Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Vintage and Auto Restoration - Painting Tips - FZ Restoration Livermore

Autobody painting is, without question, the hardest, most labor-intensive element of restoring an old car or truck. It requires lots of preliminary preparation, such as cleaning, sanding and priming, extensive planning ahead regarding weather conditions and humidity, and a whole lot of hands-on experience if you want to achieve professional-quality results. Add in the fact that you can't hide your mistakes like you can when rebuilding mechanical systems, and painting becomes the one task that most home restorers want to avoid.

But if you really want to give it a try, you can achieve successful results with not a lot of experience. The key word here is want, because without a strong desire, you won't be able to overcome the many difficulties that the painting process presents. Of course, nothing surpasses having quality equipment, a well-equipped facility and lots and lots of experience. In fact, the more experience you have, the better the end result will be, but if you follow these few simple rules, you will be able to lay down a new paint finish, of which you will be proud to say, "I did it myself." And maybe even win a few car show awards too.

Like everything else in life, practice makes perfect. However, many amateur restorers don't have the luxury of painting other cars before they attempt to paint the car they are restoring. So first, use some cheap enamel paint, or just a cupful of plain paint thinner, and practice spraying on either your garage wall or on a piece of sheetrock or plywood. Even an old hood, fender or door will allow you to see if you have the spray gun adjusted properly for the correct spray pattern, paint flow and air pressure.

Weeks before your date with the spray gun, buy a book on autobody painting and read it thoroughly. And when you're finished reading it, read it again. Knowledge is power, and the more you know about the entire painting process, the more professional your results will be.

As long as you follow the paint manufacturer's directions 100%, you will avoid problems cropping up during the application of the paint or after, when it dries. It's best to read the directions on the paint can two or three times before starting any mixing of chemicals.

Place a 30-inch-diameter fan in the nearest window to help draw the overspray and paint fumes outside and away from your work area. Even though you'll be wearing an OSHA-approved paint mask (this mask is a must if you are to avoid future health problems), the more paint fumes you can remove from your work area the better. And the less overspray in the air, the less paint dust will settle on, and into, the paint while it's drying.

Paint is very sensitive to weather conditions. Always spray when the temperature inside your garage is above 60 degrees and the humidity level is low. Never paint when it's raining or when there's excessive humidity in the air, especially when using metallic paints, as moisture can get trapped under the paint film and cause the finish to get cloudy. Excessive moisture can also cause paint to lift not too long after it's applied.

Although you can't see it, your car is one big magnet attracting every dust particle floating in the air to its steel body. But if you attach a steel chain to its frame and allow it to settle onto the floor, it grounds the car and helps eliminate static electricity, thus lessening the amount of dust settling onto the body.

A day or two before you start painting, give your garage floor a comprehensive sweeping followed by a thorough vacuuming. Just don't do this the day you plan to paint, as the dust thrown into the air during the cleaning process takes hours to settle down onto the floor, and you surely don't want any dust particles to settle instead onto your freshly applied paint.

In order to keep the fine dust particles on the floor from rising up into the air while you walk around your car dragging the air hose, a light coating of water will help keep all those dust particles at bay. But whatever you do, do not soak the floor with an excessive amount of water; there are several reasons for this. First and foremost is that while the water evaporates into the air it will trap itself under the paint and cause the paint to soon lift; it will get onto the air hose and possibly onto the freshly applied paint; and it may cause you to slip and hurt yourself.

Do not wear any type of clothing with fibers (such as cotton, wool or flannel) as they will detach themselves from your shirt or pants, float in the air and possibly settle onto the paint. Wear either nylon pants and a windbreaker-type jacket or buy yourself one of those disposable paper painter's suits. And wear a lint-free hat too, to avoid any loose hairs falling onto the paint.

Most importantly, don't rush. Allow yourself plenty of time, as it takes many, many hours to complete the entire painting process. Start early in the day, and plan your spraying on a day that you don't have to be anywhere else, as it takes longer to paint a car than you may think.

Remember, old car restoration is supposed to be fun. So take a deep breath before starting, and try to relax. Sure, you can mess things up and waste a lot of expensive paint in the process, but you can always wait until the paint dries, sand the surface smooth, and spray the car again. Painting, like everything else, is a learning process, and you'll grasp the skill of painting a whole lot quicker if you're not so tense.

A trick that some painters who work in cold climates employ is that of heating the paint right before spraying. Since paint fumes are highly flammable, do not use a heat source that has an open flame. Either use an electric warming tray to heat the paint can or submerge the paint can about three-quarters the way up to its lid in a large pot of very warm water. Don't cook or overheat the paint. The whole point of this exercise is to warm the paint just enough so it flows out better when it's applied, and thus reduces the dreaded orange-peel effect when it dries. This is necessary only if the air in your garage and the surface to be painted are on the cold side.

As soon as you are finished spraying the entire body, get out of the garage and let the paint dry for several hours as recommended by the paint manufacturer. The more walking you do in the garage, the more dust you will throw into the air, and that means more dust will settle onto the paint. Just make sure your air hose extends outside the garage, or the painting area, as you still need to clean your spray gun before the paint inside it hardens and ruins it.
by Richard Lentinello

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