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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I have an unusual painting challenge and figured the experience base here might have some knowledge to share.
I have an old shower door from the '20s that is made of a nonferrous metal quite likely an anodized aluminum). It still has a subtle bronze-gold coating/patina left on it. The glass door panel doesn't run to the full height of the door: the last 8" or so is open and has six rods spanning the gap. The finish on these rods is degraded and I'd like to freshen them up with some sort of coating. It's not a large area and I'm just looking for something durable hopefully that closely matches the tone of the rest of the metal on the door, or lacking that either a close match or something contrasting.

Any suggestions as to what kind of paint to use that will hold up in this humid environment?
Due to its high location it doesn't really see a lot of direct water but may encounter splashes, a lot of humidity, etc.

Thanks a bunch for any ideas.
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I painted my aluminum boat with a designated aluminum primer and RustOleum oil based enamel.
of course, your project is not as extreme, any good acrylic or latex paint will a very long time. (years and years)
just because it is metal, try not to over think it.
 

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How much effort are you looking to put in? Ideal diy solution would be to sandblast back to bare metal, prime, and paint everything so the color matches. Somewhat simpliper solution would be to sand down the rods only, spray them with a self-etching metal primer and paint with a quality enamel paint in a color that's close enough to the original.

Solution if you're willing to spend a few bucks would be to find a place around you that does aluminium anodizing. Major cities should have a few floating aroun

Off the wall idea, if you heat a piece of metal up to about 900f, the scrub it with a solid brass bristle brush, you can actually deposit the brass of the brush onto the heated metal, making it look like the part is actually brass
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
I'm after a more quick and dirty solution for this.
The door will not be removed (it was removed once by chump contractors when rebuilding the shower stall and it was i stalled with slightly too much gap so the ball detent doesn't engage fully. (A lot of what I'm doing here is repairing repairs, work done by unskilled and uncaring 'tradesmen').

The color match need not be perfect. Just the rods are getting painted for now, they can even be finished to look distressed a little (would likely fit with the rest of the door better) ... as it is they are severely distressed, lol. Basically, I'm looking to make it so when one looks at the door one's eyes are not directed towards the poorly finished rods.

I prefer not to spray as the bathroom has just had wall work and a repaint ... and it's a small bathroom.
So:
a.) primer that can be painted and sanded.
b.) a top coat that preferably can be brushed (or maybe it will need to be distressed a little somehow ... rods too clean, bright, and or proud looking will be out of character with the rest of the door). Maybe a rattle can used very carefully will not spoil the rest of the hard work that's gone into the room.

The rubber(?) seal around the glass in the frame is mostly decomposed as well. A full restoration would demand resources significantly more effort and budget ... maybe some day.

I did find a patent for the door:
 Shower Door Plans & Patent US1496525 copy_page 1.jpg
Shower Door Plans & Patent US1496525 copy_page 2.jpg  Shower Door Plans & Patent US1496525 copy_page 3.jpg
 

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Strongly recommend making peace with the rattle cans, unless you feel like spending a hundred bucks on a gallon of primer... Self-etching primers are more of an automotive thing and come in 2 sizes, rattle cans or gallon cans. Course you can always find a standard metal primer instead, but the self-etching stuff does a massively better job on aluminium

Topcoat, id try to find a hammered texture paint in the right color, probably blend in better with the old finish as long as the color is close
 

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Remove the loose material from the rods using a wire brush or sandpaper, mask off the flat portions and spray the rods with clear. It will still look like the original pretty much. It will still have that "distressed" look and color match. Rattle cans is what I had in mind, not a full blown spray gun, and that's what I posted above for the aluminum primer. If there is glass behind the bards, slip some heavy paper or thin cardboard in there to prevent spraying the glass.... cut to fit. Prep work is always the hardest, most time consuming part of painting.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 · (Edited)
Remove the loose material from the rods using a wire brush or sandpaper, mask off the flat portions and spray the rods with clear. It will still look like the original pretty much. It will still have that "distressed" look and color match. Rattle cans is what I had in mind, not a full blown spray gun, and that's what I posted above for the aluminum primer. If there is glass behind the bards, slip some heavy paper or thin cardboard in there to prevent spraying the glass.... cut to fit. Prep work is always the hardest, most time consuming part of painting.

I like the idea of hitting the raw aluminum with a clear as I think the hue/tone will blend in nicely with the rest of the door patina. What sort of clear coat for aluminum ... and no primer?
Can you list the specific clear coat product(s) you have in mind?
(Btw, there's no glass other than the one large shower door panel). This is a small job, it's just a matter offending the right product(s).

On another project I've been over hill and dale on a clear coat search and have completely given up on the prospect of clear coating. This is for a steel medicine cabinet: I've been told it's just not possible to successfully clear coat steel without a primer, esp. in a humid environment, as moisture will eventually get under the clear and either rust the metal and/or delaminate the clear... and that it's a primer that both protects the metal and gives adhesion properties to the clear coat. Here's the medicine cabinet a few year back and currently. Parts have developed rust. Product used was XIM 900. In hind sight, I likely didn't do as good a job in prep, esp. on cleaning and I can't recall what my regimen was but I've never used specific repaint dewaxer/degreaser products (just mineral spirits, alcohol, possibly acetone) or fastidiously repeated the cleaning stage like an autobody professional would do.

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Strongly recommend making peace with the rattle cans, unless you feel like spending a hundred bucks on a gallon of primer... Self-etching primers are more of an automotive thing and come in 2 sizes, rattle cans or gallon cans. Course you can always find a standard metal primer instead, but the self-etching stuff does a massively better job on aluminium

Topcoat, id try to find a hammered texture paint in the right color, probably blend in better with the old finish as long as the color is close
I can spray the rods if need be ... it would just be easier to hit it with a small brush than to mask of an area for overspray.
Can you list the specific products you have in mind, both self-etching primer (which I've never used) and topcoat?

I've been down the rabbet hole recently in metal stuff and frankly my experience is theoretical and I don't have enough experience to navigate the terrain. I've not had great experiences painting metal. For example an interior steel metal hasp and a standard Masterlock padlock, they get hard use and I need to paint them like every year ... the paint is never durable and doesn't hold up (sanding/rattle can Rustoleum metal primer/rattlecan Rustoleum topcoat).
 

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I was thinking an epoxy clear, but I've never used this:

I have used SEM products with great results:
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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
I want to steer clear of 2k products due to safety issues. No need for further discussion on the matter, have had an accidental exposure to toxic finish chemicals years back and am just not interested in 2k stuff or toxic hardeners with formaldehyde, etc. Period. Hard period.

Are these clears recommended for use on raw unprimed aluminum? I have no experience with aluminum as opposed to steel, but as mentioned my research into clear coating directly onto metal - despite everyone and their brother wanting this look and for it to work - has not provided a single fruitful result. Everything from hairspray to automotive 2k clear coat is recommended but from all my inquiries none of these clears direct onto metal behave like they do over a proper primer + base coat ... (and esp. in a humid environment) as they are formulated to bond to a base coat not to bare metal.

Aluminum is another animal as it will not rust, but still there's the adhesion issue as they are not paints and they are not primers.

???
 

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I'm not a fancy person when it comes to paints, I've found that as long as you stick to a quality name brand, it's good enough for 90% of applications. In this case, I'd just run to a local big box and grab a can of Rust-Oleums self-etching primer, and a can of whatever you think matches the color best. Since those bars aren't really heavy use (I hope anyways), no reason to get fancy with the super-durable automotive stuff. I've actually used a combo of the self-etching primer and hammered black paint to repaint floor drain grates in commercial restrooms, 6+ months now and they still look brand new

Tangentially related, for that padlock hasp, have it sandblasted if possible, thoroughly degrease it, then get yourself a spray can of duracoat. It's a firearm coating, semi easy to apply, incredibly durable stuff. I've done a couple knives and an AR receiver with it, miles more durable than any paint I've used
 

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While they recommend a self etching primer, that will also require a top coat in a matching color. I would skip that step.
You are not painting bare aluminum which requires a different bonding process than painting anodized aluminum ... unless you remove enough of the anodizing down to bare metal. So, I would just use a good quality clear spray, either a lacquer or a poly based. Lacquer is used to preserve brass all the time, but it can get worn off from use. Don't overthink this too much, just get the surface clean, free from loose flakes and coat it with clear spray. I wouldn't throw another surface finish like paint into the mix, if it were me.
I have used this on aluminum wheels with great results:

OR if you want to refresh the color:
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 · (Edited)
While they recommend a self etching primer, that will also require a top coat in a matching color. I would skip that step.
Skip which step? The primer or the top coat?

You are not painting bare aluminum which requires a different bonding process than painting anodized aluminum ... unless you remove enough of the anodizing down to bare metal.
I believe I'm actually under thinking this.
Making assumptions - perhaps false? - and looking at ways to solve them.

I thought I was painting bare metal. I frankly have no clue what the finish is on this door. All I know is that some of it has the look of having worn off.

I just now hit the leftmost rod with a green scotch pad. I want to remove the darker parts which from a distance has the appearance of a darker substrate. However, the dark parts may be a patina. Hope I wasn't too aggressive. Anyway, I'm not sure what the finish is? Some sort of anodizing that has oxidized or developed a patina (or are these the same thing?).

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Is the clear coat you linked a gloss?
The bronze tone is gloss. Nothing in this bathroom is glossy except the tiles, so glossy rods will look out of place and draw attention, while I'm trying to downplay them and blend them.

Here's some better pics of the rods, I also got out my better camera (the bottom 2 pics are with it and show accurate color correction):

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
What would be useful is some ideas on how to remove some of the 'patina' that is resembling rust or corrosion?
There are other parts of this door that are in sad shape. I don't mind some mild patina that is suggestive of the age of the door, but the areas with corrosion and areas with green I'd like to gently remove without damaging the finish.
Any ideas, chemical or mechanical, from the least invasive to more invasive?

These pics of the shower door and frame are more color accurate. On the first pic (inside view of the shower door with auxiliary lighting - the stall has no interior lighting and is usually somewhat dim): as a test I took a green 3M Scotch pad to the upper part of the stile. I removed the corrosion and patina but perhaps removed too much. I want to use a lighter touch and less invasive method.

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I spent 25 years as a metal fabricator so what I say is not meant to dishearten .The only way to make the doors look good will be to disassemble the doors if possible go to your local welding supply place and buy a 3m backing pad for a 4 in grinder and some good 3m scotchbrite pads . the scothbrite pads wont gouge or leave sanding marks in the aluminum .It takes a lot of time and TLC and the pads are rather expensive . Now for the real kicker ,Aluminum is notorious for not holding a coating well stainless steel is the same . It would probably be cheaper and less time consuming to just take it to someone who does powder coating which will last a lot longer than paint and will look so much better . I wish you luck If the door is that old it might be worth the effort to have it powder coated
 
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