Restor­ing an 1917 Ex­cel­sior Big X

Old Bike Australasia - - OUT’ N’ ABOUT -

I was still work­ing full time as a school teacher, when I painted this bike. I had been do­ing the TAFE evening spray paint­ing course for more than a decade, and I al­ready had my cer­tifi­cate II. Story Phil Ward Once per week, I had 2 hours booth ac­cess, and I was on my way to my cer­tifi­cate III, which I now hold. The bike was al­ready all but 100 years old, with many orig­i­nal parts among those to be painted. Nat­u­rally, these parts were some­what out of shape and rather rusty. Apart from the frame, the rest were small enough to go in the TAFE sand­blaster.

I be­gan the shape re­pairs with the pair of orig­i­nal mud­guards. The rear guard was a sim­ple shape, but deeply pit­ted, re­quir­ing sev­eral cy­cles of rub­bing back, fill­ing and re-prim­ing. The front guard was not as badly pit­ted, but a very com­plex shape, made from 3 over­lap­ping parts, run­ning fore and aft, riv­eted to­gether. It has deep scal­lop­ing for the fork legs, and a large hole near the front, for the leaf spring. Work­ing around all these ob­sta­cles and get­ting the shape right on this valanced guard was the big­gest chal­lenge of the whole job. The many rub-throughs were al­ways treated with 1K (acrylic) etch, be­fore re­fill­ing.

Although the top­coats are all solid colours, (not metallics), I chose to use basecoat and clear, to min­imise the wastage of ex­pen­sive enam­els. In­deed, TAFE re­quired me to do this. Be­fore top­coat­ing, ev­ery part, in­clud­ing the frame, had its fi­nal primer coat wet rubbed. Once the body colour, a cus­tom pale blue, had been ap­plied to the frame, guards, wheel rims, rear chain guard and sun­dries these were fin­ished.

The mul­ti­colour parts in­clude the girder forks, tank, tool­box, clutch cover and an­other chain guard, done in 3 batches. Due to my lim­ited booth ac­cess, each week I could ap­ply only one colour and then clear. Be­fore the next TAFE night, I needed to rub each piece down with fine wet and dry, then mask in prepa­ra­tion for the next colour. These mul­ti­colour parts have 6 kinds of paint ap­plied, ie, 2K (2 pack) etch, 2K primer, colours 1, 2, and 3, with 2K clear enamel af­ter each colour. Some of the parts pre­sented a chal­lenge, in terms of mount­ing them in the booth, be­fore spray­ing. For ex­am­ple, how do you spray a naked wheel rim? Through the spoke holes, I at­tached 3 small bolts, at 120° in­ter­vals. From each of these, I at­tached a piece of tie wire, then tied off to the booth ceil­ing, hold­ing the rim in a hor­i­zon­tal plane. Since the late 1920s, fuel tanks have been ‘sad­dle tanks’, which are easy to place over a wooden paint­ing stand. How­ever, this tank bolts onto frame tubes which are above and be­low the tank. Each time it was painted, I in­serted bolts into the up­per and lower sur­faces of the tank. It was then wired to the ceil­ing and floor of the booth, to sup­port it as the paint was sprayed on. I of­fered to mask and spray the blue and gold pin­stripes on the forks, rims, front guard, frame, tank, tool­box, clutch cover and chain guard. The owner wanted them hand brushed, a tech­nique not then in my reper­toire. For this, they went to Star Enamel­ers, who did a very fine job.

So what did I learn from all this ? There is an aw­ful lot of paint­ing in a vet­eran bike. If I had con­tin­u­ous rather than in­ter­rupted booth ac­cess, I would have saved about 40 hours of time, and some ex­pense in 2K clear enamel, for the mul­ti­colour parts. On the other hand, re-mask­ing over rubbed down clear was safe to do. Re-mask­ing over freshly painted basecoat, which is nei­ther firm nor weath­er­proof, let alone sol­vent proof, would have been prob­lem­atic, es­pe­cially on this large scale.

So folk, look af­ter your painted parts. There is a lot of time, trou­ble, ef­fort and ex­pense in do­ing them again.

Tool box and chain guards in mid-state of the process.

TOP LEFT Petrol tank sus­pended from the top of the spray booth. TOP Front guard is a com­plex shape. ABOVE CEN­TRE Fin­ished front mud­guard. ABOVE Outer chain case in the fi­nal stages.

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