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Ask the Expert Question-and-Answer Archive

by Ron Joseph

February, 2006

Aerospace and Automotive Polyurethane Enamels

Q. I'm not sure whether you are familiar with it, but I had a few questions to ask regarding Aerospace Enamel. First of all, I came across a painter named Elan Vital.

Below is a discription of how he uses it in his paintings.

So the artist turned to engineering and technology. He found his materials in the aerospace industry, in the form of an aerospace enamel which allows pure pigments and minerals to be infused within a transparent medium.

Elan's exact recipe is, of course, a secret. But the substance he has fashioned allows him to mix his colors so they remain pure, untainted by other pigments in close proximity.

Elan uses finely ground pigments and mineral, such as bronze, brass, mica, nickel, and other exotic pigments that he has collected from round the world. He infuse the ground pigments and minerals into aerospace enamel, which is his medium. The enamel is crystal clear and allows light to travel trough 30-75 layers; this is why Elan's work is so brilliant and luminous.

I'm wondering how I can get a hold of Aerospace Enamel, and exactly with what sort of minerals and pigments could be used in order to get such a result.

A. You can purchase "aerospace enamels" (i.e. two-component polyurethanes enamels) from companies such as Sherwin Williams, PPG and Deft Inc. and others. These coatings are very similar to automotive polyurethanes that you can purchase from automotive paint stores. In fact some of the pigments in automotive enamels provide wonderful finishes. My guess is that Elan is using an automotive clear coat and then adding metallic pigments to suite his needs. Some of these pigments are exorbitantly expensive, but you might be able to get small amounts through a local automotive supply store.

Best wishes,

Ron Joseph

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