The topic of painting frames seems to come up quite a bit on here, and I often have comments that I keep to myself. I realize and respect the fact that there are many opinions out there regarding this topic, but there are also lotsa misconceptions.
I have been working in the Autobody industry for over 10 years, and am an A.S.E. certified Autobody and Paint Tech.I also went to school for a year to learn the craft. Much of my experience has been in the restoration field. Not to imply that I know everything, since this business is always changing ( new technology and methodology) and there's always new stuff to learn. I do, however, wanted to state this so folks know that my opinions aren't based on "stuff I heard" , but rather experience.
I'm also quite aware that lotsa folks prefer the DIY approach. I totally dig that. Lugs lined w/ nail polish, home made paint jobs from a rattle can, etc. I started out this way as a kid w/ an SE Quadangle in my parent's basement............eyelashes sticky with blue overspray. I am not going to address this process, however, since I am mainly concerned with the situations where people are looking for professional alternatives for frame refinishing.
First, let's talk about price, since that is always a main concern. Monkey recently got quoted a very fair price form a reputable BIKE SPECIFIC refinishing company for his Gios resto. I saw comments on here like " I would never pay that much for a paint job". My first thought was "Great, keep it to yourself " To some, a paint job is the most important thing on a frame ( besides the rider ) It not only protects it from the elements, but it also can make or break a build from an aesthetic p.o.v. There are many parts on our rides that we spend lotsa money on..sometimes too much...only to discover that we don't like it. That brooks saddle hurts our ass, or those fancy C Record track hubs that might fail at any second. We can always remove 'em and replace these parts, but a piant job is a bit more difficult to change once it's done. I recently had to put a roof on my house, and had problems trying to get a nice job done for a good price. Since it's it's unadvisable to put more than three layers of shingles on, I had to choose carefully to avoid a complete tear off. Paint is similar, since a thick build-up can result in poor adhesion.In the end, I paid a bit more for a roof, but I can rest easy knowing that it was done correctly. I typically spend an average of 15 hours on a frame/ fork single color refinish. This includes stripping of the old paint or powdercoat. Most of the time is spent prepping for paint, with careful attention to things like lug details and durability. Many factory built frames ( or even hand built ones ) have seams, pits, file marks,and flaws in the lugs. Sometimes it's nice to leave a few small file marks in a handbuilt frame simply cuz...well...........it shows that it's been hand built. The point here is that it's time consuming, which means that it costs a bit more. There's more to a paint job than dumping paint in a gun and hosing it on some tubes, although I'm sure one could easily find someone to do that for 'em on the cheap. Some of us use high quality primers and paint that can cost over $150 a gallon, which contribute greatly to the price, but is worth it in the long run.I might also add that it can also be a good thing to know that the person working on your frame likes bikes, and feels that frames deserve a nice paintjob. Not to sound too "new age-ish , but how nice of a job is that monster truck bodyshop guy gonna put on a mere BICYCLE? I love helping to put nice lookin' bikes on the street, and I'm always trying to learn more, and improve my results. I find that it's a rewarding respite from the production oriented, robotic, daily grind approach of the autobody environment.This is simply something to consider when searching for a painter.The cost is what is for a reason, the least of which is someone trying to get rich off painting your bike.
Durability is an issue. Keirin frames have thin paint that chips easily. De Bernardi's paint sucks. These are all statements I have seen on here. Keep in mind that these frames are meant for track use, usually for one season. They put just enough paint on there to protect 'em while, at the same time, keeping weight down ( my opinion based on common sense).Keeping paint thin, durable, yet flawless can be challenging.It is what it is, but I see a paintjob as an evolving peice of art. It ages and changes, reflecting it's use. I was disheartened when someone scraped my painted rims w/ a careless pedal during a race lockup. Now it reminds me of that alleycat everytime I change a tube. I love the pic that was floating around of a Vanilla track end that has obviously been "rode hard and put up wet".Yeah, it's chipped, but one can still see the quality and beauty there. It's alive and evolving, just like it's rider. The lifeless and dull powdercoated frame MAY do the job, but is not what gets my juices flowing. Gimme a wet looking, smooth, sexy paintjob. I know that some folks don't care, and simply want something functional. That's cool too.
Some common questions regard painting over chrome and clearcoating bare steel. From what I've seen, chromed frames are entirely chromed FIRST , and then polished where the areas are gonna show. The rest of the frame is left unpolished and covered in paint. It's difficult to get paint to stick to polished chrome, but I have reluctantly done it in the past.To be honest, I have had hard time getting answers from my paint reps regarding this,so it's just not something I recommend. I tend to lean towards the conservative side of things when it comes to durability. I have clearcoated bare steel w/ limited success, but I wouldn't trust it to hold up. If you think of a paintjob as a sandwich, there are necessary layers needed for it to be a success.Automotive basecoat/clearcoat are designed to crosslink for a tough, UV resistant coating. The interlaced fingers of your hands represent this chemical bond well, I think. The primer bonds to the bare metal, and the basecoat bonds to that. Take away any of these ingredients and you are holding a hunk of bread , not a sandwich ( can I get any more nerdy?). I cannot speak to other types of paint, as I stick to what I am familiar with, and rarely use anything else. I have found that the steel will rust and the clear will not stick well.
Powdercoat Vs. Paint. I don't claim to have much knowledge about powdercoat, but I have seen some crazy statements about how it compares to paint.I recently saw someone on here say that "powdercoat actually bonds to the metal". What does this mean? I dunno. Primer bonds to the metal too, no? Plus, when you use a nice primer, it offers excellent corrosion resistance. What's under that powdercoat? Nothing but steel.When it chips, it's got nothing there to protect it. I have a powdercoated bumper on my truck that is entirely rusted away, but the silhouette of powdercoat remains.Moisture was able to get underneath and spread throughout.There are also claims about it being more environmentally friendly cuz there are less VOC's released during the bake cycle. Based on what? Time? Thickness of material?The absence of solvent?Aren't there many variables here? What about water based auto paint, which is quickly approaching reality here in the states? I bake my paint for 20 minutes. How long does powdercoat bake for? The excess powder can be re-used. So can my basecoat.....besides, I only mix up enough product to use as it's needed, with little waste.This is just a common sense money thing.In addition, does the powdercoater fix any imperfections before coating your frame? Most don't. Perhaps we can get someone on here from that area to shed some light.I have found little info on the interent about this.
It boils down to what type of consumer you are, I think. Ask questions, not just "how much?" What are you gonna get for your hard earned $$ ? What's your painter's procedure..............his/her philosophy and experience? Also, some bike painting places offer different types of paintjobs, based on budgets and needs. I have, for example, repainted some factory powdercoated frames at a discount cuz all the customer wanted was a quick color change, and I felt that the frame was in nice enough shape to do so without compromising durability and looks.Again, ask questions. Sometimes the answers may seem confusing, or differ depending on situation or painter. Everyone has their own system and preferences. It's up to you to find one that suits your goals and needs.
I hope this was helpful and not too annoyingly long and whiny. Ciao.