As of:  4 September  2003 

        "I wrote this article to show how to get excellent results in body work with simple tools. It's intended to be a guide for the novice body worker trying to save money, and covers only surface preparation prior to painting.  

        "Not everybody can afford the big air compressor and special tools associated with this kind of work for what may be a one time job. I'm into my third full restoration and sixth paint job, and still prefer to keep it simple.  

       "I hope this little piece will help someone because any day I can help someone is a good day for both of us."


- Lesson 1-
Prep Work

        The purpose of rough sanding is to remove some of the original finish down to where it can provide a solid substrate for primer to adhere to. Deep rock pecks and chips are to be sanded down to bare metal. More about sanders and primer for bare metal later.


jdwdoor1.jpg (18477 bytes) The door in this picture has been rough sanded and primed with DuPont #131S "Fill 'N Sand" acrylic primer surfacer. Professionals hardly ever use this any more, it is now considered archaic; but, it's economical, effective, safe & easy to spray, works well for me, and I prefer it.
         In the first picture, the door has been marked with a pencil to help locate low areas while sanding. Aerosol paint a different color than the primer could be lightly spritzed on as a guide coat, but at this stage lead pencil marks work just as well and are quicker (& cheaper).  

        The sandpaper you see on the right edge of the door  is 180 grit dry production paper wrapped tightly on a ten inch piece of paint stick. Sanding lightly, using long multi-directional strokes, will point out high spots as well as low ones.

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This door had never been damaged and worked out very easily. By using a long stick with long multi-directional strokes a high area was found by the time all the pencil marks were sanded out. The yellow and brown area was only about as thick as a good layer of paint & was higher than it should have been. That's plenty enough to show a wave in a finished paint job. The two small silver areas are where I went to bare metal to know exactly where I was in this process. When I saw metal, the discolored area was blended to the primer, and all pencil marks were gone. Then, I knew it was perfectly flat.


        The right side of the vehicle had taken a moderate hit in this door, the door jam, and an area of about 18" behind the door. The repairs had been quick and sloppy with lots of "Bondo". So, the job began with removing excess body filler while the door was still installed so it and the area behind could be contoured and fitted at the same time. About 10" of door jam had to be re-fitted to the door with fiberglass reinforced body filler. Reworking a botched job is harder than doing it from scratch.

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Stick sanding revealed a couple of low areas and a high spots. The ones that are circled, (showing bare metal),  were sharp little peaks.  There's only one way to remedy that: I tapped them down with a small hammer and proceeded to the next step.


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Close inspection of the smoothly sanded door revealed 10 flaws which were circled with the lead pencil as they were found. The 5 spots near the edge were no more than pin holes, but they look like gopher holes in a finished paint job; and, usually, no amount of primer will completely fill them. Always apply filler to an area somewhat larger and thicker than what the flaw seems to be so it will "feather in" completely with the first sanding.
The filler used here is Dynatron #592 "Putty-Cote" and is the best finishing putty I have ever found. It is very soft and "skimable", leaves no air bubbles, no tackiness on top, sands and featheredges like a dream. It can be applied to bare metal, sanded paint, or scuffed primer with equally good results.

JDW's NOTE:  When mixing body filler I never use more than half the recommended hardener; the same goes with fiberglass resin. It doesn't matter how little or how much hardener you use, the putty will cure to the same firmness and consistency when thoroughly mixed. Using only a little hardener gives you more time to work and conserves material that would otherwise begin curing before you're finished with it.


        As the filler cures it goes through a heating period and is ready to sand when cool to the touch with the backs of your fingers. I mix filler on discarded snap-on coffee can and plastic ice cream container lids. They get trashed anyway and sometimes you can bend them and, the cured filer pops off so you can reuse them. Besides, they have two useful sides.
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The little Ryobi 5" random orbit sander is the best thing I've ever bought for body work; handy as a pocket on a shirt. I work filler, rough sand paint, and even remove paint to bare metal in small areas with it. I've used this one for 8 years and the best discs I've found are at Sears. They are yellow on the abrasive side, cloth-like on the back, and tougher than a cheap steak. The only ones you need in body work are 60-grit so save your money and don't buy the variety pack of discs. 

By the way: The little wire brush is for cleaning out the 180-paper. It fills real fast, but will last 10 times longer if you clean it every little bit.

Don't attempt to power sand to a finish. Just take the top down flat and leave an edge around it about the thickness of a match book. With the meager equipment we have and the skills we possess power is for roughing and elbow grease is for finesse. Try powering to a finish and you'll usually end up having to repair what you screwed up.


        You can get a little better look at the stick sander in the below photo. The 180-grit sandpaper is wrapped tightly around the stick and as you use up a section you tear it off and begin working with the newly exposed paper. You can even sand with the edge of the stick which works real good along the insides of breaks like run the length of these doors. The little wire brush is for cleaning out the 180-paper which fills with residue real fast. Cleaning it every little bit makes it last 10 times longer.


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You'll notice in this picture that the stick picked off more high places than seen in photo #3. That's because when I picked out the low places I stopped sanding and filled them before going further; it just saves work. Notice how the newly applied filler and discolored areas all feather into their surrounding areas. Now is the time to "feel it out". If the door and/or your hand is dusty so your hand slides over the surface as if lubricated you're ready to go. If you feel any resistance as you rub your hand over the surface put a thin rag, like old bed sheet or t-shirt material, under your hand. Now, slowly run your hand over the entire surface in all directions. You can feel flaws you can't see at this stage, so feel 'er up good. If you think you feel something, take a damp cloth, run it over the suspected area and get down at a shallow angle for a good look. If you see something, circle it with the pencil, cross hatch the area with pencil marks, and go at it with the stick sander 'til it lines out or you have to skim in some filler. NEVER try to sand out a low area. If you can work a high area surrounding it down to it's level that's great, otherwise skim some filler in and go at it again.

 In the picture the white spots are the Dynatron we put in, pink is filler from the original botched repair, red/brown is primer from that repair, yellow is original paint, and mustard is Vari-Prime self etching primer immediately under the gray primer. When you can't feel any flaws, especially in these areas, you're finished with this step.


        Aerosol primers are OK for doing small areas and avoiding the mess of mixing for, shooting with, and cleaning up a spray gun. The Sherwin Williams GBP # 988 is the best self etching aerosol primer for bare metal I have ever found. Spray it in a well ventilated area and avoid breathing the fumes. It smells just like DuPont Vari-Prime which is referred to by many professional painters as "Yellow Death". It's hot stuff, so shoot a little, step back, watch which way the overspray drifts, and stay clear of it. You may well ask, "If you know so much about how these so called lethal materials smell; why ain't you dead?" Well, I don't know. Maybe the cigars and cigarettes I smoke protect me from it. Just don't take a chance with your health and stay out of the fumes.
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There is still a tiny high spot right in the middle of the Dynatron beside the cans. It's no thicker than one coat of paint and, although you can't see in the photo, feathered nicely. About 4 coats of primer filler on that area along with careful sanding and it will never show.



DOORS8.jpg (24218 bytes) The darker gray areas are where I covered bare metal with the self etching primer. Use it sparingly, only enough to get coverage on the bare metal areas; using any more is a waste of it and it ain't cheap. These doors are now ready for, (actually in), final primer. I used the same primer filler as in step one, but you can use non-sanding primer at this stage if you want. I prefer the added insurance of that little extra thickness of primer to work to even at the expense of it being more labor intensive. It's best to spritz on a very thin showing, (not even a coat), of black aerosol paint then block and/or hand sand with 400-grit paper. This is performed as a wet sanding and is done with a deft touch. Great care is taken to "pet and coax" the surface to well sanded perfection with no flaws or sand-through. If you find a flaw or sand through, re-prime and pet it into shape.

        Color coat painting; that's a whole 'nother story that I'll not get into because I learn every time I do it. That step is something you can do or you can't, there's no in between, and if you think you can't, take it to a pro. 


- Lesson 2-
Sanding Jamb Areas


        So, you thought 'jamming' was a group of musicians getting together and trying to out play one another and having a good time.

        Nope! Not when it comes to cars.

        'Jambing' a car is somewhat different than 'jamming musicians', and if you call wearing your fingernails down into odd shapes, poking little holes in your fingers and hands, and generally working your fingers to the bone fun, you'll enjoy SANDING JAMB AREAS.

        Jamb areas are around door jambs, door edges, the bottom of the hood, the engine bay, and all the places that must be jambed-in (painted) before you shoot the overall color coat. It' a major portion of what that two or three grand you drop on a body shop goes for. Most of what you buy is "grunt" work. The actual color coat paint, hardener, reducer, and clear coat, (if you use a two stage system) costs maybe $400.00, depending on color and paint type, and the painter himself spends only about an hour with your car.

        Before that comes, however, all the grunt work.

'81VWRABBIT7.jpg (30407 bytes) Every nook and cranny you see in this photo--and plenty you can't--has to be sanded before you paint. It is imperative that nothing be missed or the finish coat will not have a solid foundation to bond to, and will begin to peel off in a year or so. It took about six hours to work out the areas you see here. The underside of this hood took about three hours before I was satisfied with it. Nine hours for the engine area alone seems like quite a while, eh?

        Well, boys and girls, that's after degreasing and scrubbing all that, sanding the original finish, and priming it to the point you see here. That puts it at no less than eighteen hours multiplied by the body shop rate because most under hood areas easier to work than this one.

         How much money can you save by doing it yourself?

        Go figure. Wait, there's more.       

        About all you need for jamb sanding is a couple pieces of 3M # 7447 Scotchbrite pad, some 320 dry paper and maybe a piece of 180 dry paper. Scotchbrite pads seem handier if cut into 3 or 4 pieces.


JAM3.jpg (20494 bytes) The pieces you see here are 1/3 of a full pad. The waded up "worn out" piece is far from worn out. That stuff never quits working and you can use it until it wears away to nothing. You can get in the tiniest crevice, it cuts fast, and doesn't produce any deep scratches. You can wad it into a 1/4" wide weather-strip channel and have it sanded in a jiffy.

Notice the 320 paper looks like a small square. It is actually 1/3 sheet folded in thirds. Whether you're dry or wet sanding the paper is easier to work and control when folded in thirds and you can end up using every bit of the paper when folded this way.

        The Scotch-brite alone works well on most surfaces, but when priming into many of these type areas they'll always be some blow out and stick to surfaces in a nearly dry state. You'll feel where they are as soon as the Scotchbrite hits them, they feel kind of like sandpaper.

        Grab the 320 give the area a couple of swipes, the nibs are gone, and go over it with the Scotchbrite to retain a uniform surface. If you happen onto a run, you can knock it off quick by finger sanding with the 180 then hit it with the other two.

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This is so basic that I've never seen it in a painting article, but I'm not assuming everybody knows it.
Standard size sander blocks are sized to the sandpaper. You can measure the paper with the block as in the picture or you can fold the paper in half tear it off and fold those pieces in half again and separate them. In any case one sheet of paper will make four useful pieces. Wet or Dry paper is really tough so you'll mess up now and then. The preferred method is to fold the paper with the abrasive side out, pinch it together as tight as you can then tear it using a sharp edge as shown here. I use the pieces on the block, (of course), folded in third for hand sanding, and cut a paint stick to the width of a sander block and wrap the paper tightly around it. The stick is a super handy combination of block and hand sanding for small areas or large. It's not quite as accurate as a block sanding on flat areas, but I find it makes wet sanding a lot easier on your hand. I always follow up either method with hand sanding, dry the part, then run over it with a Scotchbrite pad. The Scotchbrite just gets the entire surface uniform while removing a minimum of material.

        Keep an eye on your fingers when hand sanding, you may want to start off wearing a latex or nitril glove to save wear and tear on yourself. I once wore the skin on my fingers so thin I started bleeding right through it before I knew what was happening, put a latex glove on and kept going.

        Remember to spot prime any areas where you happen to sand through to metal, let it dry, and Scotchbrite it. 

        The next step is to wash everything with plain water and powerful stream from a hose nozzle or pressure washer. This gets rid of all sanding dust, abrasives that have worn off the sandpaper, and bugs; especially spiders. Those little devils will take up residence in the tiniest places, so wash them out good, the hardiest ones will run out onto your paint when you start spraying. I like to wash everything the afternoon before I intend to paint, stand it up against something and let it dry overnight. The next morning I'll turn the doors, hood, etc 90 degrees just in case some water stayed in there somewhere and let them set while I do my masking and prepare to paint.


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Here's a neat trick: Mask the door from the inside while you're outside.  It's the only way to get it right. Start at the straightest side and keep working it until you have an arm, then hand, then finger hole at the bottom.


JAM5BOLTS.jpg (13798 bytes) A minor point, but usually forgotten. Screw the attaching bolts in wherever they belong before jamming and when you're done they're painted too. If washers are involved set them about like on the lower yellow bolt and they'll get painted on both sides just as a matter of course. What little paint gets on exposed threads is of no matter.


- Lesson 3-
Painting Jamb Areas

        Now, its on to painting the jambs.  You can spend all the money you want on tools to paint with, but this is all you need.

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     1.  A compressor that can produce at least 8 cubic feet a minute flow at 40 PSI with a 20 gallon tank. Horsepower and compressor type don't matter, the above specs do. This little compressor won't keep up with any air sander, but it will a paint gun or any pneumatic powered wrench in a home tool box. 
    2.  The paint gun is a cheap copy of a Binks # 7; it and a like-model DeVilbis were the standard paint guns for over 30 years. Sure they produce more overspray than a new HVLP gun, but what do you want to save; a hundred bucks on a paint gun or 2 ounces of paint per gallon? You can shoot any type of primer or paint with this old style gun by making minor adjustments instead of changing the spray head. 
    3.  The orange bulb at the air inlet is an air filter/moisture trap and they work like a charm. 
    4.  The mask is a common 3M type, costs about $20.00 and new filters are cheap at most auto parts stores. 
    5.  The air hose is a light painter's model. You don't need a heavy hose that can hold 350psi  for a compressor that produces no more than 120psi. A light hose while painting is a definite advantage.



JAM9JAMPAINTED.jpg (23489 bytes)
And, here, boys and girls, is a painted door jamb. Note the overspray: it was intentional. The object is to paint the jamb and coat the entire edge of it. The overspray will sand off easily, and we'll go on from there. The sanding technique will be explained later.


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Notice here the "loose" masking around the engine bay. That was to make sure the edges got painted, and I learned something here. I should have sanded the primer and masked on back another inch from where I did. This paint has terrific build and I came up with a masked edge about as thick as 5 sheets of paper. If I had moved back another inch it would have made feathering the overspray into the primer much easier. I knocked the edges down with 120 dry paper wrapped on a stick; more sanding later.


JAM3ATOWERPAINTED.jpg (44615 bytes) You get really up close and personal with your painting in an area like this. I was in that hole not once, but three times blowing paint in crannies and behind areas you can't even see in the photos. That air intake box across the firewall was especially tight and was blow and go all the way. I was amazed at how forgiving the clear coat was and how it flowed out slick everywhere. In spite of crawling under and up into the engine bay 3 times, shooting up, down, sideways, and all around I never once got into the paint. MGBs are much easier, just walk around outside, you could even tap dance while doing one of them.


Jambing is finished; and, it all turned out quite well.

JAM2ALAIDOUTPAINTED.jpg (46648 bytes) Note the bolts in the hood. There is only one run, in the clear coat, that needs to be fixed and it's in an easy place to work that is normally hidden. Carefully finger and block sand off the run finishing up with 1500 grit paper and compound buff that spot. Only 4 tiny bugs are immortalized in the paint. Two in an obscure area in the hood where they will remain entombed and two on the inside of the left door. The two on the door can be easily removed, the clear coat touched up with an artist brush, 1500 sanded, and finger buffed with polishing compound.  
We're coming down to the wire now and one unattended flaw, anything unnoticed is going to stick out like a sore thumb in the finish coat.

Jam100.jpg (31739 bytes) The worst of the overspray has been removed with 120 dry paper wrapped tightly on a small block of wood, and we're ready to start some finish sanding.  The mess all over the side of the truck is the guide coat I told you about earlier, don't you dare skip this step.  Notice the yellow hard plastic sanding block, little sanding stick, Scotchbrite, and loose sandpaper on the edge of the truck bed; I decided to knock everything down quick so the sandpaper is 240 grit wet paper which is actually too course but works fast to find what I'm looking for. More about that in the next photo.

        You've probably noticed by now that I'm a big fan of stick and block sanding. Block sanding is an absolute must at this stage. If you have a rubber sanding block throw it on the floor as hard as you can, see how far it bounces, and don't retrieve it. It'll pick out some flaws, but a hard plastic or wood block will find all of them. A hard block, in conjunction with a guide coat, will pick out every low spot, high spot, sandpaper scratch, pin hole, or paint run no matter how small it is. Rubber sanding blocks cost me 4 times more work than actually needed doing until I learned what works best. 

        On anything except a high spot or pin hole try and see if it will block sand out. If you get into the bottom coat of paint, or metal, and the flaw remains you'll have to skim in some filler or spot putty. Spot putty is actually thick lacquer in a tube, like a toothpaste tube, and is used only for pin holes, sand scratches, and very shallow voids; otherwise use a finishing filler like the Putty-Cote mentioned before. 3M spot putty comes in a monster tube you couldn't use in a lifetime so find some Bondo brand in a smaller tube for about 1/4 the price; same stuff, thick lacquer.

        Hey, did ya notice that cool door latch? It's polished and clear coated, shines like a diamond in a goat's grommet. Pickey, pickey, pickey.


        I once had a guy tell me, "I never block sand the final primer, I just palm sand it. What's wrong with that?" Actually nothing is wrong with that if you want your finish coat to look like a mirror...in a damned fun house. Block sand it!! Period.

        Block sanding with a guide coat will find low spots no thicker than a piece of paper, palm sanding will only deepen it and cause a wave in the finish coat. When you hit a high spot you'll go through to the metal in nothing flat and you have to stop and look things over. Is it a sharp rise or a shallow one? Will primer and palm sanding fix it?

        Look closely at the feather edge effect, (feathering), by this time you have at least a coat of primer and a guide coat on there. Is the bare metal spot small or large, like this -O- big around or this l---------l wide, or bigger? Are the feather edges from metal to one coat to the next this l-l wide or this l-------l wide? The wider the better on both counts. If you're at minimums you'll have to tap the spot down, fill it, and start again. Otherwise give it 4 or 5 coats of primer, aerosol is OK, guide coat it, and palm sand to a finish.
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In this shot, what I wanted to find out fast was if the flat surfaces were as flat as I thought they were; and they were, almost. There were a couple of low spots that sanded right out, and some that feathered out good and wide. The low spots worked out with the block and the dark gray primer is covering the high ones. The dark spots of primer are OK with the color of paint I'm using. If a light color of paint was going on, I'd match the primer color or re-coat the entire primed surface with a light colored primer/sealer.
Damn, in too deep again. Now we've gotten into "color hold-out". Let's catch that at the bottom of the page.

Anyway, The tiny red spot on the back edge of the cap is spot putty over a pin hole, there were only 2 in the entire side of the truck. Another thing I wanted to find out quick was where the water is along the side of the bed. Was there actually a single break along there or a double one? I was nearly praying single, but you can't actually tell something like that until the final block sanding. (Single or double has to do with a modification I made to the side of the truck, you'll not have to contend with anything like that.)

 The water is there because I wetted the area, got down at a low angle, and checked it out. Remember that from before? You look at your work, and you look at it, and you look at it until you're sick of looking at it; and, you look at it some more. Still you won't find a couple of flaws until your finish coat is on. But you know what? You're probably the only person who'll ever see them. They'll bug the crap out of you, but just keep your mouth shut and chances are nobody else will ever see them.

        Back to the knock down with the 240 wet paper. Like I said, 240 is too course for finish work. There's a good chance it will leave some sand scratch that will show in the finish coat so lets eliminate that possibility. Normally I'd have done this step with 400 wet sanding so the next step is to wet palm sand everything with 400. It's OK this time because I know it's flat before I start. Next is to dry it off and pet the whole thing with a 3M # 7447 Scotchbrite pad and we're done
        Now for "color hold-out". "Color hold out" is evenness of color in the final finish. It's not a problem you have to contend with when using dark colors or single stage, (no clear coat required), paints because their pigments are not translucent. When you get into light colored two stage paints, three stage pearl jobs, or new car paints it gets so critical that DuPont has 5 shades of primer sealer to deal with this problem.

        Even with that, professional painters have to "shoot a color card" which is six or eight different shaded strips on a special paper card, match a stripe to the car, mix the paint, shoot a sample, and check that before doing a panel repair on most any modern car.   Occassionally, the paint on some cars can't be matched even when you have the VIN and alternate color paint code. Many cars have up to 6 alternates of one color number; and, sometimes the codes just don't jibe with the car.

        So, if you want a panel repair to actually match on your late model car take it only to a body shop that has a paint mixing station. Only the best ones do and their "shooters" are the ones who make the big bucks, because they deserve it.


- Lesson 4-
Final Finish

JAM103.jpg (25404 bytes)
On the passenger side, the area from the door jamb back to the fuel filler had taken a hit sometime and had a botched repair. I had to remove all the old filler from that area, build part of the jam farward about 3/8" with fiberglass reinforced filler, and re-do the whole job. I worked the area 'till I couldn't stand to look at it any more and was sure it was flat, but it wasn't. 

The guide coat and block revealed three low spots and a pin hole. By the way: When you spot a pin hole, drop everything right then and mark it with a pencil, they're just too easy of forget because they are so small. None of the low places were any larger than a quarter and all very shallow, so spot putty fixed them OK. They were about the thickness of a business card when I began hitting first on primer and metal around them. When you happen onto a flaw don't fret about it, just fix it.  You know how now. 

Spot putty takes a while to dry so skim it in and go on to something else for a while. You can see that I was working the side in sections. I skimmed in the putty, moved on to other things for a couple of hours, came back and finished this. Same deal with spot priming. If you wait on that one thing you'll try to work it too soon and screw it up big time, it never fails.

I'd forgotten to jamb that fuel filler access when I did the other stuff, but instead of mixing a batch of paint for the big gun I did it with my little air brush and a little over an ounce of materials. I used it, also, to repair the bug spots on the left door, all it took was a little clear coat. 

        Funny thing about bugs in paint: They usually die quick and when you sand them off there's not enough of them left to see. The worst remnants I've ever seen was a small line about the size of 1/16" of an eyelash. I did have one hardy little bastard I stood and cussed for 5 minutes while he bulldozed a gnarly one inch 'J' in my new white fender.


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400-Grit (Wet)

FINISH101.jpg (49232 bytes)

In these pictures you can see what I meant by 'getting a more uniform surface with a dry Scotchbrite pad'. The top photo is after wet sanding with 400-grit paper, and the bottom after Scotchbrite. This is nit-picky and not by any means prerequisite, but sometimes you'll find a tiny flaw that would otherwise be missed. While Scotchbriting a door, a curtain (run) in an underlying layer of primer jumped out at me like a starving dog after a blowing burger wrapper. It got by me twice, but the Scotchbrite sanding step caught it.



        You have entered a world of sight and sound, feel and smell, where even the unreasonable seems reasonable. Where all human cogitative thought is at risk, where finding nothing wrong makes you worry and wonder what you have missed.

        You have entered...........The Compulsion Zone.

        The sandpaper is speaking to you in a barely audible yet husky voice that on a rough surface fades to a whisper as it polishes the surface smooth. You feel the resistance to movement fade as the surface "comes to you" before you wash & dry it for another inspection.

         A tiny flaw gets a quick skim of spot putty or a shot of primer and you wait, but time drags on so you go onto something else. Time for a test and you push a fingernail into the edge of the putty.  Not ready. You smell the primer and the heady fumes are still strong.  Still not ready. You run your hand over the surface and feel the smooth perfection of it, bend down and spy across the finish moving this way and that to play the light over it from different directions. Soon the primer or putty is ready to work, but a little differently this time.

        We're to the point that wet sanding with 400 paper seems heavy handed so we grab a worn out piece of dry 400 off the floor and fold it into thirds, worn side out. Then the stroking, petting, and hoping that this is the last time around for this last piece of a job that you have become part of, and that has absorbed every portion of your soul.

FINISH102.jpg (31731 bytes) That's It! It's finished to the perfection you've worked and wished for over a period of weeks, and you stand back and gaze in awe as all the problems you had with this job seem to vaporize and rise into the air like a bad spirit returning to it's rightful abode.
(Tony's Note:  Damn!  JDW's waxing poetic.  The fumes have finally gotten to him!)

        At this stage you stand back, admire your work, and feel you're finished prepping; not quite.

FINISH104.jpg (37386 bytes) You would do well at this point to take a damp cloth and wipe it over the entire surface. The water should spread over every square inch evenly with a damp sheen, and there should be no drag on the rag anywhere. Any drag means, "Stop right here and have a look".  When you do, you'll see an area that looks almost dry.  That's where solvents have risen to the top of a primered area that wasn't sanded properly or you missed altogether. That spells big trouble in the finish coat as "fish eye" or multiple blotches in the color coat that can't be painted out. The flaw will lessen only a little and become deeper with each successive coat and no amount of painting will eliminate it completely.

         When you find one of these places, use a piece of dry, worn 400 paper and hand sand over it with an ever-so light touch. The paper will have a light drag to it's feel at the start and when you no longer feel that you run the damp cloth over it again. Repeat this, if necessary, until that surface matches the rest. Lightly stroke the area with the Scotchbrite, blow or wipe off the dust, and you are finished.

        I realize that I'm taking you through steps that others will say are unnecessary. They may say they do it this way, or that; but, what I'm putting down in this article are methods I've gleaned from watching a half dozen different body men work and asking them questions about anything I haven't seen done before. Any step that can produce a better job is never wasted.

        Oh, I advise not using Plasti-Kote # 391 anti rust primer. It's good stuff, with a lot of solids, but dries rather slow and clogs sandpaper quickly. The Krylon Rust Tough works well, but is rather dark. Both companies market a variety of primers of different colors and compositions. Rustoleum makes excellent paints, but they are not compatible with a lot of other brands/types until they have dried and cured out completely which takes a couple of days. Primers and paints of all kinds retain some of their solvents for a very long time and we'll have more about this near the end of the article.



        Masking is an art within itself and it begins with good automotive grade masking tape. My preferences are 3M and Clipper, in that order and when masking to a clean line I always use new tape. Get your tape from an automotive paint supplier and you can't go wrong on quality, they keep the right stuff. Clipper and 3M masking tapes have always been light tan in color, but 3Ms new green tape has become the one of choice and is slowly replacing their tan across the board.

        Don't be tempted to use tape sold by building supply companies nor cheap tape to mask a line in automotive painting. The adhesives in those tapes may not hold an edge against the solvents in automotive paints and bleed by creating a gagged line. Or the adhesives could be converted into a slimy mess or hardened to the point the tape is difficult to remove. Cheap tape is OK for sticking down loose edges of masking paper and such as that, but not for working directly on the finish area.

        The cheap stuff is used only to stick down loose edges of masking paper, the 3M tapes are used wherever you're making a line on the painted surface. It's OK to use cheap tape on a masking roll rig when covering outward from areas where you have already masked your line.

FINISH120.jpg (51454 bytes) Masking tape comes in widths from 1/8" up to 2" with the most popular and universal being 3/4". In the picture you see a roll of 3/4" cheap Tyco brand, a roll of 3/4" green 3M, a roll of 1/2" cheap stuff, some 1/4" 3m Fine Line, and a roll of 1/8" 3M Fine Line tape.


        I masked the lines on the side of the truck with new 1/8" 3M Fine Line then used roll masking paper with cheap tape to mask out from that point. I used 1/8" Fine Line so I could mask that gold panel, which included some tight curves, with one piece of tape. Six curves on each side were too tight, the tape pulled to the insides of them and I had to re-do those areas. I re-masked with 3/4" tape, drew in the curves using a quarter, (an American coin with the value of 1/4 of a dollar), and cut them with a razor blade. Since this cutting was being done on the basecoat, cutting the paint wasn't a problem. The following clear coat filled and sealed the cuts and they are totally non detectable.
        Masking a straight line should be pretty simple, but gets less simple when that line is 16' long. Stick the end of your tape down on the line you want, unroll a span of tape about 2' long, and move the span down near the surface. Do not pull the tape tight enough to stretch it, just enough to get it straight. Sighting squarely on top of the tape to the line you want lightly press the tape down with your finger in 3 or four places. Sight the line, lift and reposition the tape if it isn't right, but if you hit your line rub the tape down more firmly. Pull out a couple more feet of tape, hold a finger on the previous strip about 6" behind where you stopped, pull that area back up, re-sight, and stick it down as before. I don't know about you, but if I don't lift that last 6" of a run I'll get a little rise or swag right at that point. If you end up having to lift several feet of a line get some help. Have them hold the end of the tape near the surface and you concentrate on getting it on the line you want. 

        When masking a sweeping curve, like the lower panel on the side of an Austin Healey 100, keep about a 1' span of tape between the point that is stuck down and the roll. Get the tape to the line by moving the roll and stroke it down as you go. It takes good eye/hand coordination, but if you've got that it keeps getting easier all the way.

        Masking raised letters, such as those on the tailgate in one of the photos was done with 3/4" 3M green tape to make sure my cut edges didn't bleed under. At that point the tailgate was copper on it's perimeter and gold in the middle with the copper being masked. I began by masking completely across the tops and bottoms of the letters at the edges of their flat tops. That eliminated having to trim any letter on it's top or bottom edges. Next the rest of the letters were masked in a manner as to eliminate all the long line trimming possible and the tape was pushed down over the curves of the raised portions.

        Then I sharpened a pencil, not so much to make it sharp, but to expose a lot of lead. Using the side of the lead, I stroked the edges of the letters to create a line to follow, and cut the letters out with a razor blade. The rest of the gold was then masked, the dark color shot, everything unmasked, and the results are in the photo. The top curves of the gold on the tailgate and the gold in those tight curves near the backs of the doors, on the cab, were done much like the letters were.

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These are the essentials of masking. The paper roll rig isn't, I've never used one before, but I've got a lot of big time masking to do so I borrowed the rig and bought the materials. Newspaper does a good job if you double it and it works easier that way. Always start off by taping on the folded edge and you'll save yourself a lot of trouble. Masking is an acquired skill and you will develop your own techniques as you go.


        When painting a car some paint will always blow into the cracks around the doors, so we must get ready for it by masking anywhere we don't want paint to go to go. Most of what blows into the cracks will be rather thin, but that doesn't matter because the area already has a good coat of paint. What we want to avoid is a garish line anywhere in the door jams or edges and having overspray all over the inside of the door.

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The ideal masking area on this vehicle was dead center of  a 90 inside bend that goes nearly all the way around the jam. A line is less noticeable in a tight inside bend like that than any other visible area. Doors are usually pretty easy to find a good dividing line on. You can mask along the weather-strip area where it's close to the edge or up against the edge of the door skin where it folds against the door. I had to use a combination of the two on this door. 

        Tape your paper along the outermost point you are covering in the jam first, then press form it to the shape of the jam and tag the edges of the paper with a few pieces of tape. Forming the paper to the jam is important because if you tape it tight over the jam it will tear right in the jam area when you close the door. Keep it pulled in tight around the corners and edges of the door so it doesn't push into the unmasked areas when you close it. 

        When masking in tight areas, you just have to do the best you can. Stick one end of the paper down near the line you want, then stick the other end down, or you may have to work around a curve on the way. Working with a roll of tape in close areas is usually impractical so use as many short pieces as you have to in order to get the job done. You'll soon learn how to avoid making a crooked or jagged edge. It's not always possible to look straight down on the top of the tape while working a close line, but it's much easier to do when you can.

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In this photo, we've worked into a tight cluttered corner with door hinges, a door stop fitting, and compound curves. There's just no room to work paper so we switch to 2" tape and keep sticking it on until everything is covered. Ahead of that tape is an even worse area that is covered in the next photo.


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You can see that inside that crack is a painted void that is impossible to reach with the door on, in fact it's nearly impossible to see. Granted, nobody will ever see this area, but we're being picky here and we're going to keep most of the overspray from spreading in there. What I did was to take some half-sheets of newspaper, loosely wad them, and cram them into the void through the larger crack inside the door. This is something you may never have, or want for that matter, to do, but you know how to do it. Before I start painting I'll reach in the crack of the closed door with a hook wire and pull the paper up close to the edge.

        I besieged a masking Guru and he sayeth unto me, "Anywhere you don't want overspray to go has to be masked up good and tight.", so I doneth it from that day forward and life has been good.

FINISH109.jpg (42950 bytes) The last steps in jamb masking it to skuff the exposed painted edges with Scothbrite. It doesn't need to be deeply sanded, only skuffed enough so the paint that blows into the cracks will stick to the surfaces we intend for it to get on. Follow up each section you skuff with a clean rag and wipe away the dust.

OK, its all over but the shouting, er, shooting.
FINISH110.jpg (30050 bytes) The jam masking of that door was holding it slightly open so I leaned that an old school cafeteria table propped against it caused the paper to 'take a set' with it closed.
        At this point the sanding and masking is all done. The whole vehicle has been checked and rechecked and it's ready, just a couple more things and the paint goes on. 

        First blow compressed air into all the cracks and sweep the entire prepared area with it. I'll go over the whole thing with a rag dampened with water and look for fly specks or any other water soluble contamination.

        Next comes the Prep-Sol, which is a preparatory solvent made by DuPont. There are several of these solvents under different names from different companies used to remove any oil based contaminates just before painting. The main culprits are: Skin oils from touching your skin or hair and then touching the primed surface, excess oil from aerosol primer from possibly forgetting to shake it up good before beginning to spray, and mysterious crap that just got there somehow. 

        You soak a clean rag with the solvent, and wipe an area with a good wet; not quite a running coat.  Let it set a few seconds and wipe it dry, or nearly so, with another clean dry rag. The Prep-Sol will bring any excess oils to the surface and the dry wipe removes them. The solvent should lie in a uniform flat wet coat and if you see any unusual separating or "funny" pattern you have found a heavily contaminated area. Keep wetting and drying that spot until the solvent lies as it should. Give the solvent a few minutes to dry out completely before spraying any paint.

        A word about rags while prepping for paint. They must be absolutely free of any, even very slight undetectable, traces of oil, wax, silicone, Armor All, or anything like these. Even rags that have been washed in the same batch with a contaminated rag are taboo, they have to be cleaner than a cloth table napkin. Most body shops don't even use cloth rags at this stage and have opted for paper "wipes", usually lint free ones which are pretty expensive as paper towels go.
        The final step before you start shooting paint and done immediately before, is to wipe the entire vehicle down with a tack cloth for automotive painting. A tack cloth is just a small cloth impregnated with a special tacky substance that makes it a super efficient dust cloth. None of the "tacky stuff" will stick to the surface but the rag will pick up all dust, cloth lint, or whatever is there.
        Important note:  Be sure you have read and understand every detail in the instructions of the paint you are using. The containers have instructions on them, but ask your supplier for a detailed instruction sheet or sheets.


- Lesson 5-

        There are some real fancy ways of mixing paint, but we're going to bring it down to the basics which is all we really need. There are little dippers with a hole in the bottom you put paint in and time how long it takes to run out. There are painter's measuring cups with so many scales and increments you can't figure out how to use them, and hard telling what other methods. Then there are good old Folgers coffee cans, clean 'em out good and let them dry completely.
        Mixing ratios:  The basecoat I'm using here is mixed 2 parts paint to 1 part reducer (thinner) so I measured a can from the top of that bottom lip and put 3 marks one inch apart.
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Then I use a center punch or nail and hammer to punch little dings in the side of the can on the top two marks so I can see the exact measurements and ratios inside the can while mixing. 

        You can also mark a paint stick and have it standing in the container as your scale while you are mixing. If you want to mix less use a smaller can or substitute 1/4" or 1/2" for 1" per part as you measure the container. Sometimes you'll run across what looks like a screwy ratio in the instructions because they never use a fraction of a unit in the measuring process. For instance: Your paint requires reducer and hardener in the mix. The ratios given may be something like 6 parts paint, 2 parts reducer, 1 part hardener to 6 parts unreduced paint. They will never have anything like 3 parts paint, 1 part reducer, 1/2 part hardener to 3 parts unreduced paint. 

        Now for that portion that says "1 part hardener to 6 parts unreduced paint". The way we are measuring it just means "1 part hardener", forget the "to 6 parts unreduced paint", our mix will come out right because of the method of mixing we are using. The can with 4 marks is marked incorrectly for what I'm doing and I discarded it, but you've got the idea about easy measuring.

You are quite likely to find some terms you are unfamiliar with in the instructions, such as:
Pot life: Like Cheech may say to Chong, "Man this Pot Life is great! Gimme another hit."  No, really, 'pot life' refers to how long the paint is usable. If it has no hardener the instructions will likely say "Pot life indefinite", which means you could seal it up in the can, mixed or unmixed, and keep it as long as you wish. If the paint requires hardener it will likely say something like, "Pot life 6 hours". In that case you have 6 hours to use all the mixed paint or dump it out and clean up the gun. Never pour even the tiniest amount of paint with hardener added back into the container because it will activate all the paint it comes in contact with, which is all of it in the can. Even 1/2 ounce of hardener will eventually activate an entire gallon of paint.
Flash time, or time to flash: This is the minimum amount of time you must wait before applying another coat of paint. Longer is OK, even better; shorter is asking for runs or curtains in the paint. I like to extend flash time by at least a third then look at the paint and see if it looks right. If it doesn't, I'll wait longer. Any place that still looks damp isn't ready.
Tape free: The minimum amount of time you must wait before applying masking tape over the freshly painted coat. This is important when masking out an area to create a two-tone paint job. I like to at least double this time, then decide for myself if it really is ready to tape. This is also a good indicator as to minimum time before removing masking tape, but I treat this the same, at least double the time, even wait a couple of hours longer.
Time to delivery: The time it takes the finished paint job to cure to a state where it can be handled or used safely; it is by no means fully cured at this stage. If you have items such as trim and door handles to re-install I suggest waiting no less than 3 days and I'll wait a week. You can work these items sooner than that safely, but "I prefer to wait 'till that paint is harder than the hammers of Hell."
        Some every important terms that can spell disaster to all the work we've done (and, you'll never see them in the instructions) are in the next segments.

        A paint system consists of all the matched components to go from primer to finish and the containers in the photo are self explanatory.

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        The basecoat in this Sherwin Williams 4th Dimension system requires no hardener which is a big advantage. That being you have up to 7 days to apply the clear coat without first scuffing the base to make it stick. I didn't need that window, but had the temperature dropped or the humidity gotten too high for a period of days after the basecoat was on I may have.

        This is one of the "economy" paint systems, how economical depends on the colors you choose. It is quite easy to use, the instructions are simple, the times between each step of the job are reasonable, it lays out good, and works very well in the environment I was working in. There are other so called "low priced" paint systems, DuPont's Nason series being but one of them.

        Economy versus expensive systems: The price of a paint system has little or nothing to do with how well it works, quality of color, fineness of finish, or durability. The biggest factor is speed of usage in a controlled environment such as a paint booth. Speed is the last priority on the list in an uncontrolled environment. 

        Body shops sell time, that is their bread and butter, the mark-up on materials is minimal by comparison. The big shops that have a mixing station and professionally designed and built paint booth have specialists in every area of body repair. The "mechanics" get the car first. They do the necessary frame tweaks, panel replacements, and repairs. 

        Next a painter who may or may not be the finish shooter applies the primer, and sends it out to the prep boys. They sand the primer, where and if it needs it, and mask the vehicle in readiness for the finish coat(s). Some of the primers they use require no additional work before applying the finish coat. These guys are fast and efficient and do little masking with tape and paper like we have to. 

        Door jambs are "masked" with an expensive round sponge tape that blocks air flow and doesn't create a line where it's used. Most of the body masking is done with a very thin plastic sheet that holds to the body by static cling and is taped along the line to be painted. 

        Then, it goes into the paint booth and the main "shooter" who earns and average of $1,200.00 per week, so the company wants him turning out as many jobs as possible and thus the working speed and expense of the paint systems they use. When he's finished it goes back to the prep boys for final detailing of the finish, then to the body mechanics for installation of glass, trim, interior, just whatever that job requires to be finished.


      But, here's what can happen in a home carport.  I think its just as good as what I described above!

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        There are several factors that can contribute to making a finish coat a dismal failure. Up to this point you've learned how to avoid all of them other than blowing dust and bugs. Bugs will be there or they won't, its just the luck of the draw, but you know how to deal with them. If you noticed the floor in the pictures taken after sanding was finished, you've seen it is washed as clean as it can be made; this helps the dust situation.

Here are 3 more things that can ruin a job and how to avoid them.
1) Your air hose:  If the air hose gets into your work it can wipe out a small area plumb down into the primer and cost you a day in dry time and repairing the damage. Any time you must shoot with the gun above chest high drape the air hose over your shoulder, across your back, pull it snug with the other hand, and hold it behind you. You will inadvertently turn the same direction most of the time while going from side to side on the car and this will cause the hose to start looping. When you see this, disconnect the gun and straighten the hose. If you let it go and a loop flops into your work I can guarantee you'll throw an unmitigated cuss fit even if you have never uttered an obscenity in your life. "You'll be flopping around on the floor, kicking and screaming like a Wal-Mart brat."
2) Solvent pop: This is the result of painting over uncured primer and may not show up for weeks. Our new paints are about as porous as plastic and that's zip, zero, nada.  Nothing gets past it without a lot of force. I won't paint over a large primer coat that has cured for less than a week nor spot primer any sooner than 24 hours. This usually doesn't cost any time because my slow schedule doesn't allow painting any quicker than that.
        Here's the scenario: You prime an area and have ants in your pants until you can finish sand it. The paint gun is standing by with the mixture in a can ready to stir, dump in and shoot. You knock out the job in record time and it looks great, the best you've ever done, and it looks great...for a few days, weeks, or even months. Then, one day, you're washing your car and you feel something strange underhand. You dry it off, look, and see nothing wrong. 
        Wait a minute, what was that? You get down at a low angle, move around to shift the light and "What's that?"  It's Solvent Pop: thousands of tiny pinpoint bubbles in your paint job. How did they get there? In your rush to get the color coat on you didn't let the solvents escape from the primer.
        In other words, you didn't let it cure. Those solvents were trapped by the paint, weeped out under it, and the first time the car sat out in the hot sun, the solvents changed to gas, expanded, and blew bubbles under the paint. It could be worse. It could actually lift big sections of paint in which case it would soon peel off.
 3) Lift: This is much akin to solvent pop, but now usually happens between the basecoat and clear coat. You've seen it a hundred times on mid '80's and later cars. There are two things that can cause it: clearcoating before the basecoat has cured enough; and, clearcoating when the basecoat has cured too much. In re-painting it can be avoided two ways, wait a little longer for the basecoat to dry or scuff the basecoat with a Scotchbrite pad before clearcoating. Read the instructions on the paint to know when you are in the clearcoating window. It can vary from a few hours up to a week.
        Orange peel, dry spray, and several other problems are the result of not following the instructions for the paint. You don't just buy some paint and some thinner, dump it together and shoot any more. Now-a-days you buy a paint system and use it precisely as the instructions state.


FINISH114.jpg (23948 bytes) It was a quiet celebration, Miller time was.  As I relaxed at last there in the shade with a cold Miller High Life in my hand, my gaze was fixed upon, of all things, a 1981 Volkswagen Rabbit Diesel Pickup tailgate hanging in the sun where my yard swing should be. My eyes played over the glittering copper and gold glinting in the sun like an Aztec idol with millions of tiny copper flakes winking and glittering from the dark, nearly black, pewter accent panel with the near perfect hand cut letters

        Countless days of toil and drudgery faded into nothingness as the final coat of paint dried, shrunk, and cured, becoming smoother with very minute.  Another Miller and another smoke. I hadn't relaxed like this in days.  Why?

        Because today was the culmination of a labor of love which has been especially stressful.  The success of my labors depending entirely on a discipline for which I had to constantly remind myself, "It doesn't have to be slick, just wet, it'll lay out later".  I must have repeated that phrase to myself a thousand times doing this final round of painting today. 

        But, today, there she was.

FINISH115.jpg (37577 bytes) No drips, no runs, no errors. Three shallow curtains in the clear coat with the largest being 1-3/4" long and 3/4" high and simple to repair. All lines between the colors are as if cut with a knife, and no discernible division can be felt between one color and another. There is no dividing line between jamming the doors and painting the truck.
        Miracle of miracles, there are no bugs in the paint. A few specs of dust from the wind getting up while shooting, but the color sanding will remove them in a jiffy. All conditions except the last two are controllable by techniques outlined beforehand.     This is the most nearly perfect finish I have ever put on a vehicle and I couldn't keep my eyes off it as it cured and laid out. 
        Now, just a few tips:

1)  The paint doesn't have to go on slick, just wet looking; it will 'lay out' (the surface will blend to a finish) later as it cures.

2)  Just because a paint gun's instructions say it will hold a full quart doesn't mean you have to put a full quart in it. Fill it to within about 2" of the top so none can get out the cup vent and drip onto your finish coat. After a shot sharply upward or downward check the paint cup for runs down the side. If you see any it means your cup gasket is not sealing properly. Unless paint is simply running out, grab a rag and keep shooting, and start wiping the run off making sure not enough accumulates to drip onto your work. The next time you fill the gun, check the fit of the lid on a top cup gun or if you are using a bottom cup with a clamp type closure just turn the cup around 180 degrees and that may fix the problem.

3)   When removing masking tape always wait well past the flash time, maybe 4 times longer, and try to pull the tape back over itself at a 45 degree or lower angle. That will cause the paint bridging from it to the finish to be cut instead of trying to lift.

        All that's left now is color sanding, buffing, pin striping, and undercoating.  That is, other than installing the hundreds of parts and components that have been overhauled, cleaned, painted, lubricated, refurbished, made ready for use and stored in the spare room of our basement for over a year.

        She'll be a 1981 VW diesel pickup with the turbo-diesel engine and 5-speed tranny along with the dashboard and most of the interior and some exterior parts from an 1984 VW Jetta. There is also a little bit of VW GTI and Dodge Neon thrown into the mix also. She will be quite unique, nothing like her ever before, and never again.

        Thanks to Pete Cummins she already has a name.  Pete christened her the "JETTUP": a Volkswagen pickup built with the heart of a Volkswagen Jetta.


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Remember what I just said about orange peel and following instructions? Well, here is a fine example of orange peel caused by not following instructions. The instructions for the clear coat said to apply 2 coats. When I got 2 coats on everything I had about 1/2 cup of paint left and didn't want to waste it so, I gave the hood and outer tailgate a third coat.

             When I jambed the hood with 2 coats of clear it was horizontal and came out slick as a button. While painting the tailgate I put 2 coats on the inside, 3 on the outside. The outside orange peeled, and the inside is "slicker than greased owl manure". The entire rest of the truck got only two coats of clear and is much smoother than either of these items; in fact I'm not going to sand or buff the dark color along the bottom, it doesn't need it at all.

        Ready for this? I screwed up again! The peel on the hood was so bad I decided to stick sand it with 600 grit wet paper to knock it down quick, then hand sand with 1500, and buff it.

        Big Mistake!

        That 600 put sand scratch in so deep neither 1500 nor buffing could fix that mess. You absolutely can not remove sand scratch with a buffer and finishing compound; it will only widen and deepen the scratch. I had to trash the rags I'd been using because they had 600 grit abrasive in them from wiping the hood down, wash the hood to make sure it was off of it, and spur the buffing pad to rid it of the "gravel" it had accumulated. Next I stick sanded with 1200 wet paper followed with 1500 hand sanding and buffed it again. Some 600 scratch was still there. Back on it with the 1500 followed by the buffer again and that got it passable.

        What I should have done can be explained in pictures 1 and 2, and is the way I did it on the tailgate. This is pertaining to color sanding flawed or orange peeled surfaces. Wet stick sand with no courser than 1200 paper to about the stage you see in picture 1, notice there is still quite a bit of pitting from the orange peel showing. Wash the area with plain water to rid it of any 1200 grit left behind and wet hand sand it with 1500 to the stage you see in picture 2. Any remaining pits no larger than half the size of a pin head will be diminished by the buffer to a state that they are hardly noticeable. If, however you want a glass like show car finish every bit of pit and every flaw must be sanded completely out before buffing.
        The hood buffed out pretty good, not perfection, but not half bad for a carport wannabe body beater. There is an art to buffing.  As you use the buffer keep the following tips in mind and you'll do OK. 3M # 0611 Imperial Micro-finishing compound and a wool buffing pad can't be beat for this job. You don't need an expensive buffer, if you never use one you'll never know the little difference between them and cheap ones anyway. Most all of them have 2 speeds, high for sanding, low for buffing.

        Always buff at low speed, if you're on high speed and stay on one spot too long or make the wrong move things start happening real fast and you can ruin a job in the blink of an eye. Keep the buffer moving. We are removing paint with wet pumice and a fast moving pad. and the friction causes heat. Stay still too long and the heat will soften the paint, the pad will get hold of it and pull a chunk out; it's called "burning" the paint. Get on an edge wrong, the machine jerks in your hands and you have burned completely through the paint and into the primer before you know anything went wrong. So run the buffer on the low speed and give yourself that extra split second advantage.

        Here's how to avoid problems while buffing:

1)  wear old "trashed out" clothing. sometimes what that buffer slings on them simply won't wash out, ever.

2)  shake up the compound and squirt some on the surface to be buffed, you'll catch on to how much pretty quick.

3)  set the buff pad in the compound and smear it around a little, then start blipping the buffer switch and spreading the compound around the general area where you want it.

4)  switch the buffer on low speed and start buffing somewhere away from any edges of the part you are working until you get the feel of the machine.

        Don't force the buffer into the work, it's own weight is all the pressure it needs or should have. Notice that when you hold the main handle up the front of the pad tries to pull it to your left, handle down and the heel pulls it right; secondary handle down and the buffer pushes toward you, up and it pulls away. Make careful note of the relationship of handle movement to buffer reaction and what part of the pad is doing the work.

         Now for the important part: When you approach an edge that is the "cut off" edge on your right hold the main handle up slightly, keep the right edge of the pad barely over and  perpendicular to that edge with the toe edge of the pad spinning off the cut off edge. Never buff onto any edge, always buff off it.  If that edge is sticking up like the fender bead on an MGB you'd use the same action except you'd keep the pad off that edge as much as possible. Letting the pad run across any sharp edge will buff all the paint off it in a twinkling. After some practice you'll be able to buff a complete tailgate, small trunk lid, or anything you can reach across without walking all around it. Just practice on a flat area using imaginary lines until you get the gist of it. Your buff pad should be at least very slightly damp, except for one instance explained later.

        Now we are buffing right along and as the compound begins to dry you'll notice it beginning to vanish and a shine emerges. When this begins observe what is going on very carefully. Normally you just keep buffing until the compound is gone and the shine is there, but there is one warning sign to watch for. If you see a swirl or even a partial one in any part of the buff, compound or shine, stop immediately. Some drying, but damp, compound has gathered in a "knot" on the pad and has to be spurred off before proceeding. "Spurring the pad" is turning the buffer pad side up, turning it on, and dragging a straight slot screwdriver across the running pad.

        The dried pumice and fur will fly so do it where you can make a big mess and it doesn't matter. In fact this is the best way to clean a wool buffing pad either when finished or before use. Washing them causes the wool to knot up on the ends and you have to spur them before use anyway. Don't worry about hurting the pad, I've used and spurred the same one for 15 years and It's still going strong, You should spur the pad any time the buffer sits idle for more than a couple of minutes.

        This may be an exception to the damp pad rule above. I just discovered this today, the light was getting bad and I'm not sure it did all of what I think it did, but I think so. I really believe it worked. When buffing at this stage, with this compound, and this pad you'll usually get some light buffer swirl marks. Not like the one I mentioned before, it will be wide, these will be miniscule and uniform. There is a special fingered sponge pad and super fine compound 3M calls 'Finesse It' to remove this natural buffer swirl, but what I did today, by chance, just may remove natural swirll too.

        My pad was dry, but uniform and didn't need to be spurred when I used it on the tailgate for the last time and it seemed to remove the swirl so I tried it on the hood and it looked like  worked there too. Maybe it did, I'll find out later. Something else that will hide swirl and eliminate surface haze is 3M # 05977 pink Fill 'n Glaze. This stuff has no wax, silicone, Teflon, or any "wonder drugs", is hand applied and buffed, works very easily, and very well. After buffing my tailgate had a surface haze in an area where in diffused light the color was subdued. I wiped on, wiped off some pink Fill 'n Glaze on about a three inch circle and it looked like it just lit up. It works well on any car finish.


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I got good light on the hood and tailgate today and there is no swirl. It also dawned on me what is causing the nearly imperceptible haze on the surface. It is buffing compound stuck in the paint from working it so soon after applying it, about 24 hours after. That's not a problem, left alone it will slowly be removed by successive washings, it can be re-buffed when the paint cures more, pink Fill 'n Glaze will fix it, maybe even a wax job will mask this minor situation. The reason I started color sanding and buffing so soon is if you let clear coat cure too long it gets so hard you can hardly sand it at all.
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It's totally amazing how much these colors can change under varying lighting conditions. In this picture the side of the truck looks rather mundane and the dark at the bottom appears nearly black. In bright sunlight the colors show true and light up as they should. If you scroll back up to the tailgate and compare it with the hood you'll notice some subtle differences there too. Both pictures were taken in bright sunlight, but the tailgate hadn't been color sanded and buffed at that point, the paint was still nearly wet, and the orange peel mentioned earlier hadn't developed. 

        When choosing colors you'll usually have a definite color in mind, can get the number, and just buy your paint system with solid information. In this case I had three toning, paneling, and only general colors for building blocks. A must when choosing paint is to take the color cards or chip book outdoors in direct sunlight in order to see the true colors. The fluorescent lighting in stores will change some colors beyond recognition, especially metallics. Luck was with me when choosing these colors. The company, Sherwin Williams, had their colors on "decks" of cards with which I fanned out some choices, went outside, and chose these three. Being able to hold the three colors next to each other was a big advantage.
        Pin striping is the next consideration and there are several points to bear in mind. 

        First: You want to end up with accents, not distractions or a "hillbilly" motif. 

        Second: The pin striping should create a tie-in with the interior of the vehicle. 

        Third, and very important in this case: The tape must have the flexibility to conform with curves in the paint design. There are a dozen curves with the radius of a quarter in this job so the tape will have to be narrow, and I am currently researching tri-color designs only 1/8" wide.

         We'll get into pin striping later as Fall is coming on and I want an ambient temperature of at least 80F to lend flexibility to the tape before applying it.


- Lesson 6-
(actually, just a vignette, but important)


        I don't know of a new car dealership that undercoats anymore.  It's done mostly by car owners with aerosol products. I have always preferred, used, and have had excellent results by brushing on plastic roof sealing compound. The word plastic has nothing to do with the composition of these products, it just means the form of it can be changed during application. In other words, it's spread-able. It is also quite messy and difficult to work into tight corners.

        The first time I used this was on my new 1962 Studebaker Hawk, which is sitting on my carport, and none of it has ever cracked, chipped off, or failed in any way. Aerosol undercoats are fine and there are a lot of excellent ones on the market.  However, even at the thinnest you can smear roof sealing compound on, you'll have three times the protection you can get with an aerosol product. It is unsurpassed in rock chip protection, sound deadening, and corrosion defense. When fully cured in 4 to 6 months, it can be painted.

Undercoat1.jpg (40815 bytes) As you can see this fender well is very rough. This is a result of the factory "gomming" on rubberized body sealing compound with a course brush. Some areas were so rough I used a body grinder to remove some of the compound and smooth things up a bit. Some thinner areas had dried out and were getting loose so I removed what had failed and sealed the fender wells with Penetrol. Penetrol is an additive and primer for oil based house paints that I have found to be an excellent rust proofing for cars.
        You'll need a cheap 2" paint or chip brush, rubber gloves, and a willingness to make a hell of a mess. Be prepared to trash the brush, a few pair of gloves if they are thin latex, the clothing you wear, and maybe a little of your hair. What can I say? You just dive in and smear the sealer around until you get full coverage. Start in the hardest to reach areas and work in to the easy part, go the other way and you'll end up with more sealer on you than in the fender well.
Undercoat3.jpg (34143 bytes) I finished up this job by checking it out with a flashlight and spraying missed spots in tight places with aerosol undercoat to insure a positive seal everywhere. The last step was to dip the tip of the brush in mineral spirits paint thinner and lightly stroke the visible surfaces to smooth them out.
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The fender wells weren't the only thing that got undercoated. The first thing I did after stripping everything off the truck was to scrub and pressure wash the entire bottom. This was followed by some minor corrosion repairs, sealing with Penetrol, and applying a coat of truck bed liner.

        Overkill? Maybe. I'm just pickey that way.  But, here's the finished product; you decide.

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John Dandy
(theAutoist NOTE:  John Weimer's new "nom de plume")