How to Paint a Vintage Aluminum Tray

Your menu, such as most items made from aluminum, has a distinguishing all-natural silver colour. If any colour is current, it is usually because the alloy was anodized or abraded to provide it microscopic pores with colored dye injected into them. Aluminum is typically not painted because when it rusts — into a clear or black whitened patina — the rust appears almost invisible, and unless removed or chemically altered, it prevents proper adhesion of paint. If you wish to paint your aluminum prepare it correctly.


Use 280-grit medium-fine wet/dry sandpaper with water to sand each inch of this tray carefully to eliminate traces of oxidation and supply a slight tooth into the surface for paint adhesion.

Follow with 400-grit fine wet/dry sandpaper with water to eliminate the deeper scratches left from the first sanding, while retaining a slight tooth for mechanical adhesion of the paint.

Submerge the tray in a sink or tub of warm water to which you’ve inserted a couple drops of dishwashing liquid, then with a sponge or cloth to scrub the tray and eliminate any remaining grease, oils or wax. Scrub the tray in clean water and allow it to air dry.

Put on your rubber gloves. Scrub the tray, with a disposable rag or paper towelwith a 90-percent option of isopropyl alcohol or 1 part household-strength white vinegar to 3 parts water as the final rinse in eliminating previous oils and finishes.


Lay out several layers of newspaper outdoors on a windless dayaway from pets and kids. Place the tray on a block of wood.

Don all appropriate safety equipment, including safety goggles and the respirator.

Shake the can of epoxy primer vigorously to mix the paintthen spray a light coat on one side of the tray. Allow it to dry according to the manufacturer’s instructions before turning the tray over and coating the other side. Repeat with a second, and possibly third, light coat until you’ve got complete and uniform coverage. Allow the tray dry.

Sand the surface with extra-fine wet/dry sandpaper, 600 grit or finer, to smooth out irregularities. Follow with wet 0000 grade, or nicer, steel wool before the tray is smooth.

Scrub the tray with water to eliminate paint dust and allow it to air dry.

Spray a light coating of harmonious enamel metallic paint in your colour selection. Spray another coat to cover the tray. Allow it to dry for 24 hours to reach maximum hardness of the paint coating.

Coat the tray with a compatible transparent topcoat to finish.

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