How To Schwinn Lightweight Show Quality Paint Job Start To Finish

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I live for the CABE
I thought this might be a fun project and informative for those that are interested in how it's done or for those that are thinking about doing it. From what I gather, guys are spending over a $1000 to get their Paramounts painted. I couldn't tell you for sure how much it costs because when I ask for the total they are apparently embarrassed to give me an exact number. A $1000 dollars is enough to buy the equipment and the paint supplies to do it yourself. After that you can do as many bikes as you want for the cost of material.

There are as many variations on painting as there are guys doing paint jobs. Here is mine.

This will be a running project weather permitting until completion. I have an unheated homemade paint booth and will not shoot primers in temperatures lower than the mid 50's or top coats lower than the upper 60's. If temps are expected to drop significantly, I'll take the frames once they start to cure inside the house for the night or however long is desired.

With the exception of the red oxide primer, I will be doing this project with base coat clear coat modern materials. The Sierra frame will have the decals applied the Schwinn way on the surface of the paint. The Superior will get a clear coat over the decals.

#1 The first thing is to locate where the decals go before you strip the paint. The orange Sports Tourer has been converted to Schwinn Superior specifications so this does not apply. Just a couple photos for examples.

#2 Chemically strip the paint followed by an immediate going over with red scuff pads drenched in lacquer thinner. Garden hose the mess off the frames and blow dry. Touch ups with the stripper and lacquer thinner are usually needed followed by another water bath.

#3 Sandblasting is only used to clean areas that are very difficult to get at and for rust pitting that has occurred from exposed metal caused by scratched and missing paint. I do not want to create a texture on the metal so use a fine white silica sand blast media at pressures not exceeding 70psi. I use a pressure blaster because I have it. An inexpensive siphon blaster would be excellent for this also. Of course you can spend the extra time doing this by hand to avoid the cash outlays.

#4 After the blasting I thoroughly sand the tubes by hand with 80 grit. The idea is to remove as much of the texture you created with the blasting and further clean the frame. You do not have to worry about texture in the tight areas like the BB area because it will not be a problem. Just sand what is easy to get at, mainly the tubes. A heavy texture in the metal will come back to haunt you in the final finish of pearl and metallic paint jobs. This is not a problem for solid colors.

#5 Priming. Wipe down with lacquer thinner, let dry, then wipe down with wax and grease remover and dry with a rag. I put a fan on it and blow it off to make sure it is absolutely dry and dust free. The first primer coat is mainly used to keep the frame from rusting and provide a good base for the coming top coats. It also highlights any dings or gouges that need to be fixed. Let this dry a couple weeks before you start sanding on it. If it's warm and sunny, let it sit outside and bake in the sun and you can shave a week off of that time. If your sandpaper gets clumps of paint on it when you sand, you have not waited long enough. There are other catalyzed primers that cure faster but this is cheap and it works well. If you are in a hurry I recommend PPG K36. I use that on car projects where only the best will do. For this Sherwinn Williams Kem Kromic thinned approximately 4 to 1 with xylene.


#6 Sealing. The sealing stage is optional in this case because there are no compatibility problems with fully cured Kem Kromic primer and the base coat. I do it because I usually sand off too much primer smoothing out the frame and looking for imperfections in the metal. Bare metal should be primed so instead of applying more KK primer that will add more texture, I use a sealer that by design goes on very smooth. It also is tinted so it closely matches the base coat. Medium gray is a good color for any light to medium dark top coats, especially silver which is the intended first base coat on this job. Two coats of silver base coat will easily hide it.

#7 preparing to seal. The KK primer cannot be wet sanded so dry sand the tubing to remove texture with 400. You only need to do the easy to get at lengths of tubing on the frame. Hard to get at areas like the BB use a red scuff pad. If you find dings or burrs, now is the time to fix them. File off burrs and fill dings or gouges with bondo. Make sure any filler work is cross hatch sanded smooth with 400 on a block. You can see the one I use. It was a full size rubber block I sawed to make a narrow block. This works great on bike tubing. You will also need this for final wet sanding of clear coat.

#8 Sealer. I use PPG K36 reduced as a sealer. It is also great for use as a primer surfacer . This is not as thick as polyester spray filler so its use lays somewhere in the middle of regular primer and spray poly. The good thing about it is that it can be wet sanded and it provides excellent adhesion on almost any cured surface. This job will receive two coats of sealer for more sanding in a couple days. This is what separates show quality VS very good. It could all be done at once sealer to top coats but I do not want texture in the pearl coats.

Spray gun. You do not need to spend a lot of money. This is what I use sealer to top coats for bikes. You can prime with it also, I have another gun for that but you don't need it. Line pressure 60 psi. Pressure at gun 25-30 psi trigger pulled. Keep it clean and lubed and you can get a lot of paint jobs out of this $37 spray gun.

#9 Wet sand tubes and other easy to get at areas with 600 to remove texture. Use a block on the flat parts of the tube and hand in tighter areas. Avoid sanding edges. Avoid sanding through to red primer. A little exposed primer is OK. Rinse frames thoroughly to get rid of powdery residue from wet sanding. Towel and blow gun dry to remove all moisture from crevices. Use a gray scuff pad dry to remove any shiny areas. I only scuff around the BB, no wet danding. Wipe down with wax and grease remover and dry with a clean cloth. Tack rag and it is now ready for paint. Re-mask any compromised masked areas you do not want painted. You do not want paint build up in areas like the BB, headtube, kickstand tube and cable stops. These areas should have the first coat of red oxide primer only. If you get paint in these areas it will need to be sanded out for components to fit and not chip the paint installing or removing them later.
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I live for the CABE
#10 Three coats of silver base. Allowed 40 minutes dry time for tape off, followed by 4 coats Flamingo. Wait 30 minutes and applied first mist clear coat to entire frame surfaces. This stuff sets up fast so as long as you give it 5 minutes between coats you are good to apply more clear. This will have clear over the decals so the idea is to put enough clear where the decals go to wet sand without going into the base coat. 3 medium to heavy coats The rest of the frames only needs a couple of medium coats of clear, enough to scuff. The entire frames will be clear coated again when the decals are installed and allowed to cure themselves. About two weeks, at least one for the clear and then a few additional days for the decals. The longer the better. BTW, that trouble light you see is to look for missed or thin spots in the base coat and clear coat. You have to spray these frames from every angle imaginable to get things evenly coated. Use tack rag in between silver base a top base coat and before clearing. Sometimes I use it between every coat other than the clear. Dust equals texture and you are going to have lots of it from the spray mist.

#11 Preparing for the clear coat decal sandwich. Tape off areas a few inches larger than the actual decal so you know where to concentrate your efforts. Wet block sand in a cross hatch pattern these tube areas with 2000 until all the shiny specs are gone from the clear coat. Extreme care is called for by constantly wiping dry areas after you sand to avoid sand through's. You will avoid over working areas that are already sanded flat. Touch up can be done with sanding with your fingers but always be conscious of the cross hatch sanding technique. All clear coats need to be scuffed after setting up to apply more clear. You don't want to sand decals and their edges obviously so the decal will be installed directly on the sanded surface. 2000 works good for this. Any tiny pits in the clear coat will probably end up as a air pocket so make sure you get them all out. The time to decal with the clear I'm using is 24 hours. A few days is better. I should also add that it is important that you get the appropriate hardener for the temperature you are working in. I make it a habit to get the next higher temp hardeners and reducers for my projects. For example if you are working in the 60's get your hardeners and reducers for the 70's. The reason for this is your finish will flow on smoother because of the increased dry time. Too hot a reducer will get you runs in the paint. The idea is to have the clear go on as flat as possible to make your cut and buff way easier. Areas like the BB NEED to go on wet as possible because you want to avoid wet sanding completely. You just can't get in there without sanding through the clear.

Got the SIERRA final clear coated but had decal problems with the SUPERIOR, they're mostly wrong decals. Too big or wrong design. Waiting on Velocals to straighten this out. I'll give more details on final clear coating with the Superior. In the meantime, check out the Sierra. Quite happy with the way the seat tube decal worked out. This is done with paint and homemade decals. I do have Office Max laser print these from my copies. A slight change in plans, I ended up clearing over all the decals on the Sierra. Had to do the seat tube anyway. The Chromax snap dry is great for this, love the stuff!

#11 Ready to wrap this up. Final wet sanding and hand buff. I'll back up a bit on the final clear coat. The idea is to apply as wet as possible final clear coat. Always start with a couple very light coats and then really lay it on. You want to get places where wet sanding is difficult or impossible like around the BB. Areas like this are hard to run the paint so this is fairly easy to do. You want to shoot the rear drop outs very wet, where the seat tube meets the seat stays, you know places that are hard to get to with sandpaper. You want to lay down glass! I did get one run near the seat tube seat stay area so we'll fix that. The rest of the tubing should be laid down wet as well but obviously it's easy to get at wet sanding so a little dry over spray on these is not a problem.

Wet sanding. You should only need to concentrate on the main tubing if you did the tight spots right. Use the block when you can and your fingers on areas where the tubes meet the head tube for example. Stay away from edges or and protusions on the frame. Keep a good eye on things by wiping dry after some wet sanding so as not to over work, ie, sand through the clear. Sand a little wipe dry, sand a little wipe dry. The idea is to eliminate the orange peel that will appear as shiny pits when sanded and wiped dry. I give the decals a light once over and nothing more. No reason to get these flat smooth perfect. To risky to over work them. They buff out great doing it this way.
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I live for the CABE
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Try to locate areas like these marks before you prime, a couple extra coats of primer will usually take care of minor flaws like this during the block sanding
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Re-chromed fork. Masked off a line and sanded with 400 hundred, wax and grease remover and re-masked with the Frog tape in areas of paint edges.
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Clean with wax and grease and dry with another painting rag. Blow off, better to let sit a while to make sure all the WG remover evaporated before sealing. The fan helps a lot. Notice the test spray poster board in the back. Always test the pattern before you spray the frame. These received two coats of sealer.
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I live for the CABE
The start to finish will be a two part pearl, this is a solid color job I happen to have going for comparison. I sprayed this last fall and just did the cut and buff on it. On solid colors like this I do it quite a bit different. Sealer to clear coat all at once. Sealer one coat, wait 30 minutes. Base coat, 4 coats of blue to fully hide the gray sealer, apply as many as needed to hide sealer, wait 30 minutes. Finally 4 coats of clear for decals on top of clear coat.
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Ready to be cleaned with wax and grease remover and painted
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That fly swatter is crucial. Ready for base coats followed by clear
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Silver base applied. Optional. If you need silver stripes or any other color two tones. Allow at least 30 minutes dry time to tape off.
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Get the hard to spray places first
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Base coats done, 3 coats of clear where decals go and 2 coats on the rest of it. Clear coat decal sandwich.
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You got to get these areas absolutely flat with no pitting for decals
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Done.The other areas of the frames will be scuffed with grey scuff pads up to the decals prior to final clear coat. I assume you know how to install decals. I'll be using three kinds for this job. 1 mil vinyl self adhesive Velocals decals, home made laser jet water slides and Bicyclebones reproduction water slides.
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Ready for clear after a thorough scuff up to the decals. Don't scuff the decals or their edges. The previous wet sand with 2000 took care of that. Get all the shiny spots and be very careful on the edges. You only need to get the shine off. The Superior is on hold, some of these decals are already gone.
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I final clear coated the Sierra only.
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I live for the CABE
cut and buff supplies. My eyes aren't what they used to be so these 2.5X reading glasses help a lot. I could shave a fly with them. You could get by with only part A buffing compound but since I have both I use both. Part B is a swirl remover and it does bring things to a higher gloss but quite frankly I'm not seeing much difference on bike frame tubes. A car hood is a different story. Always remember, it's the wet sanding that is supposed to get out the scratches, not the buffing compound. I use a different buffing pad for hand buffing, one for A, one for B. Wash these pads and scrub them down with a plastic bristle brush hot water and soap after every use and they will last a long time.
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Got a run in the paint. I made this small steel sanding block to fix these. Wrap a piece of 1000 around it and carefully knock down the high spots on the run touching nothing else. Get it flat or close to it. It's common practice to put a few drops of dish soap in the water you use for wet sanding. It acts as a lubricant.
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Done. You can see these areas look nice shiny and smooth with no prep work before buffing, that's the goal with the final clear coat.
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Good enough sanding on top of the decals. No need to go any further.
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after buffing
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Very important to sand these out prior to installing bearing cups and seat post. If you don't you run the risk of chipping the paint either removing or installing the cups or seat tube. I did mask all this off before painting but there is always a vulnerable paint edge that builds up that needs to be sanded down. I use this rod or my fingers to create a smooth contact area for the mating parts. Exposed ribbon of bare steel just inside the tubing edges.
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Finished Sierra frame, came out great. Should have the Superior frame finished next week. The decal problems are hopefully resolved.
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Finished at last! I give the paint at least 30 days to cure before mounting components but the longer the better. If I could magically give them 6 months to cure I would do it. Like getting things done and behind me. On to the next project!
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more repaints
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Dale Alan

I live for the CABE
Excellent,thanks for sharing the info . I have not moved past spray cans due,and I only paint as a last resort .I have the equipment but have never used the gun . One thing you pointed out will sure help me. I have been sandblasting at way too hi of a pressure . Thanks for taking the time,I will be watching this closely.

Intense One

I live for the CABE
Interesting series building here.....watching with open eyes. Always looking for ways on how to make things easier or just how to do things.....that's why I love my CABE family!


I live for the CABE
How to repair your show quality paint job.

I had a light spot where the silver base was showing through too much on the backside of the head tube. It bugged the hell out of me.

When painting with pearls, ie the Schwinn translucent colors, thin spots can go unnoticed because of shadowing and the sheer amount of coats required for color matches, at least 4 - 6 coats . I have had to do several spot repairs like this on various frames so even I with experience repeatedly make this mistake. These techniques can also be used for damage as well, you have to replace all the layers of paint to do it right and you have to do entire frame tubes, spot repairs would produce halos of darker shades. Thin spots like this repair are easily blended in. This bike is painted with Pete's HP Schwinn sky blue. I have done several frames with his paint and I can tell you it takes A LOT of coats to achieve a color match to Schwinn. This is the nature of pearls in modern materials. BTW, very happy with Pete's paint. If you can't get a color match it's on you, although I believe he should up the recommended amount of final base coat to do the job. The gun I use has a .8 nozzle set which is about a small as they come for touch up guns. Smaller than that and you're getting in air brush territory.Most touch up guns have 1.0 nozzle sets which makes them big paint wasters on bicycle frames. I love this cheap little gun, miserly with the paint, applies a nice even finish and it's going on its 15th frame set and still going strong.

Hard to see but there is a noticeable light spot on the back side of the headtube
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Scuff this entire exposed are with a gray scuff pad. You do not want a hard tape line in the new paint, they are almost impossible to get rid of. First tape off the frame a couple inches from the repair, TOP, then make a shirt collar type masking job to block as much over spray from getting on the area you do not want to repaint. On the bottom masking job you can see it has a tiny air space but is not touching the frame, do the same to the top.
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ready to spray
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You do not want to spray straight into your shirt collars if you can help it, from the side is also OK. A couple of light coats over the thin spot made for a perfect blend job.
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Pull back your collars or make new ones like I did to overlap the clear onto the old clear. You don't want to sand and buff base coat. All base coat MUST be clear coated. I did re clear the entire headtube but put an extra coat on the base coated area first. Mist coat the entire area, few minutes dry time, medium wet coat, wait ten minutes, heavier wet coat, wait ten minutes and one more heavy coat. If you do a nice job you won't even have to sand and buff the repair, only the blend area.
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Here you can see about a 1/2" band of scuffed and slightly oversprayed original paint. No hard tape line. Carefully wet sand with some 2000 and buff out. SEE previous buffing and wet sanding.
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Sanded and buffed.
300watts of halogen light and my 2.5X glasses and I'm seeing paint perfection. One more irritant gone from my life forever.
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I use PPG reducer with Pete's SW with excellent results. I am a stunt driver, just ask my wife.
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These paints are expensive. I use measuring spoons to only mix what's needed for these small jobs.
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