To repaint or not to repaint

Hello everyone,

I had the joy of disassembling my Kelsey 3x5 over the weekend. I’m in the process of removing the 1/4 in thick layer of what seems to be the thickest black paint I’ve ever seen. I was able to remove most of the paint with a sandblast machine using a glass bead medium but the really stubborn stuff I’ll have to get by hand, which is no big deal.

Now that I can see the bare cast I’m not sure I want to cover it again. So the internal battle begins… do I simply clear coat paint it (not glossy) or use butchers wax on it?

Any advise, tips or tricks would be great. Pros/Cons.

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If you wish to leave it natural looking I would clear coat it. Wax is good but will need to be replied as it dries out over time.

Yeah, you run the risk of rusting the press.
I would definitely paint it to avoid rust.
I’ve like black hammered paint from Rust-Oleum, haven’t applied it yet, but sure looks great for these type of presses.
It has that natural cast look.

It needs to be first primed with a primer that is designed to attach to cast iron. I have used Sherwin Williams Kem-Kromik, the white version can be tinted with black to get a grey that will simulate the cast iron:

I have also used a mixture of flat and satin fished Rustoleum Black to get that deep black look without a lot of shine. I used two coats of primer, the first was rather thick, and the second somewhat thinned by mineral spirits. I then painted five coats of enamel over that. In retrospect I would have used the matching Sherwin Williams paint if I could have found a way to knock back the lustre. By brushing the paint on you can get a thicker coating than is possible with spray. I ended up using two Fitch (deerfoot) bristle sign painting brushes, wearing each one down to the ferrule from the rough surface of the castings.

Some photos of my restoration:

I definitely don’t want to paint the press black. I want it to look as “naked” as possible but be protected. That’s one reason I was thinking either wax or clear coat.

Rust Bandit will protect most ferrous metals from rust for up to 12 months. It’s by the makers of EvapoRust.
It might be what you are looking for.

I clear coated parts on a press, had it professionally done. It didn’t take long for the part to develop hairline rust which travels under the coating. It has to do with the coating being designed to attach to a painted surface rather than a bare metal surface. The same thing happens with clear powder coating. All it takes is a pinhole to let the oxygen in. There are basically two ways to protect metals long term - painting and plating. The early presses used lead based paint and browning (a rather primitive form of plating). This was something I didn’t know with my Hoe press, and I spent a great deal of time grinding off the original browning, thinking that it was rust, and it should be shiny like other presses I had seen. I have experimented with a process call Bluing which was and is used to protect old guns. It has to be renewed regularly and treated with a light oil, so it is only useful for moving parts. Evaporust is (as they describe) a coating to protect metal parts that are in storage, and is probably an oil based coating that never completely dries, like the coating on parts I have purchased new. Cast iron rusts very quickly, and it is very difficult to remove the rust from the porous surface - I say this from experience. If you strip a part and leave it overnight it will start to rust. You can do anything you want to your press, but there was a reason that the presses were treated the way they were. You should take advantage of two hundred years of industrial knowledge, and not try to re-invent a tried and true process.

That’s pretty good info, Paul. But I’d like to clarify a bit on Evapo-Rust and Rust-Bandit.

Evapo-Rust is not a rust protector, it’s a rust remover, and it does so by through a chelating agent process, which leaves un-rusted metal intact. It’s actually a pretty advanced technological innovation which won a prize in 2001.

On the other hand, Rust Bandit IS a protective coating, which if you read on the website, it does dry very quickly, it’s not oily to the touch and will last a long time.

I usually spray WD-40 liberally on parts that I’ve stripped and plan to work on the next day, so they don’t develop rust overnight.

If I plan to work on them in more than a day, I will coat them with vaseline. This is just to prevent rust while I get to work on them.

Of course you wouldn’t want vaseline on a press while you are producing work.


My mistake, I meant to type in Rust-Bandit. I think it is a mistake not to paint cast iron properly. And I think that throwing out these temporary options are not really dealing with the subject at hand. Covering the metal with a temporary coating like WD40 just makes the job of getting the paint to adhere to the surface that much more difficult. You could cover it with stove polish (or shoe polish as has been suggested to me before), but that still wouldn’t be the right way to protect the iron surface. I learned the hard way, having no one who would offer advice at the time, and I’m trying to offer words garnered from the experience I have had of restoring several presses.

No, of course, the parts I cover with WD-40 are not painted on top right away, proper cleaning would take place.
That’s good advice. I do plan on painting my Vandercook no. 03 with a good thick coat of paint.