Tuesday, May 5, 2015

$50 paint job

Hapy Cinco-de-Mayo!
A few years ago, there was a sensation across the car-centric internet about a claim that you could paint your car for $50 (original web site). This concept generated an amazing backlash of "myth" web sites and postings de-crying the process. In my usual fashion, I decided I'd try it anyway.

Running Some Numbers
Yeah, that's right. I decided to paint part of the bus with the $50 paint job method. I already had gloss white Rustoleum paint from painting the pop top a few years back. I used the same paint on the bumpers, and they look okay (except for where I dropped the rear bumper on the ground, but that's an easy touch-up). I have all the other usual stuff for non-spray painting... sandpaper in various grits, blue tape.. So, in terms of materials and supplies, I'm sorted. Incremental cost for supplies: $10 can of primer.

I live in a typically-rainy-in-spring area and in a rented house. So, other alternative ideas like shooting paint outside or setting up a temporary spray-shed were not options. Hanging plastic all over the garage wasn't cost-effective, and even if it were, the fumes would have either leaked into the main house, caused an explosion from the open-flame furnace and hot water heater or both. Over-spray and other evidence of painting all over the floor or driveway would have voided the lease too. I even considered setting up a paint shed on the lawn, but the paint would have killed the grass... and the rain could have been a factor anyway (thinking muddy undersurface and humidity disallowing paint to dry). Last, I don't have the skills, equipment nor time.

I went looking for someone to do it for me. Craigslist netted one person and my network was fruitless. Everyone is either already busy or the job is too big. The one person would have required me to tow the bus across town ($75/day for a tow dolly from UHaul) and run me around $1500. He would have taken a week or 10 days from drop off to pick-up.

Calendar Pressures
Since my only real options were either to do it all myself or pay $1500 for someone else to do it, I went digging for a third option. Festival season starts in a few weeks, and we already have tickets to the Hootenanny on Memorial Day weekend. I realized that about a week ago, and forced a third option: only paint the section above the belt-line so I can get the windows back in. I want the upper section white, and that's the paint I have, so I can make decisions about the lower 2/3 later. With that decision effectively made by the calendar, I set off.

Final Prep
Like the interior job, there's always more that you find at the last minute. New tiny rust holes. Little dings. After all that's settled, the old paint got a sanding with 150 grit sandpaper and then a re-sanding with 400 grit. I sanded the entire exterior that way. Then I applied Rustoleum primer with a brush. Yes, a brush. After it dried, I wet-sanded the whole thing with 400 grit paper. It was ready for paint.

Like the guy in the $50 paint job link, I thinned the Rustoleum 50/50 with mineral spirits. Using a few different sized foam brushes, I brushed on the gloss. Like any other painting, it is important to always maintain a wet edge, and to brush from the unpainted area into the wet edge as you lift off the surface. Those little things will make for a much better brush job. Of course, its still a brush job, so it will only look as good as the sanding you do when it dries. With the thinned paint, it dried overnight and it didn't drip, run or sag as some detractors claim. My garage wasn't terribly warm, but I left a fan going all night. Once dried, I wet-sanded with 400 grit and did another coat. Wash-rinse-repeat, and now I have 3 coats of paint on there. I intend to do at least one more, but I will probably keep repeating until my seals arrive from BusDepot.

That's it for today's installment. The pictures along the right side show the bus in various states with the last couple showing the result after 4 coats with wet-sanding between each. As always, thanks for following along-

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