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To paint or not to paint.? that is the question

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  • To paint or not to paint.? that is the question

    I have seen many accounts of " Machine Restoration" on the internet.
    Many of the presenters seem to take a lot of care over repainting the machines, some even expensively getting paint mixed up to match the original colours.
    However, very few of these restorers post accounts of actually using the machines, and details of the quality of work produced.
    I am suspicious that some of these so called restorations are more cosmetic than functional.
    I have repaired a few battered machines, done my best to bring them back to working order, but , so far , have simply cleaned them and left them in appearance as purchased.
    I am becoming quite keen on restoring older machinery but wonder whether it is better to repaint, or if the appearance is reasonable, to simply leave the paint alone.
    All comments are welcome. Regards David Powell.

  • #2
    All of the machines I've "restored" have been working machines. I didn't clean and repaint for YouTube clicks or internet cred. I rebuilt them because the rusty old junker was all I could afford- or often, even just find.

    Over the years I've rebuilt a Nichols horizontal mill because I wanted the extra capability- or easier capability, if you prefer- of a horizontal spindle. I rebuilt my big Springfield because I needed a larger lathe with more horsepower. I rebuilt the little Hardinge because that particular beater was the only one in a price range I could afford. I rebuilt the Exacto mill because, well, it was free and would have been scrapped had I not.

    The Nichols is quiet, powerful, reliable and accurate, and over the years I've collected a pretty good selection of tools for it. It's quite handy. The Springfield may be the second most accurate lathe I have, only after the CNC, It, too, is smooth, powerful and reliable. The little Hardinge has proven amazingly useful.

    I suppose I could have simply repaired each of these machines, and left them cosmetically as-received. But if the part was being dismantled for cleaning and repairs anyway, clean paint doesn't take a great deal more effort.

    My almost fully rebuilt turret lathe (I didn't get into the headstock.)
    The little Hardinge.
    The big Springfield, that was rebuilt to the point of sending the bed off to be ground.

    Yes, there's a lot of guys on YT that just hit everything with a power wire brush, mask and spray paint. Those guys are just doing it for the views and clicks. I built mine to use and make money on. There's a difference.

    Doc's Machine. (Probably not what you expect.)


    • #3
      Many years ago, a used tool dealer that i was friendly with told me that if he had 2 identical machines, but one was well worn and the other was not, he'd paint the good one. Potential buyers would come along and be suspicious of the new paint job, and tended to buy the worn machine. Then, when he'd only got one machine left, guys would look carefully, beyond the paint job, realise that it was a decent machine, and that one would sell too. That way he didn't end up with a warehouse full of unsold clunkers.
      'It may not always be the best policy to do what is best technically, but those responsible for policy can never form a right judgement without knowledge of what is right technically' - 'Dutch' Kindelberger


      • #4
        In my opinion if you are going to repaint a machine, you better do a good job at it.

        I repainted my mill when I got it. It had already been repainted at some point in its life and was a god awful baby blue color.

        I completely disassembled the mill to clean everything. All the castings were stripped to bare, and then smoothed out to 80%-90% with body filler and then primed and painted individually.

        On edit. I left the paint alone on my lathe. I cleaned everything very well but kept the original paint although it is quite wore in some spots.
        Last edited by oxford; 11-23-2021, 09:29 AM.


        • #5
          I like the scars and scrapes of the old paint on a machine. I like seeing the worn out spot on a lathe headstock where someone rested their hand for years and years and it wore the paint down through to the now shiney casting. I'm more concerned about function and wear on the working surfaces. I couldn't care less about paint. Seeing a bright shiny new paint job makes my spidey sense tingle. I want a machine to do a job, not look pretty sitting there. I don't have expensive tastes.


          • #6
            If you are bringing all other aspects of the machine up to as-new condition, why not the paint, too?

            For just a little more, you can do it yourself!


            • #7
              After I purchased my Deckel Fp-1, I realized how nice the finish was compared to my other machinery. It appears to have had sometype of filler applied, sanded and then painted. So you can have nice mechanical device and good looking too.


              • #8
                Originally posted by ed_h View Post
                If you are bringing all other aspects of the machine up to as-new condition, why not the paint, too?

                That's a big "IF". Every part brought up to new condition? Every slideway aligned and scraped/ground to new? All worn parts replaced?

                "IF" I did that , I'd likely paint it also. But in general "we" are not doing those sorts of complete overhaul. Even the Benchmaster that I DID bring up to new condition as far as all the slideways and fits, I didn't paint that.

                Partly I did not paint because I saw no point in it, and partly because I was leaving the ancient machinery dealer sticker etc on it. Those things give a machine character, while new paint lasts only a few weeks before it is likely stained or chipped from normal use and oiling,
                CNC machines only go through the motions.

                Ideas expressed may be mine, or from anyone else in the universe.
                Not responsible for clerical errors. Or those made by lay people either.
                Number formats and units may be chosen at random depending on what day it is.
                I reserve the right to use a number system with any integer base without prior notice.
                Generalizations are understood to be "often" true, but not true in every case.


                • #9
                  Good arguments here for and against, depending on how much of a rebuild you are doing. But... If I save something rusty on its way to the junkyard I'm going to de-rust and paint the rusty part regardless of how much or how little else I do to or for it.
                  "A machinist's (WHAP!) best friend (WHAP! WHAP!) is his hammer. (WHAP!)" - Fred Tanner, foreman, Lunenburg Foundry and Engineering machine shop, circa 1979


                  • #10
                    I pride myself in my body work and paint jobs. I could never restore a machine and then brush on a coat of Rust Oleum.
                    I'm a body many and custom painter by trade in a previous life and I just can't do a half ass paint job on anything. It has to be pretty close to show car perfect, and actually I enjoy it.
                    My restorations have always included more than just paint.



                    • #11
                      Do whatever makes you happy.
                      If the machine looks kind of crappy, and you have the time and inclination, then paint it to whatever level of quality you like. Or not (we will like you and the machine either way).
                      Location: North Central Texas


                      • #12
                        Shine they may, but run they must.

                        Do what ever you feel comfortable with your own machines. Personally, I prefer to leave them in their "natural" state. Scratches and dings on the paint don't bother me on a used machine. It's the mechanical condition I focus on. When I see a machine all pretty and shiny my first reaction is to wonder what kind of damage lies under that coat of paint. Or, as my grandmother was known to say: "A single layer of wallpaper covers a multitude of sins."


                        • #13
                          I haven’t painted every Machine in my shop,but when I got this Doall it was rough looking so gave it complete facelift.I repowered with 1 ph motor and it still cuts very accurate,it was Powdercoated and it’s 72nd Birthday coming up in Jan lol!🙂 Click image for larger version

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                          • #14
                            Regardless of the reason, I usually fully- or nearly so- dismantle a machine when I "rebuild" it. I put that in quotes since the definition of 'rebuild' often differs- I have not, for example, gotten into the headstock of any of my lathes. None needed it for one thing, and I'd rather not deal with that level of complexity unless I have to.

                            That said, I have discovered any number of issues with a given machine, that had I simply wanted to clean it up and put it to work, might have otherwise been missed. The top bearing for the knee screw of the Exacto. The major crack in the collet closer assembly on the turret. The broken gears in the QCGB of the big lathe.

                            AND... I take pride in my machines. I don't have a hospital-clean, freshly-mopped-epoxy-floor CNC production facility, but I have enough pride in my machines, especially ones that I rebuilt, to make them look good as well as work right.

                            ... One of these days I need to put together a page or post showing all the "befores and afters" of my collection.

                            Nichols before:

                            Nichols after:

                            That time spent on painting was not wasted.

                            Doc's Machine. (Probably not what you expect.)


                            • #15
                              My motto is they need to run as good as they look (or better). If a machine has original paint and in good condition I say touch up and leave it but most machines have years of overpainting and endless chipping and battle scars so I strip to base and repaint. But each machine gets R&R of whatever is suspect meaning bolts to bearings. IRAN in the aviation world, Inspect - Repair As Necessary. Some like battle scars but it depends on who won😎