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Restoring chrome under paint?

Old 11-19-22, 06:16 AM
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Restoring chrome under paint?

I'm cleaning up a 1983 Paramount Elite. Backstory here.

It appears the stays and part or all of the fork are chrome under the paint. Here's a picture from one of the original posts by sd5782:



This is the original Schwinn paint job, but the paint doesn't adhere very well - it flakes right off around the bare spots. I was planning to just touch it up, but I doubt the touch-up paint will adhere much better.

The chrome doesn't appear to be as banged up as it looks in the photos. Does anyone have an opinion about how hard it would it be to strip the stays without damaging the rest of the paint job?
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Old 11-19-22, 06:42 AM
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I would advise against that. The painted over chrome is likely not polished.
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Old 11-19-22, 07:12 AM
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↑↑↑ Agree with jianshi, cleaned up w/o polish is not a nice finish.
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Old 11-19-22, 07:24 AM
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How hard would it be to polish it? The areas where the paint has flaked off look pretty shiny (which I assume is why the paint doesn't adhere). I'll post another picture this afternoon when I get back from the market.
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Old 11-19-22, 07:26 AM
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Originally Posted by albrt
I'm cleaning up a 1983 Paramount Elite. Backstory here.

It appears the stays and part or all of the fork are chrome under the paint. Here's a picture from one of the original posts by sd5782:



This is the original Schwinn paint job, but the paint doesn't adhere very well - it flakes right off around the bare spots. I was planning to just touch it up, but I doubt the touch-up paint will adhere much better.

The chrome doesn't appear to be as banged up as it looks in the photos. Does anyone have an opinion about how hard it would it be to strip the stays without damaging the rest of the paint job?
You take the chance that as has been mentioned that the chrome isn't polished. There is a possibility that it is polished. If you want to take a chance, try a plastic scraper in a hidden location (top of the stay, underneath?) and scrape a little paint off.
If desired, a local chrome shop could polish the unpolished without having to do the toxic part of the job, apply the chrome.

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Last edited by Schweinhund; 11-19-22 at 07:35 AM.
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Old 11-19-22, 07:44 AM
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I have an ItalVega that I refurbished . The entire frame is chrome under the paint that was damaged due to being left outside for many years in a California beach town. I got the surface rust off the bike and it exposed a lot of the chrome underneath. The chrome is ok but not polished and for the ItalVega , I liked the look. The polished areas came out marginally nice and the other areas look like clean steel. It is most obvious on the seat stays.
I just left it with the patina and cleaned it up the best I could, but it was really bad when I got it. To polish the chrome would take a machine buffer with special rouge paste and would be difficult to get right unless you know what you’re doing.
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Old 11-19-22, 07:51 AM
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Originally Posted by albrt
How hard would it be to polish it? The areas where the paint has flaked off look pretty shiny (which I assume is why the paint doesn't adhere). I'll post another picture this afternoon when I get back from the market.
Chrome is applied in layers. At one time many higher end bikes were chromed under the paint to both protect the frame, and it is thought the process had beneficial effects on the performance of the frame.

For the most part as noticed the chrome and to extent the metal under it is left “rough” so that the chrome finish will be rough so the paint will adhere better. I’ve seen frames like this where the owner removed all the paint and no matter how much you polish it just doesn’t shine.

For “show chrome”, as I calls it, car trim, forks, stays, toasters etc the steel itself is very highly polished even before the chroming and greater care is taken to ensure that every layer goes on nice and smooth.

I suspect your issue likely arise from atmospheric conditions interacting with with paint damage caused in storage rather than the paint suddenly not adhering to the frame.
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Old 11-19-22, 09:32 AM
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Nice bike. Show bike, or good enough for you is the question? A full chrome 72 Fuji came to me with lots of scratches, and I thought of stripping the whole frame as I had seen pics of other bikes with this done. I thought before I did that, I would try touch up first. I dint really match things real well, but it came out good enough for the 3 foot test and I was happy. I think the thing was that ones eye was no longer drawn to the bad area, but took in the whole picture. A touch up attempt on the Paramount may come out nicely with a skilled touch.
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Old 11-19-22, 03:32 PM
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Thanks for all the responses. Here is a picture of the lower area on the drive side seat stay shown in the previous picture. The paint really just flakes off so there is more chrome showing than the original picture. It also looks like somebody tried to touch it up before and that isn't adhering either. The icky area near the top of the photo seems to be touch up paint, not rust or corrosion.

This is essentially a bigger version of the same bike shown in the 1983 Bicycling magazine profile.


It appears to have shiny chrome under the paint in all the places where the magazine bike has chrome, and that is where most of the paint damage is. The paint is decent on the big tubes. I think the bike was built with finished chrome stays and they just painted over it.

I'm intending to ride this bike so I wasn't intending to do anything drastic about the paint job, but the more I look at it the more I think touch up paint isn't going to work.
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Old 11-19-22, 04:08 PM
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Investigating further, the chrome on the stays appears to polish up very well with just a little auto rubbing compound. There are tiny pits in some of the areas where the chrome was previously exposed, but they are not visible from more than about six inches.
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Old 11-19-22, 04:19 PM
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Looks like you are on to something!
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Old 11-19-22, 05:06 PM
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...I do not know in your case, but the most common reason to find painted surfaces where previous photos show polished chrome is that there was some sort of failure of the chrome that led to rust or discoloration, somewhere on the stay or fork that was previously polished chrome. Occasionally, you run into a bike where someone thought it just looked funny, without more paint on the fork or stays. The stuff you've exposed does look polished. If you take it all off, and find some sort of failure in the chrome, it's not that hard to repaint it. Fo maximum adhesion, the chrome would need to be roughed first. But this pretty much destroys any hope of going back to polished chrome.

As already stated by Bianchigirll chromed surfaces for show get polished a few times in the chroming process. Schwinn chrome is usually pretty good...much better than most of the Italian chrome surfaces.
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Old 11-19-22, 05:28 PM
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That's my thinking at this point - if I discover that some of the chrome is bad, then I'll repaint and it probably won't look any worse than it does currently with all the flaking paint.

It would be interesting to know what happened with this bike. The paint on the stays appears to be factory paint with the same orange pinstripes, etc. Did the folks in Waterford have an extra frame lying around with chrome stays that happened to fit this customer? Or did the customer see the initial finish and chicken out because it looked too flashy for an Ohio guy?
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Old 11-19-22, 05:33 PM
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Things to remember about chrome:

It can not be fixed
it is very thin
it is a toxic process to replecate


You can polish chrome down to nickel. It's shiny, but not chrome.

Generally, chrome under paint is not the same as chrome finish.
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Old 11-19-22, 05:47 PM
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Originally Posted by albrt
Investigating further, the chrome on the stays appears to polish up very well with just a little auto rubbing compound. There are tiny pits in some of the areas where the chrome was previously exposed, but they are not visible from more than about six inches.
What you've done so far with the stay looks great! Maybe the seat lug is chromed like the Road Test bike?
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Old 11-19-22, 06:09 PM
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Yes, the seat lug also appears to be chrome under the paint, but I think it will be harder to get the paint off cleanly from all the nooks and crannies. So far I have just been scraping lightly on easily accessible surfaces. Not sure how well it will work if I have to use something like a dental pick.

Does chemical paint remover damage chrome?
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Old 11-20-22, 08:34 PM
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I didn't have much time to work on the Paramount today, but here are a few pictures of the progress I made last night.




I spent about an hour and a half peeling paint off last night, so that should give you an idea of how well the paint adheres. The drive side stays are not completely done - there is some paint left on the inside where you can't see in the photos, but still I think that is a lot of paint to remove in a short time without chemicals or power tools.

The paint literally flaked off around the damaged areas, but away from the damaged areas I would say it peels off. There is a gunky grey undercoating that you can see on the dropout in the second photo. The stuff I thought was touchup paint in the earlier photo was probably the remains of this undercoating. The undercoating is difficult to remove at first, but after it makes contact with the air for about 10 minutes it stiffens up and comes off pretty easily.

Overall I think the chrome under the paint probably looks better than it would if it had been exposed for 40 years.

Last edited by albrt; 11-20-22 at 08:42 PM.
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Old 11-20-22, 09:04 PM
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When thinking about a bikes good looks chrome often comes to mind. Just like fancy paint jobs. But then again some times you have to take a step back and remember that the chrome and the paint are there to protect the frame. Eventually your bike gets banged and scratched up enough that you need to re-paint. You could go to the extreme if you had the money and get it re-chromed too. For me it is protection that counts. Now days I sand um down, prime well, and put on a good thick coat of paint with a brush. My frames don't argue. They like the protection...
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Old 11-21-22, 02:10 PM
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Nice looking bike......I would have used a paint stripper to safe time and the possibility of scratching the chrome.
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question: paint stripper and chrome
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Old 11-21-22, 02:13 PM
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Paint stripper would be handy. Are Home Depot strippers OK to use on chrome?
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Old 11-21-22, 02:55 PM
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My experience is that paint comes off of chrome very easily with paint stripper. I've used CitriStrip and the paint comes off of chromed areas with almost no scraping or sanding. Apply the CitriStrip, wait a few hours, and wipe it off.

Here's the fork of a 1979 Centurion that I stripped last year.







I think I just reapplied the CitriStrip to the areas where the paint stuck. It came off great.

What others have said about the surface being rough under the paint is a generalization. A rough surface helps the paint stick and intentional work is usually needed to get a smooth surface. Schwinns had great chrome that I suspect was relatively thick, so it might not be rough. I have a Pinarello that someone stripped the paint off of, and I think it looks great. This picture shows the "roughness" pretty well in one of the worst spots:



From more than a foot away you can't see that.



The Mercian that I just bought shows a much rougher difference between polished chrome that was intended to be exposed and painted-over chrome that was rough.

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Old 11-21-22, 07:13 PM
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The rough chrome actually seems like a pretty cool finish to me, but then I also like bare steel. The Paramount seems to be polished in all the areas I am stripping.
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Old 11-22-22, 06:37 AM
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I used a citrus-based stripper to remove the paint over the chrome of a Fuji Finest not long ago. A applied, wrapped the tubes in plastic, left them overnight, and just scraped the next day. These pics show the result after a single application. I gave it another round before hand polishing.





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Old 11-22-22, 10:35 PM
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I used "aircraft remover" paint stripper from the auto parts store and it worked very quickly over polished chrome with no damage at all. Paint just doesn't like polished chrome. Cleaned up at the end with #0000 steel wool. You're going to have a beautiful bike with as much chrome showing as you would like! (I may have erred on the blingy side below)
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Old 11-23-22, 12:05 PM
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Progress report

Here are the latest pics. This shows what should be the final chrome configuration, although it needs one more round of cleaning.




I tried to preserve as much of the original orange detailing as I could.


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