View Full Version : How to remove gold leaf?

05-24-2010, 07:40 PM
I had a fire dept obtain a used engine that still had the gilded letters on the doors. They said that they've successfully removed gold using oven cleaner in the past, but it's not hardly touching this.

Is there a way to remove it other than a sand/repaint?


05-24-2010, 08:19 PM
Must be something over the gold or it ain't real gold. Bon Ami will take real gold leaf off in about 3 swipes. I tried buffing some gold leaf with Brasso once. Then I regilded the item. Try some Brasso.

05-24-2010, 08:36 PM
I agree, probably a two part clear or something equally tough to stand up to oven cleaner. they could try lightly sanding the letters then hit it with oven cleaner again, but I'll bet a repaint is in order.

05-24-2010, 08:42 PM
Oven Cleaner no longer has the chemicals that it used to so it wont work........unless you can get your hands on Mr. Muscle in the green can or some of the commercial stuff from an appliance service company or parts distributor. Another thing you can try is fast cut rubbing compound to cut through the clear coat on the gold. A bit of lacquer thinner used with the compound will help but be careful. The paint used on fire engines is generally 'Imron' and more resistant to lacquer thinner but you never know. If that does not work and it appears that a repaint is in order, you can always try a razor blade and some lightly soapy water, glass cleaner or even rapid tac.......something to give the blade some glide across the surface. I've used this technique many times and it does work when done carefully and properly. The worst part of it is whether it fits into your comfort level. If you try it...at least get an approval from the department and make sure to cover your ***.

Damn it........just did one a few weeks ago that way and I should have shot some video for a tutorial.:banghead:

Si Allen
05-24-2010, 09:46 PM
Try applying some duct tape and burnishing it down ... then rip it off....most of the gold will come with it!

05-24-2010, 10:06 PM
Sounds like great advice so far... I don't know if they'll want me to tackle it, or just want some tips to do it themselves.
Also considered (by them) was simply patching over the area with vinyl. eww.

05-24-2010, 10:12 PM
does it look like the gold leaf is clear coated? if so, you'll have to sand and re-clear. when you hit a two part alphatic with a proper solvent, it doesn't "melt" like an aromatic lacquer, it wrinkles up and makes a horrible mess. and anywhere that the solvent drip to it will ruin. so if it's clear coated, gently sanding it off and blending back in a clear is the only option.

05-24-2010, 10:26 PM
I know it doesn't help at the moment, but I have another fire engine to strip and redo some of the doors coming up in a week or so. It too is hand lettered, gilded, with outlines and shadows with clear overcoat. If the situation allows, I'll shoot some video of the process and post as a tutorial.

05-25-2010, 02:32 AM
Don't sand with conventional sandpaper.

3M makes a product that probably would be ideal for this task...and I'll be damned if I can recall it's correct name but it is easy to find at Lowe's and HD It looks like a rectangular sponge and comes in several colors which denotes the abrasiveness. I have a gray one that I use for just about everything from 'sanding' edges on wood and ceramic to sanding spackled holes on walls. You can use it wet or dry and reuse it like forever. The truck sounds like a wet sand to me. And your "wet" could be any sort of nasty chemical you care to try. Apply the Bon Ami with it as a start.

Good luck.

05-25-2010, 03:49 AM
you'll need to sand with a machine...an orbital polisher for sanding with 3M Hookit II "finishing film discs" you'll need 400 grit. to finish it you'll need 600-1500 and trizact foam discs, 1-3 compounds, and preferably a good polisher (...cyclo polisher, awesome piece of equipment!). or just get the door graphics sanded off. just beyond the clear and gold leaf (watch out for the primer showing up!). do the new graphics. and then have a body guy clear and polish the doors.

05-25-2010, 07:15 AM
If it's not clear coated, Rapid Remover might work.
I use that when I get an "oops"
(you know, when gold sticks to the substrate where you didn't want it to go and of course when you try to rub it out, it turns to a brilliant mirror-like finish)

Be very careful if using Easy-Off, it can stain the paint and make a huge mess.
I am sure these guys are looking for the cheapest way to go, and in that case, they would be better off paying an auto body shop to remove it.

round man
06-04-2010, 01:34 AM
having done hundreds of firetrucks over the years I would suggest following Si Allen's advice first,..the clear will not stick to the gold as well as it does on other parts of the lettering ,so it should come off with duct tape fairly easily,...from there you can attack the size with solvents and hopefully get the rest of the lettering off,....

06-06-2010, 09:13 AM
I'd also second Si's advice about the tape. Then, instead of messing with solvents you don't know anything about, sand it.

Use a 400 or 600 grit, wet, and use it with a sanding block, lightly. This will knock down the lettering without attacking the paint. Stop sanding every few minutes, wipe it off and check your progress. Keep it wet.

Once the lettering is gone, buff with a good compound and re-letter.

Please keep in mind.......you might want to consider some bolder, fancier lettering, borders, or whatever, since you could possibly have some ghosting or shadows from the old lettering, if they've been there awhile.