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I'm painting an iron structure to save it from corrosion and make it look nice. I was advised to apply a layer of primer which I did, it contains iron oxide and is supposed to prevent oxidation. Now I find that the primer itself is not very good in holding on to the iron. It can be easily scraped off with a light use of emery paper. If the layer beneath the paint is this weak how can I expect the paint to hold on and stay put on the metal. Could anyone experienced in this area please advise me. When painting how does the layer of primer feel after application and how does the paint applied with the primer work. Thanks a million.

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How well did you clean the surface before priming, were you all the way down to the metal, and does the primer say it's designed for metal? – BMitch Oct 28 '13 at 11:28
    
also. if your fence is galvanized, you will find the paint easy to flake off (galvanizing needs different priming) ... – Hightower Oct 28 '13 at 20:35
    
The red oxide primer is quite easy to flake off in my opinion (i specifically paint raw steel which still has some of the oil on it, hence it comes off easily, HOWEVER -- if you apply a good enamel over the primer, the enamel will bond properly. – Hightower Oct 28 '13 at 20:37
    
Thanks Hightower, I hope when I apply the enamel paint it creates the same strong bond that you are referring to. – MikePainter Oct 29 '13 at 5:54
    
Generally speaking primers are soft as they need to be flexible. Totally normal behavior for primer. – James Jun 25 '15 at 15:52

You need to make sure whatever you use is a "DTM" primer - direct-to-metal. The instructions on the can are usually awful, so you should check out the manufacturer's website.

If you're using the right primer and having adhesion issues, the most common cause is probably not prepping the surface properly before applying the primer. Usually you need to wash very thoroughly (if you paint dirt, the paint will only be adhered as well as the dirt is), followed by a sanding or scuffing. Again ,the manufacturer's website will give you directions.

If you need to use emery paper to remove it, I'd say you're OK. It it comes off with a wipe down with a cloth I'd say that's a problem. Emery is an abrasive designed to remove material, after all.

As an aside, if you have an iron structure you want to protect from corrosion, I'd look at products from POR-15. They make some very nice corrosion resistant coatings. I'd also have recommended a 2k epoxy primer but it sounds like you're past that point already.

EDIT: Oops, I didn't notice how old this one was. Well, I hope whatever the O Pwould up doing worked out well :)

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