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  • Restoring the white ZX Spectrum logo

    Redone logo

    Redone logo

    One of the few things that can spoil a good Spectrum restoration job is a worn white logo. I found that hand painting the raised characters – even with ultra fine brushes – gave disappointing results so I developed the following method. It’s still pretty tedious and fraught with possible gotchas but the results can be very good, especially given the lack of alternative options. As ever, your mileage may vary, proceed at your own risk etc. Here goes…

    The basic idea is to create a mask around the raised letters,  spray paint the exposed parts, then peel off the mask to leave nice crisp characters. Easy! Well.. kind of.

    Applying the mask

    Applying the mask

    For the mask I use PVA glue, this should* not attack the Spectrum case plastic and peel off cleanly.  The tricky part is to get it to flow around and in-between the letters and not get any on the tops – this can be especially difficult between characters like the “u” and the “m”, and the inside of the “e”. I use a “pokey-tool” / “craft-picker” (essentially, a needle on a stick) to coax the glue into the gaps and around the edges of the letters. (This is painstaking work and I personally need to use a jeweller’s eye-glass as my eyesight isn’t what it used to be – ageing FTW!)

    (* I noticed on one case the glue left a bloom on the plastic after removal which was impossible to clean away – I’m not sure why this happened.   It’s probably best to do a test before starting work by letting a blob of glue dry on a inconspicuous area of the case). 

    Once the mask has been completed and the PVA glue has dried, you can mask off the rest of the Spectrum case with masking tape and paper ready for spray painting. I used flat white Pastikote brand spray paint but other white spray paint may be fine. The trick here is not to overdo it –  a couple of light coats (from about 30cm from the case) should be fine, allowing coat each to dry before the next is applied. Note that the paint does not have to be totally opaque to give a good result – even one coat may look good. In fact, the thinner the paint, the easier it will be to remove the mask neatly.

    PVA mask done

    PVA mask done

    Once the paint has dried completely, it’s time to remove the PVA mask (after the masking tape etc). This should be done with extreme care – if you rush you will pull away a chip of paint from the top of one of the letters. Try to stretch the mask away from each letter as you go, so the paint will crack cleanly away from the character bodies. To remove the tiny masks inside the “p” and “e”, draw the mask inwards using the craft-picker – it should split away and eventually lift out.

    Once the mask has been removed, you can wash the case and any residue away with hot soapy water. Afterwards you can lightly rub the logo with a cloth to smooth the edges and make it look more “natural.”

    Mask dried

    Mask dried

    Tips:

    • Practice on a scrap Spectrum case first.
    • Don’t attempt this at all if the “ZX Spectrum” logo characters are the type with a thin font. The logos do vary and only the bold-looking characters have enough surface area for the paint to key onto.
    • Use a magnifying glass or jeweller’s eye-glass to inspect the work as you go
    • Before starting, wash the case in warm soapy water. You can use a nail polishing block to take any shine off the character tops, this will allow the paint to stick better (use masking tape around the logo to avoid scuffing the case.)
    • Beware of dust, if it gets in the PVA near a character it can ruin things.
    • Apply fresh PVA a few characters at a time,  drawing into the detail as you go. Use fresh PVA for fine lines (as it’ll be more runny and flow without snagging). To get the PVA into the “wells” in the “e” and “p” put a tiny amount on the end of the needle tool and dab it in, it should stick at the bottom and allow you to build it up a bit at a time until the well is filled.

      Spray painted

      Spray painted

    • Allow the PVA to dry clear. Beware of air / non-sealed areas in the PVA around characters (milky-looking mask) . The glue will have pulled away and this will allow spray paint to leak in and create a halo around them.
    • Don’t allow the spray paint get too thick as this will mean the paint is more likely to break in pieces away from letters when removing the mask.
    • Beware of chemicals when cleaning – for example furniture polish will usually remove the paint (but with care, it can be used to remove halos).
    • Not all PVA glue is the same – avoid wood glue or anything sold as fast drying.

    Good luck! :)