Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Front Bumper (part 3)

I finished the prep work and started painting.  And I've been to the snow a couple times, but I'll post about that another time.  Today is all about the bus...

Bumper Mounts
primer ready
In my haste to get through the bumper and steps, I forgot about getting the bumper-to-frame mounts cleaned up for paint.  Whether I paint them white or with a rubberized under-body, I haven't decided yet.  Some quick work with the 60- and 150- grit sandpaper and they were as ready as the bumper and steps.  I found the rust locations especially interesting: the spots where the mount touched other steel.  The spot on the end where they mate with the bumper had rust on the front where the bumper touched it, but not really on the back which was exposed to the elements.  Same case for where they connect with the body.  I'm considering adding a thin strip of rubber in between these mate-points (after painting), thinking that maybe the rust won't come back, or at least not as bad.

Final Sanding
primed, still wet
Using a bucket of dish-soapy water and some 600-grit wet-dry paper, I set to finishing the prep for the front bumper, steps and bumper mounts.  This was much easier than I thought it would be, and the resulting bumper looks and feels really smooth.  I had planned to hit these with steel wool, but I think it's good enough.  The top picture has everything right before I started in on primer.

Prime, Sand, Prime, Sand
Like the heading says, I laid two coats of primer (Kilz latex) and wet sanded with 600-grit between and after.  Like before, I added some dish soap to the water in hope of getting more dust off.  The end result looks and feels very smooth.  The minor scratches have been mostly filled in by the primer, though the nicks and dings are still there.  It's easy to get all perfectionist on this stuff!  Figure, this will never be a trailer queen or even a just-on-nice-days bus.  We camp.  We go to concerts and tailgate.  It's gonna get scratched, so let it be.  The picture that's second from the bottom shows the steps after 2 coats of primer, wet-sanding and then towel-drying.

wet-sanded primer example
drippy wet thinned paint
Once the final wet sand was finished, and the frame mounts, steps and bumper dried, I turned to paint.  The $50 paint job guy says to thin Rustoleum at 50/50 with mineral spirits.  I poured some paint into a dish and added roughly the same amount of spirits to try his method.  The paint did not respond terribly well at first, kind of glumping up.  After a couple minutes of stirring, though, it mixed to a uniform consistency.  Using a disposable foam applicator, I brushed all of the primed metalwork, inside and out.  Each piece was set on a drop cloth to dry, though that was probably a mistake.  Out of concern for boys running through the garage and messing with hanging wet car parts, I thought setting them down would be better.  In the end, between the cold, the thin paint and how I set them down, I'll have some sanding to do.  Still, the parts that aren't touching the drop cloth look okay (see bottom picture).  I think I'll omit the thinning next time, though it might work well in hotter conditions.

Next up, more wet sanding then more paint, more color sanding then polishing.  We'll see how far along I get before this post actually makes it out (I've been updating and re-updating for over a week:-) ).  More next time, and thanks for following along.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Front Bumper (part 2)

In my last post, I started the improvement effort on the front bumper.  Today, I'll cover the next step, and some more thought on how the overall paint plan might come together.

Straight Enough
sanding down the drips
I got most of the dents out prior to my last post, with just a section of curled lip remaining.  Rather than continue with the framing hammer, I switched to my vice and a rubber mallet.  Oddly enough, this was actually louder.  With the framing hammer, I was able to get my knee into the bumper and muffle the noise.  Once the bumper was up on the vice, there was nothing to mute the ringing noise.  Still, by using the flat surface of the anvil end of the vice, I was able to hammer the lip flat and mostly aligned with the rest of the lower lip of the bumper.  At the very least, its good enough for a bumper that will find curbs, stumps and under-snow debris in the coming months.  On to paint prep.

straightened and stripped
Somewhere along the 30 years the bus was owned by someone else, paint had been applied to this bumper.  It wasn't done terribly well, leaving drips, heavy spots and streaks.  No, I didn't do it.  But I have to get it smooth if the high-gloss paint is going to look at all good.  I'm willing to have it look crappy because I applied it poorly; having it look bad because I prepped poorly, though, isn't acceptable.  Why I make that distinction I don't know, but I do.  I grabbed some of the lowest grain paper I have (about 60-grit) and started hand-sanding the bumper.  Any body guy would probably point out that that is WAY too rough, but it did the job of getting the runs and rust removed.  Next, I'll be hitting it with 150-grit and then some steel wool so its ready for some primer.  It already looks a lot better.

Paint Thoughts
In the past, I've talked about the decision-making process I have where I make money versus time choices based on an assumption that my time is worth $50 an hour.  No, that's not what I'm paid; it just makes for simple math and easier decision making.  With that back ground, I looked at options for getting the bus painted.  Figure in all cases I will need to do the prep work including sanding, wiping down, trim removal/re-install, masking, color sanding and polishing.

replacement bits from
Wolfsburg West
Boo suggested Maaco; they advertise low prices, so I looked around a little bit.  The book on Maaco is that they don't lay a lot of paint on your car, and they are only worth it if you do your own prep.  That's the prepping plan, but, if the paint is too thin, I could burn-through, ruining the job.  They would only shoot the paint.  Including material, that would be over $400, probably more like $800 with the 2-tone plan I have.

I thought I could maybe find someone on Craigslist with the sprayer skills and booth access and only pay him/her for their time to shoot it.  This seemed like a reasonable next choice after Maaco since s/he would put the paint on as heavy as we wanted, and multiple coats would be a linear increase in costs.  Like Maaco, however, the costs are in the $900 range just to shoot it.  Yikes.

Do it Myself
sanded versus as-found
Like any decision tree, at the very bottom there's "I could do it".  Let's see, the paint supplies are around $75/gallon including hardener and such.  I'd probably need a couple gallons of the blue, but maybe more if I want more than a couple coats.  Since the Rustoleum paint isn't designed for automotive purposes, I'd probably want to get a gallon of some white too, so let's assume $250 in paint and supplies.  I could rent a booth ($75/hour) or buy a temporary one ($10 worth of plastic sheeting tacked to the ceiling of my garage or a $200 portable garage).  I'll need an air compressor (figure $300) and a gun (Summit Racing $35).  At the low end, then, that's about $600 and I haven't actually applied anything yet.

Is there residual value in the tools?  Maybe.  For this math, let's assume $200 worth of the tools extends beyond the one job.  I figure at least the compressor will be useful.  Last, there is value in learning a new skill.  I could fix the scratch in the paint on Boo's car, maybe even re-paint the really tired silver on Flash the Jetta.  Hmm.. regardless, I don't have that kind of money lying around, so it'll have to wait.  For the front bumper, I'll do the original plan: brush on the Rustoleum and color-sand it down.

That's it for today.  Looking out the window, we're getting hammered with snow, a couple of inches already and more to come.  The weather-folks expect up to 7 inches.  What fun, if you have the supplies to wait it out!  I hope your surroundings are equally cozy and pleasant on the eye.