Mississippi Historical Radio and Broadcasting Society

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Wrinkle Paint - you can get great results - if you know how!
Successful wrinkle painting requires a lot of work - 90% of which is preparation - and the other 10% is the oven in the kitchen (but be sure and note the caution below!!!!). If you are after a wrinkle finish that looks like an original factory finish - you generally have to strip the old wrinkle paint down to bare cabinet. For reasons I don't really understand - any cracks, chips, etc. or areas that are worn will take on a different "wrinkle texture" than where it goes over the old wrinkle surface -- in other words - for a wrinkle finish to look really good - the surface it goes on must be very good. We've tried "feathering" and other usual prep methods - but have always been less than pleased with the results - and so every cabinet we've "wrinkled" to date - has been completely stripped to bare metal (we've never wrinkled wood).

An interesting thing - the wrinkle paint we use does better directly sprayed on to bare metal - i.e. a primer coat seemed to cause the wrinkles to be "splotchy"... have no idea why. We've tried zinc chromate and a common gray auto primer - same results. With most paints - you have a lot of leeway of how you apply it - how long between coats - how many coats - (like several very light coats - or one heavy coat, etc.). With wrinkle paint - follow the instructions exactly.

Make sure the item(s) to be painted are at the correct temperature - including the paint itself the item to be painted AND the paint should be the same temperature.

Here is the one place you can take the instructions to a little bit extreme. Most instructions will note that some heat (hair dryer, etc.) will "aid the wrinkling effect"... and that is one understatement. We had always wondered how they got those gorgeous uniform finishes on military radios (BC-348s, etc.) - where the wrinkling is uniform all over. We tried using a hair dryer - but inevitably we would get areas that had more and less wrinkle. Not bad - but not that "factory" look either. Letting it dry / wrinkle on it's own gave more uniform results - but the wrinkling seemed muted.

Then we found the answer. Heat the oven to 200 - 225 degrees F. Spray the item as the instructions indicate. Just as soon as that second coat hits - turn the oven off - and put the item in the oven and close the door. DON'T TRY THIS WITH A GAS OVEN WITH ANY PILOT LIGHT!!!!! I'm afraid the fumes might get to the pilot light and explode. Use either an electric oven - or if you have a pilotless gas oven (and stove!) like we have - that would be OK.

Anyway - the uniform heat causes the wrinkles to be heavy - uniform and have that "factory" sharp look. After about two hours - the oven should be about room temperature - and the item will likely be tack-free - though I usually let them sit overnight in the oven - a nice dust-free place to dry. Since we found this "dryer" trick - we've also found that other finishes (including tung oil) can be forced dried in a couple hours - so we can three or even four-coat a cabinet in a single day... really saves time. Some of the cabinets we've done this way were done over 6 years ago - and so far none show any ill effects from accelerated drying. If you'd like to see an example of a refinished radio using this technique - there is a BC-348R in the museum that we did about 4 or 5 years ago.

There is a secondary challenge to the front panel of the 348s -- all of the legends are "reverse" punched - i.e. when the aluminum panel was punched out of a sheet of aluminum - the lettering was in relief - in other words it sticks out - rather than being punched in. When you refinish the front panel - you have to paint the whole thing. then ever-so-carefully sand down through the paint to the letters - so they can be seen. as thick as wrinkle paint goes on - it's almost as thick - as the letters "stick out"... so it is a real challenge to get the letters exposed without marring the surrounding paint.
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Copyright © 1996, 1999 Randy Guttery