Monday, November 2, 2015

Paint Along. 1. Cleaning Supplies, And Tips For Choosing Paint

Wow, I have been overwhelmed by the response to the idea of a paint along.  I was really just looking for a couple of playmates to keep me on track and motivated while I am stuck at home with the slowly healing replacement knee.  I'm thrilled at the number of people who are interested in joining in.

To participate, you can leave comments on each blog post.  I would really like to show pictures of your work as we go along, which you can send to me by email.  If you send them, I will assume that I have your permission to post them.  I will identify them by your first name, nickname, or online identity (you can tell me what you prefer).  I never use last names.

I'll be painting this one, even though it looks pretty good as is.

Before we begin to assemble the first supplies, please read this DISCLAIMER!
I am not an expert at anything.  Having a blog only means that I have a know how to post photos and type.

Usually I am making things up as I go along.  In this case, however, I have already painted a grand total of THREE sewing machines.  Which does not make me an expert.  And I cannot guarantee what has worked for me will work for you.

So don't blame me if it all goes horribly, tragically wrong.  Just saying.

Therefore the best machine to choose for this project is one where your attitude towards it is "What have I got to lose?"  Not a valuable Featherweight, or a precious family heirloom.  Not for your first attempt anyway.  I did paint a precious family heirloom for my third machine though, and by then was confident enough that I would get a good result.

Update:  Eleanor will be painting a Husqvarna.  She reports "The machine has a type of crinkle finish and there is dirt embedded that no amount of scrubbing could remove."

photo by Eleanor

A pitted, rusty, chipped surface  with the clear coat flaking off is fine--the textured hammered finish SHOULD hide it all (and has worked for me in the past but see disclaimer above).  The machine ought to be in good operating condition though, because once you paint and decorate it you WILL be in love with it and want to use it.

What I would NOT recommend is a post WWII Japanese machine with a tough-as-nails clear coat.  I have no idea if the paint we will be using would adhere to that.  But maybe it would.  Proceed at your own risk.

Still interested?  OK, let's get some supplies together.

Machine, drip pan and rag
Drip Pan
This is a messy project and I like to have something underneath to catch the drips, especially important during the cleaning phase.  I use an aluminum food service pan ($1 at the thrift store).  Myra uses a rubber tray meant to hold muddy shoes.  I have also recycled a broken plastic laundry basket by cutting off the top part (the bottom was not broken).  Whatever you use needs to be big enough to hold you sewing machine, and have sides high enough to hold drippy yucky smelly goo, but not so high that you can't reach the sides of the machine.  Let us know what you come up with in the comments section, or send me a photo by email.

Update:  This kitty litter pan is just the right size.

photo by Eleanor

Rags.  Lots and lots of rags.

Used toothbrush.

Wire brush OR wire scrubby.

Tuff Stuff
This is my favorite product for cleaning the surface of the machine but it WILL damage decals.  Since we will be painting the machine, that won't matter.  In the next post we will start cleaning and talk about how the Tuff Stuff works.  Feel free to use any product that will remove sticky oily dirt.

Alcohol, denatured from the hardware store OR rubbing from the drug store.

Rubber gloves to protect your hands from the cleaning products and the gunk they will remove.

Steel wool, to scrub off the gunk.

Pipe cleaners, the bristly kind for cleaning pipes NOT the kind for making crafts.  If you can't find them don't worry about it.


Sandpaper.  The goal will be to lightly sand the entire surface to remove anything loose or flaking, and to create a slightly rough surface so that the paint will adhere better.  Any medium to fine grit should work.

Rustoleum wax and tar remover.  This will be the very last step of the cleaning process, and should remove the remnants from the cleaning and sanding processes.

In next week's post we will start cleaning and I will go into detail about the products and how to use them.  My guess is that 99% of you could proceed just fine without this advice, but the goal here is to create a comprehensive tutorial that will answer just about any question that could be asked.

Here's one important tip for those of you who will jump ahead and start cleaning now:  OIL THE MACHINE AFTER EACH AND EVERY CLEANING SESSION.  This might seem silly because we are trying to get rid of all the excess oil, right?  But the cleaning products might run down into places where you don't want them, and the best protection for your machine is to keep it oiled and moving freely.

Paint Color Advice

It will be a while before we start painting, but I know some of you are already choosing colors.  Here's what you need to know right now.

First you need to think about the decals.  I will provide guidance for print-your own decals, which will be on a transparent film.  Therefore the paint you choose should be a lighter color than the design on the decals.  I have not tried colored decals yet (I do plan on it for this project), so this advice falls into the "I am making this up as I go along" category.  If you have used colored decals please report your results in the comments section AND send photos to my email address.

I will recommend that you use black decals against the pretty paint color that you choose.  Reasons for this will be covered later.  If you go with colored decals, however, it will be even more important that the body color is fairly light.  I think.

There is no way to create gold or silver decals on a home printer.  There are some beautiful ones available on eBay, and I have used them with good results.  There are also colored decals available but I have not tried them yet.  Gold or silver will show up beautifully against a darker color of paint.

I am aiming for one blog post per week, which will be too slow for some people and too fast for others.  Kind of like school was.

The more photos, the merrier.  Send in pictures of the machines you plan to paint, the cleaning products and tools that you prefer, or even your giant pile of cleaning rags.  Can't wait to see them!


  1. Is that a Singer 99 you are going to repaint? How cute! I'm wondering what color you will repaint it (red, deep purple, bright yellow, teal......)

  2. I have a roasting pan I was going to throw out. Would that be ok for a drip tray?

  3. I would love to join in but have a daughter in the hospital and I just don't know if I make the time schedule etc., I should know in a few days. When will you be starting?

  4. On the decals..... I had thought I would like to possibly repaint the singer 27 I have and redo the decals. I have done some research and found that you can do gold/silver/bronze ones like I would need but to get them to show up the background on the decals themselves needs to be black or they need to be printed onto a black background or they will not show up.... anyway just wondered if you think I could possibly do that. My original thought process has been to make her pretty like when she was 'born'. I have not thought much about an alternative color..... so I will let it needle around in my brain for a while lol

  5. I've gathered my cleaning products, just need a tray. I'm going to experiment with paint colour as I could only get the dark green Hammerite. So I'll be lightening with some white to get something closer to the Husqvarna green.

  6. Thank you for the recommendation for Rustoleum Wax and Tar Remover, I have not seen this before. Will put it on the list for the toolkit, even though repainting may not happen for a while.

  7. I saw a beautiful machine that was painted white with decoupage roses but I'm not sure if I'm emotionally ready to strip the paint off my 128k, even if the japanning has come off in some places. I'll enjoy reading the posts though.

  8. I'm so torn -- I want to use a glossy paint but I know a hammered finish would be better at covering small flaws, and I'd rather use a paint-on paint instead of spray. Will the waterslide decals (I bought some) go over a hammered finish? I think you used them on Shield Maiden. I could strip the paint off my machine but this is my first attempt at repainting. What do you suggest?

    1. I just personally like painting with a brush more than I like painting with a spray can. the hammered rustoleum is glossy (not matte or dull) but textured. I had no problems with the waterslide decals on either Shield Maiden or the Singer VS2 that I restored. this paint along will not be stripping any paint off. we will be following the simplest, easiest way that I know of. and the next post will be soon.


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