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I know not a Harley, but this kind of mod can be done on any bike really with the proper knowledge. Hopefully you'll enjoy it for what it is.

So I’ll start this one off with a quick introduction first… for any that might not know, I’m Chris ‘Badger’ Martin, and I‘ll post this pic since the wife just loves it (insert roll eyes smiley here…) .:



And the photos were taken by my lovely wife Elise. Hey if she can insist on a pic of me being posted, I can at least share one of her too, I mean fair is fair. LOL. :



BKC is family owned and operated, where possible our sons join in and help out too. They’re learning much of the trade and maybe some day will take over the family biz. In this particular How-To I should note that we were quite literally in a corner of the shop because I’d run out of room everywhere else. I imagine before long, (and if business keeps up this good) I’ll be in a new shop (larger preferred) in the next year or so. But for now onto the project, I did this one back in June of ‘07…

This customer has a Kawasaki cruiser (I don’t know the model, perhaps some of you can identify from the end photos?) And its sort of difficult to see in most shots, but it appears black with a blue metal flake pearl. I was told this is a stock color and I really like it. The customer just wanted some simple flat black flames added to his existing parts. I chose DBU 9850 and went with a flatting agent to achieve this effect. And made sure to top it with a dull hard coat protective sealer.

I started by cleaning all the parts first with good ol’ soap and water. We all know how riding likes to deposit debris of all kinds anywhere and everywhere possible. So the initial cleaning is important to remove any ‘grit’ or abrasives that might harm the finish (since I’m not changing that), before I move on to PPG DX330 wax/degreaser to remove any road grime that might affect my paint.

Ok, since I’m not changing the existing finish on this one I simply have to live with any chips, dings or dents that my flame graphics will not cover. Customer had no problems with that, and impressively there weren’t too many anyway. But I will fix this one located right at the tip of the fender. All it really needed was a light application of spot putty. Call me picky but I want my paint to look good even if I‘m just adding graphics over existing paint work.:




Another angle of the damage which was repaired prior to entering the booth.:



It was then time to lay out my flames. I started by gauging the center line of the fender. A couple quick measurements side to side, and then some 1/16th inch tape right down the middle for a concentric look. Then it was time for the fun to begin.

I used blue 3M 1/8th inch tape to lay out my flames. Now I want to mention a few pointers when using this stuff. I’ve heard many times about bleed throughs, wrinkling, and other unsatisfactory remarks about this product, and all are very viable. There are few critical points when using this product and for those that have tried it and didn’t like it, perhaps try these few things and experiment with it. If you’re still having problems with it afterward, I understand your desire to find new materials.

So first, this tape likes a certain temperature range. Anything above 80 degrees F is going to make it leave a nasty residue, anything below 70F will cause it to wrinkle and possibly lift. The first thing you should do is cup the tape in your hands to warm it up a little above room temp (which is hopefully between 70F-80F). I definitely recommend using this in an area where temp can be at least moderately controlled or maintained. The shop is typically on average of 72F. By cupping the tape, it warms it just mildly enough to make it pliable and very flow worthy. Next, when you lay down the tape, ‘chase’ your lines with a finger to help set it. As will see by the photos, I guide with one hand, set with the other. You don’t have to mash it down real hard, just make sure its seating well. Also, ‘guide’ your tape, don’t pull it. Pulling it too hard can cause the tape to stretch in areas and possibly make your design look ’wobbly’ and it might be the reason the tape adhesion is poor.

Finally, cut your tape with a razor and lay the edge down, don’t pull it off at the ends. Again it’s the stretching, if you do this, you will actually feel the tape heat slightly as pulling causes internal friction in the tape which further breaks down its adhesive qualities. (Thanks to James B., a tech at 3M for explaining that one for the purposes of many related subjects and How-Tos.) Try this and see if the tape works more in your favor. But attempt it on a practice piece first, don’t use it on a customer’s project if you’re still uncertain of it.

Ok, so back to the project here…

As you can see I carefully guide the tape around to make my flames. Now you can use various scribes and marking tools like Stabilo pencils if you like to have a guide to follow. Just make sure to wipe your marks clean before painting. I’ve been laying flames for so long now, I prefer the free form method and just let the design flow on out creatively. This tape is able to be repositioned, if you don’t like something its an easy fix. So in these two pics you see my 1/16th inch centerline tape, and then I started free forming my flames with the blue 3M tape.:






I allow the ends to overlap somewhat because these are going to be masked off. I make sure to seat them with a firm press of the fingers, and inspect them for any areas that look like they could be problematic. Seeing none I move on.:



The customer and I had discussed previously where he’d like to see his flames, and what style. I also painted his helmet to match, its pictured at the end of this How-To and was done much the same way with the exception of using Kawasaki brand, (from his dealership) basecoat to match the bike. The flames are the same DBU 9850 flattened, and dull hard coat sealed, used on these parts.

(continued)
 

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He wanted flames trailing off the back lip of the front fender which is what can be seen here. A simple glance from side to side allows me to get the flames on both sides in relatively the same position and same form. I didn’t want them too similar though, I can’t stand cookie cutter stuff and the customer could fully relate.:





After this I repeated the process with the side covers as seen here.:







After I re-inspected the pieces and my tape lines, it was time to further mask out my design in preparation for my paint. For this I used 3M green automotive masking tape. Many tapes can be used, but I like this stuff because it leaves no residue, cuts easily when necessary, and forms fairly well to slight bends. It has very good tack qualities without being too aggressive on my surfaces. However I’d like to take this opportunity to mention that you should always clean your parts after removing any tape. What can’t always been seen by the eye, will likely turn up in clear coats or later on down the road…. NOT GOOD. So cleanliness is next to godliness. Keep that in mind.

I make sure to overlap my tape adequately to prevent any bleed through. Automotive masking paper is used in some areas that require larger coverage. This saves on materials and keeps your costs down a bit. Please do not use newspaper for this kind of masking. Its not very resistant to auto paints and it could completely ruin your project costing time, money, and much headaches to fix. Use a good quality automotive grade masking paper for such jobs.:





After all the masking was done I once again cleaned my surface this time with Hexane. It helps remove any residue and finger prints that may have gotten on the graphics area due to taping. Then I scuffed the area with 600 grit dry to give my surface some tooth for paint adhesion.



Then I once again cleaned the parts, used a tack cloth and took them into the booth for spraying. There’s no windows on the booth and without any respirator I’m not having the wife come stand in there to take pictures and risk her health. Which is another good point to make. You can be the greatest painter in the world, but if you don’t take the time and invest the money in much of the safety equipment necessary you won’t be around long enough to see your work cultivate the market. Even if you’re an amateur, wear the gear… your loved ones will be glad you did.

So now I’ll mention my paint mix though. When using a flatting agent in your paints, it can change the viscosity and affect your flow. To get a smooth, non-textured look from flats, I recommend using a Zahn cup to measure viscosity. I don’t have a pic of mine, but I did find one on the net I can show you.



Basically it’s a simple cup with a hole in the end, attached to a long stem to hold it by. Simply dip it in your reduced, ready to spray mix, lift it up and check the time it takes the cup to fully drain. I’ve found that + or - 18 seconds (at my altitude) in my Zahn 2 cup is a perfect flow viscosity for many paints. This might differ for you depending on location, materials, humidity, etc. So take the time to experiment on practice pieces, and always take notes to help you reflect on, should you need info later.

Its tools like this, combined with the knowledge that sets a pro’s work apart from the average hobbyist. So research your tools and techniques if you’re interested in getting into this field.

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After spraying I allowed the parts to flash off, then I applied my dull hard coat as a protective topping and to ‘seal in’ my graphic since no clear coat was to be used over the whole pieces. Then I brought them back out for unmasking.:



When unmasking its generally a good idea to start in the reverse order you applied. And work in layers. I removed the green tape and paper carefully leaving the blue. This reduces the risk of any lifting (which shouldn’t occur if you’ve prepped correctly first, but sometimes caca occurs.), or scratching of your graphic area. Then I slowly remove the blue tape, pulling it onto itself to reveal my finished graphic.





As I mentioned above, cleaning once again to remove any tape residue that could have been left over is the key to a finished product that pleases both painter and customer.
The parts where then re-installed on the customer’s bike by him, and he brought it by for pictures.

He didn’t opt to remove the tank and rear fender at that time. He mentioned he’d done it before but its rather tedious. I do hear this from many customers and its understandable. Once the snow flies, I’ll drop by (since he’s within an hour drive) and remove these parts for him to complete his overall look.

I did keep my uncatalysed paint mixture on hand because of this very reason. I wanted to make certain that when I paint these other pieces I have an absolute paint match over all. Mixing from new contents could mean having an ingredient vary slightly enough to make a minute difference. Sure maybe no one would see it, but if I can see it, it just drives me nuts. So I’ve kept his material on hand knowing I’ll add more when he’s ready, and I can perform touch ups if necessary at that time too.

A word on tape edge- this is typically caused and very common when masking this way, but when using the correct viscosity as mentioned above you have less of a tape edge so jobs like this where no top coat clear is added you get a quality look without the harsh edge.:












So I hope you’ve enjoyed this How-To. As usual if you have any questions, just ask. Ride safe, rock on, and happy sprays!


Badger
 

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Brilliant work! That is something Ive always wanted to learn how to do.
 

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Thanks for the GREAT post. I am an absolute n00b at painting and love to learn anything I can. I want to try flames, but I had a bit of an adventure just painting my R one color.

I had some orange peel and I sanded back. I cleaned with a non-solvent based cleaner then used a tack cloth. Something in the tack cloth stayed on the surface and when I sprayed the next coat which was a color coat the whole thing bubbled up like I was spraying Jasco.

I enjoy the painting process. It would be a whole shitload easier if one had a spray booth though. The set-up time to clean and convert my garage is substantial.
 

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Thanks for the GREAT post. I am an absolute n00b at painting and love to learn anything I can. I want to try flames, but I had a bit of an adventure just painting my R one color.

I had some orange peel and I sanded back. I cleaned with a non-solvent based cleaner then used a tack cloth. Something in the tack cloth stayed on the surface and when I sprayed the next coat which was a color coat the whole thing bubbled up like I was spraying Jasco.

I enjoy the painting process. It would be a whole shitload easier if one had a spray booth though. The set-up time to clean and convert my garage is substantial.

A booth is definitely a helpful tool, and even small set ups can be built on a minor budget.

Quick advise on tack cloths. They are definitely essential to doing quality work, but they can leave a very nasty residue if they aren't allowed to 'air' first. When I open a new one, I make sure to keep a Ziplock bag near by so I can put it in there for safe keeping. A good tack cloth should last several paint jobs if used properly.

When you take it out of the package, go ahead and unfold it completely. You might notice a slight odor for a few seconds, I believe this is just the make up of the product itself, but its getting a little air now. Then re-fold it to your liking, I don't tend to fold it back the way it was packaged, just in a manner I can quickly invert it on itself for a new surface area if desired. I've also seen guys just kind of wad them up, which actually seems to work too, but as long as it gets some air, its usually good. Its good to air it a little when taking it out of the Ziplock too, for the "just in case".

Hope this helps.

Badger
 
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