Pin Striping

Rat Fink by Jack The Italian Giachino

Pin striping is the application of a very thin line of paint or other material called a pin stripe, and is generally used for decoration. Freehand pin stripers use a specialty brush known as a pinstriping brush. Fine lines in textiles are also called pin stripes. Automotive, bike shops, and do-it-yourself car and motorcycle mechanics use paint pin striping to create their own custom look on the automotive bodies and parts. Pin striping can commonly be seen exhibited on custom motorcycles, such as those built by Choppers Inc., Indian Larry, and West Coast Choppers.

The decorative use of pin striping on motorcycles as it is commonly seen today was pioneered by artists Kenny Howard (aka Von Dutch), and Dean Jeffries, Dennis ‘Gibb’ Gibbish, and Ed ‘Big Daddy’ Roth, are considered pioneers of the Kustom Kulture lifestyle that spawned in the early 1950s, and are widely recognized as the ‘originators of modern pin striping.’

In automotive body work, pin stripes are a thin vinyl tape or paint. The tape versions are adhered directly to the painted surface in the pattern desired, whilst painted ones are done by skilled artists with ‘sword’ shaped brushes. The paint used by the vast majority of stripers is a lettering enamel made by 1 Shot although companies such as House of Kolor and lately Kustom Shop also make striping urethane.

The goal of pin striping is to enhance the curves of the surface, and the lines are generally of a complementary color. In any other form of decorative pin stripes, the goal is the same. Pin stripe décor is also applied to motorcycles, trucks, boats, and surfboards. Whilst stripers such as Lyle Fisk, Von Dutch, and Big Daddy are possibly the best known early practitioners of ‘modern’ pin striping, many of the early stripers cite Tommy ‘The Greek’ Hrones and Dean Jeffries as their major influences. Mark Court of Rolls-Royce Motor Cars still pinstripes the ‘coachline’ of that company’s cars by hand.

The technology used by contemporary stripers has changed little since the ’50s. Mack still makes brushes the same way they did when Andrew Mack started the company, although their product line includes more than just swords. Stripers such as Steve Kafka and Mr J have designed brushes suited to their striping styles; the Kafka brushes make the swirls and complicated designs, which make up Kafka’s signature style, much easier to do, and Mr J’s Xcaliber brushes have shorter hairs than the traditional Mack, making them more suited to beginners.

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