Painting a Vandercook 4

Hi everyone,

So I had originally bought 1qt of Dutch Boy brand gloss enamel to paint my press. This paint is oil based, which I thought it was the right thing for painting a metal press.
I bought it in october, but then I figured 1qt might not do it, so I went back to Home Depot and they didn’t have that brand anymore. They discontinued it.
So I am left with two choices at Home Depot:
- Behr brand, which I was informed is actually water based.
- Berel (mexican brand) which is oil based, but I don’t really like it.

Do you know if it would be wise to paint my press with this Behr brand? I like the idea of using water based because it will be easier to clean up and to thin down. But something tells me water and metal don’t really mix.
I’m weary of its effect on the press and its actual high gloss finish.

Thanks a lot.


Log in to reply   12 replies so far

Ideally you want something that won’t be affected by whatever press wash you intend to use in cleaning ink off the rollers. I don’t know what is available there in Mexico, but I like the Rustoleum Smoke Gray. You can get it in a can and also in spray paint - I tend to use both. When is your next visitor coming from the US?

Daniel Morris
The Arm Letterpress
Brooklyn, NY

Hi Dan,

I think I’m not going to go with the Smoke Gray, I actually want to go custom route. I want to do something very similar to this press:
And you can’t get it in a can here in Mexico, only spray can, and it’s really expensive.
Why do you ask? Do I have another package waiting for me?


From my experience, the Home Depot house brand, Behr, is pretty low quality. The last thing you want to do is have to re-paint in a few months!

I might go with the mexican brand, then. Thanks everyone for your input.

I dig that! I’m looking forward to the ‘after’ pics!

To properly paint metal the surface should be stripped of existing paint, then the metal should be primed, sanded, primed again, and then receive several coats of a hard enamel paint. You are not going to get any kind of desired result with house paint. You need to go to a real paint store and buy purpose-made paints that are compatible. Using inappropriate paints that do not adhere properly will cause peeling, and you will find that you have wasted your time and will have to re-do the job properly. It really takes more effort than just slapping a coat of paint on like you would to a porch.


Hi Paul,

Thanks for your input. The one I plan on using is high-gloss anti-corrosion alkyd enamel.
The press is already stripped from paint, and it’s been sanded ready to receive the first coat of primer.
I did try the primer on one of the drawers, but the one I got, which is also oil-based, does not sand at all.
So I figured I would prime with Rust-oleum, since it’s very fast-drying and easily sand-able and then paint with the hard enamel.
Does it sound like a good plan?

The sanding is to give a tooth to the paint to help the adhesion of the next coat. The real trick is getting the best primer you can find (not sure that Rustoleum is it). Usually if you re-coat in the allotted amount of time you don’t have to rough the surface, but getting two different paints that will stick to each other is the real trick. When the government forced paint companies to give up lead-based paints each company had to develop their own formulas, and they are not always compatible with other brands. I have in the past recommended Sherwin Williams’ Kem Kromik primer, which is used to paint machinery that sits next to the ocean. It’s like painting with glue, and it’s nasty stuff, but it works really well. They don’t tell you that it can be thinned with mineral spirits, but it is thick out of the can and needs thinning. I purchased the white version and had it slightly tinted with black. I was painting cast iron, but I’m sure it works well on sheet metal. You might want to consult with an auto body painter, the really good paints for steel are in their domain.



Thanks, a lot! True, an auto body specialist might guide me well.
I will do that. Again, thanks a lot for your advice!


I just want to say thank you to everyone who chimed in.
I also talked to my friend who is a car paint specialist, and gave me some good tips all around.
Here are some photos of my no.4 primed and ready to be painted this weekend.
I finally settled for Sherwin Williams, which seemed good quality. I really enjoyed using their Econo Primer, which, let me tell you to me it seems really good quality compared to Doal’s and Rust-oleum’s which are the ones I had previously tried.

Thanks again. I will post here when it’s painted so maybe someone can get inspired to go to greater lengths to paint their press.


image: 8445731421_4088c9d954.jpeg


great that it coming together now, obviously you got round the shotblasting options or not you have previously posted about……

Hi Jonathan. I did not mediablast-it, I stripped paint with paint remover and wirebrush, and removed rust with phosphoric acid. It was hard but it came out good I think. Thanks!