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Old 04-11-2018, 11:06 PM
Seijun Seijun is offline
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Painting a sewing machine with oil paints

Hello everyone,

I am working on a rather unique project, and one which I have become obsessed with completing.

It started with buying a late 1800's sewing machine. It is branded the "Sew Easy", a name that now taunts me daily. I thought I could just clean off the dirt and it would be fine. This has not been the case. It took several weeks of polishing and cleaning with half-a-dozen different products to finally remove what was approximately 130 years worth of grime. Then I got it into my head that the finishing touch it needed was a new coat of shellac. I had read up on the process and even watched videos of people re-shellacking old sewing machines. Most old sewing machines used shellac as a finishing coat when they were originally made. Unfortunately, my machine was probably not one of them.. I gave it a liberal coating, and then watched in horror as several sections of its gorgeous gold and green leaf motif melted away into nothingness.

Since then I have experimented with various suggestions for repainting the damaged areas. Nail polish, paint pens, enamel, etc. None of these materials was effective at all in replacing the rich colors of the original decorations. As sort of a last resort, I am wondering if oil paints could be the answer. I have read that oils can be painted over shellac, and I have seen so many detailed and vibrant paintings created with oils. I am an artist and I have painted with acrylics, but never oils. Ideally I could repaint the damaged sections with metallic gold and green oil paint, if such colors exist, and then seal over them with several more layers of shellac. I am not worried about adding more shellac since the machine now has a cured layer covering everything.

I suppose I am posting here for feedback on how feasible my idea is. Here is a photo of one of the damaged areas:
https://photos.app.goo.gl/RNrglgDQ7mBD70C92
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Old 04-11-2018, 11:17 PM
Ellen E Ellen E is online now
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Re: Painting a sewing machine with oil paints

I don't think oil paints used for art would be a good idea. You might need something more along the lines of a lacquer finish. You might consider using an airbrush like might be used to paint a car.

I guess this is why Antiques Roadshow always stresses that people shouldn't try to clean or refinish antiques. It can destroy the original finish and any patina that's built up.

I don't know what recourse you'd have now except to consult with someone who specializes in restoring items like that and see if anything could be done professionally.

Were you intending to use the machine to sew with? If that was your original plan, if it's in working condition then you can probably still use it for that even if the finish isn't original and if none of the yukky stuff melted away into tiny crevices and mucked the working up.
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Old 04-12-2018, 02:03 AM
Seijun Seijun is offline
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Re: Painting a sewing machine with oil paints

The mechanics still work fine. It would be in working order if I put it back together, but I would like to get it looking new..ish.. again. I tried using lacquer nail polish, but it dries too fast, and I could not get an exact color match. Oils seemed like a good option because I can mix them to get a color match, as well as adding shadows and highlights. The motifs on the machine look like tiny paintings. Unfortunately, they are not simple solid colors.
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Old 04-12-2018, 04:20 AM
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Gigalot Gigalot is offline
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Re: Painting a sewing machine with oil paints

Quote:
Originally Posted by Seijun
The mechanics still work fine. It would be in working order if I put it back together, but I would like to get it looking new..ish.. again. I tried using lacquer nail polish, but it dries too fast, and I could not get an exact color match. Oils seemed like a good option because I can mix them to get a color match, as well as adding shadows and highlights. The motifs on the machine look like tiny paintings. Unfortunately, they are not simple solid colors.
Pigment load must be high for such work. Oil paint is OK for that. Any other materials are poorly pigmented. But this work is for skillful master!
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Old 04-12-2018, 08:03 AM
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Ellis Ammons Ellis Ammons is offline
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Re: Painting a sewing machine with oil paints

If it was me and I really loved the sewing machine I would strip it down to bare metal then prime and repaint it with acrylic enamel.
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Old 04-12-2018, 04:17 PM
AllisonR AllisonR is offline
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Re: Painting a sewing machine with oil paints

What a shame that the shellac ruined the ornamentation, really beautiful work I see in the photo. Unfortunately I have no clue how you should proceed, just want to wish you luck and send us an updated picture when you have fixed it.
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