Friday, July 15, 2016

Pinstriping 101

The paint job is finally over. It was not just the large parts, but every single metal part (maybe 25-30 of them in total) now has a beautiful glossy deep black. Furthermore, all the chromed parts are newly plated and shining like a mirror.

But the most important part of the entire project (I hate calling this restoration work a project) is still not done: the pinstripes on the tank and the fenders. I had made a thorough research in the net, there is a lot of material and information. Interesting to learn, the original pinstripes are drawn as the last step, without any additional layer on top. Even more exciting was that they used to be drawn freehand, without any support. I find it so special, perhaps the final defense line against process automation. Therefore, the width of the lines were never the same, no two BMW's were ever identical. What makes them flawless is the little human flaws in them. I am definitely not that insane to draw them freehand, I'll use masking tape!

Nevertheless, I do not have the tiniest talent for such fine work. Yet, I was determined to do it for whatever it takes. A good quality masking tape for parallel lines with the right size, and a special pinstripe brush that I bought online from England have been waiting for their turn for a long time anyway. I found a good car paint retailer to mix the correct colour called creme white, code RAL 9001. I already have paint thinner. So the last step is to persuade the wifey to draw the lines. It was much easier than I expected, I guess she was way fed up with this mess and hoping to complete this mess as soon as possible. Anyway, I don't question how, but she accepted to take over the trickiest yet the most precious step of the entire restoration work.

Here we start with the masking. I really liked the tape a lot. It's very strong yet elastic enough, the adhesive is also very fine and durable. I was wise enough to order two rolls of 17 meters each, so I've got enough material for trial and error until I get used to it. The rear fender is the right place to start, after all, only here the pinstripes end at the edges.

The tape has two layers to deal with. First you peel off the bottom layer and with a careful tension proceed all the way. The trick is to maintain a slow but steady "peel-pull-stick" rythm, then it becomes very easy to follow the nice curvature of the fender.

Once that's done, you remove the top layer. A blade tip comes pretty handy to peel it off.

What remains is the middle layer, that is, the three lines of masking tape with fairly homogenous distance in between. Straightforward...

Hell no, it's anything but straightforward! The real trouble comes with the front fender. Rear was rather easy, but here it's almost impossible to follow the tight corners while keeping an eye on the overall alignment. It took us some creativity, a bit of dexterity and just a small pinch of lousiness to get it done. It was not easy at all!


This is the way the front fender ended up. We were so focused that I didn't even think of taking a photo of the tank during the work. It was perhaps even harder than the front fender, especially the rear curve was very sharp, there are no reference points to align the stripes and it's the most open and eye catching part of the bike, so no room for carelessness.

Time for the actual paint job now.

You should consider yourself lucky for not seeing my Neanderthal hands instead. Apparently, my full time wife and part time photographer/assistant is a natural born painter! We mix some paint with just enough thinner in a small jar. It's important to gain a good feeling here, as the thinner evaporates very quickly and all of a sudden the mixture thickens and needs some more thinner. If it's too thin, you cannot feed the right amount of paint onto the brush. Too thick and it leaves tiny little bubbles on the surface as you draw. You should keep the right thickness and maintain a steady speed with the brush. It's all about patience and precision.

The tape saves you if you lose control of the width, but the thickness of the paint layer must be as consistent as possible. That translates to a constant angle and distance of the brush against the surface. We apply two rounds of rather thin layers on all of the stripes. Here you can also see my painting desk is not less messy than the rest of the entire place.

Here is how the painted rear fender looks...

And last but not least, the tank.

The only thing remaining to do is to wait for about half an hour to allow the stripes to dry and peel off the three masking tapes. Voilá - your brand new pinstripes.

All right, I admit that if you take a close look, you can figure out both edge and paint thickness faults here and there. So what, we attempted the most challenging work of the entire restoration together and the result is just perfect! Any objections?


  1. can you please tell us the size of the stripes the thin and thi thick line as well as the gap size between the lines. I found the same masking product but not sure about the size