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AMfone's Online AM Handbook => Restoration => Topic started by: Mike/W8BAC on January 14, 2007, 03:23:00 PM

Title: lacquer Sticks
Post by: Mike/W8BAC on January 14, 2007, 03:23:00 PM
Over the years I have often heard others referring to the use of "lacquer Sticks" for refinishing the white pointer groove on a knob or recessed lettering on a face plate. It is time to learn something about this.

I did a few searches and found some sellers. The lacquer sticks look like wax with words like "Burn In" meaning maybe melting the wax like stick? Someone told me once the lacquer Stick was soft and you simply rubbed it on? I'm wondering if some of you can shed some light on how this is done and what supplies to look for the best results. Would painting with a fine brush be just as good? Thanks

Title: Re: lacquer Sticks
Post by: Jim, W5JO on January 14, 2007, 04:17:01 PM
I stripped and repainted the case of my 183D and used the lacquer stick to redo the recessed lettering.  You just rub it across the groves and wipe the excess off.  If the surface is rough put mineral oil around the area before wiping to prevent the lacquer from getting into the paint near the letters.

The one I have is from Antique Electronic Supply.  They have white, black, red and another color I forget.

Title: Re: lacquer Sticks
Post by: k4kyv on January 14, 2007, 05:48:33 PM
I have used them to restore the markings on National type A Velvet Vernier bakelite dials.  The stick is more like a wax crayon.  Resembles near-dried oil paint. 

First, clean out the old paint in the grooves.  CAUTION:  use a soft scraping tool, like a wooden toothpick or sharpened plastic alignment tool.  NEVER clean out the groove with a hard tool like a metal pin, needle or nail.  It will cause damage by scratching the interior surface of the plastic groove.  In the case of the bakelite dials, paint remover may help soften the old paint.

Rub on the new paint from the lacquer stick.  I use a soft cloth, dampened with mineral spirits, to wipe away the paint that rubs onto the area adjacent to the groove.  After the paint dries, dampen the cloth with a small amount of paint remover to remove any traces of paint outside the markings.

Paint remover will not damage bakelite, but may soften the surface of painted panels, and certain other types of plastic.

With a little practice your restored markings will come out looking like new.

Title: Re: lacquer Sticks
Post by: n3lrx on January 15, 2007, 11:34:38 AM
I use Testers Plastic Model Paint. You can get it at any craft store and most dept. stores. I bonds better to plastic since its formulated to bond with plastic. I have had pretty good luck with Bakelite as well.

You can use a toothpick or take a modelers brush and snip off all the hairs but a few and a tiny dab will do ya. I put masking tape around the knob marker. That way theres no overlap and when the paint dries you gently peel off the tape and theres a perfect (Or at least as perfect as your masking job!) line, or arrow, whatever the case may be.

I've also used Testers Clear Lacquer spray paint too. It protects not only the pointer you just restored, but the knob itself. Comes in flat and gloss they also make a dulling spray to make painted surfaces look 'weathered' it doesn't change the color much it just makes is a little more drab.

Title: Re: lacquer Sticks
Post by: W1ATR on January 17, 2007, 01:04:51 AM
I bought my Lacquer sticks from ''. They cost a couple of bucks each, the shipping was fast, and over-all service was good.

The part #'s for the sticks I bought are:

White L51120 $1.95ea
Red† † L51122 $2.95ea
Blue† †L51125 $1.95ea

When I repainted the faces on my GPT-750, I didn't know how far one stick would go, so I ordered 4 white ones, one red, and one blue. It wound up that they go a LOT farther than I figured, as I only used 3/4 of one white stick to do the entire transmitter, and a 390a faceplate that I painted at the same time to match the TMC, (which is installed in the empty center drawer, hence the need to match the paint on the receiver)

Lacquer sticks form a thin hard shell when they sit around for a while, so before use, take a razor blade and trim 1/8th inch from the tip at a slight angle to expose the fresh paint, (which will stay fresh for a few days, so if you do a few letters, then come back the next day, no trimming needed, just get right back to it.

Make sure the faceplate is clean and dry, (Now's a good time to scrub your hands), and, as Don said, it's VERY important to use a soft tool like a toothpick to get any loose paint out of the letters. I used a cloth dampened with acetone and wiped over the letters to remove any remaining grease. Lacquer sticks take a couple of weeks to fully harden so you have a buttload of time to take it slow and pay attention to the details. After everything was clean, (including my greasy hands), I rubbed the paint stick into all the letters, with enough pressure to get the paint stick to smoosh into the lettering, and while moving in all directions (little circles, etc.), to make sure the engraved wording gets filled evenly. When done right, you'll barely be able to see the lettering under the paint blotch. The amount of pressure is important because the stick has the consistency of "Chapstick", and you want the paint pushed right down to the bottom of the engraving, and filled to the point where it's level with the panel surface. After you get your lettering all filled, STOP, put down the stick, and step away from the vehicle sir.

By trial and error, I found it's best to wait a day or so, before wiping away the excess. Lacquer sticks don't have the typical solvents in them that normal paint has, so they dry very VERY slowly. They will be ready to wipe when the blotch becomes dry in appearance, and has a "not so juicy" feel to it, as compared to when you applied the paint in the first place. Temperature and humidity will dictate this, but usually, the next day will be perfect. If your room is colder, wait two days.

My finishing method: I tried plastic squeeges, rubber and wood blocks, numerous types of cloth rags, etc., and any of those are fine if you don't plan on showing off your work to anyone. The best way I found was to take about 20 sheets of decent quality printer paper, a stool, and a garbage can, and setup in front of your panel. I would rip a small strip out of the paper about an inch and a half wide by 4 or 5 inches long. Hold the piece of paper so it is positioned under your thumb, and wipe slowly across the blotch using a rolling motion under your thumb while moving that lifts the paper away as the paint starts to stick to it. Don't try to do too much, only move an inch to two, then drop the paper in the garbage and rip a new piece. Moderate pressure is key to packing paint down into the letters, and the smooth texture of the paper leaves a perfectly smooth surface to the filled letters, unlike using a rag, which leaves behind a kind of grainy finish. Don't use any solvents just yet, or you'll soften partially hardened paint thatís in the letters, and you'll get a very light kind of streaking as the softened paint is pulled from the engraving. Another reason for not using a cloth at this stage is, the cloth, moistened with solvent or not, will puff up as it passes over the lettering, and remove a slight amount of paint below the surface level. Because engraved letters have a "V" shape, they end result will be thinner looking lettering.

If you have any accidents, and dig the paint out of any letters, just take the paint stick and rub it right back in again, then come back to that one later. I think this is the over all beauty of paint sticks as they allow you to mess up numerous times during the learning curve, as I did, and fix accident real easy.

After you have the bulk of the excess paint wiped away, the lettering should look sharp, but with a light haze around it. Not to mention, at this point you have quite some time into this job, so the self-appreciation is kicking in while you admire your work.

Let the letters dry for a few more days, then come back with the paper again, wet it with acetone, or lacquer thinner, and lightly rub over the lettering to remove the haze. Don't push too hard, and don't try to get it perfect, just take off as much of the haze as possible. I left the equipment alone in that condition for a week or so while I jumped to another project, and when I got back to it, it was time to finish the damn thing off.

The Money Shot. (We'll see how many internet search 'hits' that phrase gets. ::)

Pick up a bottle of quality "Cleaner Wax" Don't grab some junk out of the 99.5% off bin, and don't use regular car wax, it has to be "Cleaner Wax". I used this Meguiar's Cleaner Wax, and it works great. (I use it on my cars and trucks also, good stuff) Also get some nice soft terry towels, and a wax applicator sponge. (Not a dish sponge, these are fine sponges just for waxing.) Wax the whole face of the radio; go lightly over the letters to remove the haze, but take it easy. If the paint fill looks like it's getting pulled out, hold off another day or two, and try it again. (That's the downside to these damn sticks is that they take forever to finally 'set up'.) The right amount of pressure and you'll see a little coloring from the panel start to show up on the sponge, this is good. Let the wax sit for 20 minutes or so, and take it off with the terry towels. Don't let the towels load up with wax, and take it easy around the letters, but get all that wax off of there.

This is the best I can say as far as doing a top notch grade 10 paint fill. If you took your time, the lettering will look sharp, and bright, and fat, and it'll look like it was put on there with magic. Much MUCH better than the OEM did it.

Keep your fingers off the lettering for about 3 months until it sets hard, and it'll last another 50 years.

Here's the link to the micro tools page where I ordered the Lacquer sticks.

Title: Re: lacquer Sticks
Post by: Mike/W8BAC on January 19, 2007, 08:08:11 PM
Thanks everyone for the replies to my post. Links and information relating to the "Soft" Lacquer sticks helped to clear up and put into perspective the information I had collected from  others. I think Skip, K7YOO got the idea light burning but you guys brought it into full focus.

I'm going to try both the paint option and the lacquer stick method just to see which one I like the best in different applications. Thanks Frank for taking the time to write the definitive "How To" for paint stick application. Jim, the painting instructions will be followed to your specifications (as best I can). Don and Jim, Thanks for the help with the old paint issues and links to the soft (real) paint sticks. I'll write more when the sticks get here and I have had time to goof around with them.

If you have input I (and I suspect others) would like to hear it and if the AM Forum can save this thread for others I think it's worthy. 73


Title: Re: lacquer Sticks
Post by: k7yoo on January 28, 2007, 12:16:03 AM
W1ATR is right on--one key thing he mentioned is not to wipe an area twice with the same paper. I like the notebook paper idea but pieces of cotton sheet or cloth stretched over a stiff rubber block also works well. NO FUZZY MATERIAL!
or you will pull the paint out of the engraving.
I did an SP600 panel recently and wet sanded (with block) using 2000 grit before waxing--lturned out very nice

Title: Re: lacquer Sticks
Post by: W1UJR on August 30, 2007, 01:26:34 PM
If one is able to gently heat the panel, say with a hairdryer, or heat-gun set on low, the lacquer stick will flow into the groves more readily.
Does not have to be scorching, just enough to be uncomfortable to the touch.
Worked like a charm when I redid T-368 #3 back in 1998.

73 Bruce W1UJR

Title: Re: lacquer Sticks
Post by: k4kyv on August 30, 2007, 04:02:01 PM
They tend to dry out, even if kept sealed in an air-tight container.  I usually have to carve away the dried-out skin over the end of the stick if I haven't used it for a while.

Before discovering the laquer sticks, I used to use plain old oil-based white paint and liquid stripper to restore bakelite dials.  I would fill the grooves with the paint, and the wipe away the excess.  After it had nearly dried, I would slightly dampen a piece of cotton cloth with liquid (not paste) paint remover, and wipe away the remaining residue around the markings.

One caution:  NEVER use a hard tool, like a sharp metal needle or pin or a nail, to clean the old paint from the grooves that form the markings.  This will damage the original markings, and leave sloppy  looking markings when the new paint or lacquer is applied.  I use an old nylon tweaking stick, like the ones used to adjust slug tuned coils.  I sharpen the nylon stick to a sharp point.  This will remove the old paint without damaging the plastic.  A wooden or plastic toothpick would probably work just as well.

Title: Re: lacquer Sticks
Post by: KM1H on November 04, 2007, 09:28:27 PM
When I worked in the Service Dept at National in the 60's we repainted many customer cabinets. The panels markings were filled with a stick similar in appearance to the lacquer used today but were white lead. You may have to go to China to find them these days but the process was quick and simple and done in an hour or less.

National Radio 1963-69

Title: Re: lacquer Sticks
Post by: Mike/W8BAC on November 06, 2007, 12:47:11 AM
Thanks Carl for the input. Interesting about the white lead and your years at National. I'm sure other HRO owners would like to ask a few questions. Welcome.


Title: Re: lacquer Sticks
Post by: wa2rqy on July 14, 2008, 11:24:48 AM
I've used a product called "Oil Bar" that I bought at Crafts & Art supply stores.
Cheep & comes in all sorta colors.
Skins over after a bit, I apply it with a jewels/small screwdriver to the egraving on knob or panel, then buff off excess ;)
Rich WA2RQY/4

Title: Re: lacquer Sticks
Post by: k3sqp on October 31, 2008, 02:27:21 PM
I've found acrylic craft paint works fine. You can get it in any craft/hobby store.
After you've painted the panel, clean out the engraved letters with a non metallic tool,
plastic or wood.  No special technique in applying the acrylic paint. Let it skin over and
\wipe off excess with damp cloth. Since it has a disimilar solvent(water) it doesn';t bother the
paint at all.

Title: Re: lacquer Sticks
Post by: kg8lb on November 07, 2009, 08:43:20 AM
I've found acrylic craft paint works fine. You can get it in any craft/hobby store.
After you've painted the panel, clean out the engraved letters with a non metallic tool,
plastic or wood.  No special technique in applying the acrylic paint. Let it skin over and
\wipe off excess with damp cloth. Since it has a disimilar solvent(water) it doesn';t bother the
paint at all.

  I too use the Artists Acrrylics. They are just right for the job. My wife gave me the idea about 20 years ago. The waxy crayons tend to darken and yellow with time as well as attract and hold dirt and oils. Acrylics come in many colors as well. The Titanium White is quite nice with a long lasting brilliance that is hard to beat. I have some items here that were done 20 years ago that still look as day one.

Title: Re: lacquer Sticks
Post by: Mike/W8BAC on November 07, 2009, 11:20:37 AM
Hi Gary,

I ended up trying both paint sticks and acrylic enamel. To test it I used a few old knobs and an old etched panel. It's just my opinion but I liked the paint much better because it laid flat in the shallow grooves and required less cleanup. The excess paint stick seemed to leave behind a residue that was hard to clean and solvent cleaning made a mess. Black wrinkle lettering (in my opinion) should only be done with a silk screen if the lettering is printed on the surface or acrylic if the lettering is etched (machined) into the surface. The uneven surface of the wrinkle paint finish is a magnet for excess paint or paint stick to hide. I had more control with the paint.

I used some fine artists brushes and a ton of Q tips. It takes a steady hand and a magnifier visor but the outcome is very nice. Your mileage may very.


Title: Re: lacquer Sticks
Post by: kg8lb on November 07, 2009, 11:57:24 AM
  Applying a tiny bit of water to the acrylic after application will allow it to flow very nicely into the engravings. Acrylics being water soluble allows for very easy cleanup so long as you don't allow the stuff to dry. Solvents other than water with acrylics are bad ju-ju.  I did an SP-400 front panel that had a factory charcoal grey wrinkle finish and it looked great with the acrylics. Up until my wife suggested the acrylics I had been using lacquers and enamels .

  The paint sticks are ok for stamped lettering in machine tools etc but a bit too messy for the fine work AYK.

  As you said, YRMV.
 73, Gary

Title: Re: lacquer Sticks
Post by: ke7trp on March 09, 2010, 11:07:11 PM
Thanks for the tip on the notebook paper.. Man that saved the day. I tired different methods over and over. The water based acrylic paint is the best. Dab it on, Then whipe with printer paper. Works easy and looks great.

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