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Chromed and painted fork - removing the paint

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Chromed and painted fork - removing the paint

Old 10-14-21, 04:32 PM
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VintageSteelEU
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Chromed and painted fork - removing the paint

I recently got myself a "nice" Motobecane C5 (probably 1979). I'm writing "nice" because it's Motobecane C5 with Columbus SL frame and fork (and all original parts, except probably brake levers) but unfortunately it must have been stored in very poor conditions and the lovely red paintwork is eaten by rust (not mentioning grime and muck covering everything else). Luckily, structurally seems sound as far as I could see, but I don't think I will be able to save the paintjob by just touching it up, it will probably get powder coated when I finish taking the bike apart (and that ain't easy in itself). Anyhow, today I have finally managed to remove the seized stem without damaging it (very pleased about that), got the fork out and had a closer look at it. It's a red fork with chromed crown. I was aware before that there is a small dent on it and in that place the paint was bubbling up with rust. So I took some sand paper to clear the rust out gently and to my surprise I have discovered that the whole thing is actually chromed underneath!
Which is in theory great, but in practice it creates some challenges. I won't be able to powder coat it without stripping the chrome plating off. Which, quite frankly, is not something I even want to attempt. Life is short and removing chrome plating is generally a massive time sink if done by hand. My choice is to clean up as much rust off the fork as I can gently and touch up these places with red metallic red paint (no guarantee of the colour actually matching or the paint remaining in place) or take off the paint and keep the fork as is - chromed. For now I'm sort of more interested in stripping the paint and keeping the chrome. Obviously, I don't want to use sand paper to do that, because it will damage the chrome (I can touch up some places with something like Easy Chrome, but not the whole fork). So I'm looking for some advice on techniques of removing the paint without damaging the chrome plating underneath. I have paint remover (Nitro Mors which works reasonably OK, though not perfect, on factory paints) and it should be safe on chrome, but in my experience Motobecane factory paint is pretty darn tough stuff and when on steel, forget about it coming off without backing up Nitro Mors with a lot of elbow grease. I'm thinking with this fork to use Nitro Mors and crumpled tinfoil. Anyone here had experience removing paint from chromed forks or frame? I would appreciate any advice on this.
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Old 10-14-21, 06:58 PM
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My first paint removal from a chromed frame was in 1976 with my second Fuji Finest. I seriously question if Motobecane's paint prep was better then Fuji's... While never again on a complete frame I have done some small area removal and repainting over chrome more then a few times.

The first go to is chemical stripper to reduce the mechanical removal's surface scratches that scraping, sanding and blasting will induce. Doing a paint surface scuffing or sanding to etch the surface and break down the glossy top of the paint will really help the chemistry do it's job. If you are lucky the Moto prep didn't the right thing, etch the chrome where the paint was going. Primer/paint doesn't like super smooth surfaces, and the paint will dissolve/rub off. Next up is a very fine wool, brass is good, to further remove the remaining bits. Brass won't scratch the chrome. Avoid scotch bright unless you are already more experienced then you lead us to think.

This will expose the chrome as it was before any primer/paint was applied. When I stripped my Finest I found that the painter over chrome was not anywhere near shinny. At 20 years old and without much patience I stopped there. Now with more understanding and higher standards of what I want my bikes to look like I would continue with a repaint.

My advise is to either go to one of the two extremes. Only do minimal rust removal and localized touch up OR take the dive and repaint the fork in a different but complementary color, like black. Andy
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Old 10-15-21, 09:53 AM
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Originally Posted by Andrew R Stewart View Post
My first paint removal from a chromed frame was in 1976 with my second Fuji Finest. I seriously question if Motobecane's paint prep was better then Fuji's... While never again on a complete frame I have done some small area removal and repainting over chrome more then a few times.

The first go to is chemical stripper to reduce the mechanical removal's surface scratches that scraping, sanding and blasting will induce. Doing a paint surface scuffing or sanding to etch the surface and break down the glossy top of the paint will really help the chemistry do it's job. If you are lucky the Moto prep didn't the right thing, etch the chrome where the paint was going. Primer/paint doesn't like super smooth surfaces, and the paint will dissolve/rub off. Next up is a very fine wool, brass is good, to further remove the remaining bits. Brass won't scratch the chrome. Avoid scotch bright unless you are already more experienced then you lead us to think.

This will expose the chrome as it was before any primer/paint was applied. When I stripped my Finest I found that the painter over chrome was not anywhere near shinny. At 20 years old and without much patience I stopped there. Now with more understanding and higher standards of what I want my bikes to look like I would continue with a repaint.

My advise is to either go to one of the two extremes. Only do minimal rust removal and localized touch up OR take the dive and repaint the fork in a different but complementary color, like black. Andy
Different colour might be a good idea. For now I think I will remove the paint and see what shape the fork is in underneath. Asked local chrome plating companies for a quote, perhaps that would be in my budget, especially that some small bits could use new chrome as well. There is one nearby where they do small repairs (like filling that dent for example) before chrome plating and it sounds like a good option.
As for my experience, I do have some, repainted two bicycles over the past year or so. One of them was mostly touch-ups, the other one was a complete paint stripping (it was heavily damaged) and spray-painting it. And the results are good, but I don't have that much time and also the place I got the paint from ran out of stock. Photos of the fork below.







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Old 10-16-21, 07:34 AM
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I know where you are at on this and was there a year or so ago myself. Had St. Lewis Plating, a family owned business, remove the paint and chrome and re-plate the chrome on a fork for $50. Beautiful work. From the Niromors and EU reference I assume you are in the EU so I suspect unless you have a similar shops in your area this is no help. Thanks for taking on the C5 which I think is was we called the Le Champion in the US.
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Old 10-16-21, 06:55 PM
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I have a couple of bikes awaiting refurbishment, rebuilding and/or modding that are likely from the same era as that of the OP. Both have a chrome fork. One completely painted over and the other painted from just below the the crown to a few inches above the dropouts. The fully painted one also has a chrome plated “cap” over the actual crown. I’m not exactly seeing the logic in painting over a chrome finish and wonder just why the manufacturers do it?
I’m seriously considering removing ALL of the paint and seeing if the chrome will polish up nicely. If not, perhaps I’ll see if I can get them replated at a reasonable cost. At $50 each, the fork work would be ~5 times the cost of the bikes!!! I do think that they would look nice tho.
Looking forward to seeing the OP’s finished product!
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Old 10-16-21, 07:05 PM
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...painting over chrome in the 70's and 80's was quite common. I'm currently repainting a fully chromed Fuji Finest, and have another one back in the line for next summer.
You should check with a person who does your powder coating (I don't, I only paint), but I'm pretty sure they will media blast and PC your frame and fork, regardless of the chrome on there.

For paint, at least, you just need a slightly roughed surface. On this Fuji Finest, they didn't even do that, it's pretty polished almost everywhere.

Most people who strip the paint off a fully chromed frame end up a little disappointed. The manufacturers only polish the parts that they plan to leave exposed, like the socks and crown on the fork. It's a tremendous amount of work to polish the rest of the frame. fork yourself, and it's not impossible to polish right through the chrome surface. Which is to be avoided if possible. But you can always paint over it again.
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Old 10-16-21, 07:08 PM
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A common trap of time, emotion, expectations is to assume that the chrome under paint is applied to polished bare steel. Chrome is so thin (less so when copper then nickel is first laid down) that it will show the base steel's surface finish, for better or not. If a factory was going to paint over chromed areas (and chroming a complete fork in one step is cheaper then only plating the drop outs then the crown in two separate steps) Then only the non painted surfaces will need polishing. And a etched/"rough" surface will be better for the paint to attach to.

I would fully expect any painted over chrome to be roughened for the paint (be it because of the bare steel not being prepped for the exposed chrome look or after plating pre paint prep work) and not be just a bit of buffing away from looking good. Andy
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Old 10-16-21, 08:29 PM
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I have that same fork and just stripped and re-painted it. I'm pretty sure it is Japanese. Aiksu, Aikisu,... ?sp
I have stripped and re-painted many chromed forks over time and a little chrome does not mean all chrome.
In the case of the one I have that is just like yours, it was fully chromed but only the head and 5 inches up from the tips was polished. The un polished part was painted the original bike color. Same as yours looks right now but mine was pearl white originally.
I've seen the same where only the socks are chromed and the rest is bare.
You really don't know how much and in what shape till you strip it.
A spray can of quick strip is about $12
Extremely easy to strip the paint off and repaint.

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Old 10-16-21, 10:04 PM
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Originally Posted by VintageSteelEU View Post
...Anyone here had experience removing paint from chromed forks or frame?...
I have never been able to afford re-chroming forks. I don't do real honest a goodness restorations. So when I get a fork with chrome damage I hit it like any kind of rust. I sand the damages areas to bare metal. Any little bubbles too. Sometimes I even take a file or a hack saw blade and scrape it down. I then sand out the damage I have done. I spray it with Etching Rutolium Primer right away then go for a light 200-400 grit sand and prime again.

I have had allot of luck spraying Engine Block Paint on my frames but on my last build I brush painted the frame and fork. I used Rustolium Enamel and I love it.
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Old 10-17-21, 04:01 AM
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I have stripped the paint from the fork last Friday. Took a few hours of gentle scrubbing with some help of Nitro Mors. The chrome looks decent (mostly) though of course it's not the quality of finish one would expect to be final. My main concern was the small dent in one of the forks, before stripping the paint of it I couldn't be sure how serious the problem is, but now it seems it's not too bad. Will require a filler before any sort of finish though. Still waiting for the chrome plating quotes and I know one of the companies can use copper or silver welding / brazing to address that problem. So all depends on whether the quotes will return exorbitant sums. I'd love to go for a nice, chrome plated finish for the fork, but not at any cost. As for the powder coating company, I know they can sand blast the fork and frame and that they address any brazing / structural problems as well. So it's a decent value. Though of course, I can say good bye to the idea of having a chromed fork.
The results so far, still some rust / pitting / grime to clean up:






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Old 10-17-21, 07:27 AM
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There is also this option which I've seen on custom car shows. Even Jay Leno claims to use this stuff (not this specific company in the link) on his car collection. Here's a link to one of the places that offer this that I found real quick but there are others out there. Coat of Chrome - Don't Paint it Chrome It - Coat of Chrome
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Old 10-17-21, 04:32 PM
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Originally Posted by easyupbug View Post
I know where you are at on this and was there a year or so ago myself. Had St. Lewis Plating, a family owned business, remove the paint and chrome and re-plate the chrome on a fork for $50. Beautiful work. From the Niromors and EU reference I assume you are in the EU so I suspect unless you have a similar shops in your area this is no help. Thanks for taking on the C5 which I think is was we called the Le Champion in the US.
I'm in London, UK. Found two companies which do chrome plating, now we'll see about their prices. If the price is an equivalent of $50, then re-chroming would be probably my favourite solution.
C5 (or C51 from 1980, which this might be as well) is what was known in the US (and in the UK, I suspect) as Team Champion. Le Champion would have had Reynolds tubing. Differences: Team Champion - Campagnolo dropouts and tips, C5 - Huret dropouts and tips, TC - Campagnolo 1039 headset, C5 - Motobecane (Stronglight) headset, TC - Cinelli 1R stem and 66 handlebar, C5 - Belleri stem and handlebar, TC - Campagnolo Super Record derailleurs, C5 - Huret Success Titanium derailleurs. There are some other differences, generally TC seems to be all Campagnolo (or other Italian) components, C5 goes for French ones, Weinmann brakes and brake levers and Selle Italia Superleggera saddle. For some reason C5 I got came with Shimano 600 Arabesque (or some variant of 600 EX) brake levers (but Weinmann brakes) and Selle Italia Turbo saddle. I'm guessing brake levers have been replaced at some point by the previous owner, the saddle could have been Turbo one from the beginning as it's correct for the era. The bicycle came to me in a really sorry state, it was clearly stored in very poor conditions. Structurally sound, or so it would seem, but it will require a lot of elbow grease, whichever way I go with it. Most likely I won't be restoring it to its original condition / configuration, though that's something to think about. I'm planning to finish working on it by the end of December.

Update: one of the chrome plating places asked an equivalent of $250 for chrome plating the fork. I can get pretty much any chromed fork I might want for that money. Heck, I can get a mint Columbus or Super Vitus frame in my size for that money. If the other place asks for similar ridiculous money, that solves the problem and leaves powder coating as the only option.

Last edited by VintageSteelEU; 10-18-21 at 03:43 PM. Reason: Correction of the model name
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