Repair: Lettering Restoration

Hello, on this post we are going to discuss how to restore faded or chipped paint on the engraved lettering on your cameras and lenses. This problem is pretty common amongst users and collectors of classic lenses as the lenses themselves are usually subject to poor handling and abuse by the previous owner and even if the owner was careful enough, the lenses themselves are pretty old and bright paint rarely retain their finish for that long unless they are very well kept and used very rarely.

Fortunately for us, the process is not difficult at all since I would just consider this to be a “spot” repair and you do not need to be a highly skilled craftsman to be able to do this but you do need to have some basic understanding of paints and materials to pull this off. The good thing about being a scale modeler (I quit in 1999) is that we are exposed to the same materials and skills used in restoring older lenses.

Actual cosmetic restoration requires more work such as stripping the metal parts to bare metal and repainting everything with an airbrush but we will not go that far in this post but I may do one in the future if I found a lens that is valuable enough to restore to that extent. I also have a baby at home and I do not want the fumes to affect the health of my family as well because lacquer fumes can get everybody high (glue sniffing as a hobby is not encouraged).

Introduction:

I got this rare lens for cheap because of the condition that it was in, it had an M42 mount instead of an F-mount, worn exterior, really oily aperture blades, some cleaning marks on the glass and just down right dirty inside and out.

I have carefully overhauled this lens inside and out so I only have to pay attention to the small details on the exterior such as the missing paint on the lettering. I will just leave the worn black paint there since it does add to the vintage look but the missing numbers are vital because I am not a collector so I do use my lenses every single day from Monday to Friday!

IMG_1946b

The subject of this blog post is the missing pink paint on the number 16 engraved on the fluted chrome grip (check the red circle on the picture above).

About Me:

I am a photographer based in Tokyo who scours the junk section of the camera shops here on a regular basis. I started this hobby of fixing old lenses and cameras because I kept on getting scammed before when I purchase online. This turned out to be a blessing because I now buy junk lenses for a fraction of the price and then fix them to add to my growing now collection. This allowed me to buy gear that were otherwise off-limits to me if I were to get them in better condition.

I was a scale modeller before who built models for other collectors for a very longtime, got an education as a dental prosthodontist (but didn’t pursue dentistry) and growing up in a watch repair shop gave me the useful skills that would help me in this craft. Fixing my car also contributed some know-how.

Having mentioned the above, I will tell you now that I am not a professional repairman! So please take what I do with a grain of salt and I will never be held responsible for anything wrong that will happen to you and your project. I hope that the pros would guide and teach us but nobody is writing anything.

As my collection of repair notes grew, I get requests from people with similar interests and from professionals who just needed some notes just in case. Now, I am sharing my library with you for your entertainment and reference. I hope that you find my work useful.

Materials:

First, we need paint that has a similar color to the one that was missing in the lens so I matched the color to the engraved lines on the lens barrel since they use the same paint anyway. It can be difficult to find a paint that matches the color by a 100% but just look for the closest shade that you can find or else you would need to mix one by hand.

IMG_1971

The type of paint to use is equally important to what color your paint is. Nikon is using lacquer as far as I know on the base paint and on the clear coating applied after the base paint is dry. Having that in mind, you would want to avoid using lacquer paint on top of a lacquer finish. This is because you want to avoid the new paint dissolving the older paint underneath it when you wipe it or whatever. This may seem irrational since the old pain has been dry for decades but you never know!

The best type of paint that I use for these kinds of things is enamel. Enamel is tough and it does not produce those harmful fumes as much as lacquer. It is also very easy to clean them with lighter fluid as opposed to lacquer because you will need something strong like lacquer thinner which can be really harmful to you when inhaled in large amounts.

Acrylic is also fine but it lacks the durability of enamel, cost for cost enamel is still the best choice for what we need to do.

Next we need a fine round brush to apply the paint. If you are really cheap, a piece of sharp toothpick will do just as well. You will also need lighter fluid to clean your brush after you have used it (if you used enamel paints) and some Kleenex to wipe of excess paint off the metal surface, paint brush and your hard just in case.

As a final note on the materials section, the best place to look for quality enamel paints is your local hobby shop. They also come in small convenient bottles and they are very cheap compared to the pints being sold in hardware stores. A bottle of enamel paint will last you more than a lifetime!

Technique:

IMG_1972First, we need to dab paint into the engraved part of the lettering that we want to fill in. Let it dry for a few minutes so it will stay there when you wipe them off later on. Wiping off fresh paint seconds after you have applied it will only result in a mess, but it is OK if you are fine with it.

IMG_1973Now, after the paint has dried a bit, get a clean sheet of Kleenex and apply some lighter fluid to it and be sure that the Kleenex is not dripping wet. You just want a moist tissue similar to baby wipes but less wet. Carefully wipe off the excess paint with your finger until all that is left is the paint inside the lettering. A clean Q-tip will also work fine.

5535aLet your paint dry over night and appreciate!

Conclusion:

IMG_1976bAs you can see in the picture above, re-applying the pink paint just makes the lens look and function better. I can now see clearly where f/16 is!

IMG_1976cIn case you cannot see it in the previous picture, here it is when you zoom in.

The next step for me is to do the same thing for the chipped paint on f/22. I hope that you have learned something new in this blog post and if you enjoyed this post, please do me a favor by sharing my blog to your friends so that I get more hits!

Thank you very much and see you guys again next time!

Help Support this Blog:

Maintaining this blog requires money to operate. If you think that this site has helped you or you want to show your support by helping with the upkeep of this site, you can simple make a small donation to my paypal.com account (richardHaw888@gmail.com). Money is not my prime motivation for this blog and I believe that I have enough to run this but you can help me make this site (and the companion facebook page) grow.

Helping support this site will ensure that this will be kept going as long as I have the time and energy for this. I would appreciate it if you just leave out your name or details like your country and other information so that the donations will totally be anonymous it is at all possible. This is a labor of love and I intend to keep it that way for as long as I can. Ric.

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8 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Chris Gould
    Feb 01, 2016 @ 14:57:52

    Really glad to read this. So many good stuffs here. Thanks a lot!

    Reply

  2. Tom
    Jul 11, 2016 @ 21:37:39

    Hi Richard

    Really enjoying your website and all the tips.

    Do you have any advice for painting chips and scratches to the black lens body?

    Reply

    • richardhaw
      Jul 11, 2016 @ 23:54:08

      Thanks, Tom!
      What do you mean by chips and crack? Are you referring to scratches and scruff marks? Unfortunately, I do not know of any good method at the moment that will result in a good looking finish. There are products being sold as “camera enamel” but all these do is touch up on bare metal and the result will be noticeably different from the surrounding paint. Ric.

      Reply

  3. Tom
    Jul 13, 2016 @ 12:06:26

    Hi Richard thanks for the response

    Yes scratch and scuff marks is a better description of what I was trying to describe. Sort of like what has occurred on the scalloped focusing ring on the lens in this article.

    I am going to try using the birchwood casey super black touch up pens this week and try and to blend the colour using an abrasive sponge to help blend / match the colour.

    Reply

  4. Trackback: Repair: W-Nikkor 3.5cm f/3.5 | Richard Haw's Classic Nikkor Maintenance Site

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