Chassis Refinishing

A gorgeous TD124 refinished in Ferrari color ‘Grigio Silverstone’ with a fully ‘color sanded’ polished clear coat.  The sheen really is that perfect!

We use PPG automotive finish products almost exclusively for refinishing turntable chassis’.

This is a typical TD124 chassis.  Notice the aluminum masking ‘plugs’, designed to protect the original metal finish of the Selector Switch Bore, the Step Pulley Bore, and the Bubble Level Recess during paint removal and refinishing.
Selector Hub Bore after refinishing.  If this is not masked during refinishing, paint build-up can negatively affect the function of the speed selector knob.  
Notice the Step Pulley well. Paint build-up can adversely affect the movement of the tempo adjustment linkageif this is not masked during refinishing.
This Photo shows the masking of the TD124 chassis for refinishing.  This masking prevents almost all over spray from landing on the underside of the chassis.  Many painters will not mask this, and overspray will cover the underside of the chassis.  This requires little additional effort, but it is a detail that makes a difference.
Perfect polishing

The Process

Our re-finishing process begins by first, completely stripping the chassis down to the original aluminum casting.  All of the original paint is stripped from the chassis using specialized blast media.

The bare chassis is then ‘de-burred’, sharp ‘casting’ remains are smoothed out, and sharp edges are relieved. When the chassis was originally manufactured and finished, this step was done in a high production environment, and quality control was minimal.  The amount of ‘deburring’ is usually minimal,  but nonetheless, it is a critical step. When the final finish is being polished,  these sharp edges and burrs are ‘high points’ that can easily cause ‘sand throughs’ in the clear coat, if they are not smoothed over.

The deburred chassis is then treated with a special aluminum chemical treatment meant to stabilize the metal.  Painting aluminum is tricky business.  If certain procedures are not followed when painting aluminum, or if absolute cleanliness is not followed during the painting process, the end result may look painted,  but premature failure can be the result.  We are fanatical about the details.

After the bare chassis has been chemically treated, it is baked dry, masked, and then primed with a ‘Direct To Metal’ (DTM) epoxy primer.  This is a thin bonding coat, meant to be a very secure foundation on which to build a long lasting finish. This cures for 24 hours.

Next, three coats of a 2K ‘filling’ primer are applied, and let cure overnight.  This ‘filling primer’ allows the surface to be sanded completely smooth.  This makes a huge difference in the end result.  Any voids are filled at this stage, minor ‘highs and lows’ are mitigated. After carefully sanding smooth and ‘flat’ by hand, this is let cure for another day to allow further out-gassing.

A final thin coat of DTM epoxy primer is sprayed, and let cure for 24 hours.

The color coats are now sprayed, followed shortly after by 3 expertly sprayed coats of a high quality clear coat.    This is baked for several hours.

The next day, the chassis is un-masked, and the entire visible area is ‘color sanded’.  Color sanding entails actual wet sanding with extremely fine, film backed abrasive sheets, and gradually polishing to a full gloss using specialized abrasives, liquid compounds and buffing wheels. The result is a nearly perfect finish with no spray texture.  Think ‘Supercar’ finish. Even the very best ‘out of the gun’ sprayed finish does not compare to an expertly color sanded finish.  The very best show cars, and the most over-the top, glossy ‘super cars’ are always color sanded.   Color sanding makes a huge difference. Under the platter, the portions of the chassis which are not visible are only partially color sanded, only what is necessary to leave an amazing finish.

After the final polishing, the chassis is baked again, and put away into a box for at least a week, but more like 2-3 weeks when possible.  During this time, the finish continues to harden.

Full gloss

Some important thoughts on turntable chassis refinishing.

Properly refinishing a turntable chassis is an often under-estimated task. There are many critical decisions that need to be made that affect the end results. A chassis can look painted when delivered, but can still have serious problems which will not immediately be apparent.

One of the first overlooked elements is that professional automotive finishing borders on being a ‘black art’.  It is not a place for the inexperienced.  This leaves most people needing to hire a professional automotive finisher.  Professional automotive paint shops make money from ‘producing’.  Refinishing turntable chassis’ is not a big money maker, and time is at a premium. Professional autobody paint shop rates start at $75/hr., many shops are higher. Finding an autobody shop that will color-sand your chassis is unlikely.

Most people are aware of the fact that repainting even a simple car door can easily cost over $1200.   A turntable chassis such as a TD124, Garrard 301, or 401, is not a single plane surface  such as a car door, it is considerably more complex. There are many corners, edges, shapes, all of which make for more difficult spray work, and this all translates to time.  Attention to detail is what defines any quality finish job.

And then there are the paints themselves. Quality automotive finish products such as paints, primers, and clear coats, are very expensive, and are highly technical and demanding in their application. ‘Close’ is not good enough in automotive re-finishing. The range of quality and prices are all over the place.   Every paint ‘behaves’ differently, and ‘clear coats’ are a perfect example.   Some clears are very hard, and resist ‘swirlies’, scratching, and chipping very well,  but by nature they may not polish as easily, and they may be more difficult to get to ‘lay out’. (glassy)  Other clears are softer, and polish very well, and may ‘lay out’ very well,( referring to how well the finish ‘glasses out’ straight ‘out of the gun’) but they do not resist ‘swirlies’ as well as harder clears, and are less resistant to scratching and other damage. When a paint shop is faced with a project like painting a turntable chassis (not their ‘bread and butter’ type of work) it is not in their best interest to use the very best, hardest, and toughest wearing clear coats, as these finishes are typically more difficult to work with, and are often much more expensive. At delivery time, right when the turntable is freshly built, the long term quality and durability of the paint, and how well it resists ‘swirlies’ will not yet be apparent.  Quality clears can easily cost over $400/gallon.

Most people who are wanting their turntable chassis refinished have some concern with the cost, especially when the cost of a truly excellent paint job can easily cost a significant portion of what the whole turntable costs, yet, this is not a place to cut corners.  A poor re-paint is worse than a worn looking original finish by the time the problems become evident.

Many TD124’s were never painted well, and have poor looking paint.  We fully support refinishing these decks.   With Garrard 301’s, our feelings concerning refinishing them are more complicated.  For Hammertone 301’s, the original 301 ‘hammered’ gray enamel finish, we like to leave them original in almost all cases.  We would probably not repaint a nice Hammertone.   Many of the poorer looking examples of Hammertone 301’s, suffer from corrosion between the cast aluminum chassis and the paint.  First, the paint ‘blisters’, and then the blisters break open, revealing bare metal.  This is an example of what was most likely poor handling during the painting process.   Still, we like the original Hammertone finish, even if it is not in great condition.

The ‘Cream’ color enameled Garrard 301’s, that paint is amazing stuff.  It is extremely tough.  Usually there are some chips around the mounting holes,which we have learned to accept in most cases.  On some 301’s there is a ‘dust bug’ mark,  a round stain where the rubber suction cup of a ‘dust bug’ record cleaner once sat on the chassis. Sometimes these stains can be diminished by polishing,  but usually they remain at least partially visible even after deep polishing.  When servicing the cream 301’s, we almost always remove the faceplates so that we can do a thorough cleaning and polishing of the original enamel.  This old enamel polishes beautifully, and when expertly done, there is no evidence of any polishing ever having happened, yet massive improvements in aesthetics are commonly seen.

Modern automotive paints are not as durable as the original cream enamel,  or the old Hammertone finish, for that matter.  A fresh professional automotive refinish on a turntable chassis must be handled with care, or it will show swirlies, and scratches.  Still, we do love a gorgeous new finish.

Because of the design of the 301, and the mounting holes, care must be used whenever installing or removing mounting hardware.  The screws should be tightened just enough to secure the chassis into the plinth, and no more.  In addition to the beneficial result of having  a slightly ‘lossy’ coupling with the plinth,  this also happens to help preserve the paint around the mounting holes.

There are numerous cream 301’s that have been repainted in a ‘stove enamel’ in the UK.  These look great, but, the paint is extremely brittle, and chips easily.  We do not like to buy 301’s that have been repainted with this paint.

We use top quality paints, most often PPG, but occasionally some House of Kolor products such as ‘candies’ and metal flake, and ‘vehicles’ for painted effects. The PPG 2 part urethane clear coat that we use is very tough and resistant to ‘swirlies’ and scratches. It is an ideal clear coat for these turntables.   We cut no corners in the finishing process.

Gloss Forever…

This is an example of what not to do.  At the center of the layers, the bare metal of the chassis is visible.  Any refinishing of a TD124 chassis should ALWAYS begin with completely stripping the original finish and chemically cleaning and treating the aluminum chassis for a solid foundation on which to build a long lasting finish.  

The first beige ‘ring’ from the center, is the original finish which should have been completely removed.

The following 2 ‘rings’ from the center, are primers, followed by what the painter ‘went through’ to leave the finish which we stripped off and refinished correctly.  The chassis in this photo, and in the next two photos, was sent to us by a client who was unhappy with previous re-finishing work.

This is an example of ‘Orange Peel’ and what clear coat looks like when only one coat of clear is sprayed. It is less ‘wet’ than it needs to be in order to ‘flow’ together into a glassy smooth surface. Orange Peel happens with less than perfect spray technique. ‘Out of the gun’ finishes, meaning, finishes which are not ‘color sanded’ after the final clear coats, can look better than these samples, but even the best ‘out of the gun’ finish is still not nearly as perfectly smooth as a true ‘color sanded’ finish.

Another example of what ‘Orange Peel’ looks like. If a painter does not specifically say that they are color sanding, they are definitely not, and with a TD124, or Garrard chassis, with an ‘out of the gun’ finish, some ‘orange peel is a certainty due to the complex shape. This photograph was taken specifically to show the ‘orange peel’ texture in the paint. In most photographs, from most any other angle, this finish would look excellent. It is difficult to photograph the true quality of a finish.In photos, one of the places to look for clues about the quality of a finish, is at the edges of the reflective highlights.