First round of sanding frame

First round of wet sanding frame

To be perfectly frank, I had no idea what I was getting into. I’m a technical systems analyst, so to say I have soft hands is an understatement. From everything I read, prepping the surface is one of the more important details when painting a surface. I think I remember that from cub scouts when I made my pinewood derby car.

The most ideal approach to prepping is to sandblast the frame down to its core aluminum. I don’t have a sand blaster. I’m too cheap to rent one.

The next best thing would have been to use sandpaper to strip the frame down to its bare aluminum. I’m not a Zen master; I have no patience. That wasn’t an option to me. I wasn’t about to spend weeks of time hand sanding the frame down all the way.

Ah, screw scrubbing all the logos..

Ah, screw scrubbing all the logos.. It was rough enough for a base.

The last best thing was for me to go over the frame with a rough grit sand paper so at the very least the primer would stick. I was worried about this approach because technically the primer would be sticking to the roughed up factory paint job. So essentially, my paint job is only going to stick to the frame as well as the factory paint job would. If you have more time or the tools, go with the complete stripping approach. If you’re lazy and cheap like me, use my approach.

For this job, use 100 grit wet sand paper.   The wet sand paper helps keep the dust down and becomes more important in the later stages.

I started off pretty OCD about getting all the painted Sette logos on the frame off thinking it would screw around with my end product.  After spending 45 minutes getting just one of the 5 painted decals and logos, I decided that it probably wasn’t as big of a deal as I thought.  The painted logos was as suceptable to the sanding as the rest of the frame, so I figured it’s best to scuff a nice even surface all over the frame and not get too hung up on being so meticulous.  After all, this was just a $100 frame and I was itching to ride.

Once I had the entire surface sanded, I needed to set-up a defacto paint booth.

The Paint Booth:

Clean yourself, stupid garage.

Clean yourself, stupid garage.

My temporary paint booth location

My temporary paint booth location

I think my wife ended up being pretty happy about this project. It basically forced me to clean and organize our extra garage so I had a place that would be relatively free of dust, debris and wind.

Once I was done cleaning and organizing the garage, I laid down a tarp and rigged up a hanging system for the frame. I wanted to be able to get around and under the bike without having to fidget with a stand or clamps.

The Hanging System

Hanging hooks for Frame

Hanging hooks for frame

Tada! A paint booth

Hanging system and "paint booth"

I grabbed some extra hanging hooks from the other garage and inserted them into the wooden support beams overhead.

I then used a 3 foot metal pole to thread through the bottom of the bottom bracket shell. I used some tape and straps on the end of the pole and strapped the pole to the overhead hooks.

To support the front of the frame I ripped apart a toilet stopper. I ran a couple threads of high tess fishing line through the plunger and the ran the fishing line back up to the hanging hooks.

It wasn’t a very eloquent solution.. but it worked. The bike was magically suspended in a garage that could be closed off to most wind and dust. I had my paint booth!

Sealing the important parts:

There are a few places on the bike that are very important to seal before any priming or painting can be performed. If you don’t seal these parts, you risk not being able to install critical components such as the bottom bracket, the headset or the seat post! If you end up getting paint in these places, it isn’t the end of the world. You will most likely have to take the frame up to the LBS and have them prep whatever place got painted. They have tools for it. Save yourself some time and money and just make sure you seal up the following places:

Bottom bracket:

Tape off the frame's bottom bracket

Tape off the frame's bottom bracket


Seal the head tube so you can install a headset later

Seal the head tube so you can install a headset later

Seat post:

Seal this so you don't have problems with the seat tube.

Seal this so you don't have problems with the seat tube.

8 Responses to Prepping

  1. Paul

    With regards to getting the decals off, waggle a hairdryer over them for a couple of minutes and they will come off a treat.

  2. Thanks for posting this info. I am in the same positon, i want to paint up my frame as its currently old looking and i want a fresh look for my single gear work bike.

  3. Keaton

    Wow this helped me a lot I am renovating an old diamondback session I still can’t get my cranks off though…

  4. Luke

    This Is a great site, super helpful for my project!

  5. Maks

    Great site! You’ve inspired me to renovate an old hardtail MTB I found in the shed, thanks!
    I also followed your idea of just roughing up the paint job so the primer would stick (in some places I went down to the steel where rust had set in), but by far the most useful tool I had at my disposal was A RAZOR BLADE! Every single nook and cranny I couldn’t reach with sand paper could be scratched up, even just a little, with some part of a razor blade!

  6. Jeremy

    I’m curious about durability. How is it holding up?

    • ekothree

      Funny you should ask! I took the old boy out today and took inventory of the paint. A few bumps and digs, but nothing I didn’t see on my previous frame that was a factory powder-coated aluminum job. So all-in-all, pretty damn good!!

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