Every once in a while it is a good idea for me to remind my readers of what an expert I am NOT.
This is just a hobby and I do things just for fun. Curiosity is fun, experimenting is fun. Blogging is fun. None of this makes me an expert.
There was a thread on one of the boards a while back about do it yourself decals. I got curious, experimented, and Shield Maiden was born. Or rather, had a facelift.
But I was still curious. I want to paint sewing machines in other pretty colors. I want to make beautiful colored decals. And I want to experiment with black decals on black machines, with a bit of gold paint peaking out from underneath to mimic gold decals.
This particular project was originally intended to be black-on-black with gold underneath. It began with a 1900 Singer 27 Sphinx, 25% of the decals silvered and another 25% completely gone. I was going to just lightly sand off the old decals, touch up the paint chips and then proceed to the decals. But the whole project took an unexpected turn.
First I spent hours cleaning the dratted thing.
This is a horribly messy smelly job. After 114 years the layers of dirt and grime are always impressive. If you have nicotine sensitivity this is not a job for you. Here in the North Carolina tobacco was the backbone of the economy for most of those years, and people took pride in it and considered it their civic responsibility to smoke cigarettes. Think I am kidding? Think again.
Are all antique machines and treadles in Wisconsin coated in nicotine? I really would like to know.
THE CLEANING METHOD DESCRIBED HERE DESTROY DECALS. But since I was trying to take it down to the black paint anyway, that didn't matter.
I used Tuff Stuff, a spray on foam cleaner. It sprays on as white foam, begins to melt and drip, and turns brown as it picks up dirt.
I scrub with an old toothbrush and then wipe a layer of dirt away. Repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat. And then probably repeat some more.
I do this in a metal pan and all the melted Tuff Stuff collects in the bottom and reeks of nicotine. Lovely job, not for the fainthearted.
I usually only use Tuff Stuff on the underneath side of sewing machines, and take care to keep it off the decals. It does a really great job of removing many decades of dirt and sewing machine oil.
So, I got it all clean and then started sanding off the old decals.
Whoops. Here's where again I point out to you my lack of expertise.
I had recently sanded decals off of a black Singer 301 and replaced them. That worked very well. This didn't. This machine was much older and had that thick japanned painted surface which was much softer. I got down to bits of bare metal peeking though in just a few strokes.
Total change of plan. I WAS going to just sand off the decals, touch up the paint chips with a black Sharpie paint marker and take it from there. Not going to work. The new plan: take all of the paint off.
This means that all of the hours I spent cleaning and toothbrush-scrubbing with the Tuff Stuff were wasted, btw. But I also spent them catching up on Dr. Who, so not totally wasted. That River Song---what a woman!
So I got out the Citra Solv. My friend and fellow treadle addict Myra recommended it to me for furniture, and I used it recently to take the old finish off of a couple of cabinets. It smells nice and makes some non-toxic claims, at the same time recommending that you wear chemical resistant gloves to apply it. I used the thin medical latex gloves and had to keep replacing them as the fingers blew out.
You paint it on and then wait while it works--anywhere from an hour to 24 hours. I let it sit overnight on the first pass.
I used a vintage trowel from my grandfather's tool box to scrape of the paint. Two flat sides and a point, all useful. Gooped it up again, scraped some more, then used a wire brush shaped kind of like a toothbrush. More Dr. Who. Now I know who River Song really is. Wowzer.
And if the Tuff Stuff treatment was messy, removing the paint was horrendously messy. In a kind of fun way. There is also the added thrill of doing something that you just KNOW that some people will disapprove of. There are flame wars going on over on Facebook over just this kind of thing. I keep out of them.
After the final clean up to get all of the gunk off, I also sanded the surface with the 220 grit dry sandpaper. It felt smooth to the touch after that.
Last step before the painting process is to tape over all of the openings.
The tiny holes are filled in with the stems from a wooden q-tip, wrapped with painters tape until they are the right size. BTW, they kept falling out and I had to be careful to replace them before each spray of paint. You don't want paint in the screw threads!
The holes for the cabinet posts were larger, and some folded up pipe cleaners worked to block those openings.
Having gone to all this time and trouble to get the machine naked, there was NO WAY I was going to paint this puppy boring black. Time to experiment with automotive spray paint in a jazzy color. Out the window goes the original plan to recreate gold decals on a black machine. I'll do that later though. This year appears to be the year of painting experiments.
All of these experiments with stripping, painting, decals, clear coat have an ultimate goal. I've got a Featherweight that is crying out for new paint job and I don't want to spend $500 and send it off to be painted. I think $500 is a TOTALLY reasonable charge, btw, when you consider the labor involved. For me the fun is in the experimenting.