ep003 Factory custom reproduction

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This front fender came to me from Bill Steele of Steele Auto Body in Oakdale.  What was described on the phone was a factory custom paint job that needed repair.  This is one of my oldest customers and a decent amount of work flows from this shop so when they called, I did my best to make it over ASAP.  Waiting for me was a new fender, painted with PPG® ENVIROBASE® using the specific recipe for the gold that Harley used on this model.  It was cleared and sanded already.  The nature of the graphic and deep build line under the clear indicated an elaborate decal, I knew it was going to tough to duplicate as portions resembled gold leaf, but upon pealing back the decal, I realized I was competing with a machine that had not only laid out a perfect graphic with perfect lines and perfect placement, it did so in only 3 steps.  I would have more.

Gold leafIMG_6447 doesn’t look or react the way this graphic tape did once it was pulled off the damaged fender.  So matching not only the color, but also the effect, was going to be a riddle.  Once back in the studio taping commenced and with a new razor, started the work of getting my lines and peaks as straight as possible.

IMG_6445Using what’s left of the old busted fender, I lay out my lines for gold leaf.  I don’t want to rely on later steps as an excuse not to strive for accuracy this early.  I also use this step to protect the gold base coat with masking tape.

An application of the glue or “size” to the masked areas as well as a small stroke away from my work for testing.  Once that spot is almost totally dry and my pinky knuckle squeaks when I drag it across, I know it’s ready.  I’m using 1-Shot fast dry gold size that stays very “gildable” for awhile even though this is a small job.  There are great recourses on gold leaf application.  This is the DVD I watched before I started practicing.  This isn’t a typical gold leaf application.  I’m using as a base to match the factory graphic so there is no “turning” or other effects that would lend itself to a complete lesson.  In the future, I plan on further posts dealing with gold leaf in greater detail, but for the purpose of this entry, I’ll concentrate on other aspects of the repair.


IMG_6455     Gold leaf doesn’t like to have anything stick to it except the glue used to apply it.  That means anything like tape or paint mask with aggressive adhesive stuck to the clear covering the gold may peel off.  Actually its most likely to.  To help prevent this, I add some of the gold size to the 1-Shot tinting clear before I brush it on.  Once that dries I take the fender inside the booth for clear coat.  You always want a protective barrier between your base coat and other graphics in case… of anything really.  A change or (God forbid) paint spill is easily fixed with out damaging the color underneath.  As delicate as gold is, I knew it would also need protection.

After a day, it’s dry enough to wet sand.  I do so, and go on to mask behind the gold so I can attempt a color match.  I only need to tape off the one side to protect the gold as the other side of the graphic gets black.  Comparing the factory decal to my 24k gold leaf, the original looks like it has a bit more yellow and some pearl effect.  I add a white pearl in base coat clear (paint with no color color) with the airbrush and dust in some yellow candy until I think I’m close.  The first try gets wiped off with lacquer thinner (thanks clear coat!) as I wasn’t satisfied with the match.  The second try is way closer.

I use UPOL#1 aerosol urethane convenience clear over this step once it’s unmasked after 30 min I can scuff it and move right along.  Wear a respirator and have plenty of ventilation.  As easy as it is to use, UPOL#1 clear is very strong!
On to IMG_6493masking the gold leaf.  For this delicate step I cut strips of ORAMASK 810s stencil film.  It’s low tack and won’t peel any top coats off my gold when I attempt to remove it.  It gets backed up with masking tape





Awesome! The mask peels off, clear stays on!





Another dose of UPOL#1 convenience clear, scuffed after 30-45 minutes, and it’s time to stripe.





Here’s the fender with the grey only.  After I stripe the red, it will go back to Steele Auto Body for final clear and out to the dealership.




  • Original factory fender
    Original factory fender
    Well, here it is. No ones gonna bang this out with a hammer and dolly!
  • Factory decal
    Factory decal
    This decal has what looks to be a combination of leaf, and flake or pearl. It's bracketed by a grey and blood red outline.
  • Tale of the tape
    Tale of the tape
    The original fender two toned colors were laid out first, then the decal applied. In order to avoid a build line that will most definitely show up in our leaf application, I decide to apply the leaf first.
  • Gold on gold
    Gold on gold
    1 shot fast dry gold size, hardener, and a touch of black is what I used on this fender. Adding black 1 shot to the size (glue) helps me see any hollies (holes) where the gold might not have stayed down. I brush 1 - shot tinting clear over the stripe. All enamel pinstripes and mix clear need hardener added to prevent lifting or wrinkling when coming into contact with other stronger solvents like those in clear coat.
  • Clear coat
    Clear coat
    I clear coat the gold graphics. After wet sanding that, I'll mask it off to apply the "adjustment" effect so it will match the original fender's gold graphic.
  • Gold adjustment
    Gold adjustment
    I tape just before the graphic to protect the base color. I'll be painting the other side of the stripe black so no need to worry about over spray.
  • Gold looks good
    Gold looks good
    After a few tries at the color adjustment, I have something I like. Carefully the tape is removed.
  • Special mask
    Special mask
    Getting material to stick to gold leaf is touchy. Putting tape with medium to aggressive adhesion is sure to pull the clear and paint right off the leaf so I use ORAMASK 810S masking film. It's light tack adhesive will not harm my gold work. It's backed up with masking tape.
  • Back in Black
    Back in Black
    Once the second base color is applied, I can continue with a second coat of clear. This is a protective layer of clear so any unforeseen unforeseeables can be easily fixed.
  • Finally striping
    Finally striping
    Now I can use a pinstripe outline to hide the rough edges of the gold leaf and help even out the balance of the graphic. I match the color to the original decal and endeavor to keep a straight line with a width consistent to the factory parts.
  • Next to last
    Next to last
    Bad habit of mine... I actually did the blood red outline on the other side but in my haste, neglected to get a shot. In the end everything work out and from what I hear, the customer was happy. For not being done with the help of a robot, I'm allowing myself to be happy with it too.