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Wheel Horse B/C/D Tractor Dash Panel Restoration Tutorial How to properly restore a Tractor Dash Panel
Wheel Horse Dash Panel Restoration Tutorial Originally posted by: MikesRJ - 03/06/2010 Click any picture in this article to view a larger version of the image Restoring old tractors (garden type or full-size farming equipment) presents the restorer with many challenges. Not so different from automotive or aircraft restorations, certain little tricks-of-the-trade are learned along the way which every restorer should have in their basket of tricks. The older a restoration subject is, the harder at times it is to locate a suitable "show-quality" part to complete the restoration. Sometimes you simply don't have a choice but to restore the part you have in hand because a replacement just simply does not exist.
This how-to presents one of those tricks. The best part about this particular restoration technique it that it can be used on any part made of plastic, PVC, vinyl, leather, cloth or wood. The images above are of the Dash Panel before it was removed from a Wheel Horse C-160 Tractor, and after this restoration process was performed. Yes, boys and girls, that is in fact the same dash panel shown in both pictures. Excellent results can be achieved if you remind yourself to be patient, take your time, and follow the process presented here. Practicing the method on anything with raised letters beforehand also greatly enhances your chances of success. Simply follow this process on a "scrap" item and you should be ready for the actual piece in no time.
PROCESS OVERVIEW: As restoration quality and New Old-Stock (NOS) Wheel Horse Dash Panels are harder to come by, it becomes necessary to restore what you have rather than replace the part entirely. This page is dedicated specifically to the restoration of an otherwise "good condition" dash panel that has been time-weathered, and return it to its original luster. Before moving on to restore your tractor restoration Dash Plate, it is HIGHLY SUGGESTED that you read through this entire article and perhaps try this method on a spare or "sacrificial" part beforehand. You only have one chance to do it right on your final piece, and a million ways to do it wrong along the way.
As a side-note: This process can be used with very little variation on any tractor part which is made of vinyl, plastic, PVC, cloth, leather, or rubber. The VHT line of products is extensively used in the automotive/aircraft restoration worlds for returning anything made of these materials back to near original appearance. See more details concerning VHT Vinyl Dye products at this website: http://www.vhtpaint.com TOOLS REQUIRED: 1. Small bristle brush and Dawn Dish Detergent
2. 1/8" Metal punch and heating source (if making repairs)
3. 800 grit Wet/Dry Sand Paper
4. 0000 (fine) Steel Wool
5. Common Automotive Brake Fluid
6. Paper Towels
7. VHT Vinyl Dye, Gloss Jet Black (p/n: SP941)
8. Elmer's "Painter's" Opaque Paint Marker (fine & wide tip)
9. Dental Picks, Tooth Picks, and/or Exact-O Knife PAINTING TECHNIQUE: The white borders, letters, and symbols on the dash panels were originally manufactured using a screen printing roller technique. This method produces an extremely thin, opaque layer of material which is extremely strong and relatively long lasting. Since reproducing this technique is far more difficult for the "home restorer", the method presented here is relatively easy, and mimics the original process quite well. The technique I use is pretty straight forward and quite simple to do at home.
In order to apply the thinnest coat of paint the tip of the paint marker should be as "dry" as possible, but still contain enough material to deposit on the surface. This technique is called "Dry Brushing" and is used by painters and modelers as a method for adding subtle details to whatever they are painting. For the purpose presented here we are using this method to apply the thinnest coat of material we can, in each successive pass over the surface. Once the paint marker is prepared for use per the package directions, the tip of the marker should be touched to a paper towel and dried off as much as possible before touching it to the part to be painted. When moving to the next paint area on your subject piece, re-load and re-dry the tip, then proceed.
When painting with the white paint markers, insure the tip is about as wet as when using an artists "dry-brush" technique before touching it to the part. Apply the paint so it thinly "flows" over the surface, and use a paper towel to keep the tip "almost dry" of wet, runny paint between individual characters on the plate. Apply the paint with a very light touch in single passes only. Don't cover any more than a single pass at a time, building layer thickness with each additional coat. As always, follow the package directions for all of the products used in this process.
When applying the paint, you are NOT wiping it onto the surface like a paint bush. You are also NOT trying to cover the surface completely in a single pass, rather you want to build successive layers, allowing each layer to completely dry, until an even and completely opaque coverage is achieved. If you attempt to wipe the paint onto the surface, you will produce "edge roll-over" and the paint will either bulge over the side edge of the surface, or run down the side, both of which conditions are undesirable. You should apply the paint in a very light tapping, or patting, manner where the tip is ever so lightly tapped onto the surface, moved over half of the width of the paint marker tip and tapped again; and the process continues from one end of the detail to the other. The only exception to this is when you are applying paint to long, continuous details such as the two border lines around the Dash Panel. These features should be lightly glided over using the dry brush method, from one end to the other end, and the tapping method is applied to finish the strokes at the very tips of these details.
Aside from the method of application, the most important factor to keep in mind is that you are NOT trying to completely cover the underlying black dye color in a single pass. What you ARE trying to do is build-up multiple, very thin layers of paint until the white completely masks the black underneath. If done in this manner you are left with very sharp, crisp edges and an overall very thin opaque paint coverage of these raised dash panel details.
The second most important aspect is that you insure your panel is well supported, i.e.: will not move during the painting process, while the heel of you painting hand is firmly planted on the work surface as you apply paint. This will insure the steadiest hand, and you will therefore have better control of the paint marker tip and where it touches while you apply the paint.
Of third importance, as in any paint application process, starting off with a well prepared surface ALWAYS results in a higher quality final appearance. Complete and thorough cleaning, drying, repairs, and re-cleaning are all painstaking and necessary steps before applying any dye or paint to the surface. The instructions below go into greater detail where necessary, and if followed closely will result in a "better than new" looking part for your tractor restoration.
Step 1: Thoroughly Clean the Dash Panel
Here's where it started!
Once removed from the machine, the entire dash panel should be thoroughly cleaned of all dirt, grease, oil, and old marking paint on all sides. Automotive Brake Fluid is a good paint and marking ink softener, but care must be taken to insure the brake fluid does not "melt" the plastic. I normally test the brake fluid method on the back side of the part, or on any surface which will not be seen when the part is re-installed, in order to insure the brake fluid will not attack the plastic material. Use the brake fluid sparingly, and allow it to sit on the surface at least 1/2 hour, to "loosen" any foreign materials (paint, ink, or hard stains) from the surfaces. Then with a combination of 0000 steel wool (try not to scratch the plastic), gentry scraping using the edge of an exact-o knife, and/or dental picks and tooth picks, you can easily remove all of the unwanted debris.
Once all of the foreign matter is removed, the plate should be thoroughly scrubbed with a small plastic bristle brush and Dawn Dish Detergent. This will remove any remaining oil and dirt from the plate, the corners, and the edges. Rinse with warm water and allow the piece to thoroughly dry before continuing. Once it is completely cleaned it should look similar to the image below.
Step 2: Repairing Surface Blemishes This is the tricky part. If any surface blemishes exist, you need to make a choice whether to make a repair or leaving it as-is. Obviously, starting with a high quality unblemished panel is more desirable, but you may not have a choice but to use a "less than desirable" piece due to replacement part availability. Attempting to repair any surface issue may only result in a far worse appearance than leaving it alone. Choose wisely based on your abilities.
Only one surface blemish was corrected on this example (the second "N" in "IGNITION"), the second blemish (the "wiggle" in upper left corner of the Electric Clutch "OFF" arrow-bracket) was left alone as it was too dangerous to attempt repair without further damage. The right side of the "N" was smashed down and the right "leg" of the "N" was partially split in two. A small round punch was used to "re-form" the letters edge by heating the punch tip to just below the melt point of the plastic, and "pushing" the letter back into shape. The split essentially closed up and re-bonded to the adjacent part. Care must be taken to not overheat the punch as you do not want to melt the plastic, only make it soft so it will "move". Once repairs are completed, re-clean the part as you did in Step 1.
Step 3: Restore Plastic Color and Shine Many products exist which are designed to restore vinyl and plastic to their original luster. I have used many of them with varying results. VHT (A division of Dupli•Color, Inc., a Sherwin-Williams Company) produces a vinyl dye which comes in several colors, and in Gloss and Flat finishes. The product is NOT A PAINT, it truly is a dye designed for vinyl, plastic, cloth, leather, and wood. The vinyl dye, when applied to plastic, forms a polymer on the surface which actually transforms the plastic material surface into a new material matrix. I prefer the look of the hi-gloss finish as it makes plastic parts look more realistically like a "new part" than does the satin finished dye. VHT Vinyl Dye, Gloss Jet Black (p/n: SP941) in the 11 oz. aerosol was used to treat this Dash Panel, which only required a single, light coat to restore the dash panel to its original appearance.
NOTE: Allow the dye to absorb and surface-dry at least 4 hours before proceeding to the white painting process. Step 4: Applying the First Coat of White Paint Applying the white paint is rather easy, but does require a little technique and a steady hand. For this step I used Elmer's "Painter's" Opaque Paint Markers (available in most craft and hobby shops). The markers come in several tip-sizes, I used the fine and wide tips here, and is composed of an opaque acrylic paint. The acrylic paint bonds extremely well to the dyed plastic, and holds up to temperature variations and the weather quite well too.
LARGE PANEL DETAILS: When using the paint markers, do not press down with any significant force while painting. The driest tip (artists "dry-brush" technique) and the lightest touch (the least amount of downward force) on the plastic produces the best results.
Using the wide tipped marker, dry the tip on paper towel and very lightly cover the large borders with a single pass. DO NOT go over them a second time, as doing so will leave "brush marks" in the paint. The result should be an almost see-through appearance of the white paint. Several coats will be necessary, so if the black shows through, leave it alone. Also, "paint" any large details on the face area; such as the choke symbol, large letters, rabbit and turtle; using the wide tip paint marker, but use the "PATTING" paint method described below for these smaller details.
SMALL PANEL DETAILS: As before, you are applying a very thin coat, so make sure the marker tip is almost dry and apply only a very thin coat on the first pass. Using the fine-tip paint marker for lettering and small details, use a patting (or tapping) technique to apply paint to the tops of the letters. Begin at one end of the letter and overlap your taps, moving toward the other end of the letter. Don't wipe the paint on, PAT it on! Especially at the ends of the letters. This keeps the paint from "rolling over" the edges of the raised detail. Dry the tip on your paper towel frequently, and between every new detail painted.
NOTE: Notice the black showing through the white in the image below. Keep the first coat VERY, VERY light.
Step 5: Apply Additional Coats of White Paint ALLOW AT LEAST 4 HOURS BETWEEN COATS
The application of paint continues as described in Step 4 until all of the painted areas are completely opaque and covered well. With each pass you will see the paint begin to almost "pool" on the top of the surface. As the paint dries it will flatten out to a nice even coat. The desired result is normally accomplished in just two to three coats of white paint.
If you have blotchy or spotty coverage, you can use 800 grit wet-dry sand paper to lightly sand the white faces flat and even the paint coverage, then apply a final top coat after re-clean and dry the part. Make sure you allow the paint to dry thoroughly before sanding, and re-clean the part before applying the next coat of paint. Make sure all surfaces are evenly covered without brush strokes.
The image below shows good coverage with very little over-painting or edge "rolling" after only two coats have been applied. Some letters and small details will need to be scraped and cleaned up prior to applying the last coat of white paint.
Step 6: Finishing Up The final step in the process is to clean up any mistakes or over-painting (edge-rolling). This step is normally done BEFORE the last coat of white paint is applied, so that any scrape marks or edges can be covered on the final pass. I normally use dental picks, tooth picks and/or the tip of an Exact-O Knife to clean any edges which were over-painted or where errant paint has been deposited between letter lines. Any over-paint on the panels surface can be covered up by spraying some of the VHT dye into a small cup and using a fine tipped artists brush to "dry-brush" the paint drip into oblivion.
Once the final coat of white marker paint has dried for at least 24 hours, crumble-up a piece of regular kitchen paper towel and buff all of the white painted details. The paper towel material is just course enough to polish the top surfaces and burnish the edges of the white details, giving your panel a "finished" look. The polishing will also remove any specs of dust which may have settled on the surface during drying time. Your piece will now be remarkably similar to an original new part, and is ready for installation on your pride and joy machine.
The completed piece is now "Show-Ready" and looks like the images below. My thanks go out to Bob Maynard ("RMaynard"on the Red-Square forum) for the use of his B-80 dash panel in the creation of this How-To. Bob mentioned somewhere on the bulletin board that he was in the market for a NOS Dash Panel for his B-80 restoration. He also mentioned that he had an old usable one in-hand, but did not think it was show-quality enough for his restoration. I offered to restore his old panel for this tutorial, with the thought that he could perhaps use the result on his B-80 should he not find a suitable replacement.
I hope you enjoy the tutorial, and Bob; Thank You for allowing me to use your panel for this example.
Selling my 1995 Wheel Horse 416H. This spring I replaced the front wheel bearings and replaced the wire harness. Previous owner had it "butchered" and it wouldn't charge and the key didn't work. Everything is back to stock now with working key ignition and charging system, all new 9-pin main harness. Changed oil last fall and haven't mowed with it this year, thus the sale.
The onan motor runs awesome, I have a 520 that smokes and this one does not, runs smooth. The hour meter quit working last summer and says 615 hours, might be 625 on there now. The one bad on this mower is the seat, well it's from 1995 and is cracked up.
By Bill D
I have a cracked seat support on my tractor. Does anyone have pictures of how they have repaired or beefed up this area? I did see a thread regarding repairs but I am trying to figure out how to beef up this area without causing problems for myself when reinstalling the belt gard and other covers. Thanks.
I finally got a dry sunny day so I got some pictures of the 13 horse mount details.The mounting plate photo shows frame holes denoted by the zinc bolts and the engine holes are the 4 cad colored smaller pattern.Think of the plate as a blank canvas.The centerline of crank needs to be in line with the pto hoop hole.The Onan and pulley was left on its plate so I could tell that the outer face of the pulley was centered on the hoop hole left to right.
The hole pattern for engine mounting in the frame are not centered with each other left to right as can be seen in the 2nd picture.This is not important if the standoffs are individual but the tube had to be offset drilled.This is another good reason to use a spare Onan plate as it is already drilled to fit the frame.I swithed to custom made single standoffs for the front to make oil changes easier.If you don't want to use a Predator but rather a single cylinder Honda,
Briggs ohv or other brand of single this approach will work for all with some minor variations.Hope this helps