painting old fixtures


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In PM by gafftapegreenia:

“Well, I've deicded to go ahead and do a restoration of my 5" PC spotlight. Now, after examining it fully. It is fairly rusted and the paint seems to have little life left. I was going to strip this paint and refinished it with a high temp black paint. Once repainted, I will deal with my freak lamp base issue.

Now, what would you recommend for stripping and prepping the spot for the repaint? Any little tricks or tips I should be aware of?

Also, to make things more interesting, I was working in another school here in detroit, built in the 40's , when I came across a c-clamp with the same name cast into it. This c-clamp was itself unique, because it was truly shaped like a cresent moon, instead of the more "g" shape of the normal c-clamp. Pics likely to come tomorrow. “

I’m thinking that this post on painting/care will be more of use to all and or discussion on it.

Don’t remember what PC brand fixtures you have but in general this is where I’m at.

A shame to remove the original paint from an old PC unless absolutely necessary by way of it’s going to start eating thru the metal and even than to remove more than is necessary. Got two sand blowers at work - always a question of what grit is in the machine and the air pressure with them in at times (one that’s normally set up not able to get enough) they are in the case of one that often is pushed into a corner often too harsh, and other times not doing much of anything in both grit and air pressure available to the remote section of the complex too low at this point. Also have a small cement mixer that has abrasive cones that spin around with what’s being cleaned and does an amazing job for the most part but is very clunky and time consuming. Given this, I normally use other methods for old paint on fixtures or in general. The cement mixer did an amazing job on some Altman C-Clamps that now need a good rust resistant paint given it did not remove all the rust around the brand name, but overall it looks good and did not remove any structural intregety. Even use it for shackles and chain hoist parts in a factory approved way.

First avoid chemicals - they will ignite with heat in residue left and not do a good job on a lighting fixture. As with a shame to remove the paint entirely, and assuming its rust between the surface of the metal and the heavy coating of the textured paint applied I would normally scrape with a putty knife what’s easy to remove than hand sand from there so as to remove extra and feather out the edges. Than overall re-paint the fixture with high temperature spray paint in not attempting to reproduce the texture but just save the raw metal from further rust, this plus make what’s left of the original paint texture the same color. Before doing this I would take apart the fixture and especially on a PC fixture, some had aluminum front and rear assemblies that were natural silver and some no doubt later were painted black. One should be able to detect which style you have by removing some screws or focus handles in seeing either a fixture that with end caps should be black or silver (this even if over painted black.)

Heat guns also won’t work in that it’s a high temperature paint used, also powder coating the fixture won’t work in that they need a surface without paint in order for the powder coat application to work.

Overall in the last year or two I did service a large amount of 360, other Leko, 65 and other plus some PC and box spot fixtures all with various extents of use including rust developing between paint layers and the metal which is the worst thing to decide on fixing verses leaving original. For the most part I scraped, feathered the edges or used a grinder and or palm sander to determine what was coming up beyond sanding and scraping but the goal was to leave what original paint was possible and in not getting too ambitious in removing or balancing harsh edges between original and what could come up and cause a problem in the future. Goal is to leave antique at lest as a goal.

Rust needs air to multiply even with a normal spray paint on the surface it deprives the air thus the rust don’t expand. This than becomes a question of balance between the need for high temperature spray paint and some form of rust reformer spray paint that to a degree will deal with the heat but might not so much in some areas. This is a good question of what to use where. Perhaps inside the fixture high temp, but at other times rust reformer paint especially where bad. Certain pock marking/surface rust is fine as long especially if the primary rust is removed and its treated in not getting air. This also in say at times replacing bolts - say a new brass or steel one where appropriate for one that won’t do so well in re-use, or re-tapping and paying attention to the hardware in what to replace verses just re-tap and or clean up.

Hard question also becomes what louvers etc. are spot welded into place and you cannot get to even with spray paint. At some point it cannot be worried about. 100 years from now your fixture might if somehow after spray painting what you can, might need a replacement heat sink made for it... should be easy enough to fabricate at a later date and not to worry about now. Cannot sand and paint all surfaces, not to worry for now in just concentrating on doing the best you can in getting it back to factory spec or better.

Little life on the paint left is in the end a big question - amazing what a little 409 or glass cleaner will do to old paint at times in while dull it being for the most part clean. My own Kliegl Dynabeam is now living in the front office and our cleaning staff care for it. Sure it looks dull and sort of dirty but it is also supposed to look that way. Never looked better in at least being dusted weekly. Little life left might be a question in that many older fixtures should look sort of dull in color as opposed to semi-gloss of more modern fixtures. Rust is bad but perhaps the lack of looking new of what’s left of the paint is not that bad.

Overall, once treated for the rust in removing what paint is necessary and getting it back to spec, I’m not opposed to spraying the entire fixture with a high temp. paint of flat or semi gloss or matt. Perhaps spot paint heavily rusted areas as needed with a form of rust reformer under the high temp over coat of the entire fixture to the best extent possible. Unfortunately unlike Mole Mauve, you won’t easily be able to re-produce the original color but as long as that original texture paint is below the fresh coat for the most part, its still sufficiently original for me. Personally as an antique if cared for It can be fresh paint as long as it is coating original paint instead of a fully stripped fixture that than is re-painted. The coat of paint over whats origional in texture is more enjoyable in seeing an antique than what is seemingly something stripped in not conveying the origional surface qualities of its paint. This also with the kind of olive drab of an Altman or other fixture in if at all possible don’t paint or at least match rather than make it black.

This or as in the past with some Century Lekos I was working on, at least for me, I had three color Lekos once one part of them in needing paint removed they got to be a dark grey, another part was as original a different color and the top was a third. For me at least that even three color dependant on the fixture type is more realistic in care for the fixture than one that got re-painted basic black even if much of it didn’t need fresh paint.

On a PC, most likely the whole thing can be painted the same color. Flat black or barbecue black in such a case is a bit harsh, I would go with satin or semi-gloss. A real shame in a place I used to work was some PC’s and Bantam SuperSpots that got painted gold. Yep real shame for those fixtures in while it might fit some concept of lobby sculpture for end result that’s not the concept of antique fixture being painted gold. This perhaps as similar to a flat black painted antique fixture in that they were not.

On treating, perhaps a softer un-twisted wire wheel on a grinder in addition to sanding perhaps as long as soft enough it won’t leave marks on the material. More for me at least feathering and removing what is necessary but stopping myself in removing too much.

On the C-Clamp... can’t wait for the photo.

Good luck and have fun with the project.
I can't recommend painting myself, but then you probably have access to better quality paint and tools than I do.

I had a pair of S4 leko/ellipsoidals (let's not get into THAT again) that were flaking and had some yellow paint splatter on them (I bought them that way). Tried to re-paint them myself using a special primer recommended by the paint store and a high temp paint. The result was unspectacular. During the winter (I store everything in an unheated garage) the paint started to flake off. So I ended up taking them to get powder coated. That was 3 months ago. Still waiting to see how they turn out. They might be ready next week. Obviously not a high priority or high profit job for that company.

Or you could contact the mfg.
I sand down the old paint using 320 grade wet/dry paper with lots of clean water to remove all the loose and flaking paint. I make sure the edges of the old paint are feathered out. I give a final rinse with clean water and blow dry with an air line.

If there is any rust then you can apply a localised treatment of an automotive rust treatment i.e. phosphoric acid type that you just wash off with water and dry. This is the stuff used in auto body shops and available from any car supply outlet. Don't use the miracle cure stuff. Any rust is only going to be minor on a stage light anyway.

I then use either gloss barbecue paint which doesn't need a primer - it is self priming on steel and aluminium or I use car engine paint - depends on the finish and availability/price at the time. All work I have some ERS that I did five years ago with no sign of paint problems. I have lights that I store in my garage - they see minus 20 degrees in the winter and they have not suffered any paint failures.
Thanks for the advice so far. I don't think I need to remove ALL the paint, however, there is certainly enough rust that I need to deal with it, although it appears to be mainly surface rust. My biggest concern is the paint feels loose is some places, and I'd like to be able to remove paint that is going to fail after a repaint anyway. I like the idea of the soft wire wheel. I think it would be enough to remove rust and loose paint and feather out the edges of the good remaining paint. The worst rust is actually under the top louvre, so I think I need a long brush or something to get the rust treatment under there. It's a crinkle black finish currently.

The PC in quest is my anomoly G. W. Graig spot. I'd rather it not get eaten by rust.
I refurbished several old 6" fresnels at my old theater. The way I did it was remove all of the materials that could be ruined by sand (ie... the socket, wiring, lense, etc...). I then had our vocational agriculture class sand blast them clean.

I asked them what paint they were going to use as the fixtures would need to be able to withstand quite a bit of heat. They used of all things a flat black manifold spray paint one of the kids liked to use when he did car restorations. It's been 12 years and they're still looking great.
Too bad the paint guy at PRG isn't on this forum -- I'm sure he'd tell us all the way its done over there. I was there for some shop prep this week and almost everything delivered to our bay had literally JUST come from paint -- still wet. Never knew a rental house that painted after almost every rental...
Too bad the paint guy at PRG isn't on this forum -- I'm sure he'd tell us all the way its done over there. I was there for some shop prep this week and almost everything delivered to our bay had literally JUST come from paint -- still wet. Never knew a rental house that painted after almost every rental...

Not almost every rental, EVERY rental. PRG repaints after every rental. Why? Because then they don't care if you put your unit numbers right on the unit, or if your painters spray it by accident.
Not almost every rental, EVERY rental. PRG repaints after every rental. Why? Because then they don't care if you put your unit numbers right on the unit, or if your painters spray it by accident.

Let's be careful here, was and potentially is a PRG member here and it is a small world overall in not biting off one's sources. Way back in the day I bought some bueatifully painted "used" fixtures from a now part of the company and they up until I sold them off worked flawlessly and were in mint condition. This as a part of the company that became a part of the company bought out as it were. Even where I work on the other hand, I would be lucky to be given the chance to supervise the resale fixture and paint department's work to it in that it's not easy to control what standards were for say ten years ago and today might be a bit more flexible.

Or at least to the standards of my fiencee the conventional fixtures / Leko Manager, what she sends out the door is safe but persay not to the grade at times I would send it out as. Varying opinions of proper resale gear even at home... how could the industry be any less or hope to be a better standard as long as safe and what they would use at least? Use such a "what they would use" as your bench mark for any and all resale gear and you have leverage.

Overall... No matter the company, we are talking about some minimum wager painter asked to care more about the bar than work in theory ("I think I heard that at one point,") SOP's supposed to be important. That no matter where is often the case of not theater people working in the shop, guys with a "job" working in the shop. Want good work and or good gear, task your sales person with ensuring it's quality gear and it will get done. Most likely if not fresh out of college, your sales person will know what you mean in quality or you will reject it and ensure it happens.

Ah' Bash... A bench mark for the resale industry I would say in them supplying my past 3.5Q5's that were absolutely perfect. This before being bought by PRG but still a hope for the industry in at very least selling only gear thats gear upt to their standards if not beyond that in factory spec or beyond. I know what gear I have a hand in is that way but not much resale gear comes across my work table in being busy and or it not perhaps even our normal standard.
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I paint literally hundreds of lights a year and use what is known locally as "black chassis enamel" as used to paint car chassis.I buy it in 20 litre drums and keep it permanently in a spray pot, it seems to soak in to rusty surfaces and lasts for years, the only downside is that it smells for 20-30 minutes after being switched on.As people are generally 15ft or more distant from the lights I don't see much point in being too fussy.

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