October 16, 2012
Refinishing a bicycle

My daughter's friend, PJ, got an old frame and wanted to make it into a fixie. He needed help refinishing the frame. PJ got into cycling about a year ago and loves it. He joined the local club and has been out racing. He stops by every now and then for wrenching help and to talk cycling. I was excited to help in his project.

First, I completely disassembled the bike. It was an old Schwinn Free Spirit ten speed. It had an Ashtabula crank, which I had never seen before.

I kept all the components, just in case, but most of them were in bad shape.

At the hardware store, I asked what was the best paint remover to use. The paint specialist asked, "Safe and not so good, or dangerous and effective?" Obviously, I chose dangerous. We used Jasco to take off the paint. I can't emphasize how strong the stuff is. Careful it eats right through nitrile gloves and pretty much anything else it touches. More than once I had to rub baking soda on my hands to stop the acid.

Be careful! You are warned.

The fork paint came off much easier than the frame. The frame took a ton of elbow grease with the wire brush to get loose.

I used wire brushes on the drill to complete the job. Doing it all by hand would have been impossible. It took hours to get every bit of rust and paint off. Wearing eye protection, a respirator, and protective clothing made it a hot, sweaty job, but better safe than sorry.

Kinda neat to see the welds/brazes.

Clean. Having the bike stand was invaluable during the cleaning process.

I made a paint rig from coat hangers and bungie cords. About as simple as it gets.

I used a collapsible shed as a paint booth. Here's PJ putting on a coat of primer paint. I went with the Rustoleum white to help prevent rust in the future.


Over the summer, we both got busy and the primered frame lingered in the garage for several months.

PJ wanted black & orange, the high school colors. So I went for a look with orange on the top, seat, and down tubes. I masked off for orange paint and built another quick hanger.

Painted orange.

I love this look, but PJ wanted black & orange.

I masked off the orange and sprayed on a couple coats of black.

Painting complete.

Decals applied for a retro appropriate look. I got the decals from VeloCals. I recommend them.

Lastly, I rehung the bike and applied three coats of clear coat for more protection.

PJ with his finished frame.

I had the fork headset pressed and put in a bottom bracket adapter to allow the use of standard cranks.

Yes, the bike isn't finished. That's up to PJ. His turn to step up and finish the job. I helped with the worst parts, but he can handle the rest and will continue to learn, which is the point of this whole effort.

I asked him for pictures when it's done and will update here when I get them.

Posted by michael at October 16, 2012 09:27 AM


Nice job the frame looks great. But the kid is only 15. You better stay on him or the project may never be complete. I remember when I was 15.

Posted by: Coach Steve [http://MarathonTraining.TV] on October 16, 2012 10:42 AM

Way to go. Can't wait to see this tiger-fixie out on the road.

Posted by: Ken [] on October 16, 2012 11:04 AM

PJ from a piece of junk that came out amazing! I like the Creamsicle orange/white look too but the black/orange came out great, especially with the chromed fork tips. You'll have a one-of-a-kind bike and, more importantly, the skills to build your next.

Posted by: Jeff [http://jmsarduino.blogspot.com] on October 17, 2012 10:57 AM
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