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..........................- Bodywork & Painting Tips -

.......The following are tips that work for me and/or thoughts on various things.

Equipment Tip: What you need.

Spray guns Tip: What works for me.

Health Tip: If you don't stay alive and healthy you can keep doing this.

Bondo Mixing Tip: Mix it right and save a lot of time.

Cheese Grater Tip: Not much luck with these.

Sanding Board Tip: What you need.

Guide Coat Tip: What it is and how it can help you.

Paint Mixing Tip: An accurate easy way to mix paint.

Equipment Tip: If you are going to be painting a whole car you are going to need probably at least the following: 5 hp. single stage compressor (2 stage would be much better, but I got by with this as my HVLP gun doesn't need a lot of air and I painted things apart); Spray gun that doesn't need a lot of air or a large compressor and one that can produce a good job (see my suggestions later); sanding boards (long, medium, and a couple of rubber sanding blocks (hard & soft); mig welder if you are welding in patch panes and/or customizing; air die grinder, 4 inch electric grinder, air cut-off wheel (all of these to finish your welds up and to install patch panels). The following would be nice, but not absolutely needed: DA sander and a low speed or variable speed buffer/sander. I would stay away from a long board air file and other air sanders even the DA until you gain some experience as they can get you into more trouble than they are worth and your not a production shop. If you don't like sanding stop right now and find something else to do with your time, because you are going to be doing a lot of it if you want a good job.

Spray guns Tip: I've had an HVLP gun from Harbor Freight (number 38308) that I had bought for doing primers a couple of years ago. I found out that it will spray the base and clears to my satisfaction also (more on this gun). I would also check with Len at his Internet Auto Body Store for his recommendations. His Sharp Platinum will work fine also. These will both work with a small compressor. A top of the line gun like a Sata is great, but it puts out a lot of paint, like a body shop needs for production work and a fine finish but since it puts out so much paint, that can get a novice into trouble if his gun technique is not great (read runs -- but runs can be fixed). Due to it's air requirements (read large) it also needs a 2 stage compressor. I would love to have one though someday. Remember if you are going to color sand and buff at the end you can live with some orange peel in the finish paint. The gun I'm using produces very little if I use it right and when I color sand and buff I get a great final finish.

Health Tip: I finally bought a supplied air hood from Len at his Auto Body Store about 2 years ago. I wouldn't paint without it now. Not even the primers. The paints I'm going to talk about are all 2 part paints, except the base, and can be VERY DANGEROUS. Don't let this project kill you now or shorten your life get a supplied air system. I used a charcoal mask for a long time and am still alive, but these just don't get it, even with new canisters all the time. These paints aren't like the ones that were used even 15 years ago. They are dangerous, period. One of these systems will cost you from about $350 to $450 depending on which you get. If you are broke do like I did and buy a cheap gun and put your money into saving your life. Remember you are not painting in a spray booth that moves tons of air every minute through the booth. At least spray the primer with your shop open and new charcoal canisters and as much air as possible moving through (not easy in the winter) and also not possible when spraying the sealer, base and especially the clear.

Wear a dust mask while sanding and grinding. Wear a face shield while grinding. Wear ear protection while grinding. Get an autodarking hood and you will be a better welder (I got a nice one from Harbor Freight for about $140 that has adjustable shades and more importantly a lens that is big enough for me to see out of with my bifocals).

I wear gloves all the time. The cheap white cotton ones will work great while sanding. They keep your skin oil off the surface and you can actually feel the surface better for highs and lows with them over a bare hand and they protect you from the sandpaper. I wear latex gloves (I buy them by the 100 from Harbor Freight) while using the bondo, the cleaners (oil and wax remover -- PPG 330), and while wet sanding. You will do a better job with the gloves on.

Bondo Mixing Tip: I like to mix my bondo on a piece of flat glass. I use an old side window from my truck. It will not absorb any of the bondo (don't use cardboard) and is easy to clean. I put a ball of bondo on the glass and a proper length of the hardener next to it. I use two of the yellow spreaders about 4 inches long to mix it. Use one and then use the other to wipe it off the first back onto the glass until mixed. After putting the bondo on the car I scrape any left over off of the spreaders and the glass with a 1" wood chisel. Then I take some paint thinner on a paper towel and finish cleaning the glass, spreaders, and chisel. Believe me if you keep all of this clean you will do a better job. If not you will get chunks of old bondo in the new on the car and if your spreaders aren't clean and straight edged you will drag grooves in the new bondo as you spread. (Note: these type of tips are going to make this longer, but I don't see this stuff mentioned in the books and it can really help speed the process up and make it less frustrating, so bear with me or skip over my tips).

Cheese Grater Tip: I don't have much luck with the cheese graters to shape bondo that hasn't quite kicked. Work on shaping the bondo with the spreaders and you won't have much trouble using your sanding boards to shape the bondo.

Sanding Board Tip: I have two long boards (mine are a yellow plastic and have a bottom that you attach a long piece of sand paper to (already cut for this)). I keep one with 40 grit on it and the other with 80 grit on it at this stage. I also have two medium length boards of about 8 inches long (one for 40 and one for 80 -- they take sand paper that I rip to size from a full sheet and clips on the end that hold the paper. I also use a couple of rubber sanding blocks that are about 5/8 inch thick and about 2 X 4 inches. One is hard and the other is black on one side (medium hard) and white on the other side (soft). I also have misc. pieces of rubber hoses of different diameters that I can wrap sand paper around. Don't use your fingers (except in the smallest of areas) as if you do your surface won't be flat and that is what we want.

Guide Coat Tip: A guide coat is taking a contrasting paint that is a different color than the work area and misting that paint on the area. Spend a couple of bucks and buy a spray can of the type that is made for this. It will go on nice and you will be using it later with the primers. 2 cans should be enough for the whole project. Just mist it on. You'll see that you don't need much.

Hint: You can use the guide coat early in the bondo shaping steps. With it you can instantly see if an area is high or low as you sand the bondo. The more normal procedure is to run your hand (flat) over the area to feel them, but this can be tricky to get the hang of at first. Use the guide coat and don't tell anyone ;-).

Paint Mixing Tip: First part with a few bucks and get a set of those clear glass Pyrex glass mixing bowels in different sizes. You mix your paints in ratios, for example 4:1:1, which might be 4 parts primer to 1 part reducer to 1 part hardener (this is only an example). So if I wanted to spray a small part I would fill the small mixing bowel up to the 4 oz mark, then pour the reducer in to the 5 oz mark and the hardener in to the 6 oz mark. This would give me the 4:1:1 ratio.

Say I'm going to paint something larger like a panel. I would get a larger bowel out and fill it to the 16 oz mark (4 parts) with primer. Then I would add fill to the 20 oz mark (1 part--4 oz) with reducer. Finally I would fill to the 24 oz mark (1 part--4 oz) with the hardener.

It is simple just keep the ratios the same.

It is then easy to pour from these containers through a strainer into your gun. I clean the gun parts in them and they are easy to wipe clean with a paper towel and paint thinner. Keep them and you gun cleaned spotless every time you use them and your gun will keep working for you the same way.

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