Step 10: Painting

Painting can be quite a beast, especially on a large project like this. Instead of having it painted professionally, I opted to paint the bike myself with standard spray paint. There are already several Instructables describing how to paint a bike. Each one is a little different and brings different aspects to light. I’ll summarize most of it for you here and add what I learned from my experience.

There’s a lot of prep work that should be done before you ever pick up a spray can. First you need a well ventilated location. A good system to hang your bike is also very beneficial. You want to hang your bike in a way that will allow you to paint every surface without ever touching it. My rig consisted of a rope slung over the roof truss, tied to a 2x4 with two holes drilled in the middle on each end. I took some strong wire and fished it through the front head tube, out the bottom of the forks and bent the wire so it wouldn’t slide out. I did the same thing inside the rear seat tube and bent the wire inside the bottom bracket. Then I took the loose ends of the wire, strung them through the holes in the 2x4 and wrapped it around twice to make sure it wouldn’t slide out. 

The next task is to thoroughly clean the bike. I used some fine grit (wet/dry) sandpaper to clean off the rust that was starting to form after sandblasting. Then I sprayed the whole thing down with an air compressor to get the dust and debris off. Following that is the taping of sections not to be painted. I taped off the bottom brackets, the headsets and fork crowns with blue painter’s tape.

After all that was done, I sprayed on one coat of primer and let it dry per the directions. Then of course, the primary color. I gave it two coats, but I applied them in very thin, smooth layers. There should be no paint pooling or dripping. After the primary color was on and dry, I started prepping for the decals and accents. *Some people insist on a light sanding in-between coats with the belief that it helps the new coat adhere to the last. I don’t disagree, I just didn’t do that on this project.

To create the decals I used the pictures I had taken before the parts were sandblasted, used Photoshop to sharpen them up and print them out on paper. It took me a few tries to get the sizing just right, but once that was done I began cutting the paper images out with a utility knife. Then I laid blue painter’s tape lightly on a piece of plywood and used the cutouts to trace the designs onto the tape to create stencils. Once the image was on the tape, I cut them out with a utility knife, put the stencils in their respective places on the tandem and then firmly pressed them down. That was followed by taping off the rest of the immediate area to protect from over spray. During this step, having a steady hand and a lot of patients is crucial.

The next step was to paint the decals and I did this with the same technique as I did with the prior coats. Once the black decal paint was dry, I uncovered everything and very carefully peeled off the blue painter’s tape that was used for the stencils. As the tape came off, some of the black paint came off with it. In the end, all the decals had at least some paint peel off. I think the problem was that I applied the black paint a little too heavy and it adhered to the tape. My decals were fairly detailed and had several sharp points which seemed to pull off the most paint. I think if you apply a few extremely light coats and let them dry completely in-between applications, decals will work. However, the problem could also be due to the type of tape that I used.

Finally, it came time for the clear coat and I applied 3 solid coats and as always, I abided by the direction’s dry times. That concluded the painting portion of the project. The next step was REASSEMBLY!!!