Saturday, November 2, 2013

Domestic Refurb: Paint and Decals

This is the final installment of the saga of the Domestic High Arm Fiddlebase.  Well, except for a future installment about DIY water slide decals.

only the faintest trace of a decal remained and so much paint was worn away that there were large patches of bare metal

This was the machine of my dreams, and I searched for it for a long time.  It had my essential requirements:  it was dirt cheap, it had all the significant parts, everything turned.  AND it was in horrible cosmetic condition.  Yep, that's what I was looking for.

I've been yearning to paint a sewing machine.  This was the perfect machine to experiment on.

Here's how to paint a sewing machine:
(this is folklore, by the way, meaning I have read about it online, but have not done it myself)
  • Remove ALL the original paint, chemically and/or by sanding
  • Patch/fill rough areas with some kind of auto body stuff
  • Sand it down
  • Prime it. Maybe another sanding here too
  • Spray with automotive paint
    • Be obsessive about plugging holes and taping
  • Apply decals
  • Apply clear coat
I ignored most of that and followed the beat of a different drummer.

On my first venture into painting a machine I didn't want to do that much work and I doubted that I had the skill to do it.  After all, with a glassy automotive finish, EVERY tiny flaw in the smoothness of the surface would be glaringly obvious.

Also glaringly obvious and right in front of me was the answer:  the hammered Rustoleum that I fell totally in love with when I painted the irons for this machine.  The hammered finish has a three-dimensional texture to it.  At the same time it is very glossy and slippery, so the texture should not interfere with fabric sliding across it.

I also wanted to try making my own water slide decals.  I'll say more about making the decals in a future post.  This one is going to be long enough!  So the decals will just magically appear in the sequence of events below.

The Third Experiment:  Painting a Sewing Machine Head

I cleaned the machine thoroughly inside and out.  I knocked off anything that looked like it might chip.  There were plenty of chips already.  I sanded, but only to create a rough surface for the paint to adhere to, not to smooth out all those chips.  The chips remained.  Then I cleaned it again with denatured alcohol to get any dust off.

Then I just started slapping the paint on.  Yeah, really.  I didn't plug all the little holes, I just painted carefully around them, first with a small aritsts type brush.

You can see in the photo the small cup of Rustoleum that I used, thus keeping the lid on the can and keeping it from gunking up.

Here a warning:  You MUST buy xylol (a thinner) when you use Rustoleum.  Even if you plan to just throw the brush away afterwards, you need to keep dipping the brush in a bit of xylol from time to time or the Rustoleum will begin to harden in your brush.  Sorry to mention this again, but the memory of my first and xylol-free Rustoleum experience still burns a bit.

I began getting excited with the first coat of paint, but it was still pretty funky.

It would have been WAY easier if I could have figured out how to get the handwheel off, but no one online had a solution.  Thanks to all who offered suggestions, including Jim who pursued this with me over the course of several emails. 

Since the handwheel didn't come off, the small paintbrush and some attention to detail were needed.  It wasn't as bad as I feared.

The second coat could be put on within a few hours (according to the can) and it looked even better.  But still obviously not finished.

At this point I can really tell how it is going to look.

The three-dimensional texture of the hammered finish completely hides all those chips in the original paint.  You absolutely cannot see them.

A wait of seven days for those first two layers of paint to cure. 

Third coat of paint, decals, three sprays of clear coat.  And here we are.

You see the resemblance, don't you, to Lagertha Lothbrok?  Strong and beautiful.  I was thinking of her, but my interest in Vikings goes back decades before the History Channel series.  Shoot, I am old enough to remember when Helge and Anne Stine Ingstad changed the history of the world.  And that's enough Viking geeking for a sewing machine blog.

So, why Vikings?  Were they known for the quality of the sewing machines they produced?  A thousand years ago?  Not so much.

So, why Vikings?  For black line art, the Vikings (and the Celts) can't be beat.  The sources of these images are here.

The back of the arm reveals what this machine actually is.  After all, a google search of "Shield Maiden" is not going to help a future owner find out about this machine.  As if I would ever release it back into the wild.

Not to mention all the explicit information on the pillar.

The stitch length knob is at the BACK of the pillar

DragonPoodle Studio, btw, started as a silly name for my basement sewing room, formerly the family room.  It keeps me humble because now I am stuck with the name.

This gives you the best look at the chip-hiding texture of the paint

Is she drop-dead gorgeous?  I know what I think, what do you think?

Will Rustoleum-over-old-japanned-finish hold up over time?  I have absolutely no idea.  But it was really, really easy.  Just don't forget that xylol. 

Would I do this again?  HECK, yes!  Next time, color.  Lovely, luscious color.  And probably gorgeous full blown roses.  I have a machine in mind for it, too.

Oh, and I still have not sewn with it.  All I have to do is install the treadle belt, and wind the bobbin.  It will happen eventually.


  1. Fantastic Job! I love the hammered finish too! The decals are amazing!

  2. Beautiful result! I was interested to learn there is an alternative to automotive style painting for our forlorn machines - yay for experimenting! The decals are a work of art - can't wait to hear about that process!

  3. It looks superb...
    looking forward to how you applied the decals.

  4. Wow!! Thank you for sharing this process. Very much looking forward to seeing how you did the decals. Also, love your studio name. It's humorous but intriguing.

  5. I have a machine that I want to paint. I read those same directions and decided, no flipping way was I going to do all that work. Now, I can try to beautify some of my sad, sorry machines. I have a Singer Fiddle Bed VS that needs a new coat. Next summer. It's winter here in the Northeast. You did a fabulous job. Yup, I think you got some talent, there.

  6. I am so impressed! It's a wonderful rescue! And I love the decals, so I'm looking forward to hearing about them. I'm eager to hear/read how well it works! Congratulations!

  7. Wow!! It is stunning!! Thank you for sharing the process. Might have to try painting some day.

  8. Great short cuts! I LOVE the hammered Rustoleum and have used it on quite a few things, from old filing cabinets to furniture handles.

  9. Wow! What a wonderful job you did on the paint and the decals. Maybe I'll try that on my first Singer, since it's decals (whats left of them) are silvered, and most of the paint is gone, too. What a great color you chose. I also want to paint some spoked hand wheels and hand cranks for a few machines, so that they will match. I bet this would work for them, too.

  10. I love the look of the spoked handwheel! You gave the machine a breath of freshness. Beautifully done!

  11. Wonderful job.
    I am waiting for my formerly beige 301 to come back from an auto painter right now. Mine is black with crystal pearl sparkle that only shows up in the sunlight. I guess I will have to be sewing outdoors from now on...snicker.
    I used a 301 because I have 4 and felt I could sacrifice one. My only concern is getting it back together so it works!
    Thanks again for posting your learning experiences.

  12. Very nice. Interested in how you made the beautiful decals. Your post also prods me to blog more. Very best to you!

  13. I'm quite impressed by the transformation. I peek in from time to time, and enjoy your blog. Thank you for the inspiration.

  14. what attracted me the most is decals, it is a great way to learn how to paint in a different way. i soon will be applying this technique on some old machines i have got at home, i really appreciated what you have done with this old piece of machine.

  15. Enquiring minds wanna know about decals please...

  16. Wondering if you ever figured out how to remove the hand wheel. This is a concern to me since i just found one. On my Davis VF, it's righty loosey, lefty tighty.

  17. What kind of clear coat did you use on Shield Maiden?

    1. It was automotive clear coat, from an auto parts store

  18. Im interested to know your exact paint application method. Was it all with a brush? Did you use brushstrokes or dab the paint on? You sure have no brush marks. Beautiful job!

    1. Yes, entirely with a brush. The textured nature of the hammered paint means that brush strokes do not appear.

  19. Love to see machines repainted as their owners desire, rather than trying to maintain decades old paint/decals for 'originality's' sake. Lovely job. Looking forward to new blog entries at dragonpoodle.


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