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Body Work & Paint Tips  

Basics of body work!
by  Thomas Jacobs 

I'm not employed as a body shop worker or painter, these
are things I have learned over the 20+ years that I have been
doing my own bikes” & friends bikes.

My latest project is a custom 1949 Pan Head Trike, with a
hand made steel body & fenders of my design” & too many
custom thing to mention, a thanks to those that helped with
the bike & moral support.

You must keep all work surfaces free of oil & grease, your
hands will leave body oil so be car full to keep them clean!
While sanding keep your hands coated with body putty dust
so you can feel the surfaces for high//low spots & proper
curves & angles, without leaving marks;

Equipment you will need, I'am not including air//electric as you
shouldn’t need it for motorcycle work.

1. 14” X 14” X 1/4”thick smooth plastic or wood board for your
mixing tray, plastic is my choice as they clean up easier & are
lighter, you must keep this tray clean!! A warmed up putty knife
works good on plastic, the putty knife should be hot enough to
burn the putty residue thats on it, but not real hot .
2. 3 or 4 body putty spreaders, the with depends on area worked,
they must be cleaned immediately after use & the edge kept
straight! a regular file will re dress them straight & you can file
a slight taper on the edge to allow for some flexibility & smoother
application .
3. a cheese grater type rasp file [ coarse ] one side 1/2 moon,
the other side flat it should have a steel rat type handle, with no
wood/plastic handle” the rat tail will be used to clean drilled  //
tapped holes carefully; this tool will do about  80%  of your work
& it is very important  to have; & to keep clean with a hand wire
brush .
3A.the 1/2 moon side will cut much quicker, keep it as flat as you
can while working off the high spots, this is for roughing out semi
close surfaces only
3B. the flat side is more towards a close rough clean up” [ leave
some material for finish work & do your finish work while it is semi
soft ]
4. 1- putty knife for spooning out filler & cleaning mixing board.
5. 1- junk knife [small] this will be used to cut off excess body putty
as it firms up” this is a real time & labour saver if your messy like
me, the tool need not be real sharp” keep the edge flat to the work
& you can take off as little or as much as you want if your care full
& the putty isn’t to soft or to hard. getting the feel of the putty is
important ; to hard & you’ll be sanding all day” to soft & you will
clog up the body files & sand paper.
6. 1- 3M hard rubber  hand sanding block tool, it has nails inside
for holding paper & 1- flat side & 1- 1/2 moon side both sides can
be used; the 1/2 moon does curved surfaces, & if you leave the
sand paper a little wider than the tool [ 1/4” - 3/8”], you can hold
the tool the wide way at an angle & use this paper edge to feather
out putty edges using a light touch this will really help you blend in
the reworked area.
7. ? amount of  36 grit sand paper [very course] you may have to
hunt for this in  paint stores, it is important you get some sheets
of this as it cuts material fast while semi soft.
8. ? amount of 80 grit sand paper for finish work you can substitute
100 grit but it will take longer sanding” the scratches left will be filled
with primer.[ buy full sheets if possible & fold & tear into 4ths it is
cheaper this way]
8a. fold the paper  the with of the tool” the papes wide way crease
& tear.
8b. now fold the length of the paper into 1/3rds crease & tear ”
you just got an extra sheet of sand paper.
9. 2 or 3 fizz cans of cheap brown primer, this is for proofing your
almost  finished work.
10. body putty of your choice; you get what you pay for [think quality
you don’t want to re do it & the paint job in a year or two] I have seen
putty stay in 10+ years if applied right & sand blasters that had a hard
time getting it out” if you are re doing a old area blast the old putty
enough to rough it & if it looks good , sand with 36 grit & go over the
top of it with  new putty”    “do not let putty/ hardener freeze & keep
capped tight.”
10A. Red label Bondo it’s OK but doesn’t seem as smooth or con-
sistent from batch to batch
10B. Blue label Bondo a better grade I think , & much smoother &
more consistent per batch
10C. UV Body putty hardens from sun light or a heat lamp I've never
used this putty before.
10D. Micro Light from NAPA Automotive a lighter body putty much
smoother, & consistent from batch to batch” about $14.50 per gal.
with hardener
11. hardener should come with putty,  follow the directions  a putty
that will not harden must be taken back out” look for a consistent
colour in your mix. & work FAST!!!!!!!!
12. paper or cloth clean rags have more than enough on hand.
13. 1- gallon of cheap thinner for cleaning
14. ? amount of a good brand of filler primer paint,”  you can mix
it a little on the stout side & adjust you gun settings accordingly.
15. fibber scuff pads, at car swap meets you can some times
buy a mixed bag of them cheap & the fine ones will help polish


1. clean the surfaces down to bare metal, sand blasting works
best but be careful of warpage to the steel [stay back 8” to 10”
from your work while blasting & make shore all filler // drain holes
are plugged with rags & taped first , take your time to do this job.
2. prep sand with 36 grit all bad areas to be filled, this will leave
a deeply scratched surface for the filler to bond with.
3. Blow off all surfaces with air & wipe down with a cheap thinner
on a clean  rag .
4. IMPORTANT: Mix the body putty with a stir stick very good”
or a paint shaker for 10 to 15 min will give you a great mix, places
that sell you the putty will mix it for free if they have a shaker & you
ask in a decent way. Putty & paints can not be over shaken .
5.Mix a small amount of putty with hardener on the mixing board,
kneading it in to its self  with a spreader until you get a consistent
colour through out” you must work fast as this will set up quickly &
can not be used if hardened to the point where it won’t spread
6. spread on putty no thicker than 3/16” per time & as smooth as
7. let set for a short time & check for firmness with your thumbnail,
when firm but soft quickly cut off excess with knife & file that area
flat or to shape; with the 1/2 moon side” finish to a fairly close
surface using the flat side of the file . [ your low spots will show
now ]
8. repeat no.4, no.5, no.6 until you have a roughed out area the
shape you want .
9. once your area is close use the sanding block & 36 grit  to
get it closer to the finished  state & do try to blend in the areas
being worked with the other sheet metal  //  putty near buy,
Watch out how much sanding pressure you use it’s better to
go a little slow  &  sand in one direction,”  reversing the di-
rection often  to keep the edges even.
10. THINK YOUR DONE?  now put a light to medium mist
coat of primer over every thing & let it dry. Sand it out with the
80 // 100 grit paper & the 3M block using a light stroke & as
long of a sanding strokes as you can” this will help keep out
the wavy surface you get when you sand in short strokes; use
a short scruffing stroke to sand off known high spots & then
go over it with a long stroke to blend it in.
11. now your minor low spots, chips, real deap scratches,
pin holes will show in brown primer, fill accordingly & sand
them out with your 80 // 100 grit blending in all areas & mist
again, when dry sand with 80 // 100 grit, until you have the
surface you want; all the very shallow low areas & deep
scratches will fill with 1 or 2 coats of med. to heavy filler
primer, use the filler primer to help you blend in the notic-
eable areas’ filler primer will  cover a lot but is not filler putty,
do it in coats & let dry between coats, the final med // heavy
coat of primer should look smooth with no body putty lines
or scratches showing, there you hid it all,” but check all sur-
faces care fully in a well lit area to make shore you got it all,
theres nothing worse than to do your final colour & find a
small ding, dent or scratch showing.
12. Do you have areas where metal keeps showing? this
is a high area & often needs to be tapped down lightly with
a hammer” a 2# double headed hammer works great if you
grab the top head & put the handle down your fore arm &
tap lightly, if it won’t tap down you can file away some metal
& use putty to blend it into existing areas’ re proof that area
to see how it looks.

Note: cheap sand paper clogs quickly & wears out fast
3M is dam good paper, &  worth the cost, Farm & Fleet paper
isn’t to bad & it’s cheap.

Note: don’t waste you time or money on touch up filler putty in
the tubes, it’s more trouble than it’s worth & often will let go
wrecking your paint job, a dab of  mixed filler putty put on with
your finger works well.

Note: before you spray the primer // colour make shore you
clean  your shop & it is as  dust free as possible; a square
house fan with a cheap  furnace filter works good to capture
dust & paint dust in the air.

Note: you can wet sand the primer with 220g then 400g then
600grit if you want a real smooth paint job, if you go through
the paint you must re primer that area’ other wise just scuff it
up good with 220 wet // dry  paper or a scuff pad

Good Luck & take your time, you will have saved $$$$$$$ on
labour   just on the body work, along with bragging rights when
some one tells you how nice it looks.

If you wish to use this article please ask!  -& then make shure I
get the credit for writing it. Thanks.

Any questions or comments can be directed to:
Jake on the VI-list
I'm the one armed guy on the Virtual Indian web site with a beat
up Scout that I ride,” if I can do it you can too.


Heat Resistant Paint on Cylinders & Exhausts
by  Thomas Jacobs 

You can heat paint in a lot of colors & buy a lot of different brands that
will work quite well. I personally use Dupli:Color High Heat paint, with
good results, { silver is nice }. A good heat paint should have a temp
rating of 1,000* plus; & some have ceramics in them { I haven't tried
those }. As in any painting project clean parts are a must.
Bead blasting ranks no.1 with me; but you can wire wheel & chemically
clean too; either way you should degrease the part with gasoline & then
with thinner or acetone; a cheap brand seems to work ok, make sure
they're dry & do not handle any more than needed { oils from hands } I
like to heat my Cylinders or Exhaust with a small propane torch first but
not too hot, then give them a good coating of paint or preferably 2 coats.
If the parts are heated up good they will tack up or dry quickly giving
you a nice even finish. Now for the fun part & this tells the men from
the boys; you take the Cylinders & put them in a pre heated oven set at
400* leave them in for 45 to 60 minutes at 400* baking on the paint; turn
off oven & { caution hot parts } leave set in there to cool, you should
have a nice durable finnish on your parts.
The Exhaust parts don't fit { in the oven } to good, so I hang them with
wire, pre heat them, give them 2 good coats & pre heat again 1 or 2
times, if the paint comes off in you hand then they need to be dried more,
again you will have a nice durable finish.
On chrome or nickel plated Exhaust, I heat paint the inside for 6" to 8"
again you will want 2 good coats, you can pre heat the pipe by using a
small propane torch & letting it heat from the inside { like normal } but
not enough to discolor chrome // nickel this will stop your pipes from
bluing! Be fore warned that badly blued pipes could be a sign of a bad
fuel mix or a intake leak, so set your motor up right because the painted
pipes if done right wont show this as quickly.
These tips have worked well for me over 20+ years & should work well
for you, but don't scrimp on the prep work.
Jake   back to top of page

The Importance of Viscosity & How To Get a Good Paint Job.
by  Thomas Jacobs 

To all of you that paint your own bikes:
You can make a viscosity cup out of a plastic cigar tube & some wire;
A viscosity cup allows you to time how fast paint // thinner comes out
of the cup, { faster time is thinner paint & every time you add thinner
or paint  re time }this will give you a better better more consistent
spray through your gun & next time you shoot the same color it will help
match" the existing color. { hope Im not confusing you }
cut 2" off bottom of tube
drill bottom hole in center 3/32" to 1/8"
drill 2 side holes for wire { de bur holes & cut off }
Install wire as handle { high tech. }
Dip in mixed paint & time with a second hand on watch
To paint you need to know;
1. type paint // numbers
2. manufactures name & number of thinner
3. what pressure it was shot at
4 tempiture
5 viscosity {drip rate }
Write these on the top of your can, this is your formula for sucess, in
duplicating a color match.
1. high air pressure lightens paint
2. low air pressure darkens paint
3. you primer colors will also effect the finished color
Im no painter but I do mine because you can save a bunch of money & that
relates to new parts & the $$$$$$ to buy them.  { BARGING RIGHTS }
THINK CLEAN { Anal clean }& have more than enough clean rags on hand,
you don't want to transfer dirt // dust // paint to a area that is to be
painted or is already painted
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