Cool pinstriping work done by hand

A friend says: "Watch this cat stripe this Royal Enfield tank. Nice and smooth, as Ray Davies would say. The beauty and nobility of doing things by hand -- there's too little of it left in the world these days. He's dressed pretty spiffy, too."

Royal Enfield tank pinstriping


  1. My wife and I took a tour of the Homer Laughlin Co. They make Fiesta brand plates and bowls, along with tons of other pottery things. Almost all of their gold/silver plate was done by hand. It was pretty interesting to watch the speed and accuracy they could do a plate or tea cup.

  2. The beauty and nobility of doing things by hand — there’s too little of it left in the world these days.

    Try doing that you’re self, and you’ll soon find why we’ve move to mechanical means to reproduce stuff like this. His skill is truly amazing, and he’s operating without a net as it were. If everything were done the way this gentleman has done it only the (filthy) rich would have nice things, and the rest of us would be down in the gutter because we couldn’t afford access to the few people who were skilled enough to produce nice stuff.

    Love the man’s skill, but I don’t regret the automation that has given many many many more people access to things that are almost as nice.

    1. You make your point but just fyi, Royal Enfields are available here starting around $5400.

    2. Seriously, “…you’re self…” (sic)?

      I do not doubt that automation could produce products in mass quantities from China at a fraction of the cost, but who will be able to afford even the mass produced products if all our jobs are going overseas?

      Oh, and in case you missed it, the post was about the beauty of old fashion pin striping with a brush and paint, which most people could learn in a week from any qualified art class.

      1. “the post was about the beauty of old fashion pin striping with a brush and paint, which most people could learn in a week from any qualified art class. ”

        Have you ever worked with one-shot enamel? My guess is that most people couldn’t get this good at pin striping if they worked at it full time for a year.

        1. You can learn tennis in less than a week, but it take a lifetime to become a pro.

          Nice strawman argument you got there, just the same.

    3. the Enfield Bullet Classic tank he is striping, available in INdia for ~ $1500 USD. the whole thing is made very well. It will not compete with a modern Japanese bike, but? it has 10x the soul.

      1. $1500 USD means that about less than 1% of the Indian population can afford it. The mean annual household income in India is about $750, and 42% of the population lives on $1.25/day or less. So Green Jello’s right: the only people who can afford this thing are filthy rich.

        1. Objection. Not all “rich” is “filthy”.

          In fact, I happen to know a people who actually had a great idea, worked hard for many years, made difficult tradeoffs, endured minimal returns and the impatience of supporters, and finally receive deserved acclaim and money enough to buy a Royal Enfield or twelve. Don’t you?

      2. How much of that $1500 will mister fancy pinstriper see for his effort? Even if he were to earn a whopping $5/day, it would take him nearly a year JUST TO AFFORD THE TANK (assuming he didn’t spend his paycheck on anything wasteful, like food).

        But yeah, it’s definitely beautiful and noble work he does. Really, it is.

        1. …it would take him nearly a year JUST TO AFFORD THE TANK…

          Agree with your sentiment, but a quick google search reveals some 350cc Royal Enfields sell for less than 80,000 rupee in India. The WHOLE BIKE. That’s about 1800 USD.

          That’s tempting… wonder how much they are around here.

    4. Amen GreenJello.

      The reason we see a lot less of this is that it was possible to automate AND tradesmen started getting living wages.

      The fellow in the video would have a much more fulfilling life if he was making unique one off art for appropriate wages.

      Automate the repetitive, appreciate and support tradesmen, and drive the creation of art, both handmade and automated!

    5. Try doing that you’re self, and you’ll soon find why we’ve move to mechanical means to reproduce stuff like this.

      I beg to differ. If you move to mechanical means, the value of the pin-striping is lost. And in some/many cases, the mechanical means aren’t as good as the hand-made stuff.

      Here’s an unrelated example: samosas. Hand-kneaded samosa dough is non-uniform and thus flaky – it’s the little pockets of yogurt.

      Samosa dough kneaded by machine is usually tough and unappetizing.

    1. That was my thought, too. I loved how he sort of shook out his shoulders to be more loose. Very inspiring.

  3. Great work. I enjoy watching an old fashioned hand lettered sign being painted by a seasoned pro, too.

    I will admit, however, a bit of disappointment in discovering that Royal Enfield tanks were motorcycle gas tanks, and not heavy artillery. I love a nice pinstriped, candy apple finish military tank.

  4. Interesting how he moves the tank around his brush hand, not vice versa. I’d love to see close-ups of the detail.

  5. It’s a skill that can be learned with practice and some talent. All pinstriping was done like this in the past on bikes and cars. Now its typically only customwork, now for some more pinstriping madness

  6. A few years ago one of my flavor-of-the-month hobbies was to teach myself pinstriping, after seeing all the great work done on hot rods. Picked up a set of Mack brushes, 1-Shot paints and a bunch of scraps to practice on. Not only do you need a steady hand, but a mastery of how to carry the fluid paint on a brush at just the right speed and consistency. Long story short, I’ve got a box full of slightly used Mack brushes and mostly full 1-Shot paint cans I’m looking to unload if anyone is interested. :\

    1. I can certainly find a home for those: if you’re anywhere near SF, get hold of New Bohemia; if you’re nearer Boston, talk to Josh, at Best Dressed Signs. None of us are as smooth as this chap, or even focused on vehicular striping in particular, but we pull a lot of stripes, wear through plenty brushes, and can always find a home for 1Shot!

      1. I would, but I’m in the Midwest, where, at least at the time, there wasn’t much of a hand-lettering, pinstriping, kustom art market, which may have led to the fizzle-out of my interest. Being a few years old and sitting in my dad’s basement, I’m not sure they’d be any good anymore. Perhaps I can pawn them off on a Restoration Hardware store, convincing them they are kitschy retro bookends.

        1. I dunno if, by “kitschy retro bookends” you’re referring to the scraps you practiced on, or to the cans of paint, but I assure you: if the paint still resides in mostly full cans, it’s in perfectly fine condition. Even if they’re only half full, or less, there’ll be a skin atop, covering perfectly good paint. If, by “a few years”, you mean some decades, you may find some of us 1Shot addicts craving the opacity that lead once provided… As for the brushes, well, who knows what condition you’ve left them in. Maybe they’d be more suitable for cufflinks, than bookends?

  7. Zen and the art of pinstripe maintenance.

    His buddy was on a BMW, but he chose not to reveal the maker of the bike he was riding. I was told it was a Royal Enfield.

    If the pinstripe is any indication of the purity of the whole bike, it would seem a good fit.

  8. I started doing hand lettering in 1989. after learning from one of the master’s of show card lettering (now in his 90’s – he used to hand paint Vaudeville showgirls legs back in the day).

    This man with the tank is very skilled – but a lot of it is stranger in theory than you’d imagine. Part is how the brush is loaded, part is body positioning and breath control (like a sniper), and part is (despite what science says) muscle memory and repetition.

    One thing that holds a lot of people back is shakiness. That comes from a lack of familiarity, and focus on that every present “I might fuck this up”. What Al (my mentor) told me back in the day was “stop thinking, and know you can do it. Just go. To think long is to think wrong.”

    He’s right. Practice, repetition, failure and repeat is always the way to get good. But in the end, you just do it. You have to let go and know the line is there. I do a ton of freehand airbrush work on unforgiving and highly expensive surfaces every day, where to fuck up is do earn yourself another day or refinishing. You cannot let that factor into your head. You will have unsteady lines and you will fuck it up.

    I’d now do the same work on 24 ct gold surface as I would a wood door. But it’s taken years an a lot of work – but the majority of that work is in the mind. Confidence is not cheap – even after all your ducks are in a row in other areas.

    Kudos to the gent in the video – he gets it.

    1. A guy I used to work with said the way to paint a car is to have a couple beers before and then have two more halfway through- for the same reason- to not be nervous and mess it up.

      I reckon if this guy messed up he could clean it up with mineral spirits and start over, but he’d be out the time.

    2. Just change the words “muscle memory” to “over-practiced fine motor skills mediated by the cerebellum” and science would have no problem with your description.

  9. “Sideswipe” by Charles Willeford had a memorable character who did pinstripes by hand; the novel did a good job conveying the necessary skill required. It’s a decent crime book, too.

  10. I want to see Dharmendra riding the bike this thing with Parveen Babi on the back. Or Hema Malini.

  11. I once saw a demonstration of an “inker” inking lines on animation cels by hand with a brush. It had the same air of tension about it.

  12. God, I could almost cry, I want one so bad. Royal Enfield bikes are gorgeous, but I’m broke. Now, on top of that, I know their tanks are hand-painted! Just another reason to admire those bikes. Some day, I’ll have one.

  13. I guess a lot of people glazed (hahaha) over my post about how people in the upper part of WV have been doing this exact same thing by hand for decades.

    All those fancy plates/dishes/glasses at nice department stores were probably done by hand.

    I found it impressive to watch someone put concentric rings on a plate, but I found it even more impressive when I watched someone take a string of clay and turn it into a tea cup handle in about 3 seconds.

    A lot of the work they do is piece meal, but that in no way means they are poor. In comparison to where they live I’d think most people who work there make a pretty livable wage.

    I’ve done production work, nothing that is skilled as this, but what a lot of people have said is true. The more you do something, the more your mind just lets your body do the work. Speed and accuracy comes with doing something 100’s of times a day.

  14. I’m amazed at his calmness during all the hubbub. It’s rumored that even John Singer Sargent cussed up a storm as he painted portraits.

  15. BTW, they don’t make these in India because the labor is cheap. India licensed the bike, factory, production, etc. from Royal Enfield so they could build cheap, good bikes domestically for the Indian military. It’s a benefit to the Indian economy that America still has a taste for small buzzy (fun as hell) single-cylinder “retro” motorcycles. This is not so much India slaving away to feed America’s whims as it is a surviving industry that employs skilled Indian workers. The build quality isn’t spectacular, but most failures can be staved off or fixed en route with basic tools.

  16. PIn striping was first developed to draw the eye away from minor flaws or imperfections in mass produced items: seams, welds, pittings, etc. It was a masterful manual skill, all done by hand, to visually correct the machine-made parts. Think old typewriters, enameled cans or sewing machines, as well as automobiles. Mass produced doesn’t always mean perfectly, or even identically produced.

    I agree…all you have to do is just try this yourself to fully appreciate the confident skill and zen-like “relaxed focus” required. Awp!

  17. Although this guy’s talents could obviously be put to better use in a perfect world, not many menial workers have the opportunity to develop such kung fu; I’m sure he derives a fair bit of satisfaction from his work…

    Particularly when folks with cameras come along to capture the awesome sauce.

  18. I’m an automobile journalist from Chennai, where the RE factory is located. The bikes they make aren’t the greatest because of their build quality or reliability. That said, most of their customers take the bike out for long rides even before they are accustomed to the bike or the bike to the roads.
    Then again, Bullets haven’t made their mark for the quality. It’s like an Aston Martin, breaks down hell a lot, but by God those are passionately made.
    As for the automation, the factory owners have refused for ages to get their plants automated. Most of the work is still done by hand, not because its menial. Each and every one of those 400 employees, from the janitor to the CEO, realises the importance their work gives to their customers.
    When I was walking down the road with their CEO, he suddenly stopped talking when we heard the legendary thumping of the Bullet from down the road, he turned, followed the bike with his eyes and smiled at the scene. It was just beautiful to see such passion right in front of my eyes.

  19. To all of you who hold the RE up as an example of “soul” in manufacture – this is an old British bike, whose manufacturers were driven out of business by Japanese competition, which is now being made by hand where piecework wages are cheap.

  20. Yes, it’s very impressive. I like that too.
    It reminds me something i saw on tv : on Bentley cars, there is a line along the car (or a double line for customers who wish), from trunk to front lights, that is made by a single dude. Somekind of Zen involved here…

  21. You can debate what the skills are or you can just go and experience it.

    I know there are a lot of creative people here. A pinstripe brush runs about $20. It is a magical thing. It loads up with a lot of paint or ink. It tapers off so it can do a fat or thin line or both at different parts of a line. It is ultra responsive and zen to use.

    You don’t have to be making motorcycles or doing car paint work. You can use it on anything. You don’t have to get pin-striper’s paint you can load it up with any thin paint, water color, india ink.

    Get one and add it to your arsenal. If you do creative work to get into that right-brained wordless zen state a pin striping brush is the fastest way to get there.

  22. There was a little write up about the RE factory in Cycle World a couple of years back. There are 2 brothers that do all of the hand pinstriping at the factory and they switch off on 12 hour shifts, 24 hours a day. Amazing.

  23. “The beauty and nobility of doing things by hand — there’s too little of it left in the world these days.” Next up on Boingboing, a post about 3D-printed toothpicks.

  24. Granddad use to be know for his pin stripping abilities back in the 1930’s, also use to weld false bottoms on the cars he was redoing but thats another story.

    Point is a lot of these skills are being lost due to automation and just a general attitude of I don’t give a crap. It is impressive and yes you can learn it fairly quickly but to truly become good and master it takes time and much effort.

    You can argue till the cows come wonder back about low wages and automation or you could just enjoy the sight of someone who is most likely very proud of what he does and is probably happy with his overall lot in life.

  25. Am I the only noticed that the artist is dressed, not in a paint covered smock, but in his best Sunday shirt and slacks. Now THAT is a master craftsman


  26. From what I remember seeing as a girl, these bikes were mostly used by army and police officers. The nostalgia factor is high and this bike is bought by older men but not at all preferred by youth who prefer sleeker and more stylish bikes.
    Also 80k Rs/ 2k US is not much for an exploding young population and there is enough demand in the cities and towns that make pretty much any vehicle have a long wait list. Inspite of a massive poor population, there is growing demand for personal transport. I was in India recently and found a great demand for new models from Toyota and Honda that are super popular for the SUV and sedan versions respectively.

    It is odd for me to see this video here. Earlier this week, RE did some sort of a promo tour where they invited some Chennai bloggers for a tour. I wonder if the company is gearing up for expansion or some announcements?

  27. I love the way he just sits back at the end and smiles cuz he knows he is badass.

    What I respect is compentence. Attention. Love. There is no limit to how and where it can happen or what kind of job, but it sure is easier when you can point to a stack of somethings that you made where there was nothing earlier in the day.

  28. This guy is indeed pure poetry. I’ve done calligraphy for years and only occasionally does my hand listen to my brain.


  29. Every once in a while, my general contempt for the human race gets a kick in the ass.

    Sure, curing polio or inventing credit default swaps is impressive. . .but it’s like reading the Kabbalah backwards in its original text: my mind can’t even grasp the difficulty.

    But THIS guy. . .Three Cheers for Craftmanship! Yes (maybe) We Can! I paint regularly, but just keeping it off my clothes proves impossible. . .I have sincere respect for those that can really create with skill and fluidity.

    Humans Rule!

  30. There’s no such thing as cool pinstriping, but the pinstriper himself is pretty awesome.

  31. Cool!But what about the safe equipment to preserve his health…?
    Mask,maybe gloves…after some years doing it maybe something bad can happens.Safe work around the world!

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