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Ooey Custom Paint : Factory Visit

Ooey Custom Paint Stu Harris
James Spender
21 May 2015

The kings of colour - If you cant go fast look shiny, and there are few people more capable of creating such lustre as Ooey Custom Paint.

Stu Harris has been cutting holes in his roof. It might not seem like normal behaviour for the owner and paint master at Ooey Custom Paint in Camberley, Surrey, but he wanted some new vents. Harris’s approach to his work, which extends to his workshop, is incredibly hands on. From the homemade wooden staircase that leads to the office, to the litter of radio-controlled aeroplanes that clutter its sides, everything that goes on inside the Ooey premises is decidedly custom. Especially the painting.

‘We paint everything by hand here,’ Harris says. ‘I started years back custom painting motorcycles, but since I set up Ooey two and a half years ago, customer demand has shifted to bicycles. But not just the frames. We do all kinds – stems, wheels, helmets… you name it, likelihood is we’ll paint it. ’

As if on cue, Harris’s assistant, Jack, passes him a carbon Miche crank arm that’s just about to have the tiny accents and logos turned from the factory red to bespoke green. 

‘First we’ll flat it off [sand it back], then mask over the logos, then cut around them by hand with a scalpel. Then we’ll spray them back in green and lacquer it. The finished crankset will look identical to the original, except for the green bits,’ says Harris.

It sounds like a painstaking job and a lot of effort to go to for some minuscule flashes of colour, but Harris seems cheerful at the prospect: ‘The guy’s bike is green and he wants the components to match. It will really look cool, but so often beyond that it’s a mind thing. We had this Wilier frame in that a girl was racing on, but she wasn’t doing well and she blamed the bike. She said she hated it. Then we painted it for her and she loved it and went on to win her next two races. That’s what a custom paintjob or a respray can do for people. They feel like they’ve got a whole new bike.’

How much does a ‘whole new bike’ cost in the world of custom paint? Ooey Custom prices jobs based on the time and materials involved, but as a ballpark figure, a full one-colour respray for a frame and fork is around £280, with the majority of custom frames with multiple colours and graphics costing around £380. Details such as repainting a crankset start from around £65, and custom helmets from around £75.

‘Most customers are fine with  the price, especially when they see examples of our work, but some people think we’re expensive,’ Harris says. But when we can make your £4,000 bike look brand new – and unique – for a tenth of that price then I reckon it’s a good deal. That’s our aim, to give you a new bike for a fraction of the cost.’

It seems to be a vision shared by Ooey Custom’s customers. The walls are adorned with everything from a perfectly decent 2013 S-Works Tarmac, whose owner ‘just likes the look of the 2015 paint scheme better’ to a vintage steel Colnago ready for a complete original-replica respray in the ‘correct Saronni red, not this Ferrari red’. 

‘Wherever we can, we paint, and that includes the logos,’ adds Harris. ‘So with these Colnago logos, we’ll photograph them, send that to the computer, trace around them, then cut the masks out on our CNC vinyl cutter. If it’s something like this Columbus tubing sticker here, though, which would be too small to paint, we can make up water decals, like the kind you used to get on Airfix kits, and lacquer them in. Or a lot of the time you can source originals from the internet.’ In other words, Ooey Custom can recreate pretty much anything you like on your bike, even people. ‘We had a charity bike that we put lots of faces all over, and one where the bloke’s dad had died so he wanted his dad’s picture on his frame. Some people just want matt black with white lettering, but then there are others like that Wyndy Milla Beastie Boy you guys had in (see issue 7) that had the half Union Jack, half Italian flag paint scheme. We’ve done a few that weren’t really my cup of tea,’ adds Harris.

What are you like?

Ooey Custom will paint all frame types, although the majority of its work is concentrated around carbon fibre. Which might sound like a risky business – carbon doesn’t take too kindly to being mishandled – but as Harris points out, years of practice ensure a trustworthy result. In fact, on the day Cyclist visits the workshop, Ooey Custom has just finished the last of 25 brand new Specialized Tarmac framesets for Tour Series contenders Pedal Heaven. 

The frames came in factory painted, so each one had to be flatted off (that is, sanded back to within a micron – but no more – of its carbon fibre life) before being primed, etched (an anti-corrosion treatment for any aluminium hardwear), masked, sprayed and lacquered. The results are completely flawless, with nothing to separate the resprayed frames from the originals, except the green Specialized logos. 

‘We lacquer everything twice,’ says Harris. ‘So after it’s been sprayed in the spray booth and dried, it goes in the oven at 60˚C with a coat of lacquer, before being taken out. Then we do any retouches necessary – maybe there’s a finger smudge or a nib [an errant bit of dust in the paint] that needs sorting – before lacquering it again. That ensures a durable and lustrous finish.’For those who don’t want to keep to the original aesthetic of a frame, however, or aren’t entirely on board with having faces or international flag mash-ups all over their bike, the world is still very much their oyster. Together with its vast portfolio of ideas, Ooey Custom works alongside graphic designer Mike Watkins (mikewatkinsdesign.co.uk) to bring to life whatever you can imagine. 

Ooey Custom Paint Factory Visit Sanding

‘Mike will charge around £45 for a mock-up, and you can change it a couple of times – he’ll work with you. Then when it’s agreed we get the artwork and start painting.’ Likewise, customers don’t need to have their whole frame resprayed either. Ooey Custom offers a touch-up service, where blemished parts of a frame can be stripped back, colour matched and repainted. ‘You don’t always have to have the whole thing repainted,’ says Harris as he reaches for the phone now ringing on the workbench. ‘Hang on a sec.’ He disappears into the back of the workshop for a while, leaving Cyclist alone to marvel at a zebra-striped time-trial bike. ‘Sorry about that,’ he says returning. ‘That was someone who wants us to repaint a US Postal Service Trek from 2002. Like I said, there’s pretty much nothing we can’t paint.’

ooeycustompaint.com

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