Monday, August 11, 2008

Grinding Disraeli Gears, Part 1

I’m going to start this post right away (although I might not post it right away) while the details are fresh in my mind.

For two weeks I tweaked on the process of restoring a rusty gas tank using the Kreem product. I read tutorials, watched videos and talked to people who have done this before but no matter what I had this bad feeling about the process.

Finally on Saturday I had some time to get started and since I had scheduled most of Sunday to work on the bike I thought it would be cool if I could get the preliminaries out of the way and get the Kreem in the tank and drying by Saturday night. The tank needs some work on the outside as well and the idea was to combine as much of this as possible since there is a lot of waiting involved.

The first part of the Kreem process is plugging the holes in the tank. I wasted a lot of time on this and in the end made probably the worst possible choices. I decided to leave the petcock in, since when I pulled it I found that it was barely functional and very rusted out. It’s going to need to at least be rebuilt (if not replaced) so I was comfortable with sacrificing it to the process.

The other two holes I was concerned with are two steel lines that come out of the bottom of the tank on either side. When the tank is on the bike, these two are connected with a piece of hose that runs through the frame so it has to be removed when the tank is off the bike. Here I came up with the brilliant idea of connecting these two with a short length of hose for the etching process and then using a length of wire in each to keep them open when applying the Kreem coating itself.

The Kreeme kit I got came with three containers labeld A, B and C. This should be simple enough, but for some reason I can’t explain I managed to dump bottle B in the tank first.

I told you I had a bad feeling about this.

I noticed this just as the bottle became empty and scrambled to recover as much of the (now rusty) liquid into its original container. After a scene that would make the three stooges proud, I got about 50% of it back.

I still can’t figure out how I screwed this up, I literally ran the steps through in my head a dozen times and read and re-read the directions over and over again. Amazing.

This time I add the right bottle, and then add additional hot water (as directed) and the tank is almost full. I let this mess sit for a few minutes and then, realizing that there isn’t much more I can do at this point turn my attention to the outside of the tank.

The plan here is to strip the paint, apply some bondo to cover the mounting plates for the emblems and then prime it for painting. Since the whole mess is nicely suspended on a 5-gallon pail I decide this is a good time to apply some paint stripper. This goes well and the paint begins to bubble up immediately (I use “Dad’s”, I haven’t used too many others but I prefer it to Zip Strip). After about 15 minutes most of the paint is falling off or close to it and a quick swipe with the putty knife removes almost all of it, revealing something interesting.

I’m not the first person to Bondo this tank.

On the front-left side of the tank is a patch of Bondo about four inches in diameter. On the opposite side is one about an inch around. I’ve know that the bike was down before I got it based on damage to the right-hand side of the engine, turn-signals, etc. but I didn’t know that the tank had been repaired. This was great news for me because it makes me more comfortable with screwing up the restoration of the tank, knowing that it’s not exactly in “new” condition.

Some steel wool and alcohol removes most of the paint and primer, enough for the Bondo to get a good grip (I think, I’ve never used it before) and so I give it a water rinse and let it dry. I take this chance to “agitate” the Kreem “A” stuff in the tank and when I take a peek it looks like it might actually be working.

I’m feeling more confident now so I decide to jump into the Bondo task once the tank is dry.

Bondo is cool stuff, I’ve never worked with it before and using nothing more that the directions on the can I had a very tenuous grip on the process but went at it anyway, with gusto. Other than getting too much of it on my Mechanix Gloves, it went well enough (I found out a little goes a long way). Using the included tool, I applied a fairly thin layer, just enough to cover up the mounting plates, to either side of the tank and let it dry. I applied a little more after the first layer seemed to set up so that there would be more of a “safety zone” when the time comes to sand this down.

Another agitation of the tank, it’s looking a little better now…

According to the directions they recommend 24 hours for an old tank, so that’s what I’m going to give it; I’ll leave B and C for Sunday…

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