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  #1  
Old 04-16-2011, 12:08 AM
SpyderMike SpyderMike is offline
 
Join Date: Mar 2011
Location: So OR and So CA
Posts: 44
Default My journey through the paint process - using PTI products

This lengthy commentary (diatribe?) will recount my journey through the largest hurdle to completeting the prep and painting of my plane. I will write it in sections that i hope are readable. Here goes:


I really enjoyed building my plane. It is a Rans S-16 a two seat side-by-side low wing. I built it in a taildragger configuration. It is a slightly scaled down RV6 if you stand back and squint. In fact, it uses a chopped RV6 canopy I am told. The fuselage is basically a composite shell over a cromoly cockpit cage. In the tail are aluminum formers and stringers. I chose the plane because it looked easy to build and would require no other person to help me. It uses blind rivets, nuts/bolts and epoxy to hold it together. It was easy to build, very enjoyable in fact, until I got to the prep work.

It took me about 4 years and roughly 1,000 hours to get it ready for paint. The engine was in and running, the avionics were installed and operating, then the plane was partially disassembled so that I could prep for paint and shoot it. Then something happened. In the back of my kind I dreaded the thought of hours of sanding, the dust, the smell, the tedious work. I mean I dreaded it. Let me drill, rivet, wire, sweep the floor, anything but sand. Arrgh. Well, that was in mid-2006.

I had hit a mental roadblock, and I could not get past it. In the meantime, the plane fuselage sat in my garage and collected ornaments. Stuff piled up around it until it was barely visible. It became a nuisance to work around. This was not good. I took up other hobbies, bought a race car, bought a new production plane. I found it was easier to do anything than sand and paint.

I tried to focus every now and then and force my self to do the work. I even bought all the painting supplies and a Citation 4 HVLP system hoping that would motivate me. Nope, it didn't.

I'll back up a bit. I chose the Flight Gloss composite prep system because it looked simple and straight forward. Not too many ways to screw this up I thought. First, I rolled on the Pre-Prime Sealer. Okay, not so bad. Piece of cake! Next were 6 or more coats of UV Smooth Prime, this stuff kind of rolls on like a thin Elmers glue. Hey, this is pretty easy. There is texture to it and you are supposed to sand it down. I would sand it down and see areas that I didn't like and spot coat those with more Smooth Prime, then sand again. Again, what is it about sanding that I don't like? Oh yea, everything. Anyway, I would clear out the garage, start to sand, make a mess, then stop. Then the garage would pile up again. I began to realize how much I hate to sand.

I ultimately bought the PTI paint from Aircraft Spruce right after it showed up in their catalog. Having never painted anything before, I liked the idea of a single stage MIL-SPEC paint from a local company. However, the information on the website from PTI left me scratching my head. How much of what should I get? I have aluminum wings and control surfaces and a composite fuselage, what steps does each require? Luckily, I happen to live about 45 minutes from the West coast ACS store, so I went there to ask questions. The conversation with the folks at ACS left me staring blankly into space wondering what I was doing there. They could not give a confident answer - they would have to contact the manufacturer. Reflecting back a little later, I have a better understanding of the challenges of running a parts distribution company with a bazillion parts in your catalog. You can't know everything about everything, and besides, the relationship with PTI was new. As continued luck would have it, PTI was to be at the next ACS open house. Sweet! So I went there and had a real nice chat with the PTI rep (I later found out it was the owner of the company). He answered every question I had and told me what part numbers to order. So I did.

Next segment - the paint scheme....

Last edited by SpyderMike : 04-16-2011 at 12:13 AM.
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  #2  
Old 04-16-2011, 12:20 AM
SpyderMike SpyderMike is offline
 
Join Date: Mar 2011
Location: So OR and So CA
Posts: 44
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I had thought long and hard about what I wanted my airplane to look like...it started months before I got the kit and continued thereafter every day that I worked on it. On the garage wall near the door to the house, I tacked an inspiration picture that had my paint scheme on it. I looked at it almost every day. It was from a Ghost Warbird calendars, or something like that. You know, one of those large format warbird calendars you could pick up at Borders back then for a ten-er. It was a SBD Dauntless in Pacific trim...dark blue on top fogging into grey-blue on the sides fogging into a creamy white on the bottom. Stars and bars on the sides. Beautiful! That was it! I was dreaming of the finish line once again. It seems that I forgot that I had never painted anything before. Oh yea, then there is that fact that I hate to sand and I still have an eternity of that to do.

My choice for the paint scheme is two fold. First, I think it is brilliant. Second, my wife's father, who I love dearly, is a WWII vet, a Marine Pilot no less. He flew the SBD in the Caribbean keeping us safe from Submarines, and then transferred to the TBM Avenger off the CV107 Gilbert Islands during the Okinawa campaign. Very cool, but it gets better. After the war, he returned to the family business - BREWING BEER in a little town in Wisconsin. What is not to love?

It would be a Sport Aviation magazine I found in his garage while I was dating my girlfriend at the time (now my wife 22 years later), that would lead me to Oshkosh (only an hour or so away) and EAA. Any one of those facts was reason enough to pay tribute to him, but add them all up and it was a slam dunk. I thought I had to model my plane's paint scheme after his. Well, sort of anyway. You see, his SBD was white and light grey and his TBM was solid dark blue. Neither one of those captured my interest. But man is that Pacific three color paint scheme of my inspiration picture sweet or what?! I mean, I could still put his plane number on and a copy of his nose art. That's it!

Next - getting to the task at hand....
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  #3  
Old 04-16-2011, 12:54 PM
SpyderMike SpyderMike is offline
 
Join Date: Mar 2011
Location: So OR and So CA
Posts: 44
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Back to sanding. It is now 2007, then 2008, then 2009, then 2010, and I am making little progress. It gets more of a chore to clear the garage and sand. I try to break it down to smaller tasks - little sections at a time, and that starts to work. One of my problems was that I had no idea how fine I would have to sand. What defect would show through the paint? What would be hidden? I have rivets throughout he composite and I found it real hard to sand up tight to them. There was a ring of rough maybe one quarter inch around each rivet. I couldn't see my self spending 5 or 10 minutes to clean up each of them...no way.

Okay 2011, this is the year. I now have 500 hours on my other plane and I want something fun to fly. I have my garage door up for some cleaning I am doing and someone walks by who is a pilot. He and his friend ask if can check my plane out (having the garage door open always invites people over). He loves it and asks lots of questions. I point out all of the defects, talk about how I hate to sand, and admhow that I haven't made much progress in years. He thinks it is great and offers me this sage advise - finish it and fly it. Simple, elegant. Yes, I am going to finish this project. Finally, after a lot of sole searching I came to the conclusion, that it is more important to finish than to make perfect. I came to peace with that idea shortly thereafter.

So, I clear out the garage once more. I promise to my wife, once again, that "this is the year". I pull out the paint spray equipment. I check the paint - oops, it is over 4 years old - 3 years past shelf life. ****, I am going to have to buy another batch of new paint. I buy a paint shaker from Harbor Freight and start shaking it every now and then while continuing to prep. The sanding ends, finally. Visually I see defects, but my fingers can't feel them...good enough for me. I hope the paint hides the rings around the rivets.

I get ahold of PTI to ask them questions. These days their documentation is better than before, but still doesn't address all of my questions. I talk to Sean Andrews at PTI. He answers every question I have to throw at him. Yes, my paint is probably still good if stored properly. He offers to pick it all up and take it back to the factory to have it shaken and checked. I explain that I have been shaking it routinely and we agree that it is probably okay. We go through my order and we notice that I am short a catalyst for one of the products. He offers to get ACS to provide it if I can give him my order number. Well, the order was so old, ACS couldn't find it, so he offers to drive out a bottle on his way home. He hands me the bottle at no charge and we get to talking....I always have questions. He agrees to come see my project. Talking to him for the next 45 minutes while looking over my plane was a huge confidence booster. Thank you Sean. I am going to paint this plane. It turn out that PTI is a family business. The gentleman at the ACS open house 4 years ago was his dad and Sean and his brother now run it.

After that visit with Sean, the progress is fast. I line the inside of my garage in 4 mil plastic, hook up a simple box fan at the garage door with the best filter Home Depot had (3 for $6.50), cut two more filters into the back wall, and vacuum the **** out of the garage floor. That floor was never that clean, ever. I put the plane on some dollies and center it in the garage. I go through my checklist of supplies. I buy a little extra of everything; better to have too much than not enough. Days before I diligently watch for good weather, perfect temperature and humidity, no wind, no family obligations and I pick my paint day. I spend hours at YouTube watch all kinds of wackos giving me painting tips. I think they should have worn breathing systems as the fumes clearly have affected them.

Next - D-day...
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  #4  
Old 04-16-2011, 12:54 PM
SpyderMike SpyderMike is offline
 
Join Date: Mar 2011
Location: So OR and So CA
Posts: 44
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D-Day. The laundry room is my airlock chamber. I don the gear and enter the garage. Lights on, go over the written paint plan. Fan on. Wet the floor with the garden sprayer. Wipe the fuselage with acetone. Tack it down. Wipe the fuselage with wax and grease remover. Mix the filler primer first. I am attempting to paint the rivet lines to mask those rivet rings that gnaw at my mind. I fiddle with the gun setting not really knowing what I am doing. I spray. The primer comes out of the gun and actually lays onto the plane - right where I point it. Victory is sweet.

After 15 minutes of this I am feeling pretty good. Now, clean the gun. The highs of victory are followed my the mess of cleaning. Oh well, I am committed now.

Mix the yellow epoxy primer and start the timer for one hour. In the interim I go over the aggressive paint schedule. After one hour of the primer mix doing its thing, I am to spray the entire fuselage, then wait one hour and spray the white on the bottom, then wait at least one hour and paint the sides grey-blue and then wait one hour and paint the final coat dark blue. In the one hour in between, I am to clean the gun, go to the bathroom, wonder what the **** I am into, and repeat my mantra - "finish the plane".

It was a long day, a real long day. I had a couple issues with my equipment and my inexperience in using the equipment. One issue was that the cleaning solvent I used was MEK and it ate at the clear hose connecting the paint pot to the gun that includes the check valve that pressurizes the pot. The hose literally fell apart while cleaning it. Panicked yelling to my wife enticed her to make a run to Home Depot to get me 10 feet of two closest sizes of clear tubing (one of which worked perfectly).

The other issue was a result of improper operation of the ball valve on the air feed to the gun. The valve isolates the gun from the supply so that you can disconnect it. All nice and good, but I had a few issues with the gun where it wouldn't shoot upside down and I had to get out from under the plane, roll off the creeper, and try to figure out what happened. For some reason unknown to me to this day, I thought to point the gun at the plane while standing next to it and pulled the trigger to see if it worked - with this inlet valve closed! The pressurized pot shot a stream of primer right at the cowling. There was no pressure to atomize the paint, and I was now the proud father of a two foot run. What a total bummer. I was just about finished too. Now what do I do? I hadn't planned on this, er, mis-step. I now have one hour to figure out what to do. Too late, I plan to keep going and deal with it later.

First color is white. Mix it up. How thin is too thin? **** if I know. How thick is too thick? You got it! The fact that you use less than 10 percent of the reducer for this product at most makes me think I might not need any. Well, maybe yes, maybe no. I start shooting on my back on a creeper. Hoses everywhere I want to move. I start fogging up, but the fresh air supply is real nice and comforting. I find that when I fog up, if I lift my goggles up slightly, then fresh air leakage out of the mask clears it quickly. Cool. Underneath the plane I can't see worth a ****. The lighting is horrible. Too late, "finish the plane". I finally finish the white coat without hitting it with hoses or paint suit. Hey, it looks pretty good! Quick, I need to clean the gun and mix the grey-blue. Start the timer for one hour.

While cleaning the gun, I knock over the paint pot that is filled with a paint and solvent mix. What a mess. Luckily I had a bunch of rags around.

Next color is grey-blue along the sides. No sweat, just try to relax and slow down. The lack of food and the anxiety are getting to me. I adjust the gun for a nice fan spread, but I don't really know what else to look for. I start shooting the sides starting on the left side at the nose. I fog the paint in nicely with the white and work my way back to the tail. I spray the vertical and the horizontal stabilizers. I then move to the other side. Hey, this is getting better! I am finding my movement fluid and planned, just like the pros on YouTube. Finished! Set the timer for one hour and on to the last color...

The dark blue is an awesome color. Opening the can for the first time I knew I picked the right colors. I still add no reducer because I can't tell how thin it should be. One part paint to one part catalyst by volume. Done. Load the gun and check the fan spread....looks good to me. Start at the front and blend it in - fog a line from the front to the tail as straight as possible. Well, kind of. Have you ever tried to hold a few pounds at a set distance from and object while walking? Not as easy as you think. But that's okay. Where I screwed up was at the junction of the fuselage and the tail. How do you make a 8-9 inch fan spread neck down into a tighter space? Rotate the gun, of course! Not really. Doing that applies much more paint and causes runs...I am told. I also over sprayed onto the vertical much more than I had planned. I did not find it aesthetically pleasing. Oh, and when I went to spray a tight area in the base of the vertical where the rudder would attach, all that pressurized air from the gun found a hidden pocket of sanding dust (yes, sanding dust) and blew it all over the tail. Nuts. Actually, a different word was mentioned, but for now I will just use "nuts".

Finally, I am finished. I am wiped out; physically exhausted. I stand back and look at my effort through over-sprayed goggles. It looks just like I had hoped. Just like my inspiration picture. Good job! Now clean up and gets some food.

I check on the plane that night before going to bed and am at awe at how nice it looks. I can't believe I am seeing this painted plane in my garage. It looks awesome.

Next segment - done? I don't think so...

Last edited by SpyderMike : 04-18-2011 at 02:51 PM.
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  #5  
Old 04-18-2011, 02:53 PM
SpyderMike SpyderMike is offline
 
Join Date: Mar 2011
Location: So OR and So CA
Posts: 44
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Now, after a nice night of sleep and a full stomach, I head back out to the garage. The instructions say I have to color sand and buff within 24 hours. That is my task for the day. I check the paint job out. The paint seems just a little bit tacky. Then I start to see some defects. There are areas in the white coat that I missed entirely and can see the primer. There are areas in the grey-blue that I can see primer, and large areas where it is just like spray dots that are not connected - that didn't flow together. Oh, and let''s not forget the 2 foot primer run near the cowl.

And the dark blue? Well, it looks good except for the thin spot near the canopy, the overspray on the vertical stab, the big run and the massive debris field on the tail surfaces. And, wait a minute, I was supposed to paint the top of the horizontals dark blue, not grey-blue! In the heat of battle, I forgot the details to my paint scheme! Well, it is a solid "6" paint job. A "10 footer". I guess I can learn to love it.

I better get started color sanding and buffing. Man this paint is hard. Nothing seems to be happening like on the You Tube videos. What am I doing wrong? Why is all this orange peel so hard to knock down. I decide to get a more aggressive grit (600) to make some progress. It starts to work but still too slowly, and I remember now...I hate to sand!

My mind fixated on the flaws for the next few days as the paint cures. I am having to take more and more aggressive measure to "fix" what I see. I am going to apply decals to the plane and I strategically plan how to cover the major defects with decals. Would a roundel work here turned 90 degrees? Nope. Finally, I decide that enough is enough and this is not good enough for me. I am going to sand it back down and reshoot. I will take care of the thin spots, I will get rid of the debris field, the runs, the overspray and the incorrectly painted horizontals. I will get rid of everything I see when I now look at the plane. That is my plan.

I purchase an abundant supply of 320 and 600 grit wet and dry paper and get started. I take three full days to sand it down...not all the way down to the primer, just enough to get rid of the defects. I have lots of left over paint and supplies, so all I need to get is a new tyvek suit and some new goggles. I need some more cleaning solvent. Is it me or is it just coincidence that MEK is just now pulled off the shelf at every hardware store due to new California regulations. That's just great. Luckily I have a little left - I hope it is enough.

I decide that the paint booth needs to come down and be replaced. There is just too much sanding dust. I am concerned about the overspray on the plastic - that it will become a source of debris when I paint. The process has to start all over again. It takes me about a month to tear down the garage, clean everywhere and set up the new plastic. Then it is a matter of watching the weather and family obligations for the right day.

I have more YouTube videos to watch. I have to learn from this experience. I have to understand why I didn't get the results I wanted. I have to find out what I was doing wrong. I find a couple videos that explain how to set the adjustments on the gun and what to look for. I decide to try using some of the reducer. And, I come to the conclusion that maybe I was shooting from too far off the surface and not with enough overlap. Not wanting to change too many variables at once, these three are the ones that I will change.


Next segment - okay, I get it...
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Old 04-18-2011, 02:58 PM
SpyderMike SpyderMike is offline
 
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Location: So OR and So CA
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The day comes and I am much more relaxed than the first time. I don't have primer to shoot. I have only a few small areas of white and since I am not spraying white near the grey-blue or grey-blue near white, then I don't have to wait the one hour between. I am down to cleaning the gun in about 10 minutes. The day seems manageable...much more so than the first time. Back to the process, fan on, wipe down the plane to clean it, tack it, etc. Seems like an old routine by now - my second time. This time is different. I know not to mess with the gun inlet supply valve while pointing at the plane. I spend more time mixing the paint and add a little bit (just enough?) of the reducer and the paint seems thinner. I spend more time setting the gun controls and spraying test patterns to see what the settings actually do. When I think I have dialed it in, I take a gulp of air and start spraying the white. It is going on thinner, but I am not rushed - my rhythm slows down and I repeat more. I see the paint flowing out. Hey, this is working!

Next its the grey-blue. The trick here was to hold the gun closer, slow down, flow the paint. This is going on much better than the first time. I know better now what to look for. I stop and check closely for defects while I am working my way from the nose to the tail. Faster than I imagined, I was done with this color. I try to set the timer for one hour only to see that it is covered in overspray and illegible. Oh well, I am in no rush.

The dark blue is the last color. This is it. If I make it through this, then I am done. Again, slow down, use a bit of reducer, adjust the gun. Waiting for the hour of fords me time to hydrate and look over the grey-blue some more. It looks real good. All of the defects in the first go and gone including the two foot primer run. I have a chance here to go from a ten-footer to something much better. Just don't screw up! The key on this color is the distinctive fog line down the side from nose to tail and the tight ares near the horizontal and vertical tail surfaces. I am able to adjust the gun to a small diameter circle spray pattern and shoot the tight spots. Nice. Adjust the gun for the larger sections and start the fog line. Its a little shaky, but definitely acceptable. Again, slowing down the rhythm and overlapping the passes more pays off. The paint is flowing like I think it should. Before I know it I am done. I have recovered from all of my previous mistakes. It looks awesome, really awesome. Okay, maybe my acceptance criteria is a little lower now, but still, it looks real good. I am soooo happy that I spent the time and effort to do it again and to do it right.

There is a flaw though. While spraying the tailcone, on a backstroke, I over sprayed on the vertical in a small section. It is a small patch about 4 inches square. I stared at it for a while while my mind raced...what to do? In my euphoria, I remember (could my memory be affected by the paint fumes) that you can remove overspray with a little bit of the solvent that the paint manufacturer recommends as a reducer. Sweet, I grab a new rag and dab a little reducer and wipe the over spray...only to find out that it took the dark blue overspray and grey-blue paint off together. Geez. Put the rag down and back away! This can easily be fixed after the paint has cured.

Whew, I am almost really really done. The paint looks awesome and my wife agrees. The extra effort to rework from the first try and to learn from my mistakes was well worth it. I consider it now a nice 2-foot paint job. You really have to put your nose into it to see any issues. Spending effort to color sand and buff would make it even better. But you know what, I want to finish and fly it. I think this is good enough - for now. In fact, it looks great!

I need to wait a week for the paint to cure before I put decals on. The decal guys are coming over tomorrow to scope the job out. I will post pictures once the decals are on and once I can break the plane out of the garage.

Last edited by SpyderMike : 04-19-2011 at 05:36 PM.
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  #7  
Old 04-20-2011, 09:14 PM
speyers's Avatar
speyers speyers is offline
 
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Default Pictures?

Wow, way to go! I hate sanding as well, way to stick with it! After all that hard work your not going to show us some pictures? From 6 feet away of course...
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  #8  
Old 04-21-2011, 12:16 AM
SpyderMike SpyderMike is offline
 
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Ha! Pictures will be soon. I am finalizing the decals tomorrow and those should go on in a week or two! Thanks!
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Old 05-02-2011, 02:28 PM
PTI Paint PTI Paint is offline
 
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Location: Los Angeles, CA
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Default Your Painting Experience

Thanks Mike for the kind words. PTI was more than happy to assist you with your project.

If any other RV owners would like the same individualized service please contact:

Sean Andrews
Products Techniques Inc.
Office: (909)877-3951
Cell: (949)633-0710
sean.andrews@ptipaint.com
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Old 05-02-2011, 08:22 PM
az_gila's Avatar
az_gila az_gila is offline
 
Join Date: Jan 2005
Location: 57AZ - NW Tucson area
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Question

Quote:
Originally Posted by PTI Paint View Post
Thanks Mike for the kind words. PTI was more than happy to assist you with your project.

If any other RV owners would like the same individualized service please contact:

Sean Andrews
Products Techniques Inc.
Office: (909)877-3951
Cell: (949)633-0710
sean.andrews@ptipaint.com
Sean... how about better application instructions on-line?
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EAA Technical Counselor, Airframe Mechanic
Half completed RV-10 QB purchased
RV-6A N61GX - finally flying
Grumman Tiger N12GA - flying
La Cholla Airpark (57AZ) Tucson AZ
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