Sunday, May 3, 2009

Building A Bike - Part 4 - Stripping

I finally got a break in the weather, the temperatures touched into the low 70’s and the humidity was next to nothing – the conditions were ideal for painting. Hey what do you know – I happen to have a frame for painting.
As with any paint project, the most important part is the prep work. I fancy myself one heck of a painter, but I don’t prep worth a poop. When it comes to painting – I subscribe to the “damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead” philosophy. This has been a bone of contention between my wife and me on countless home painting projects. This painting project though, is a horse of an entirely different color. This is my bike – my baby - my love – a half ass paint job simply will not do.

While waiting for the weather to break, I had been experimenting with various paint removal methods.

Hand Sanding – First I tried to sand the paint off by hand. While this method was effective at removing the paint – I quickly realized that it would be quite labor intensive and take a long time. While working on bikes is a labor of love, the prospect of manually sanding every square inch and every nook and cranny of the frame was daunting to say the least.

Heat Gun – a heat gun in my hand is as natural as a six gun in the hand of Doc Holiday. I have used a heat gun to effectively strip miles of paint. I have the technique down to a science. It was with great anticipation that I fired up the heat gun and directed it at the Bianchi frame. My enthusiasm quickly waned as I directed the heat on the paint and nothing happened. I expected the paint to bubble up and release its grasp but instead it seemed oblivious to the mounting heat and hung on tenaciously. The heat did manage to weaken it and using the paint scraper I was able to remove the top coat. After 5 minutes and managing to clean a spot ½” X 2”, I set the paint gun aside and pursued an alternate method.

Sand Blast – I had no doubt that sand blasting would have knocked the snot out of the paint and left me with a perfectly prepared surface. Unfortunately, I neither own nor have ready access to a sandblast machine.

Chemical Paint Stripper – Running out of options, I begrudgingly reached for a spray can of aircraft paint stripper. I had no doubt that the stripper would do the job, but I left this as a last ditch effort because I didn’t want to hassle with this messy and extremely toxic substance. I hung the frame outside, donned rubber gloves and standing upwind began to coat the frame. (Special Note: The warning on the paint stripper spray can urged the user strongly to avoid contact with the skin. It went on to say that if any got on the skin, one was to immediately wash with soap and water. The latter part of those instructions are largely unnecessary. Once while spraying, a gust of wind whipped up and directed a few small drops of mist on my face. When that happens – trust me – it burns so bad that you are going to run for the nearest water supply no matter what. My word of advice: WEAR LONG PANTS, LONG SLEEVE SHIRT, RUBBER GLOVES AND FACE SHIELD – REALLY – NO JOKE!)

In a matter of seconds after applying the stripper, I was rewarded by the sight of the paint bubbling off and almost falling from the frame. In 15 minutes or so the top coat of paint was effectively scraped away. I sprayed a fresh coat of stripper to the primer and 15 minutes later I was staring at the bare frame.
I used acetone and wiped away any residual stripper that remained. I then took the frame over to my workbench and using a buffing wheel, removed any small spots of paint that remained. Handling it only with rubber gloves, I wiped her down with acetone one more time and hung her up ready for paint. Behold – my light roadster frame in all her naked glory. Guys - try to contain yourselves!

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