Daily Archives: October 9, 2012

Getin’er done

Taking advantage of the slowdown in collision work, everyone in the shop spent the entire day hammering on the the El Camino. We’re not going to finish it this week, but it isn’t for lack of trying.

Chase spent almost the entire day in the paint booth. The first three pictures show all the bits we painted today. These pictures show the tailgate (picture 1), header panel (picture 2) and valance and hinges (picture 3) after the application of the sealer.

The sealer is applied just before the painting process to seal all the primers underneath it and to provide a coating that promotes the adhesion of the paint. The sealer comes in seven shades of gray, from almost black to nearly white. Each paint color specifies one of these seven shades of gray. The sealer we used on this Blackberry Pearl paint finish is in the middle of the range.

Picture number four is of the tailgate painted black. The header panel was also painted black, but there are no photos of that. The reason black paint is applied to these two items, and not the others, will become clear later.

Picture five and six show the tailgate and valance painted in the Blackberry Pearl base coat. The base coat is the color of the finish and it dries to a nearly flat finish as you can see. The hinges were also painted at this time.

Pictures 7-10 show what happens after the clear coat is applied. The finish goes from dull and drab to bright and shiny. In picture eight you can see what the black paint applied to the tailgate and valance was for. A small stencil on the tailgate, applied before the Blackberry Pearl was applied, covered the black paint underneath. After the Blackberry Pearl base dried, the stencil was removed, revealing the black paint underneath. The entire tailgate was then cleared. The header panel wasn’t painted in the Blackberry Pearl today because we ran out of time to mask it off.

Though this El Camino isn’t an SS the owner wanted some SS stripes on the hood as they appeared on the ’70 to ’72 models. And who can blame him, they look fantastic. The problem for today is the stripes continue off the hood and onto the header panel. The hood has already been painted and striped so we have to match the stripes on the header panel to the hood. Getting the stripes just right is time consuming because of all the curves at the leading edge of the stripe. I didn’t want to rush that part of the job so we left that for another day and finished what we could.

Pictures 9 and 10 show all the other things that we did get finished today in addition to the tailgate, namely the valance and hinges.

Meanwhile …

While Chase was busy painting, Chris and I were busy sanding. You can see in picture 11 that I am wet sanding with 1000 git sandpaper the paint I applied on Friday. The entire car was first wet sanded with 1000 grit sandpaper, then it was wet sanded again with 2000 grit sandpaper.

Wet sanding is a technique to remove the tiny, nearly invisible, imperfections in the paint. All paint, no matter how good the equipment or how experienced the painter, has flaws. Simply applying the paint to the surface of the car introduces the flaws into the paint. People don’t notice the flaws because all cars have them, even when brand new. But the lack of flaws, removed by wet sanding, is why show car paint seems so much more vibrant than regular paint. It’s not the paint as much as it is what is done to the paint.

The abrasives on 1000 grit sandpaper are so fine the sandpaper feels smooth to the touch, but there is enough abrasive action to remove tiny amounts of paint. Sanding the car while wet provides a lubricating barrier that helps prevent the removal of too much paint and helps the person sanding tell if all the flaws have been removed or if additional sanding is required.

After sanding with 1000 grit sandpaper, 2000 girt sandpaper is used to further smooth the surface and to speed up the polishing process. As you can imagine, no matter how fine the sandpaper, sanding the paint is going to dull the finish. Picture 12 shows what the paint looks like after the sanding process is finished. It looks terrible now, but lurking under that dull finish is a brilliant shine that no average paint finish can match.

Picture 13 shows me polishing the paint to remove the marks left by the sanding process so the shine is restored. Like sanding, the polishing process is done in steps. We first attack the paint with a aggressive polish to remove the sanding mark. Once the sanding marks are gone the paint will have a really nice shine, but it will be covered in the dreaded swirls. The second step uses a less aggressive polish to remove the swirl marks and bring the shine up to the High Performance Finish level of gloss. On light colored cars we stop here, but because this is a dark color, we go one step farther, polishing the finish yet again, this time with an ultra-fine polish that kicks dark colors up to the über-glossy range. We only perform this third and final polish on very dark colors because light colors don’t benefit from this final step.

It isn’t every week that we can devote so many resources to a single project like this, but when we can, and the deadline is close, we make every effort to get’er done.

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