Daily Archives: August 24, 2012

Not your average finish

While Chase painted the Escape, I spent the day, off and on, working on the hood of the El Camino that we painted last week. It was  time to put the High Performance into the Finish. When the hood came out of the booth it look good. Real good as a matter of fact. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be improved.

Before the paint can look better, I have to make it look worse. A lot worse. I do that by sanding. You can see in the first two photos me sanding that better than average paint job with sandpaper and water.

Wet sanding, sometimes called color sanding, removes the tiny, near invisible imperfections from the paint. Using water as a lubricant prevents me from sanding too much of the clear coat off and washes away the clear that was removed so I can tell if I have sanded enough … or not. It is a tedious, messy and time consuming task, but it is the critical step in making a great finish a High Performance Finish.

The entire hood is sanded first with 1000 girt sandpaper, then it is sanded again with 2000 grit sandpaper. Where the 1000 grit paper is ultrafine, so fine that it feels smooth to the touch, the 2000 girt paper is finer still. The 1000 grit paper removes the imperfections in the paint and the 2000 grit paper removes the superfine scratches left by the 1000 grit paper. The object is to make the paint glass smooth … and the 2000 grit sandpaper almost gets you there.

Obviously, sanding paint, no matter how fine the sandpaper, is going to dull the finish. You can see the hood after the sanding is complete in the third photo. It looks bad now, but lurking under that dull finish is an ultra-deep gloss and razor sharp reflections.

After sanding it is time to polish the paint. Polishing paint isn’t the same as waxing paint, though many people use the terms interchangeably. Waxing paint applies a protective coating of, usually, wax over the paint. Polishing is actually smoothing the paint with super ultra-fine abrasives.

Polishing works just like the sandpaper before it, but at a much finer level. The abrasives in the polish heats the clear coat thereby removing the scratches left by the sandpaper. The polishing is done in three steps. Like the sanding, each step uses progressively finer abrasives that remove scratches and swirls left by the proceeding step until all the scratches and swirls are removed.

Pictures four and five show me starting with Step 1, the most aggressive of the polishes. This step removes the scratches the left by the sanding. The entire hood is polished with the Step 1 until all the scratches are removed. Once the scratches are removed the hood looks pretty good, but close inspection reveals that the paint has a slight haze … a haze caused by swirl marks left by the aggressive Step 1 polish.

Oddly enough after Step 1 comes Step 2. Step 2 is a less aggressive polish which is used to remove the swirl marks left by the Step 1 polish. Once again the entire hood is buffed, this time with the Step 2 polish, until all the swirl marks are gone. At this point, if the hood were a light color, silver or white for example, I would be done. But on dark colors, especially on black, Step 2 itself leaves swirl marks. Very fine swirl marks that are all but invisible, but they are there, and show up as a oh-so-slight dullness in the paint. Time to go the extra step.

Step 3 polish is so fine you almost can’t call it a polish, but it removes the slight dullness left by Step 2 and leaves the paint with a über-slick finish that is completely swirl free.

The rest of the pictures, numbers 6-10, are the results of the all the sanding and polishing. As you can see in these photos, the gloss is super-deep and the reflections are razor sharp. This is what the High Performance Finish is all about.

The owner of this El Camino originally picked out a nice gray as his primary color, but later changed his mind to the Blackberry Pearl that you see here. I’m glad he did because nothing knocks your socks off like a High Performance Finish in black. Blackberry Pearl isn’t quite black, but it’s close enough.

Preparing for paint

While I helped Chase in the booth with the Escape and worked on the El Camino, Chris got the hatch and bumper for the Saturn Vue ready for paint.

The first photo shows Chris sanding the replacement bumper for the Vue so it is ready to go into the booth as soon as the Escape comes out. The second photos has Chris giving the replacement hatch the same treatment.

Sanding roughs up the surface so that the sealer that is applied under the paint has something to adhere to. Just a few weeks ago we had a car come in the shop to have a repair repaired. The new paint was flaking off the car … all because the old paint underneath wasn’t sanded before the new paint was applied. I hate painting a car more than once so we make sure we do the preparation work so I don’t have to.

The last two photos show the hatch masked off, sanded, and ready to paint. All we need now is a paint booth to put them in … something I think we can arrange on Monday after the Escape that we painted today is pulled out for reassembly.

The highway isn’t the only place that cars get into a traffic jam.

Ready to paint

After the frame shop straightened the body and replaced the entire left rear of this Escape, we have spent the entire week first grinding smooth the welds from where the new body panel was attached, then filling and blending the repair to make it undetectable, to finally priming the repairs to make them rust proof and long lasting. Today, finally, we got to spray some paint.

The first picture has me taping up the door so that we could trim the rear portion of the door. You can see the new body panel is white … and that white extends into the door jamb. We need to paint that the same color as the body else anyone who opens the driver side rear door will see the white in the jamb and know that body work has been done on the truck. Our goal is always to make the repair in such a way that no one is able to tell that a repair has been made, so the jamb had to be painted. Painting the jamb is a separate step from painting paint the rest of the truck and you can see in the second picture the entire area taped up, leaving only the jamb exposed for paint.

After taping up the Escape, it was backed into the booth and the door jamb painted. After the jamb was painted the truck was unmasked then remasked for the painting of the outside of the truck. The third photo shows Chris smoothing holes that we punched into the body so that we could mount the wheel arches on the vehicle.

The truck is masked, cleaned and ready for paint in picture four. The front, top and passenger side are completely masked to avoid overspray. The undamaged rear door is left exposed so that the rear quarter panel can be blended into the door.

Blending is a technique used to disguise any differences in paint color. The human eye is very good at seeing very slight differences in color, but only if the two colors are divided by a sharply defined line. By blending the new paint applied over the quarter panel into the old paint on the door, that sharply defined line is not available and the eye simple passes right over the transition between the new paint and the old.

Picture five shows sealer applied to the new body panel. The sealer seals all the repairs below and gives the paint something to bite into. Sealer is available in seven shades for gray, from almost white to nearly black. Each color specifies which of the seven sealer colors is used. As a general rule, the darker the color, the darker the sealer.

In picture number six, Chase is applying the base coat, silver in this case, to the truck. The base coat is the actual color of the finish and is the first part of the two stage paint system we use.

You can see in the seventh picture the Escape painted, but not yet clear coated. The new paint has flat appearance because, well, the paint is flat. It is the clear coat that supplies the gloss.

The last photo, number eight, shows the difference that a couple layers of clear coat, the second stage, make. The clear coat not only provides a tough protective layer, it also provides the gloss which takes the finish for ho hum to oh wow!

Because the truck needs to sit in the booth overnight to dry we are unable to start putting it back together until Monday. Considering what we have completed this week … pfft … that will be no problem at all.

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