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!

Rob Bearden
6/23/2020 9:36:35 AM

Hi John,I have had great luck with VanSickle tractor,equipment & indurstrial enamal. The veraity of tractor colors are amazing. They can be applied with a brush or thined with VM&P Naphtha and sprayed. The finish is great and last a long time in the sun. Look at and search "hall of fame" you will find exampales of eary equipment that looks great. Thanks for the artical. Rob B.

6/23/2020 9:28:04 AM

We have had success using flatting paste in automotive paints, reducing the sheen to more of a semi-gloss or satin sheen and if your auto parts supplier has a good paint department they can add this to the mix for you. I have also found the the single stage automotive catalyzed paint holds up pretty well on old machinery. Oil based enamels are getting impossible to find in New York!


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