Making Details Pop

Old recessed areas like paper scales can collect dirt and chip. Paint sticks can color in those areas and make your paper scales & bails readable again!

Bringing out the Contrast

Lately I’ve been working on older machines which can be a real treat when they come together, however quite a few of them have had time to build up lots of crud in recessed areas and cleaning those areas out sometimes removes the contrasting paints which were there. In some cases, these areas weren’t painted at all, making them difficult to see.

In this post I’ll just cover some of the basics of using Lacquer Stik, a kind of paint-crayon, to refresh these aged and hard-to-see markings. Above you can see what the end product will look like, but below is how it started. Notice how hard to read the numbering on the bail is, it really detracts from this otherwise lovely Torpedo!

In order to use it, the first step is to clean out the space you’re going to apply. While not strictly necessary, it will help the paint stay in the recesses. Isopropyl alcohol or any other favored cleaning solvent will do, just make sure you let it dry fully before moving to the next step. Additionally, I find that using a q-tip helps get into the recesses better than just wiping across the surface.

Here we've switched over to the bail on the Bijou 5 - I had forgotten to grab pictures in progress, so I'll add some of them as well for good measure.

Before doing anything with the paint itself, we will want to protect the machine. When we apply the paint and when we’re wiping it off there is the potential for small amounts to fall into the action, which can get stuck into the segment or elsewhere. Since paper scales, bails, and card guides are often the best use for this stuff, we will definitely want a paper towel or similar to catch any crud before it gums up the works.

Now that the work surface is prepped and the machine is protected, we can apply the stick to the surface. The first passes may work best if you rub away the dried-out surface on a scrap of something first, this will keep the recess from getting clogged with stuff that won’t stick. Next, rub the stick across the entirety of the surface, making sure you fully fill the gaps. If you can keep the excess on the flat surfaces to a minimum, it will make your life much easier, but no need to go overboard trying to get a "clean pass"

With the paint applied, grab a section of a fresh paper towel and give the whole surface one pass, then fold it and wipe it off with a new section. The paint will clog up the paper towel, so it’s important to only do one pass per fresh surface. As you wipe off the excess, be careful not to press too hard, otherwise you may squeeze out the paint in the recesses, undoing all your work!

If you do accidentally remove some from the recesses, just reapply in that area and repeat with fresh paper towels. Make sure to check the sides of your surface, as this stuff can easily wrap around to the top and bottom of your paper bails. Once you're finished, the flat, raised surfaces should be free of paint. In hindsight here, I probably should have started with a first polishing step to get smooth flats. Despite the reflections on the texture, there is no paint on those flat surfaces.

Here you can really see how that high polish contrasts with the newly touched up recesses on the Torpedo.

There you have it, leave the stuff to dry for a day or so before you try touching it, but once dry it should stick in there pretty well. While I find that white is really the only color I’ve kept in the house, it’s available in a few different colors which could give some cool contrasts if you wanted.

Caveat, this stuff is not useful in places which will see lots of wear, so you may not have the best result if you try to use them on engraved keytops, for example. For those cases you might be better served with a proper enamel-based paint which will cure fully. While this stuff will dry a little bit, it will not achieve the very durable finish required by high-traffic surfaces.