In every black Singer sewing machine restoration, I find small paint chips on the edge of the bed, balance wheel, and often on the sewing arm. While usually they are small cosmetic imperfections, in a sewing machine restoration it is important to address them. The problem that I faced was that there is no black paint on the market that matches the deep black color on Singer or other black machines… Wait, let me caveat that by saying GM lamp black paint formulated for Chevrolet S10 trucks is a close match… but it is expensive and hard to find. While it is a close match for color, it is not a lacquer formulation and has a limited shelf life. There is no off the shelf paint I could find with the deep black color I need. After experimenting with different “black” paints, I found that all of them look “gray” or “blue” compared to the original black japanned finish on these machines.
Singer’s original black Japan paint included a mix of carbon black powder and lacquer. The machine was twice dipped in the black Japan paint and oven cured. I found several vintage black Japan recipes online that purported to be the recipe Singer used, but I cannot confirm or reproduce it… I’m sure someone out there can, but it’s beyond my facilities. I finally found a recipe online that is a near perfect color match, compatible to the original finish, and the ingredients are readily available. I did adjust the recipe’s proportions to suit my preference. The paint I use to paint and paint match paint chips on vintage black Singer sewing machines uses this recipe and it is custom mixed to get the deep black color characteristic to these machines.
For those of you that want to repair cosmetic defects on your machine, the recipe is as follows:
- Two teaspoons of alcohol soluble ebony black aniline stain.
2. two ounces of 99% alcohol
3. Sixteen ounces of wax free shellac
The stain is dissolved in the alcohol for 24 hours and then mixed into the shellac. It makes a generous quantity for use and kept in an air tight container it will last a long time. It takes about 4 ounces of this paint to completely cover a sewing machine
For small chip repairs use a small artist brush… for spraying, pour it through a fine mesh paint filter.
I hope you found this information useful!
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3 thoughts on “A Tutorial – Mixing a Custom Color Black Paint for Singer Sewing Machines (and Others!)”
Is the shellac 16 ounces dry shellac by weight or 16 ounces of liquid shellac by volume?
Good afternoon Jo,
Good question clarification. I use Zinnser clear non-wax shellac and mix 16oz. You may make less and it will not affect the color density… it’s jet black!