Monday, October 19, 2009

Pinstriping Lugs on Your Bicycle

You may have noticed that on some bicycles, the edges of the lugs are attractively outlined in gold or in a contrasting colour. This treatment is called "pinstriping" and is done by hand after the bicycle's frame is painted. I like the look very much and decided to try it on my Raleigh Lady's Sport, in preparation for a more serious project. I was nervous, but it turned out to be easier than I expected. If you want to give it a try yourself, here is how:

To go the truly professional route, you will need enamel paint and a pinstriping brush in the smallest size available. Having said that, I do not think these tools are necessary unless you are an experienced professional and are pinstriping a $3,000 frame with super-intricate lugwork. The enamel method can be difficult and messy, plus enamel paint contains led. Instead, I recommend a paint pen. Even professionals use these for simple projects. Several manufacturers make quality paint pens that are suitable for pinstriping bicycle frames, including Sharpie and DecoColor. Make sure the paint pen is oil-based. The label should explicitly state that it will leave permanent marks on metal surfaces. The size should be "extra fine". The price is usually in the $2.00 - $4.00 USD range.

The paint pen needs to be started by pressing down on the nib and pumping it several times - something best done on a piece of paper. When the paint flows through the pen slowly and evenly, you can begin.

Before starting the process, it is a good idea to clean the edges around the lugs and wipe them dry. Otherwise, your paint pen may get clogged with dust and grime. Once the area is prepared, simply begin to trace around the lugs with the paint pen, at a slow and even pace.

If the pen skips over a spot, go back and carefully re-trace that spot. If your hand shakes and you make an uneven line, or if the paint smears, wipe it off quickly with your fingertip or fingernail before it dries.

Once the paint dries, the marks you have made will be water resistant. If you notice a mistake after that happens, you can still get rid of it by carefully scraping the paint marks off with an exacto knife or a razor blade.

One issue you might encounter with rougher lugwork, is jagged edges. The lugs on my Raleigh Lady's Sports are quite crudely finished, and as you can see above, it can be difficult to make smooth outlines when the edge itself is crooked. But don't worry about that too much; these little details aren't noticeable unless you really examine the lugs up close. And I can assure you that the pinstriping on standard production vintage bikes is just as messy: Whoever outlined the lugs on my Motobecane at the factory did a sloppier job than my DIY.

So really, don't be afraid to go for it. If you have an old bicycle you'd like to spruce up, pick up a paint pen and give it some nice lug accents.

22 comments:

  1. how very very lovely :) If I had kept my old BSA shopper bike I would have done something like that, I don't dare touch Pashley yet ;) she's far too precious lol! Although I would like to personalise her a bit, I have seen another three like her in my village... ummmm....

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  2. I tried this on my ladies' Dawes, way back in the day. I wasn't done cleaning it and got back to work on other parts of the bike with WD-40. Much to my dismay the WD-40 took my lovely goldwork right off, like it was nothing.
    I keep meaning to go back to Pearl Art and ask if they have something more permanent, but haven't yet done that. I can look at home to see which paint pen was so ephemeral.

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  3. Lorenza - I plan to do this on the Pashley as well in the near future and will report how that goes. Another three Pashleys just like yours in the village? Wow. You can always decorate the basket with some eccentric floral arrangement that only you will have : )

    Charlotte - Oh, that sucks! Please do let me know which pen it was, so that I know what not to use. The DecoArt pen specifically said on the packaging that it is permanent on metal and painted metal surfaces, but I didn't test to confirm this.

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  4. That looks sharp...looks like I may have a winter project. Pinstriping all my lugged bikes.

    Aaron

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  5. Oh, very nice! Lucy looks very elegant (not that she didn't before). I'd be tempted to try this on my mixte but she's champagne/gold-coloured already ;-). Can't wait to see how your Pashley looks - 'twill complement the gold pinstriping on the fenders.

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  6. Aaron - excellent, post pictures! Are the Raleigh Twenties lugged?

    Carinthia - I have seen champagne bicycles like your Petunia outlined with deep maroon and it looked really good. About the Pashley - that was exactly what I was thinking!

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  7. This is brilliant. Nothing is more pleasing than a good idea, clearly explained and apparently simple enough for even me to do. Thank you!

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  8. This is excellent! I love your blog. Have you thought of using a thinner paint pen? Seems this one works great.

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  9. One other tip. If you're going to paint your bike anyway, practice the pinstriping beforehand. It's getting painted over anyway and you can imagine what the finished product will look like! Consequence-free mistakes are an opportunity not to be passed up...

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  10. @Filigree, not really. With the Twentys they sort of split the end of the tube and wrapped it around. However I do have the Superbe, two Sports, the Colt, the Dawes, two Hercules, the Sprite and a Motobecane. LOL Like I said...winter project(s)Along with some wheel building, if I get around to it.

    Aaron

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  11. I want to pinstripe the inside
    of my Pashley's black rims.
    Just like the Guv'nor model.

    My fenders are already pin-striped.
    Next would be the chain case and the lugs.
    But what about the forks?

    It's hard not to do too much.
    Until I feel for where the balance lies--
    I'll have to wait--such is the zen of pinstriping.

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  12. Filigree: Maroon... what a nice thought for pinstriping. My Centurion mixte has brown decals on it so perhaps brown to match the decals.

    MDI: I love the term 'zen of pinstriping'. :-D

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  13. Great idea! I think I will try it. :) Thanks for the tips.

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  14. veloflaneur - The pen I used was extra-fine, so they don't come any thinner. But I went over the lines twice, because the Raleigh's lugs are chunky and the line from tracing them once was not thick enough.

    MDI - Poetry? : )

    Carinthia - "deep maroon" is probably my mind's automatic way of beautifying the idea of "brown," so we're probably talking about the same colour!

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  15. I think I'm gonna usethis method from now on...
    The result is brilliant!

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  16. love the post! i have this bicycle myself and i'm in the process of fixing it up. does anyone know the size of the brooks saddle in the photo? i'm also trying to find a good bicycle accessory store online as i'm looking for grips like that in the picture as well. if anyone can point me in the right direction, i would be very grateful. thank you. email address: erinchantell@hotmail.com

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  17. Thank you so much for helping me! My bike looks better than ever! <3

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  18. A word of caution for folks attempting this project, these type of paint pens are prone to failure.
    I tried both the Sharpie and DecoColor pens and they each lasted less than 5 minutes before breaking or becoming hopelessly clogged. Went through total of three...
    The tips tend to break, the innards fall out, and big drops of paint will drip out onto your frame.
    I tried to keep the pen clean (after the first one failed) with a cleaning agent, but this didn't help either. And some sort of oil based paint remover is necessary, cause you WILL make a mess one way or the other.

    I ended up just using the paint from inside the pens in a small bowl and an extra fine paint brush, and this went far better. If you do it this way, you can follow the ledge of the lug, and allow the paint to go over the top of the lug edge. Then, when it dries, just use a rag and paint remover to wipe off the sloppy parts and it comes out pretty great.

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  19. A lot of professional builders use pens too instead of pinstripe brushes. Try Posca pens, they work really well.

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  20. How permanent is this? I have a 1989 Miyata 1000 that I'm retrofitting, and I thought it would be really sleek to paint it charcoal grey with silver pinstriping. However I don't want to take the time to do this if it's going to come off the next time I clean my bike. Are the Sharpie or DecoColor pens permanent? What about auto touch-up paint pens? Has anyone tried them out?

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  21. Wow - I've never thought of the paint marker idea. I have a 1963 Raleigh Sports with "box striping" which is factory pinstriping that follows the fenders and goes across the front and back - basically forming a box. It's not exotic - it was done on most Raleighs. This could work to touch it up/add it back where it has worn off. I've worked with paint markers - they are very forgiving because you can wipe them clean if you mess up.
    Thanks for the idea!

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  22. Right now I am in the process of repainting a Motobecane frame and was wondering what to use for pin striping. The paint pen idea is great! Thanks for sharing.


    Erik

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