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Regarding Paint on Old Machinery

| 9/11/2018 9:34:00 AM

Photo courtesy of John Burgoyne

Like most engine or tractor rebuilders, there comes that inevitable time when that freshly rebuilt piece of old machinery has to be painted, a task few of us are qualified for and even fewer enjoy doing! Having rebuilt engines and machine tools for over 40 years, I would like to share my experiences and observations with the readers of GEM.

Over the years, I have seen a lot of over-restored engines and tractors, usually with the use of modern automotive finishes. While such finishes are very durable, they tend to be far too glossy and simply look out of place. Early equipment was painted with conventional oil-based enamels, usually applied with a brush and smaller parts being dipped. One difficult decision usually involves which parts to paint and which to leave bare. Nuts, bolts and valve springs are a difficult decision, although I believe most original manufacturers tended to paint everything that didn’t move (and some that did!).

One interesting thing I have noticed is that most old equipment did not appear to use a primer.

I have tried most of the popular store brands of enamel, but early in the game I settled on Valspar, mainly because they offered most of the popular engine and tractor colors. At first I wasn’t too enthusiastic about Valspar because of its very slow drying time, but as time passed I began to realize that a slower drying paint was also tougher and more chip resistant than a fast-dry paint.

I always use a primer and I believe that using the same brand is probably best. The top coat needs to be applied reasonably quickly after the primer has been applied, usually within 24 hours, to ensure good bonding and adhesion. Many of us fall into the trap of using an aerosol spray can to prime smaller pieces to prevent them rusting while we wait for larger parts to be prepared. Big mistake!


Gas Engine Magazine A_M 16Gas Engine Magazine is your best source for tractor and stationary gas engine information.  Subscribe and connect with more than 23,000 other gas engine collectors and build your knowledge, share your passion and search for parts, in the publication written by and for gas engine enthusiasts! Gas Engine Magazine brings you: restoration stories, company histories, and technical advice. Plus our Flywheel Forum column helps answer your engine inquiries!

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