Auto Tech: Pinstriping using the Beugler Striper how stuff works auto tech
Beugler Striper; photo courtesy Dozer-Dozergarage.blogspot.com. Click image to enlarge

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By Jim Kerr

Recently I have been indulging my artistic side, venturing forth into the mystic world of pinstriping. Whether it be an accent stripe down the side of a car or a complex mural, pinstripes can make a vehicle stand out from the crowd.

Tape is the most common medium for aftermarket pinstripes. It is quick to apply, provides clean, consistent edges and is much easier for a novice like me to work with. Even many of the factory stripes and graphics are now decals, making it easier for a body shop to restore the factory look if a panel has been damaged.

While vinyl is fine, I have always been attracted to the look of paint when it comes to pinstripes and murals. The smooth edges give a more finished look while the slight imperfections in line width or variances in symmetry portray the artistry of the person applying it. Having said that, I make no pretence at being an artist: my abilities are limited to trying to copy an existing pattern or image. The imperfections that result are more sloppy than artistic, but I have found a tool to help me apply better pinstripes.

Auto Tech: Pinstriping using the Beugler Striper how stuff works auto tech
Beugler Striper; image courtesy of Freepatentsonline.com. Click image to enlarge

Its name is the Beugler Striper. This creative tool was invented by S.B. Beugler in 1933 and is still sold today. I have often seen the Beugler Striper advertised in custom car magazines but until Doug Holser, owner of Squizzles.com, demonstrated the unit to me recently, I thought it looked more like a toy. It definitely is not: the striper is a small tube with a plunger in one end and the striping head on the other. The striping head has a thin serrated wheel that picks up the paint from the tube and lays it on the surface in a smooth even stripe. Excess paint from the wheel is carried around the wheel and back into the striper tube.

The tool is held like a utility knife and pulled along the surface to put down the stripe. Several different striper heads are available with different width wheels and even dual wheels so that different effects can be created. According to Holser, anybody can do simple stripes – all it takes is practice! He suggested starting with a pad of about 50 sheets of paper and start striping.

Straight lines are easy on the flat surface. S-curves and figure eights take more practice. One of the tricks is to keep the serrated wheel flat on the surface to create a consistent stripe width. Tilting the tool will cause the stripe to narrow, which can be used as an effect if you wish to stop at a sharp point.

The striper will work with almost any slow-drying liquid, including glue, as long as it will flow with a creamy consistency. A favourite among stripers is “1 Shot” lettering enamel. The paint is creamy right out of the can, is slow-drying so errors can be wiped off (I am good at this!), has a high gloss and is durable. It dries to the touch in an hour, but takes about three to four weeks to completely harden. After that, it can last for years.

I have been practicing with my Beugler Striper and have gone through many sheets of paper. Impatient to try it on something else, I have been laying stripes on a motorcycle and must admit it looks pretty good. The first step is to clean the surface with a wax and silicone remover so the paint will stick well. The striper comes with some guide arms that can be used to keep the tool moving straight along an edge, but freehand, using a finger as a guide, works too. For some more complex curves, a tape guideline helps me roll the tool in the right spot. I will never be a professional, but it is fun and there is some satisfaction in saying I did it myself, and if I had to choose paint over tape, I would choose paint.