After much agony, consideration, and research, I decided to clear coat the vintage steel fork from the 1940’s/50’s Mercier Meca Dural bicycle that I have been working on for the past year.
The fork had been spray painted gray by an amateur over what was rust and pitting on the fork blades. Purposefully to hide the damage? Unknown. Fortunately, steel is forgiving, to a point. I sanded off the paint and was saddened to see all the damage that could have been avoided had the painter sanded and cleaned the area first prior to painting.
But, after removing the majority of the rust and pitting, progressively using finer and finer sand paper, I had the fork ready for chrome-plating or painting. Then came the year-long search for the best plating company or painting company in the area to handle this job.
This is no ordinary fork. It is beautifully brazed, with a chrome fork crown and chrome drop outs. I believe the fork blades originally had been painted grey to match the grey color of the Meca Dural aluminum frame. The front spacing is 95 mm – consistent with front wheel hubs of that era, and the fork is very light in comparison to modern steel forks. I definitely wanted to give this fork the benefit of the doubt in terms of restoration.
But after investigating the process used to chrome-plate steel parts, and looking into various chrome-plating services, I was not convinced that fully chroming the fork was the best solution. I thought about sending the fork out to a reputable painter to have the blades painted grey again. However, shiny new paint would really detract from the look of this lovely and unique vintage bicycle. That’s what led me to think about using a clear coat, at least for now, on this pretty fork, especially after my attempts at finding a suitable replacement fork had failed.
Thanks to many restorers and enthusiasts who have shared their experiences with clear coating steel frames (which is NOT recommended by most builders), I settled on the two key products I would need to finish this job: MAAS metal polish and ProtectaClear by Everbrite. By using the MAAS polish, after the final super fine sanding and clean-up, I will be able to avoid the acid neutralization process which is normally required prior to clear coating. This is because the MAAS polish does not contain acid.
I purchased professional art brushes to help with application of the paint. In the next post, I’ll share the end result.