Friday, June 6, 2014

Painting the Naked Singer 27

Updated on July 30, 2014 to include the prices of the products used
The last post covered the process of stripping all of the old paint off of a Singer 27.  Here it is naked and prepped for painting.

Just like any other painting job, most of the time is spent in preparation.  Many hours of prep but the actual painting only takes a few minutes.

Citra Strip to remove the paint, one quart is $12 and will do 2 or 3 machines.

Blue painters tape, $5, and you will have most of the roll left over

I did some looking online to see what the products and options were, then headed to my local Auto Zone store to talk to an actual human being.  And wow, did I luck out.  The manager restores vintage motorcycles, and also used to work for NASCAR.  He spent half an hour with me answering all of my questions and giving me detailed advice.

I told him that I had stripped a sewing machine down to bare cast iron and I wanted to paint it with something wild and super sparkly, from a spray can.  Real auto painters have spray guns, of course.

I'm going to share his advice with you and give you links to the products.  As always, and sadly, no one pays me to do this.  All of these links take you to Auto Zone because I am grateful for the manager's advice.  But you can buy these products in other places too.

Apparently you have to be careful about what type of paint you put on top and what underneath.  Here's the deal:  enamel does not breathe.  Lacquer does.  This means that you can put lacquer paints on top of enamel paints (the original japanned finish on the old black machines is a type of enamel), but you CANNOT put enamel on top of lacquer. Not if you want it to stay on, that is.  If lacquer is underneath enamel, it will develop air bubbles and pop the enamel off.

Actually he called the modern lacquer "fake" to distinguish it from vintage lacquer.  Gotta love talking to another vintage buff.

Start with a self-etching primer.  He told me that this eats its way into the metal to bond with it, so you don't have to sand before applying the primer.  (I had already sanded at the end of the stripping phase just to be sure I got all the gunk off).

Link to the self-etching primer.  $7 and it would probably do 2-3 machines.

It's a muddy greenish brown, matte.  but none of that matters because it is just the bottom coat.

Not really a different color than above.  Just photo-enhanced to show details.

There is a video online about painting a Singer 201, and that person uses body filler to get the surface smooth.  I skipped that step because it looked pretty good to me.  UNTIL I got the primer on, then every imperfection leaped out at me.  If I were doing this again I would definitely NOT skip the body filler.  Learning this stuff is all part of the process.  I attacked the worst of the imperfections with an aluminum oxide bit on my Dremel and then primed those spots again.

Then you sand to get the surface very smooth.  He recommended 400 grit wet sandpaper to start with, followed up with 1000 grit wet.  He spoke again about the level of perfection required for NASCAR race cars.  I skipped the 1000 grit step and that worked out just fine.  One reason it worked out OK is that the sparkly paint I used has a texture to it.  If I were doing a glossy finish I would probably go with the 1000 grit.

I asked him about using a tack cloth and he said he does not bother.  Instead he wipes down with this product, which will remove the grit and any oil on the machine that has come from your hands.

Link to Rust-Oleum Wax & Tar Remover  $7.50 and it should last me for a couple of years.

He had three colors of super sparkly paint, blue, red and silver.  (An online search shows that it is also made in green and copper colors.)  He told me that to get it the sparkliest, I should use silver first and then follow with the color ( I chose the blue).

Link to Dupli-Color Metal Specks, silver.  $12 and I did not use the whole can.  If I were doing it again I would use flat silver for the base coat rather than the sparkly silver.  This would save some money.

There are a few tricks to spray painting.  I love spray painting so I have had plenty of practice.

  • Tip #1:  Many light coats, don't even THINK about covering it completely the first time.  Read the can about re-coat times.  
  • Tip #2:  Spray across the piece but start before the piece and end after it.  To make that clearer, and based on the photo below, start spraying about where the paint can is and finish about where the right hand side of the photo is.

There is no way a photo can capture the extreme sparkliness of this machine.

Oh.  My.  Gosh.   It is flat out gorgeous.  I was sorely tempted to stop with this color.  For one thing, the decals will be printed on clear waterslide decal "paper" and the silver would show the colors the most accurately.  In fact I paused here for quite a long time while I looked for just the right images.  I had to find those first before deciding whether to leave it silver or proceed with the blue.  More about image selection and decal creation in the next post.

In the end, I went with the blue.  What pushed me over the edge was the fact that this is a learning project.  I need to know how the blue color will show through the decals.

Link to Dupli-Color Metal Specks, Ocean Blue.  $12 and although there is some left over I have no way of knowing if it would be enough to do another machine.

I asked him if it was necessary to sand between the coats of paint.  His opinion:  if you are painting a NASCAR race car, then yes.  Maybe several coats with sanding in between.  For this project, he said it would not be necessary.

Amost finished.  One more coat after this one.

That was his advice, but the sparkles in this particular type of paint fly off into the air and land on the machine (it is a truly magical effect in the bright sunlight).  I did lightly wet sand with 400 grit before the final coat, and then wiped it down with the wax & tar remover shown above.

5 sheets of 400 grit wet or dry sandpaper, $8.  I only used one sheet for this, and another one in shining up the metal parts.

What looks like dandruff in the photo are actually tiny metallic sparkles.
I think I am in love.  If you have been thinking about doing something like this, let me tell you that it is really, really easy.  Not quick, not cheap, but easy.  You do have to be comfortable with taking off and replacing the handwheel, bobbin winder and tensioner.  Everything else a ten-year-old could do.  A ten-year-old with terrible parents who let them play with toxic chemicals, that is.  And the chemicals are really not that bad.  Mr. Auto Zone Manager did stress the need for a face mask (the cheap disposable paper kind) and gloves.  I did use the gloves when I was stripping off the paint.

After painting I will apply the decals.  The final step is a clear coat and here is where you have to be careful to get a lacquer clear coat instead of an enamel clear coat.  He warned me that this goes on cloudy, but assured me that it dries clear.

Link to Rust-Oleum Acrylic Lacquer Clear Coat.  $6, I did not use the whole can but don't really know how much is left over.

I asked him if it was necessary to sand between and after the clear coats.  His opinion:  if you are painting a NASCAR race car, then yes.  Again, several coats with sanding in between.  For this project, then no.

He did recommend doing something at the end.  I don't remember exactly what he said but it sounded like TR3.  He was not familiar with that exact product (Auto Zone does not carry it) but said it sounded like what he was recommending, which is a type of polish with a VERY fine grit to it, fine as in talcum powder fine.   I never thought of TR-3 that way, but it makes sense.   So I will finish up with that as I usually do,

Link to Blue Magic TR3 Auto Resin Glaze.  $10 and one can will last for many machines.

The next post in this saga will cover the creation and application of the decals.  I explained the whole process when I was working on Shield Maiden. The decals on this machine will be in color, but the products and processes will be the same.

It will probably be about two weeks before you see the final finished product, decals and all.  Please try to restrain your excitement until then!

Two weeks!  ha ha ha ha ha.  I'm still puttering with it almost two months later.

Total expenditure so far is about $80, but I have lots of products left over for the future.  This is my major hobby so this stuff will get used in the future.


  1. This is fantastic. Thank you for all ypur hard work and for documenting the process and including links. A painted machine is somewhere in my future

  2. Did you spray paint in a box? I've only spray painted a couple of things ever. Looking great so far.

  3. Wonderful work, Cheryl. I commend you for your patience and for the clear way you write about it.

  4. I'm pinning it and am going to do it sometime!

  5. I have not painted a machine, but any old machine shines up beautiful with TR3. I have done a real decrepit lotus 66, 99, 201, 15s, 301, 401s. And it worked better than any other polish.

  6. I love, love, love, love, love, it. Effusive I am . I love it.! If you get any hate mail, refer them to me. I will set them straight.

  7. It looks beautiful. Here in UK most people, including me, seem to prefer to keep thier vintage machines as near as original as possible, but reading this I think you may be converting me :0). He (I always think of 27's as male) is looking wonderful, and you are now responsible for me definitely keeping my eye out for a really poor condition machine to plan to try this out on. I just have to find equivalent products first - though I know I can get Rustoleum products. Guess I may have to speak to some auto guys!

  8. Wonderful as always, Cheryl! I don't know if I have the patience to ever attempt this, but I definitely appreciate and enjoy reading about your efforts! Can't wait to see the finished project!

  9. Too late! The restraining myself already went out the window! This is AWESOME! Thank you!!! And, don't ya' just love it when the heavens part and throw just the right person in your path?!!!!!

  10. Wow! I see some colorful machines appearing at the next TOGA!

  11. Wow. Thank you for documenting all of your steps and products. And if you see Mr. Auto Zone again thank him from other vintage sewing machine collectors too!

    1. You ARE bringing this machine to TOGA aren't you? I may have to try this myself- how much all total would you figure you spent in supplies??

  12. This post is a gold mine. The product pics and exact names are so helpful! Thank you!

  13. Double check, but I am almost positive that lacquer cannot go over enamel but enamel can go over lacquer. As a precaution though I just pair lacquer with lacquer or enamel with enamel.

  14. This comment has been removed by the author.

  15. How did you get the Singer badge off and back on? I'm afraid to remove the one on my awful-looking Featherweight, but not sure about how to cover it properly.

    1. I tapped out the pins holding it from the inside. As far as getting it back, well, that didn't work as well. One pin went back in all the way but the other one didn't. It seems to bump into something inside. I think cutting a bit shorter and using glue might do it but I have never gotten around to it.

  16. I have just downloaded iStripper, and now I can watch the hottest virtual strippers on my desktop.


Say hello or leave a comment here. I would love to hear from you! If your own settings are set to receive a comment back, I will write to you. If you don't hear back from me, you will know that your own settings are set to "no reply".

I have to block anonymous posts to prevent spam. I am really sorry if this excludes you.