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Properties of early paints and varnishes


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  #1  
Old 11-19-2007, 08:26:54 AM
Reid
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Default Properties of early paints and varnishes

Information as I can offer about the coatings employed in the days of early engines.

Until about the year 1924, when nitrocellulose lacquer revolutionized the automobile industry by obsoleting the earlier (and very beautiful) coach paint system, all paint jobs of any quality were really varnish jobs.

But for stationary engines of utilitarian purpose, I would suppose (I have no hands-on experience with them) they were simply painted.

Painted with what? All paints, other than black, meant for coverage, hiding-power and protection were linseed-oil based.

The pigments were ground and blended into "boiled" linseed oil. The drying power of linseed oil was improved, and the product made to dry much quicker, and more elastic, by the addition of about a 1/4 to 1/2% percent of lead mono-oxide.

A gray paint would have been based on white lead pigment with the addition of a small amount of lampblack.

The properties of any paint based on linseed oil are/were: superb brushing characteristic. The oil acts as a sort of lubricant for the pigment. Brush marks could have a chance to flow out, disappear;
a quality entirely lacking in Rustoleum-type paints (alkyd enamels).

The alkyd enamels appeared on the market around 1930. Because alkyd has so little oil in it, it does dry much faster than linseed oil.

Advantages of the old linseed oil paint:

-breathes out water vapor, therefore won't blister (alkyds also breathe, but acrylic enamels and the newer higher tech paints don't much breath)

-excellent brushing qualities

-great initial gloss (if the pigment were finely ground)

-excellent adhesion, for the life of the paint.

-excellent shelf life, even of an opened can (in most cases)

To end this posting I'd like to note that I have a half-pint can of Berry Brothers automobile "color varnish" from about the year 1910.
When this can was opened for inspection some years ago, its contents were tested. It was perfectly good varnish, brushing out well and drying well, and the can is still good so far as I know.

The linseed oil paints did not "skin over" like the agressive-drying alkyd enamels.

One other key point: Linseed oil paints were high-heat paints; would take 450F temperatures just fine so long as the pigment in the paint were also heat resistant.

Alkyd (Rustoleum) paints cannot take nearly the heat of a linseed oil paint. The binder breaks down starting at about 250F (est).

Aside from its being a minor component in a very few of today's brushing varnishes, whereby it improves the brushing quality and durability, linseed oil is no longer to be found as a general purpose vehicle in utility paints of today.

In a way, that's a shame, because we no longer have good brushing paints, taken for granted by the old timers. And, too, alkyd resins simply don't hold up as long in service as linseed oil. But alkyds prevailed because they -dry speedily and harder than linseed oil, and had resistance to alkali which linseed oil does not offer.

It's all a trade off of one quality for another.

Next up: black paints of the period; Ford's famous black--also found on electric motors of the period.
What was it?

I used to make that stuff from scratch.
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Old 11-19-2007, 09:19:33 AM
Reid
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Default Re: Properties of early paints and varnishes

Thanks to the good people at Google for their digitizing public domain books in PDF form;
we can read many classic engineering books.

I learned to make japan black in 1999, by consulting a researcher of the Ford archives to find out the original ingredients and method of application.
As far as I know, I am the only person living today with hands-on experience, however slight, in making asphaltum varnish from raw materials, and applying the same to metal surfaces.

About that same year I bought, at high price then, a copy of this book, which is now online for free:The Chemistry and Technology of Paints
by Maximillian Toch, first published in 1907.

It was a groundbreaking work, and remains the classic,
thefirst scientific study of the black art (trade secrets had been held) of the making of better paints.
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Old 11-19-2007, 09:24:05 AM
Reid
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Default Re: Properties of early paints and varnishes

I'll describe in some detail what I recall of my experience with japan black
in the next posting, probably tomorrow.

The basic material is gilsonite. Made into a simple solution in solvent such as turps or xylene, the black liquid is fast to dry, has some gloss, and is rust-preventive while it lasts, and was the cheapest and simplest paint of its type.

By the addition of boiled linseed oil plus high temperature cooking with litharge, a fine flowing black color varnish results, which, if baked to a cure at over 400F, results in that ultra-glossy glass-like black many of you have seen on small and medium sized electric motors of the period.

More later if there's interest,

r.
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Old 11-19-2007, 09:40:05 AM
Rick McKay Rick McKay is offline
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Default Re: Properties of early paints and varnishes

Hi Reid,

Keep the info flowing.......pretty interesting stuff!

Thanks,

Rick
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Old 11-19-2007, 09:43:13 AM
LCJudge LCJudge is offline
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Default Re: Properties of early paints and varnishes

Great info. Keep it coming!
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Old 11-19-2007, 09:57:20 AM
Kevin O. Pulver Kevin O. Pulver is offline
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Default Re: Properties of early paints and varnishes

I like your information too Reid. Especially the stuff about old linseed oil paint.
That would make sense why guys use linseed oil to restore old engine finishes.

On that note, what can you tell me about the linseed oil based wood restorer/preservatives? There is a product called Kramer's Best (or Kramer something or other) that he says has 12 or 14 products in it, but he reveals on the internet that the main 3 ingredients are equal parts of boiled linseed oil, turpentine, and I believe white vinegar. He says each ingredient more or less comes from a tree rather than the petroleum based stuff that is not related to wood.
Mr. Kramer says that since it is made like the old finishes, it will often work well to restore the old finishes rather than stripping a piece. All I know is it works GREAT!
He also says that modern "boiled" linseed oil is not good, (chemically altered) and that you should make your own by cooking it 24 hours in a crockpot on high- preferably outside.

I would appreciate your comments on this recipe, and wonder if you have any idea what the other ingredients could be? Thanks, Kevin
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Old 11-19-2007, 10:15:21 AM
Reid
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Default Re: Properties of early paints and varnishes

OK! Apologies for the lousy line breaks and superfluous and missing commas in my rough postings.


Going backwards--there had been no substantial advance in "coach painting" until the Oakland car of 1924: the first time nitrocellulose lacquer was applied to an automobile. That DuPont finish killed the coach paint industry within a few years, excepting for a few specialist hold outs.

Instant dry, ready for rubbing down, instead of months in the making for a fine finish. What was lost in discard of the old and laborious ways? The gloss, the depth of color, the look of a coach paint job, which cannot be equaled by any other method,;

so I was told by one of the last men who made a full-time profession in that art, for the antique vehicle trade, he attested to me some years ago during a phone conversation with him, he was in the UK, when he was dying of cancer. He was frustrated that so few others would carry on the tradition.
"No modern system can look like coach paint"

My small experience with the japan black convinced me that he was not boasting. It's fact. The early paints were problematic, but when done right, they were a sight to behold. I'm looking for the world's first photograph of a vehicle (and it's a coach in coach paint). I'll post that image when it turns up.

In the meantime, here, from this 1843 book (thanks Google Book Search), is the method they used for good work, and without departure from that method, right up until the spray lacquer era began.

This is brief but accurate:







_______________________________________




Last public view of Caruso--1920
Cited here because it shows how perfect a brush-applied coach varnish job,
would be. No orange peel, no drips, no runs, perfect wet-look gloss.
It would not last for many months in the sun, it would go dull first, then checker;

but while it was fresh...




Now, for general engine painting, paint, not fancy multi-step coach varnishing, was the deal.

The results were still superior in ease of brushing, as compared against any paint readily available today. So we spray and get, in effect about equal results. But spray is not so easy to do to an engine that's all together;
brushing, with the right paint and right soft brush, is a pleasure.
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Old 11-19-2007, 10:18:14 AM
Reid
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Default Re: Properties of early paints and varnishes

Video disappeared from above.

Here's a link to two seconds of perfect gloss, 1920:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l0SvK4_loL4
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Old 11-19-2007, 10:26:20 AM
Reid
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Default Re: Properties of early paints and varnishes

Good news: "Tekaloid" is still available, but not in the USA
http://www.stephen.hull.btinternet.co.uk/

"Tekaloid Coach Enamel is without doubt the finest coach paint you could possibly buy, Tekaloid consists of the exact ratio of thinners, oil, finely ground earth pigments providing the perfect paint medium, it has a very long open time allowing the user to rectify faults or contaminations before the paint starts to pull or drag. Tekaloid also manufacture synthetic varnish that can be added to or painted over certain colours providing maximum durability, (see Tekaloid & Varnish section)."

It's a linseed oil paint. For gloss protection on cars, it is to be overcoated with their clear varnish. It's all about the brush with them. I don't know of any other source for such paint today. I have not seen this paint in person, but it looks like the deal; the quote above contains the key points: long working time, no drag for a long time.
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Old 11-19-2007, 11:10:24 AM
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Default Re: Properties of early paints and varnishes

Reid...this is wonderful information ! Thank you for posting it. I have been working for years with a combination of colored Acrylic artist paints (oil based not water), Japan dryer, and a blend of Boiled linseed oil and thinner. Its a delicate process and very time consuming to apply; but the info you just offered will allow me to experiment a bit more and hopefully come up with a formula I like.

Once again. Thank you.
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Old 11-19-2007, 11:17:10 AM
Reid
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Default Re: Properties of early paints and varnishes

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kevin O. Pulver View Post
I like your information too Reid. Especially the stuff about old linseed oil paint.
That would make sense why guys use linseed oil to restore old engine finishes.

On that note, what can you tell me about the linseed oil based wood restorer/preservatives? There is a product called Kramer's Best (or Kramer something or other) that he says has 12 or 14 products in it, but he reveals on the internet that the main 3 ingredients are equal parts of boiled linseed oil, turpentine, and I believe white vinegar. He says each ingredient more or less comes from a tree rather than the petroleum based stuff that is not related to wood.
Mr. Kramer says that since it is made like the old finishes, it will often work well to restore the old finishes rather than stripping a piece. All I know is it works GREAT!
He also says that modern "boiled" linseed oil is not good, (chemically altered) and that you should make your own by cooking it 24 hours in a crockpot on high- preferably outside.

I would appreciate your comments on this recipe, and wonder if you have any idea what the other ingredients could be? Thanks, Kevin
Hi Kevin. I don't much believe in concoctions, especially those that come with a hard sell.

A finish that's gone bad cannot, generally speaking, be revived in any way.
That said, if you have a furniture finish of the 1900-1925 era that has gone alligatored, it can often be restored to look pretty smooth and glossy by spraying the varnish with anhydrous denatured alcohol -on a dry, very dry day-, because it will blush the varnish white otherwise.

But "feeding" finishes? Is a load of malarkey. Finishes are various and none are "alive", any more than wood underneath is "alive"; they can only react in various unpredicatble ways to nostrums. His product contains petroleum solvents as the active ingredient. Linseed oil will not "feed" an old finish; it'll only overcoat it with itself in thin-film form. But, no doubt, the nostrum he sells will clean and improve the appearance of an old finish.
OK rant over!

What's good
for cleaning almost anything? And it's cheap? Yes, cheap and safe and it's what I use for cleaning greasy bike chain, gears, old paint, antiques, radios, cars with tar, laundry stains, switchplates...and hands:

GoJo white creme hand cleaner. That and a brush and a cloth to wipe dry.
This will "renew" by removing all dirt and it leaves surfaces slick and smooth to the touch and to the eye. It's neutral PH, so it won't harm old paint or varnish. It costs a buck for a one pound tub at any auto parts store around here.
No "orange action" though and no "pumice"; just plain white.

What it is: Great grandma's soft soft with a small percentage of low odor mineral spirits. Three cleaners in one formula: water, soap, hydrocarbon solvent. What one don't get, t'others will. In concert, the three ingredients gets it all.

Brushed stainless steel, shafting, you name it, GoJo is about the best cleaner for every surface, including oil paintings (use care).

Also sold as "Kotten Kleanser" or some such name for fifteen times the price.
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Old 11-19-2007, 11:21:13 AM
Reid
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Default Re: Properties of early paints and varnishes

typos and dyslexia. "Grandma's soft SOAP. GoJo is old fashioned soft soap plus that kick of mineral spirits.

Mineral spirits is safe for any finish that I know of, other than too-fresh oil paint, or Henry Ford's black enamel. Don't ever use a petroleum solvent on japan black because the gilsonite asphaltum will partially dissolve, dulling the surface.

Mineral spirits of the kind they sell today in the stores, "deodorized" or whatever it's termed, is the weakest of all petroleum solvents. So it's pretty darned safe, especially when it's in a soap and water emulsion like GoJo.
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Old 11-19-2007, 11:50:53 AM
Reid
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Default Re: Properties of early paints and varnishes

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dusty View Post
Reid...this is wonderful information ! Thank you for posting it. I have been working for years with a combination of colored Acrylic artist paints (oil based not water), Japan dryer, and a blend of Boiled linseed oil and thinner. Its a delicate process and very time consuming to apply; but the info you just offered will allow me to experiment a bit more and hopefully come up with a formula I like.

Once again. Thank you.
I am astounded at the number of reading this young thread has gotten in just a few hours. It shows that you all have similar interests to get the EASE of beautiful brush painting down pat. Dusty, I hope you will detail your experiences here, because you have more practical experience than myself--in the painting department.

I boiled linseed oil (and that does not "take away" from its quality) at fully 500 degrees F, in order to incorporate lead mono oxide (litharge) as a drier of the oil. As the temperature of the gallon pot went over four hundred, it began to smoke a bit. Then I added the prescribed amount of the oxide. An exothermic reaction soon followed, with billows of yellowish-white smoke of noxious flavor. This was the "boiling" process: for the lead won't react with the oil at lower temperatures.

That gave me a small supply of old-fashioned "boiled" linseed oil; a process that was superceeded by smarter science by the turn of the past century; by preparing the lead in other ways, there was no need to boil the oil; boiling had the disadvantage of making the oil more amber in color, which is a detriment when making a pale varnish for overcoat duty.

My experience is small and my success was partial and most all of it was in the making of japan black. But I did make a small batch of pure white lead paint. It went on white, had little hiding power, took a long time to dry, and in dark would turn yellow (light keeps linseed oil from darkening, otherwise it does darken in time).

In the old days of the over-varnished coach paint job, there could be no true blue, no pale blue---because the required top coat of flowing varnish (and varnish is always somewhat amber) would shift the color toward green.

The Oakland car of 1924 was hailed as "The True Blue Oakland". The new paint system allowed just that, and did help everyone by lowering costs, by speeding production.

Dusty, document your paint trials and tribulations here if you please.


I'd like to introduce to you all the oriental paint brush called a hake brush

A hake brush one inch wide is sufficient and will last for a long time.
Linseed oil paints go on like liquid butter with a hake brush.
The hair is soft as a cat's fur, lush and short. It holds the paint and cannot make brush marks.

You'll need to groom the new brush for loose hairs go adrift when it's new, and if it's real fine varnish work,
but for painting regular paints, no problem.
I'd break in my hake brush with a cat-type curry brush and also oblique squirts of the compressed air hose.

I don't know why Western paint brushes are so stiff and hard: they're all for house paints, seemingly.

Anyone here who has a local art store, see if they don't stock the brush--and for small engines, the one inch brush is all you need.

That size was all that I used for my Model T painting experiments; linseed paints allow you much more working time than alkyd enamels.


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Old 11-19-2007, 01:30:25 PM
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Daniel Dorece Daniel Dorece is offline
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Default Re: Properties of early paints and varnishes

I don't know where the thanks butten went but THANKS. Very informative and interesting.This is the type of article that wouldn't get into G E M. After the black paint article could you please tell us about fillers?
I have five quarts of varnish that was put up in quart jars about 40 years ago and is still as good as new. I added some prussian blue to a pint of it a while ago and came up with the most beautiful blue paint I have ever seen. I used it on some furnature but now I am thinking about using it on an engine. Maybe a clear coat after it has dryed for a couple of months would preserve it.
Iron Wolf
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Old 11-19-2007, 01:32:30 PM
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Default Re: Properties of early paints and varnishes

Reid - Great Data on the paint and don't stop !
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Old 11-19-2007, 01:36:06 PM
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Default Re: Properties of early paints and varnishes

very neet stuff! if you dont mind me asking, but, are you like an experimentor experimenting on how to make a better paint for today or are you doing it just for your own? i think it's great eaither way but i also beleive the paints of yesterday was a much better product compaired to today in the case of my own personal opinion of today which is, if it isnt dupont or BPS by valspar which is heavy duty tractor paint sold by tractor supply (which lays down very nicely i might add) if it aint those, just a standard off the shelf paint of today is just cheap junk which is only good enough for grafiti vandalism.
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Old 11-19-2007, 01:44:35 PM
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Default Re: Properties of early paints and varnishes

Thanks Reid for the interesting information. Can you shed any light on semi-gloss and/or satin paint finishes? I find some restored engines too glossy for my taste. What additives can be used to dull both old & modern paints?
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Old 11-19-2007, 02:25:57 PM
John Palmer John Palmer is offline
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Default Re: Properties of early paints and varnishes

Thanks Reid,before I left school I used to help an old man restore horse drawn vehicles.We always 'coach' painted them by hand with ready mixed coach paint allways finished off with varnish.What I remember is the long hours of rubbing down between coats,my fingers were allways sore,the final coat finished with pumice powder. To watch him line out finished vehicles was marvelous. I then went on to French polishing again long hours of rubbing down.We allways said it was the rubbing down that made the finish. I remember talking to an old Petter man who had worked in their paint shop before the first war,they mixed their own filler and paint again with boiled linseed and finnished every engine with a coat of varnish. Thanks John Palmer
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Old 11-19-2007, 02:41:48 PM
John Palmer John Palmer is offline
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By the way if you have ever used lead based coach paint you know what utter rubbish most modern paints are. The other day I was painting a trailer,the stuff I was using was as think as s......., would not cover and pretty near broke my wrist. Good lead paint could be very thin and cover so well,then the sissies made it illegal here in the UK.Still have a few tins put away though. John
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Old 11-19-2007, 02:42:55 PM
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Default Re: Properties of early paints and varnishes

Quote:
Originally Posted by Doug Kimball View Post
Thanks Reid for the interesting information. Can you shed any light on semi-gloss and/or satin paint finishes? I find some restored engines too glossy for my taste. What additives can be used to dull both old & modern paints?
Quick reply (but I'll be back later to thank you other fellows for the encouragement to yak more)

Quick answer: to dull paint you can put a flatting agent into the paint, any paint. Finely ground silica is a flatting agent. Talc is the other flatting agent.
Talcum makes the paint satin.

The downside of paint dulling agents: they all tend to reduce the paint's weather or abrasion resistance.

On the plus side of talcum as a flatting agent, it makes the paint more flexible.
But for castings and metalwork, added flexibility is not needed.
For wood, it's sometimes a plus.

Linseed oil paint, until it goes dead-hard from age, is a very flexible paint, great adhesion, but it is -soft stuff- when young, compared against, say, your Rustoleum. Yeah, you thought Rustoleum was easy to bruise?

A flatted paint can't be retouched without the retouch showing.
A gloss paint, made dull by oil-and-4/0 steel wool rubbing, can always be retouched, aged, and rubbed to match.

So--other things aside, if you can do with a soft paint of high gloss, and can manage to rub it to matte finish later with rottenstone and water, or wool, then that's the generally better way, I think.

Thanks for your interest, guys. I'm just an inquiriing hobbyist. Any hobby I get into, I go for the odd stuff. I'm strange that way.

Paint: as exciting to watch dry... (it is exciting to me, to understand more about such prosaic things).


Thanks,

Reid
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