Clear Coating a Vintage Steel Fork


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.

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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.

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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.

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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. 2016-11-15-001

I purchased professional art brushes to help with application of the paint.  In the next post, I’ll share the end result.

Resurrecting an Old Friend: a 1976 Centurion Pro Tour

1976 Centurion Pro Tour

I rode my 1976 Centurion Pro Tour for over 20 years before I crashed it back in 1999.  In fact, that crash and the resulting quest for a suitable replacement bike is what has led me here – to an appreciation of the rarity and quality of hand made vintage bicycles and to a side career as a bike mechanic, collector and restorer.

When I hit a car that had suddenly stopped in front of me while going about 20 mph, my front wheel collided with the car’s back end and I went down hard on the trunk.  (Thank you, helmet.)

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The fork legs were pushed back and the steerer tube was bent right above the crown.

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You can see the tell-tale paint cracks which clearly indicate a sudden impact.  The fork was definitely toast.

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The frame itself sustained some damage to the downtube (left photo) and top tube (right photo).  You can again see the tell-tale paint cracks right at the lug points, but the cracks are not very pronounced.  And, looking at the tubes and holding a straight edge up to them, I cannot see any significant bends or twists.

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The rest of the frame looks great, with plenty of “buesage” evident in the scratched paint and fading logos.  But, overall, this is one nice frame.  If I could bring this bike back to life with a new fork, and any needed repairs to the tubes, I would be overjoyed.  Interestingly, this frame is “too big” for me – at 54 cm, but I managed to ride all over the place in tremendous comfort.  I did install a stem with shorter reach, plus rando bars (which my Pro Tour did not have originally), and that gave me a comfortable position.  After all, with the really tall frame my stem didn’t need to be tall because it was already even with my saddle height.

Once I remove the paint (to reveal the fully chromed frame underneath!!!), I’ll know for sure the extent of the damage.  Since I am really fond of that baby blue color, I might still decide to paint it again after stripping it, but it will be sad to lose the Centurion logos.  An experienced painter may be able to recreate them.  If all goes well, I’ll be riding this amazing bike once again.

Touring in the San Juan Islands

Centurion Pro Tour – San Juan Islands – c. 1985