It's the cost of the PAINT that'll getcha!

    Because they are packaged for the automotive industry, ie; LOTs of paint to paint ONE car, the minimum amounts are usually quarts. Colors are usually mixed by the body shop using a mixing system. So the store that sells you primer & clear, may not have base coat colors. If they do, they can usually be had in pints.

    Let's review;

    $400 to get a professional paintjob or...

    Spend the following on materials...

    PPG primer, catalyst & reducer, in quarts..$100
    Pint of basecoat color $40-$135
    PPG clear & catalyst, in quarts..$100
    Jasco stripper $15
    sandpapers $10+
    Tape $6
    charcoal mask $35

    $300+ so far.

    and now it's time to get dirty!

    First thing you'll notice, Jasco is nasty, but effective, stuff to work with.

    Next, you'll spray the first coat of primer & get shiny spots. The primer will not harden.
    Likely due to an insufficient rinsing of the Jasco.

    Now you get that fixed & re-primered. Then you discover how nuts it is to try and sand the back of a bottom bracket shell, especially if there's a chainstay bridge.

    Got it all cleaned & primered with a final, complete primer coat.
    You now have less than 24 hours to get the color/clear sprayed to avoid having to scuff the primer.

    The first coat of color will go well.
    On the 2nd pass, a gnat will land in your metallic blue.
    Pick out the body, but forget the wings, they're there!

    Persevering, you spray the clear.

    Next day when it's all hard, you find the really spiffy crystal drips, handing from the seat cluster or brake bridge. Nothing you can't "fix" with a number 11 Xacto.

    and then lets check your timecard....

    Aaaah,...37 hours total, not counting the hours of lost sleep, sweating the details.

    $100 divided by 37...you got $2 & seventy cents per hour.

    So.....$400

    DEAL or NO DEAL?
    Which is why you need to make friends with someone who paints cars for a living -- forget about calling the body shop and talking to the owner. You need to deal with the dude who is actually doing the spraying.

    You do all the prep work, and leave the frame/fork with your friend down at the shop. This is where it pays not to be too picky about color. Pick a common auto color -- black, white, silver, metalic blue, whatever. Tell the dude, "The next time you're painting a car fill in the blank color paint the frame/fork. In this case, the insurance company already paid for the paint. All the work setting up the booth/equipment, and mixing the paint was paid for by the insurance company. The only extra work the painter has to do is wipe down the frame/fork with prepSol, hang it on the parts rack and shoot the primer, color and clear. For this, most guys will probably take $100 cash. If the boss asks him what he's doing, and he probably won't, he'll just tell him he's fixing up his kid's bike.

    If the painter has to take time just for your project exclusively, it'll be more, a lot more.
    Critical Mass

  11. #11
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    While I agree that $400 seems high to "just paint an old bike", you would have more fun with the compressor, sprayer and the nailguns!
    DEAL or NO DEAL?
    SOLD!!!

    It won't be a prize-winning job if I do it myself, but on the bright side, I get some sweet new tools, and I get to tell people, "Actually, I did that myself."

  12. #12
    Dr.Deltron
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    Quote Originally Posted by Scriffer View Post
    SOLD!!!
    It'll be a learning experience, but fun enough to merit doing it!

    Quote Originally Posted by Scriffer View Post
    It won't be a prize-winning job if I do it myself, but on the bright side, I get some sweet new tools, and I get to tell people, "Actually, I did that myself."
    Then I suggest what fissile said...make friends with the PAINTER, not the owner.

    and bring your own pint cans so he/she can set you up with materials on the side.
    Remember, the materials ARE pricey, so "tip" accordingly.

    Using an HVLP detail gun, it takes about 3 mixed ounces PER coat, for a frame & fork.
    More for bigger or detailed frames.

    Enjoy!

    It's been a life-long obsession for me. And it started with the same reason...

    Why pay when I can do it myself?!?

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Scriffer View Post
    I also got a quote from a frame shop in the area at $400, which I just can't pay when I could get a compressor, sprayer, paint, and some nailers/brad guns thrown in for that much.
    Where? I don't think I could buy a decent HVLP gun for $400, let alone a compressor that would run it and some nail guns. Hint: a cheap pancake compressor won't put out enough air to run an HVLP gun. If you use a conventional spray gun, you'll end up with paint on everything within a 100-yard radius and you'll use a lot more paint...

    Anyone know if there are any independent automotive paints stores anymore? Back when I was in high school, I worked for an automotive paint store that was the primary PPG supplier to the majority of independent body shops in the area. This was back in the days when paint was mixed by hand rather than by a computer. In any event, we supplied lots of small shops where the guy picking up the paint was often the painter himself. Dunno if shops like that still exist, but it was a great way to meet guys who were willing to do a little work on the side, especially if they were paid in cash.

    When my sister backed her car into our mailbox, I knew the guy who did all the paint and bodywork for the dealership since he'd come in a couple of times a month when the dealership ran short on factory paint. He did all the repairs in his home shop for 1/4th the price that the dealership was going to charge us for his work! He thought the paint job was far from perfect, but I sure couldn't see it...

  14. #14
    Dinosaur on wheels Lennysody's Avatar
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    I know this is an old thread but I had to say something here. I'm no veteran to painting bikes but I do know that powdercoating bike frames works real well... basically what happens is they apply the "paint" which is a dry powder, by using electricity which gets the powder to stick to the frame. The powder is then cured which melts it to the frame. It worked real well and I took it to a automotive paint shop and they sandblasted my frame, and painted it real cheap. They sandblased for free and It was like 30 bucks for the paintjob.

  15. #15
    Senior Member Fissile's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sstorkel View Post
    Where? I don't think I could buy a decent HVLP gun for $400, let alone a compressor that would run it and some nail guns. Hint: a cheap pancake compressor won't put out enough air to run an HVLP gun. If you use a conventional spray gun, you'll end up with paint on everything within a 100-yard radius and you'll use a lot more paint... (I know some model builders who get some pretty decent results with this thing http://www.harborfreight.com/cpi/cta...emnumber=91772 I'm going to buy one and give it a try. Hell for $40, if I get 2 or 3 good paint jobs, it more than paid for itself)

    Anyone know if there are any independent automotive paints stores anymore? Back when I was in high school, I worked for an automotive paint store that was the primary PPG supplier to the majority of independent body shops in the area. This was back in the days when paint was mixed by hand rather than by a computer. In any event, we supplied lots of small shops where the guy picking up the paint was often the painter himself. Dunno if shops like that still exist, but it was a great way to meet guys who were willing to do a little work on the side, especially if they were paid in cash.(There are a half dozen near where I live. Look under "Auto Body Supply" in the local yellow pages. There are also some reliable online sellers. These folks sell ordinary auto paints http://www.autopaintdirect.com/ These people supply trick paints to the custom-car crowd http://alsacorp.com/index.htm )
    My comments are in blue.
    Critical Mass

  16. #16
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    There are PPG dealers in my area, but I haven't tracked them down yet. That's on the menu for Thursday when I've got some free time. I may give that Harbor Freight thing a whirl. I figure it would be a good way to see if this is something I want to dive into without forking out crazy amounts of cash.

    I'm not committed on anything just yet, but I'm just hesitant to drop it off at a shop because I have a fairly specific idea of what I want, even though it's nothing crazy. Fissile, do you think using the AutoPaintDirect paints in the can would do the trick? I'm not going to be entering this into any contests or anything. I'm just looking to get a good looking bike and maybe a few new toys on the side.

    Appreciate all the advice.

  17. #17
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    What about powder coating? Are there any problem associated with powder coating a bike frame. Is there any danger with the baking process? I had some parts powder coated earlier this year and the powder coater did them for next to nothing because he was running the same color for a bigger job.

  18. #18
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    Anyone know anything about Nason paints (Dupont makes them I believe)? They are cheap, do they work well for bikes?
    Last edited by calikid2006; 09-18-08 at 04:20 PM.

  19. #19
    Dinosaur on wheels Lennysody's Avatar
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    I'm not sure if you're asking a question, but I ride a powdercoated frame even in the winter and I've had no problems no chipping or cracking and like you said it was real cheap.

  20. #20
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    The local powder guy will do a frame for 60, he charges some incredible amount like 900 for a motorcycle frame, and they are only 2 times bigger, and the fork is extra since in most cases it will be chrome.

  21. #21
    Dr.Deltron
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    Quote Originally Posted by Scriffer View Post
    2) What's the best way to apply the paint?
    Ben
    Make an "easle" like this to hold the frame & fork.

    I start with the frame upside-down and paint from one side, then the other.
    Carefully flip the frame and repeat.

    The other gizmo is a run-on-the-fork eliminator. Thumb screws hold the fork and one of the elbows, which allows the frork to be held at any angle.
    Attached Images Attached Images

  22. #22
    Papa Wheelie Sigurdd50's Avatar
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    this place comes hightly recommended

    http://www.powdercoatstudio.com/gallery/index1.html

    looks like 99 bucks... not incl shipping

    the yellow and purple look killer

  23. #23
    Senior Member Muttley's Avatar
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    Believe it or don't, I have had good experience with the time-honored rattle can. Prep it really well (wet sand it down with progressively finer grades of paper, to maybe 600 grit), use a light primer if you are going to paint light over a previous dark color. Spray with light, even strokes. I have recently found a spray paint by Krylon called Appliance Epoxy which gives a great slick hard finish.
    If you want contrasting lugs, mask them off with tape and trim the edges with an exacto knife.
    Price: maybe $10.
    Also, if you go the powder coat route - remember that set up is the biggest cost of a powder job. I had a few parts coated a while back, they charged me $20 to blast and coat because they were doing a batch the color I wanted anyhow. If they had to set up for some off-the-wall color, they would have charged me $100 more.
    Show us some pix when you get it done!

  24. #24
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    I'm pot-committed to painting it myself now; I primed it this morning. I've been taking pics throughout the process that I'll post when it's all done. It's been great learning about all this, and I'm already pleased with the job given that I'm doing the whole thing in my apartment.

    Appreciate all the advice.

  25. #25
    Senior Member Muttley's Avatar
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    Let me get this straight - you're painting (spray-painting, presumably) your frame in an apartment??
    What about overspray, not to mention incinerating your brain with the vapors?

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