Author’s Note; Emblem & Badge Refurbishment originally appeared in the Vintage Japanese Motorcycle magazine earlier in 2017.
There are quite a few different methods you can use to restore motorcycle emblems that have paint that needs refinishing. You can repaint them by hand using small artist’s brushes. I have even spray painted tank badges using a solvent soaked rag on a sanding block to remove the paint from the high points of the lettering after spraying on the paint. Of course masking off the different colored areas was a pain.
Recently I learned of a much easier way to quickly and inexpensively refresh your tired looking motorcycle emblems & badges. To give credit where credit is due, I learned of this technique in a post to the Vintage Japanese Motorcycle Club’s Facebook page by Toby Jones in which he spoke of using paint markers from a welding supply house and posted a couple of examples that looked really good. I’d like to say thank you Toby for sharing.
For this article I’m using the front cover badge of my C70 Passport as a Guinea pig to try this technique. The chrome on this part stilled looked good, but the long exposure to the elements had resulted in the paint flaking out of the lettering and accent lines.
Start by gathering up your supplies, you’ll need oil paint markers, a couple of shop towels, and little bit of odorless paint thinner. For this job I used artist paint markers but you can also get them from welding supply houses. My reason for using odorless paint thinner is that I did this in the house but if you’re working outside you can use whatever paint thinner you have.
Open up the marker and color in the areas that need paint just as if you were a kid playing with a coloring book. Have a shop towel handy with a small amount of thinner on it, not soaking wet, and every minute or so stop and wipe off any paint that has stuck to the chrome outside of the lettering. Be sure to wipe frequently because it will make the paint harder to remove from the wrong places if you let it dry.
When completed, let it dry, and them wipe over the whole thing with a clean shop rag and reinstall it on your bike and enjoy the vast improvement in its looks.
One thing that I have discovered while working on this motorcycle is that deliberately building a rat bike is actually a lot harder than it would seem. In all honesty, a deliberately created rat bike should properly be called a neo-rat bike. A real rat bike is a natural creation, a collection of found art held together by grease, road grime & baling wire that accumulates over decades and tens of thousands of miles. People like my self who drag up old bikes & mechanically restore them while leaving the patina semi-intact are actually just posing. But what the heck it’s a lot of fun! Even so the siren song of the polishing machine, paint gun & steel wool are very hard to resist. Have you ever tried to clean just the inside of a dirty weather-beaten old engine cover and then tried to reinstall it so that it looked as if it had never been disturbed? It ain’t as easy as it sounds. Leave the chrome rusty, oh the horrors! Working hard on your sheet metal & then covering with flat or semi-gloss paint instead of making it shine like a brand new penny is very counter intuitive, but sometimes we really enjoy the results.
Now let’s get back to my screwing up a perfectly good tank. As I mentioned in part one the original plan was to cut the rear subframe off and install a custom one for that straight framed 60s & 70s look. When that didn’t happen I took my cut down stock seat & had it recovered in black & green & fitted it to the bike & I actually did my shake down runs and a good bit of commuting on it as it was. Still every time I looked down & saw the bottom edge of the tank was nearly a half an inch above the nose of the seat it bugged me. You see even on a rat, craftsmanship counts. It’s one thing if it has dent’s, rust & flaking paint, but if you modify something or deliberately create a faux patina on something you must do it correctly. For example it’s okay to fog some flat black primer directly over a piece of rusty pitted metal but it is totally unacceptable to get a bunch of paint runs while doing so, because that smacks of sloppy craftsmanship. To me, being my own worst critic, that large seat to tank gap was a sign of very sloppy craftsmanship & it had to go. After experimenting with different thicknesses of rubber isolator for the rear mount I was able to reduce the gap down to about a quarter of an inch. Still too sloppy for me so I took a small body hammer & dolly & started rolling the rear seam of the tank down, figuring that I could repair the green portion of the paint by blending. I actually thought it was going to work but when I was almost finished the seam split. I probably could have silver soldered it closed & coated the tank with a sealer, but my boys kept insisting they did not want to chance a gasoline shower at 60 m.p.h. so it was off to ebay to find another tank.
Buying a gas tank for a motorcycle on ebay can be a very scary proposition. When I was rebuilding the Minimum Ninja, I bought three before I got one that was even usable. The sad part is that I had already left the sellers good feed back before discovering the problems. If I were doing a serious show quality restoration I would do my best to source a N.O.S. tank from a vintage parts dealer before buying one at an online auction. Since this was not a restoration I was hunting functional with a few light dings and no rusted out spots. The one I found looked alright, it had a few visible dings, & some rust on the inside but it was good & solid. I went ahead & put in the rear mounts so it would fit a CB650 this time paying very close attention to how it lined up with the front of the seat.
Since it was going to be acid washed & lined to keep the rust out of my gasoline, I decided to strip it down & fix the two or three visible dents on the exterior. Then I started removing the paint to fix dents only to find someone had already fixed a bunch of dents. There was already bondo everywhere! Discouraged I actually got back online & began looking for another tank. The problem is that I had already pre-registered for the Bull City Rumble this coming Saturday. So I just stayed up late last Friday night & fixed everything, acid washed it, put in the tank liner & had it ready to paint first thing Saturday morning.
Since I was doing all this extra work I wanted a nice durable semi-gloss dark green that was in line with my original vision for this bike. Being an old country boy I really like the Majic brand tractor & equipment enamel, it is a catalyzed enamel that although it has a long initial drying period becomes very durable. The downside is of course that you are limited to tractor & implement colors. But that was okay since I never found an off the shelf semi-gloss paint in the color I wanted anyway. instead I poured some John Deere green into a mixing cup & kept adding matte black until I got the shade & sheen that I wanted.
After seeing how it looked I decided not to put the stripes and the airbrushing back on it this time, in fact I even color matched the emblems before re-installing them late Sunday afternoon after giving the paint 24 hours to dry.
As I sit here writing this on Wednesday the Suburban Assault Scrambler is sitting in the carport, yesterday I put gas in it for the first time with the new tank, and rode it to work today. At lunch time I took a bunch of pictures of the finished product sitting in various industrial locations, but you’ll have to wait a couple of more days for those pics. Then I have to rest a little bit & get ready to start on the next project!
Some of us just have to do things the hard way, it’s in our blood and it will not be denied. Take me for example, while by no means wealthy in money I could probably buy any new motorcycle I wanted just sign the dotted line & add another automatic draft to my checking account & ride. But even the new retro bikes don’t have the pull on my soul that the old ones do, they aren’t part of my memories, & they don’t need my love to get back on the road. I don’t know about you, but for me the turning of the wrenches, watching dial gauges & degree wheels, the smell of parts washer fluid & the massaging & painting of old sheet metal bring me just as much pleasure a actually riding the finished product. When I finish one project, or sometimes even before I am constantly scanning Craigslist, Ebay, the local trader papers, & the internet message boards to find the next one.
Sometimes I do very irrational things that create far too much work for myself even by my own masochistic, self flagellating standards. This is the story of how I modified & then destroyed a fuel tank for my CB650 Scrambler project, & then had to fix another one.
Let’s start from the beginning, first there was my junk auction CB650C with this very holey tank.
As you can see there wasn’t much point in trying to fix that one so I used it for target practice & threw it away. Initially my plan was to turn this bike into a shiny polished cafe racer style custom with a big ’70s tank & some clip-ons, so I ordered up a 1974 CB750 tank from Ebay & set it on the bike just to see how it would look. Of course it wouldn’t work with the stock seat so I broke out the sawzall & cut 2 inches from the front of the seat. At this point I was still planning to cut the rear sub-frame off & put in a tail loop to support a proper cafe racer seat with a bum stop, because I had the Ninja for me & Mrs. Psyco to ride around on two up. Here’s a shot of the initial mock up.
By the time the above picture was taken fate had intervened in two distinctive ways. First we’ve had one of the wettest, nastiest, stormiest, summers on record. The dirt road that I use to get from my hole down in the swamp out to civilization, has been an almost constant quagmire because we have not been without rain long enough for it to dry completely up. This is not an environment conducive to the cafe racer style of motorcycle as your only bike. The second factor was the sale of the Minimum Ninja, I really wasn’t crazy about selling it, but the gentlemen who bought it from me was like a kid going, “please Santa, I’ll take great care of it I promise,” so I finally gave in & let him have it. To his credit he does keep it much cleaner than I ever did. But now I had to get something rolling & fast, preferably something with two up capacity that would roll down a dirt or gravel road just as good as a paved one. Decide to do a flat green rat bike that require minimum cleaning.
I had already made a new rear tank mount at this time by bending the CB750 mount down & brazing in a sheet metal angle the the proper size hole in it.
The problem was that at the time I paid no attention the the seat to tank relation, something that would come back to haunt me later. After I changed my mind about the direction of this project but before really fitting everything together I decided to go ahead & change the color, but since I was doing a “rat bike” style build not to fix any dents or chips & just spray can paint it.
So I taped off the graphics & cap being careful to trim the tape around the nicks and chips hoping that it would look like the new color was original & spray bombed it with what I thought was a flat dark olive color
About this time, I purchased a “skull pile” stencil from Airsick Stencils & decided to play around with it some, so I popped the tank off & taped it up following the instructions on the Airsick website for using these reversed stencils they sell, & sprayed my main color Createx Wicked Gold.
After spraying the color I then put the stencil back in place and turned my air pressure down a little bit and sprayed in some opaque black to create the details.
Here’s what it looks like when you take the stencil off.
Just In case you were wanting to know the airbrush is a Paasche VL & yes I am very happy with it.
After finishing up and giving the paint a few minutes to set up I peeled the tape off.
If you try this at home just remember that most commercially available airbrush paints are designed for fabric use & require heat to set them and make them permanent, so go over the surface with a hair dryer or hot air gun & get it good and warm if you don’t want your paint washing off later.
Most people go back over these skull piles & fill in little details with the airbrush & some freehand stencils. Me I cheated a little bit by doing my detail work with a black extra fine point Sharpie, before spraying on the clear coat.
It looked decent enough for a rat bike I thought
It’s kind of a shame that I destroyed this tank while attempting to correct the big gap between the bottom of the tank & the top of the seat. Oh well if you’re gonna cook an omelet you gotta break a few eggs. I’ll come back in a day or three and tell you the rest of the story.