Plan to spend some time rubbing out that spectacular paint job. At least you won't have to
This is the scary time. You've just spent weeks, perhaps months, prepping the body for paint, laid on that expensive, two-stage paint with the color followed by the clearcoat, and now it's time to even it out and really make it shine. When done correctly, the results can make the paint job look spectacular. But the path to a show-winning finish is fraught with danger and potential damage if a hack takes a stab at cutting paint without the proper knowledge, technique, and equipment. The good news is that it doesn't require thousands of dollars in tools. Mainly it takes a few sheets of wet/dry sandpaper, a variable-speed polisher, loads of patience, and a soft touch. Load up on the patience part, and you'll probably do fine.
Since we know better than to think we know something about rubbing out a good paint job, we jousted with the freeway crowds and pushed our way down to our painter pal Pete Santini's shop in Westminster, California, where he turned us loose with his expert polisher, Raoul Regino. If you're new to this and would like to try your hand at rubbing out a new paint job, take your first shot at something less valuable, like a junkyard fender or a hood that must be repainted, before you attack that brand-new paint job.
Color-sanding a factory clearcoat is not recommended. In this case, Santini has just repai
Everyone knows the quality of a paint job is really the effort put into it before the paint goes on, but how much paint (or more accurately, clearcoat) you lay down is also important. Santini says with today's in-vogue two-stage paint jobs, the key to quality is to lay down plenty of material. If the job calls for nothing short of the best, Santini usually sprays four to six coats of clear or even more compared with two to three coats for a production version.
If your search for the ultimate paint job leads you to a Grand National Roadster Show-winning effort, Santini claims the masters will go so far as to cut and rub then spray additional coats of clear that are further cut and polished. This takes weeks, if not months, to accomplish. On the opposite side of this insanity is a factory paint job that is applied with the fewest number of coats of clear possible. The danger, says Santini, is sanding these paint jobs and removing one or more of those precious few layers of paint. While the initial effort may look great, the image will be fleeting when the remaining clear begins to fail.
The idea here is to plan your paint job in advance, and if you can afford to lay on additional coats of clear, you have a better chance of coming up with a good-looking paint job.
|Tools And Materials |
|Description ||PN ||Source ||Price |
|DeWalt grinder/polisher ||DW849 ||maxtools.com ||$189.00 |
|3M 1200 grit wet/dry, 10 ct. ||32022 ||3M.com ||$7.95 |
|3M 1500 grit wet/dry, 10 ct. ||32023 ||3M.com ||$7.95 |
|3M 2000 grit wet/dry, 10 ct. ||32044 ||3M.com ||$7.95 |
|3M SuperBuff 9" wool pad ||5701 ||autobodystore ||$22.40 |
|3M Pad adapter ||5710 ||autobodystore ||$5.50 |
|3M Wool pad, 3 ||85078 ||autobodystore ||$5.50 |
|Sure Finish black foam pad ||N/A ||autobodystore ||$14.80 |
|3M Perfect-It Fine, 16 oz. ||39002 ||properautocare ||$10.95 |
|3M Perfect-It Polish, 16 oz. ||39009 ||properautocare ||$11.95 |
|Meguiar's No 3, 16 oz. ||0316 ||properautocare ||$9.95 |
|Meguiar's No 7, 16 oz. ||0716 ||properautocare ||$8.95 |
|Dragon-Fiber micro-fiber ||VIP-BUFN ||properautocare ||$7.95 |
Tools for the Trade
The most expensive part of cutting and rubbing paint is your time. Except for one power tool, such as a DeWalt variable-speed polisher, everything else is exceedingly affordable. Santini likes to make his own custom hand-rubbing blocks for radius work and for tight areas. Another important tool is standard wet/dry sandpaper ranging from 800 grit to 2,000 grit. Santini suggests soaking the paper overnight to make it more pliable. As for the polishing, start with a wool pad and work out the big scratches before moving to a softer foam pad for the final steps to completion. There are probably a dozen companies that make liquid rubbing and polishing compounds. If you don't have a favorite, start with the name companies like 3M, Meguiar's, or Mothers until you find one you prefer.
These are some of the tools you'll need to start a polishing project. The DeWalt polisher
Raoul uses round tubing wrapped with wet/dry sandpaper to get into radius areas like the t
In the final stages of polishing, tight areas might require a smaller pad, so Santini will
Chemicals like 3M rubbing compound, Meguiar's, or Mothers can be used for the final buffin
The Art of Sanding
If you're like us, you may never have tried color sanding. In this case, the first step is to work indoors on a cool surface under bright, fluorescent lights. "Daylight hides scratches that will show up huge under fluorescent lights," Santini says. Use the long, straight lines of the reflected light bulbs to help find imperfections. He also recommends first thoroughly cleaning the area to be sanded. Concentrate on a small area about 2 by 4 feet, such as roughly half the area of a hood. If necessary, use masking tape on all the hard edges around hoods and fenders to prevent burning the paint. It's also essential to apply a very soft touch. Let the paper do the work, and avoid digging the sanding block into the paint. Instead, apply light pressure using the entire surface of the sanding block. Be extra careful not to cut troughs or wide grooves in the paint. Always sand with the block at a slight angle to straight ahead.
If the paint is heavily orange-peeled, start with 800 grit. Otherwise, use 1,000-grit pape
Before you get too deep in this, use a soft squeegee, then a clean soft cotton towel to dr
Remember to work slowly, repeating the process of cleaning the surface, wet sanding up to
Polish to Perfection
This is where the low-speed polishing pad comes in to gently level out the 2,000-grit scratches into a highly reflective surface. Raoul starts with a wool pad using 3M Rubbing Compound to attack the scratches. With the big scratches gone, he goes back over the same surface with a less-abrasive rubbing compound and a foam pad. Keep the polisher at low speeds using the variable-speed control on the machine. Low speed avoids putting heat into the paint. Never attempt to polish paint that has been in direct sunlight.
Raoul did all the work on this '68 Camaro hood, stopping only for quick photos. The effort for half the hood took a solid two hours, which means it would take three to four hours to cut and polish the entire hood. This is not a job that can be rushed, so plan on spending several days to cut and polish a new paint job. It's all in how you even out the scratches.
Place a small amount of compound on the paint and spin the pad very slowly to apply the ma
When polishing edges, position the polisher to run from the inside out past the edge. Do n
If you hold the polisher carefully, you can turn it 90 degrees to polish vertical surfaces
This is a simple point, but note how Raoul places the cord over his shoulder to prevent it
Work slowly, cleaning and drying the surface often to inspect your progress. You may have
When you think you've arrived at a smooth surface, you can then hand polish the surface wi
When to Sand
Santini has been painting since he was about 10 years old and as a professional since 1977, so he knows a few things about paint. He says some clears cut and polish easier than others. Some paints catalyze very quickly while others take more time. There are also windows during the curing process when it is very easy to cut and polish. Later, the paint will become very hard and difficult to work. The key is to know when to cut and when to lay off.
He also mentions that it's possible to do a great cut and polish job only to have the clearcoat shrink after it has cured. This will require an additional light sand and polish to bring back that ultimate finish. All these critical time factors are determined specifically by the paint manufacturer, which can supply a schedule of when the paint can safely be sanded and polished.