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Paint Removal Options

Old 10-11-23, 10:16 AM
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Paint Removal Options

I'm soon to need two frames/forks stripped of their clothing. A job (actually two jobs this time) I have done more than a few times over the years and the worst part of a respray. My usual method has been to use a stripper chemical and a scraper as the first step. Often this step needs repeating a few times and I find if the old paint is roughened first the stripper both clings better and seems to chemically bite into the paint. Rather smelly, messy and potentially harmful on a couple of levels. Done outside, in my location, means a chilly temp which just slows down the chemistry thing. The usual next step is mechanically scraping away as much of the remaining paint as I can, often found in the crevasses and edges the joints making this time consuming. Then sanding the tubes clean. This gets a F&F ready for a sand blasting which only has to cover the joints, done just before the paint prep starts.

I would love to avoid the mess and time of the bulk of the paint removal and have thought about alternatives like burning the paint down with a torch, But that just transfers the bad stuff to a smoke and dust issue and the fumes are really nasty. I have burned enough paint to know I want to avoid that too. I've hand scraped dry old paint using a hack saw blade's top edge a complete frame and find it's easy to get chatter marks if one's not paying real close attention to the scraper action. OK for open surfaces but hard to do on lugs, shells, dropouts and such. After scraping sanding is still needed anyway. I have heard of (and handled a F&F which was recently done) using a dip tank of some nasty chemical to soak and dissolve off the paint. This also addressed the insides of the vented tubes (both jobs I am looking at have been Frame Saved).

What have you all done to strip a frame? How did you handle the fumes and or dust (I am bearded and understand face mask sealing issues exist). In the past I would wear a simple paper dust mask and be outside or under the open garage door. I've never felt comfortable with gloves and sometimes did and other times didn't use any.

I've been unable to find an area company which still does this for metal, wood furniture restoration yes, metal no. I would consider driving or shipping the two F&Fs to a company in the NE of the US. So if anyone here has their dip tank company they know of/use I'd love to give them a call. Andy
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Old 10-11-23, 11:11 AM
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I had a motorcycle frame I needed stripped of its paint and was having a hell of a time because it had a heavy powder coat on it. I took it over a a Chrome Plating Shop expecting that I would have to get it sand blasted. The foreman told me as it had no rust they could just clean it off and I would not have to wait for the sand blasting.

I watched from the shop door as they took it into the big barn and dipped it into this Iso container sized tank of bubbling goo. After about 5 minutes he pulled it out and all the paint was gone. Including a few aluminum harness straps that I had left on it. I asked him what was in the tank and he answered, "Just some of our magic stuff." That's all, he would not tell me what it was. After a good washing he offered to dip it in zinc plating tank and I could not resist. I went home with a Zinc Chromate colored frame that looked so good I should have just clear coated it. Ha

That was years ago but it might be worth a visit to a Plating Shop to get the job done.
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Old 10-11-23, 11:16 AM
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Andy whatever the nasty stuff the government took out of commercially available products in hardware stores can still be bought by those that do this kind of work professionally. In Niles, Gary's furniture stripping has a big dunk tank where they leave a bicycle frame in over night and that mostly does the hard work. As you know I have a big powerful pressure pot sandblaster so that takes care of the bits around the joints. There must be similar furniture places near you that do the same thing? I think it is the same stuff for wood as it there is for steel.
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Old 10-11-23, 12:51 PM
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Trek had some amazing stuff in a dunk tank. It didn't require any touchup after. Getting Imron off is no joke, they originally advertised that you couldn't.
People would die if you could get it at the hardware store. It somehow got through gloves. I always had to go wash my hands after.
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Old 10-11-23, 04:19 PM
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My local powder coater has a tank of stripper that he uses to strip paint and powder coating from anything that fits in the tank. I've never asked him to strip something that he wasn't going to powder coat, but I'm sure he would do it for a small fee.
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Old 10-11-23, 06:31 PM
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When I was a kid, I knew a guy that had a tank he would dip engine blocks in when he did rebuilds. I think the stuff was called Oakite. I have a Hercules bonderized frame I would like to dip for a few minutes.
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Old 10-11-23, 06:36 PM
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Any engine rebuilder likely has a dunk tank filled with paint removing chemicals. The engine blocks need to go into a heated tank full of chemicals that remove all of the gunk built up during engine use over time. Bike frames fit into those tanks and just an overnight in them will remove any paint and oil based residue. Look to your local automotive shops or speed shops to find one. I have one south of me about 60 miles I can contact when needed. Smiles, MH
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Old 10-11-23, 10:32 PM
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Methylene chloride was the chemical in old stripping compounds. I sold it by the barrel in the 1980’s. Some people use oven cleaner to strip stuff, but that is just lye, aka sodium hydroxide. Hard on non ferrous metals.
Not sure if still available but Jasco Epoxy Stripper is pretty effective.
I think the main question for any product is its affect on brazing or silver soldering

https://www.epa.gov/newsreleases/epa...ene%20chloride.
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Old 10-12-23, 07:11 AM
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Likely a dumb question, but why is simply sandblasting not an option? Media pollution? Potential for metal distortion? As I recall for my days messing with old cars, sandblasting was problematic for two reasons: heat distortion of thin sheet metal panels and leftover media in every crevice imaginable.
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Old 10-12-23, 07:15 AM
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just googled dunk tank, lol
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Old 10-12-23, 08:52 AM
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Paint stripper dunk tanks are for when you really hate the principle of your school.
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Old 10-12-23, 09:45 AM
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Originally Posted by smontanaro
Likely a dumb question, but why is simply sandblasting not an option? Media pollution? Potential for metal distortion? As I recall for my days messing with old cars, sandblasting was problematic for two reasons: heat distortion of thin sheet metal panels and leftover media in every crevice imaginable.
Sandblasting with sand as an abrasive has it's place but it's not what I'd look for if I were looking to have a bike frame repainted. There's a wide range of alternative abrasives these days, ranging from ceramic and plastic particles of varying hardness / edge-shape to 'older tech' ground walnut shells and specially processed ground glass.

Much can be said for operators who have experience with abrasives other than sandblasting sand, and their track record when dealing with relatively fragile substrates.
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Old 10-12-23, 12:30 PM
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Originally Posted by spclark
Sandblasting with sand as an abrasive has it's place but it's not what I'd look for if I were looking to have a bike frame repainted. There's a wide range of alternative abrasives these days, ranging from ceramic and plastic particles of varying hardness / edge-shape to 'older tech' ground walnut shells and specially processed ground glass.

Much can be said for operators who have experience with abrasives other than sandblasting sand, and their track record when dealing with relatively fragile substrates.
Yeah, sorry. I didn't mean only sand. "Media blasting" would have been a more accurate reference.
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Old 10-15-23, 09:47 PM
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Originally Posted by smontanaro
Likely a dumb question, but why is simply sandblasting not an option? Media pollution? Potential for metal distortion? As I recall for my days messing with old cars, sandblasting was problematic for two reasons: heat distortion of thin sheet metal panels and leftover media in every crevice imaginable.
I don't think that's a dumb question at all. I have sandblasted many bicycle and car parts, and it's quick, easy, cheap, and way more environmentally-friendly than the chemical options being discussed.

One can put together a decent sandblasting rig for under $100, not including an air compressor which everyone has, plus about $3 per frame for media (even less if you use actual sand, but I don't). Takes me under 20 minutes to blast a frame, including setting up and pouring out the media.
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Old 10-15-23, 10:12 PM
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I've had excellent results on factory bicycle paint with citris based paint strippers. Spray it outside and then bring it in the shop to sit for several hours. It doesn't smell bad and was very effective. It was recommended by a gunsmith for removing baked on finishes, which are much more difficult than typical bike paint.
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Old 10-16-23, 04:50 AM
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After applying the stripper goo, wrap it with saran wrap.
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Old 10-16-23, 05:40 AM
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Originally Posted by Kontact
I've had excellent results on factory bicycle paint with citris based paint strippers. Spray it outside and then bring it in the shop to sit for several hours. It doesn't smell bad and was very effective. It was recommended by a gunsmith for removing baked on finishes, which are much more difficult than typical bike paint.
I have used citrus based strippers to remove the lacquer on old brass instruments. I plan this approach for a bike build next summer.
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Old 10-16-23, 08:27 AM
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Thanks for the replies. Unfortunately no new ideas though. I have some old chemical stripper (a couple of tins that are part filled) I'll try first and progress to fresh stuff as needed

Good news is that one frame (which needs a repair) will only get a small area that needs stripping, so chemistry first on this one. I'll wrap the frame to protect the rest of the paint (rattle canned) when I do sand blast it.

The second frame is a whole 'nother thing with Imron and some bare SS areas (S&S couplers, head badge) and the one I have more concerns for. I'll wait for "my" painter to reply before I do anything on this frame. Andy (who just completed a new bag rack and will get it and a couple of roof rack parts powdered coated soon)
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Old 10-16-23, 08:54 AM
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Iím another guy that is familiar with dunk tanks, chemicals, sand blasting, etc. and I would say avoid the dunk tanks. The do a dandy job of stripping the paint but Iíve heard a few stories about a bit of the solvent running out of nooks during and after paint application and it destroyed the paint job. This scenario was with car stuff so not quite an apples-to-apples comparison but something to be aware of.

Foggy memory but aluminum is a no-go in the hot tanks.

Outside the box thinking but a radiator repair shop might be worth checking out. They deal with aluminum and brazing so they might have some clever ideas.
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Old 10-16-23, 11:21 AM
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My first summer working for Arizona DOT in the mid-1980s I was assigned to the asphalt testing lab and ended up spending much of each day bathing in methylene chloride cleaning test sample molds. Great stuff, but it does indeed go through most gloves and many other things. And no, for some reason my supervisor said I couldn't use it for stripping bicycle frames on my breaks or lunch. Harumph.

Just this morning, I used Goof-Off to try to remove a sun-crinkled decal. I soaked a paper towel and wrapped it around the frame, and in about 15 minutes I had removed the decal - and all the paint around the decal, leaving a decal-shaped outline of paint inside the stripped area. I wet-sanded it to even it out, and I'll just spray over the whole thing (in the same color) later this week.
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Old 10-17-23, 07:31 AM
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I've heard people mention "aircraft (chemical) stripper" that's supposed to work better than the typical box store brands. I've never tracked the stuff down and don't know if it works, but may be worth a look. My frame stripping has gone the (typical) chemical stripper and razor blade route. Fortunately, my last stripping job was on a frame that someone used regular enamel rattle can paint on. One application of paint stripper and the paint fell off. I was doing the fine cleanup and about ready for primer in about 15 minutes.
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Old 10-17-23, 07:52 AM
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Originally Posted by fishboat
I've heard people mention "aircraft (chemical) stripper" that's supposed to work better than the typical box store brands. I've never tracked the stuff down and don't know if it works....
I have, and it works. You want 'rattle-can' ease of removal with finishes like epoxy or catalyzed urethane, it's good stuff. No experience (yet) with powdercoats.

Be prepared to do a bit of finger-walking to source it, pay HAZMAT shipping if you can't wait for Ground, and use recommended PPE when you have the stuff out of the can. Methylene Chloride may be history but there's still stuff for sale that can and will do you some serious hurting if you let your guard down.

More stuff: Various retailers like AdvanceAuto, and some water based stuff that uses Hydrogen Peroxide that's not cheap.

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Old 10-17-23, 03:54 PM
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The problem with "aircraft stripper" is that it has become a term that is used as marketing puffery because it has no inherent meaning. The pathetic strippers from the big box store say "aircraft stripper" on them.

I think it came from Dupont advertising that Imron was used on airplanes because nothing would remove it.
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Old 10-17-23, 08:20 PM
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Originally Posted by unterhausen
The problem with "aircraft stripper" is that it has become a term that is used as marketing puffery because it has no inherent meaning. The pathetic strippers from the big box store say "aircraft stripper" on them.
"We guarantee this product, when used in accordance with the instructions, will remove aircraft from most surfaces."
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Old 10-17-23, 11:40 PM
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Forgot about an intriguing option: dry ice blasting. Likely terribly expensive however
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