Confessions of a first time Model T Painter

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NealW
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Confessions of a first time Model T Painter

Post by NealW » Sun Sep 15, 2019 6:02 pm

My initial budget estimate for the restoration of our 1015 runabout included $1000 for painting the car. That was based on a Corvair restoring coworker who knew “a guy” who had a small body shop in a nearby town that had he had used. I was comfortable doing the small amount of body work the car needed based on restoring a car in high school, but with no painting experience, I planned on having someone else paint it.
As I progressed with stripping the car and prepping it for priming, I decided that I would at least prime it myself, knowing that I can sand pretty well and could get the primer smooth enough for painting. When I bought the urethane primer at a local wholesale automotive paint supplier, the guy mentioned that a lot of shops wouldn’t touch the car unless they started from bare metal. Hmm, I hadn’t thought about that. I had already had the fenders and splash panels media blasted by a shop specializing in such work, and wasn’t going to let those sit around and get rusty. Plus, I still needed to remove the paint from the body, hood and door, so I was going to prime those parts no matter what. Getting it painted may not be as easy or as cheap as I thought.
About this time, my coworker finally mentioned that the work he’d had done by “the guy” was about 20 years ago, so I realized that his $1000 guess could be way off. About that time, I also contacted a friend in our model T club to see if he knew anyone that would be willing to paint the T body parts that had already been primed and sanded. He also mentioned the same thing as my coworker had said; “you’re doing the primer, why don’t you paint it yourself?”. So, I decided to paint it myself. This weekend I finished up the process and am very glad that I did do it. Here are some of my lessons learned that I wished that I’d known ahead of time. Perhaps it will help another T restorer facing a similar situation that I was.
Preparation
Even before I knew who was going to paint the car, I knew that I needed to get the old paint off the car. The runabout appears to have been restored in the 1950’s or early 1960’s. I believe that it was lacquer paint and had some lead work in spots for some minor body work. To make matters worse, someone had brushed some kind of undercoating on the bottom of the fenders. After some research, I took the fenders, lights and splash boards to a local shop that specializes in low pressure media blasting. They charged me about $100 and did a great job stripping them. There’s no way I would’ve done that work myself for that price! The remaining body parts I mechanically stripped with the exception of the tub. I mechanically stripped the paint off, but the old primer was on there like stone. I figured that if something is that stuck to the metal, that can’t be all bad. Worst case the primer would have a reaction to it and I’d strip it to metal then.
Priming
As I mentioned, I had planned to prime it myself because I needed to get the bare, blasted pieces primed or they would start rusting. Up to this time my spraying experience was all with rattle cans, and I was an OK painter with those. After some research I decided to go the high volume, low pressure spray gun route. I decided to get this two-gun kit from Harbor Freight:
https://www.harborfreight.com/professio ... 94572.html
I figured that as long as it would get the primer on in some fashion, I could work with it from there. In retrospect I have found them to be great guns for the price; $40 with the 20% coupon that’s always available. The biggest thing that you need to be aware of is that the guns are coated with a thin layer of oil and need to be disassembled and cleaned prior to use. No problem. The big problem is that the fluid tip is torqued tighter than the rear axle nut on a T. Do NOT use the included wrench to try to take it off initially. You will wreck the wrench and possibly mess up the tip. Use a 10mm box wrench or socket to get it off. I am not the only one who’s had trouble getting it off initially. Using the right wrench or socket will make it easier, though it was crazy how tight that thing was on initially.
I purchased the primer from the local paint supplier and after watching videos on how to set up the gun and use the gun, I was ready to prime parts. The first night was a disaster. The primer came out like the popcorn ceiling stuff. Obviously, the primer was too thick. A quick search online showed that I needed a reducer. Why didn’t the guy tell me that when I bought it? Anyway, the next day I picked reducer from the store and it went much better after that. My priming was pretty rough when I started, but I learned as I went along. I used one of those three-sided dome painting booths that I picked up from Amazon and it worked really well. Little overspray got out, and what did was easily swept up. I did place some old sheets and blankets over the wheels on our 21 touring car that were closes to the tent, just in case. The rest is covered with a car dust cover.
I primed the body outside, as well as the 2nd coat on fenders outside after I did some body work on them. At all times I used a respirator, as you need to take proper precautions when using this stuff. By the time I was done priming I started thinking that maybe I could paint it myself. Up to this point I didn’t realize that you can sand and polish urethane paints. That gave me hope that I could do it. I decided to reserve judgement until after I painted the various chassis pieces.
Chassis paint
I had decided to use Eastwood’s extreme chassis gloss black primer and paint for the chassis pieces. I had already cheated and had the frame, spring pieces and running boards blasted and powder coated gloss black, so I didn’t have to do those. Even without those, there were a lot of parts and pieces to mechanically strip and paint. I used the small Harbor Freight paint gun for this job, and it worked well. My painting skills continued to improve, and were good enough to paint the generally rough surfaced parts like the front axle etc. I decided that I would try to paint it myself, and if it was a failure, try to find someone who would paint it.
Painting the car
Once I had discovered that I could color sand urethane paint, I needed to decide whether to use a two-stage system (base coat plus clear coat) or a single-stage system that had the gloss built in. I decided on the single-stage system because I wouldn’t have the risk of sanding though the clear coat and wrecking the job. I settled on using Eastwood’s single stage urethane Boulevard Black gloss paint. You can choose between two activators depending on the temperature that you will be painting. Since it was still summer, there really wasn’t a choice; get the activator for 80+ degrees. I also got reducer to go with the paint. I wasn’t going to make the same mistake that I did when I first started priming!

The first evening I painted the bottom of the parts and played hooky from work to paint the top sides. I had learned that it is much harder to see painting with black in the paint tent, which is why I wanted to paint outside. This is when I made my biggest mistake. The first coat went on really well early in the morning, and I thought wow, this is turning out pretty well! The disaster was the 2nd coat. By now the temperature had climbed some, but the big problem was that the now black parts heated up too quickly and the paint didn’t flow out as well as the first coat and left a rough surface. To make matters worse, I had “solvent pop” everywhere. Solvent pop leaves micro pits that I have found are very difficult to sand out, and can go down to the primer, resulting in a bunch of white dots on an otherwise black surface. I had wasted a day of vacation and a fair amount of paint, and had some bad looking parts. I was also almost out of paint, so while waiting for the paint I tried color sanding the parts to see if I could salvage them. I’ll describe that process later, but I couldn’t salvage them as painted.
After I got more paint, I decided to only paint in the shade if outside, or in the paint tent with better lighting or facing the open garage. My painting skills seemed to improve as I repainted the upper surface of everything, and finally the body. Model T’s are small, but there are a lot of bits and pieces to paint, and some parts are very tricky to paint. I found that painting the top bows to be a challenge because they are awkward to deal with and getting the paint to be smooth on all sides can be a challenge. This is because the paint swirls around the blunt cross section of the bows downstream of the surface being painted. I painted those things more than once before I was happy with the outcome.
The fenders are also tricky because they have a lot of edges, beads and that 1” lip under the edge of the fenders. I save the body for last, and by comparison, it was easier than the fenders. The biggest challenge was fighting runs in spots. The paint would look fine, then bam, a run started forming. I would deal with those during the finishing process. Even though I was painting in the shade and at the proper temperature, I was still getting solvent pop in spots. More on that later.
Color sanding
While waiting for my 2nd order of paint, I decided to try wet color sanding and polishing the splash board and fenders, figuring that it would be a good learning process. I’d just repaint them if I didn’t like the results.
My online research suggested using 1000, 1500 and 2000 grit sandpaper before polishing. Those worked well for me. What I also learned was how important it is to get flexible sanding blocks. Don’t try color sanding without them! I used three; from pretty hard to pretty rubbery. They are sized to use half of a 8 ½ by 11 sheet of sandpaper wrapped around them. Think of the sanding block like a plane, with the sandpaper like different size blades. The hardest block should be used first, as it will stay firm while the sandpaper lops off the peaks of the orange peel, dust particles, small crickets (yes, trust me), ripples caused by sweat drops onto a freshly painted surface, and runs. It even worked removing fibers and the roughed-up surface causes by my drop cloth that front fenders where on drying when the wind flip the edge onto them.
I progress from hardest to softest block with each grit of sandpaper, though I didn’t always use the hardest block by the time I got to 2000, because the surface was already pretty smooth. 2000 is mainly for removing the sanding scratches before polishing. As my painting skills improved, my orange peel lessened and I would then start with 1500 grit sandpaper. Speaking of sandpaper, I’m as cheap as most model T owners and was tempted to use a piece longer than I should’ve. Try to suspend your cheapskate tendencies when it comes to sandpaper. I did and am glad that I did so.
Polishing
After wet color sanding, it was time to try out the polisher. For the polisher I once again went to Harbor Freight and got this one:
https://www.harborfreight.com/7-in-10-a ... 62297.html
It is important to know the RPM of the polisher, which is why I got this one. “According to the internet”, you want to use about 1500 RPM for color sanding. My results confirm that. Too high and you can burn the paint. I lowered the RPM to 1000 for final work. Even at 1500 RPM the surface can get pretty hot, and while I never burned the paint, I did melt a bit of the foam head in spots that I needed to remove. Also, tuck your shirt in when using this thing. You’d be amazed how quickly it will go from the piece that you’re polishing up to your arm pit after it grabs the loose end of your shirt. Trust me on this one.
These types of polishers use a foam head that attach to Velcro on the bottom of the wheel. You will need one made for rubbing compound, and one for the finishing compound. The first is firmer than the latter one. You will also need rubbing compound and finishing compound that is sold in big bottles that you squirt onto the surface. I got some from the local paint store, but Meguiars is a brand that is available at a lot of stores. Some videos show people putting dabs all over the part and then using the polisher to spread it out. That seemed kind of silly to me. I first used my hand to spread it around the part thinly. That way I knew every area had some before I started polishing.
The first time you sand a painted part, you feel like you’ve wrecked it. Even if it wasn’t perfect, it looks worse now. Yet using a polisher will soon bring out the shine. The rubbing compound is used to remove the remaining sanding marks and should bring the part to a dull, mirrored finish. The polishing will turn it into a great shine. It will also show you areas where you missed, so don’t be disappointed if you need to start over in areas with the rubbing compound or even sanding again locally.
Regarding how long it takes, for me it would take about an hour to sand and polish a fender top. I did not mess with the undersides of the fenders. The hardest parts to sand and polish are the hood pieces, with the louvers, rivets and handles. Even trying to be careful, you may still blow through the paint in spots on the rivets. I did. However, I just pulled out my black paint marker and carefully touch up those spots. They work really well for this. The body took about 3 hours to sand and polish.
I mentioned earlier the large amount of solvent pop on the initially painted parts. I was not successful in sanding those out, before I blew through to the primer. Even after repainting in the shade, I still it in the runs that I sanded down. I tried filling them with dabs of paint put on with my finger and even black wax, but just couldn’t get rid of them. Fortunately, there only in a few spots and are hard to see.
A few takeaways
1) I think part of caring for or restoring a T is being able to learn new skills. I know that I have since I started the restoration last March. I’m glad to say that even with buying more paint then it should’ve taken, my costs for paint, supplies and equipment were well below my unrealistic $1000 amount that I’d initially estimated. Plus, I’ve got a paint gun and polisher that I’ll use on something else.
2) Set realistic expectations before starting. We’d all love to have a perfect paint job. Maybe that’s realistic if we’re also willing to take it to a professional and pay a lot of money. My expectations were twofold. First, I wanted a nice paint job that no one would notice. I think it is human nature to notice obvious flaws more than to notice something outstanding. If the paint job looked good enough to go with the new upholstery, top, radiator and wheels, then that would be good enough for me. My 2nd expectation was achieving a paint job that was nice as is on our touring car. It is well done, older restoration that I suspect has enamel paint. The paint job looks nice, but there are a few flaws if you know where to look from them. More than once I would use that paint job as a gage for determining if what I was doing was good enough. Last night when one of my sons looked the body, he said that it looked better than our other T. I think he’s right!
3) The last takeaway is that if something about the paint job bugs you. Fix it if it is in your power to do so. The splash boards had been color sanded after my first painting disaster and while they polished out ok, there were a lot of white speckles due to the solvent pop. I decided that since I had enough paint left, that I would repaint them. They look much better now, and am glad that I didn’t settle for almost good enough.
Anyway, this post is way longer than I thought it would be, but if it helps at least one person who is thinking about painting their T, then it was worth it. I’ve benefited from what others have posted in the past, and I wanted to give something back that I’ve learned.
Attachments
LH body painted.jpg
RH body painted.jpg
Front fenders.jpg
rear RH fender polished 9-1-19.jpg
trunk.jpg
Last edited by NealW on Sun Sep 15, 2019 6:31 pm, edited 1 time in total.


Humblej
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Re: Confessions of a first time Model T Painter

Post by Humblej » Sun Sep 15, 2019 6:11 pm

Looks great.

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kmatt
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Re: Confessions of a first time Model T Painter

Post by kmatt » Sun Sep 15, 2019 6:20 pm

Don't try this in California unless you can rent time in a CARB approved paint booth. Get caught painting a car outside or even in the garage by CARB and there big fines.


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Re: Confessions of a first time Model T Painter

Post by John kuehn » Sun Sep 15, 2019 6:37 pm

You really have given back to the hobby by showing if you can do it others can also. In my case I took the advice of others and used single stage paint with a Harbour Freight LP paint gun and it turned out really nice.
Many others I later learned did the same thing. Your car is looking really nice!

As you well know and others will say the same thing that surface preparation is at least 80% in having a good paint job. I practiced on old panels to get the right “flow”. It really helped me to do that.
I live in Texas and painted my cars in a open garage on a good day with no wind and around 70-80 degrees. The T hobby is great in that it doesn’t take a lot of expensive equipment to restore a T. The average T restorer can do most of it other than the engine machine and Babbitt work and painting is something most any of us can do with a little practice.


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Re: Confessions of a first time Model T Painter

Post by DHort » Sun Sep 15, 2019 8:31 pm

Thumbs up on this one.

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Dan B
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Re: Confessions of a first time Model T Painter

Post by Dan B » Sun Sep 15, 2019 9:32 pm

What a great post.

The paint looks great!
1923 Touring


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Re: Confessions of a first time Model T Painter

Post by Henry K. Lee » Sun Sep 15, 2019 9:56 pm

Nice work Neal! Most do not want to attempt, jump in and have fun! You did, hats off!

All the Best,

Hank in Tin-A-See


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Re: Confessions of a first time Model T Painter

Post by Burger in Spokane » Sun Sep 15, 2019 10:26 pm

One of the things that most attracted me to finally taking the plunge and going T
is the imperfect nature of the cars, as they were built originally. From the photos,
I'd say your paint and body finish looks 10x better than anything Henry ever sent
out the door in the black era. After years of long and expensive body and paint
restorations of 50's cars, I am SO done with having vehicles that require such perfection
to look right. The T, and the TT truck are right up my alley for probably looking better
a little dinged up and dirty that they ever would with flawless sheetmetal and surgically
perfect paint. I'd say you done real good !
More people are doing it today than ever before !

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Re: Confessions of a first time Model T Painter

Post by AdminJeff » Mon Sep 16, 2019 1:48 am

Neal,
Great work, it looks fantastic! I painted my 911 racecar myself in my garage in the winter back in '01 and while it was a pain because of the cold, it was really rewarding to see the final product. And unlike my competitors who spent $10,000 or more, it cost me less than $500. And now you and I both have a skill and tools to do it again. There's always a first time for everything.

Just make sure to cover all your wife's stuff (shoes,etc) before you spray, esp if it's yellow... I learned that the hard way.

Jeff
Assistant to the Grand Poobah MTFCA Site Admin
1921 Touring

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Re: Confessions of a first time Model T Painter

Post by kmatt » Mon Sep 16, 2019 2:46 am

Neal: I had met to add in my CARB post that your paint work is excellent and shows what can be done. I know of several nice cars that were painted at home in California some years ago. I also know people more recently that got big fines from CARB. Living in California these days just isn't what it once was.


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Re: Confessions of a first time Model T Painter

Post by Banjoe » Mon Sep 16, 2019 8:57 am

Amazing bravery, amazing diligence, and amazing results, Neil. Finish painting was something that I hadn't remotely contemplated as part of my restoration project but you have taken us along the learning curve to a remarkable outcome. Clearly there should be no fear tackling this job and I thank you for sharing this experience, the challenges, the pitfalls, the gems of learning, and the absolutely beautiful results. Much appreciated -- Joe

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Re: Confessions of a first time Model T Painter

Post by Quickm007 » Mon Sep 16, 2019 4:50 pm

Amazing results! I'm very impressive. How many hours it took?
Super Mario Bross ;)

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Re: Confessions of a first time Model T Painter

Post by NealW » Mon Sep 16, 2019 9:06 pm

Quickm007 wrote:
Mon Sep 16, 2019 4:50 pm
Amazing results! I'm very impressive. How many hours it took?
Mario,

I'm not sure, as it depends on if you're asking about all the stripping, priming and painting of everything, or just the body, fenders and other parts that I used the urethane paint on and color sanded. If that is what you meant, I probably spent less than 50 hours on that aspect of the job. That includes probably 10 hours or so having to resand and repainting the various parts that had the solvent pop that I couldn't sand out.

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Re: Confessions of a first time Model T Painter

Post by Walter Higgins » Wed Sep 18, 2019 4:56 pm

Nice looking job, Neal. This is one of those things that you have to be willing to pour yourself into to understand how it works.

Burger in Spokane wrote:
Sun Sep 15, 2019 10:26 pm
From the photos, I'd say your paint and body finish looks 10x better than anything Henry ever sent
out the door in the black era. After years of long and expensive body and paint
restorations of 50's cars, I am SO done with having vehicles that require such perfection
to look right.
Nope, I'd say Neal pretty much nailed it. Every generation wants to think they're superior to the one that came before, but that's not usually the case. The paint trades had been turning out high class work in the decades before the Model T came along and mass production picked up on it and refined the processes to suit them. The materials may not have been as durable as what we have today, but the class of work was very good. Nobody yet has been able to show me an era photo of a new car with an obviously amateur paint job on it.
Attachments
Fordor.jpg


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Re: Confessions of a first time Model T Painter

Post by DHort » Thu Sep 19, 2019 10:44 pm

Neal, did you paint the hubs yourself or did Stutzman do that for you? ARe the rims brand new? Thank you.


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Re: Confessions of a first time Model T Painter

Post by John kuehn » Fri Sep 20, 2019 12:20 pm

Here is what was available in 1926 to repair Fords paint jobs for whatever reason. Us amateurs of today have come a long way since then in repainting old cars. And no experience necessary too! And just as good or better.
Attachments
C948A5B1-8611-48D0-AE87-A5E7CDACDA09.jpeg
16DF83BC-5BA4-4FE0-9180-B917592DF450.jpeg


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Re: Confessions of a first time Model T Painter

Post by NealW » Fri Sep 20, 2019 12:35 pm

DHort wrote:
Thu Sep 19, 2019 10:44 pm
Neal, did you paint the hubs yourself or did Stutzman do that for you? ARe the rims brand new? Thank you.
David,

I primed the rims and painted the hubs before sending the parts to Stutzman's. If I was doing it over again, I wouldn't paint the hub pieces, except for the brake drums, because they got chipped up during the wheel assembly by Stutzman's and I need to repaint them when I paint the rims after the tires are installed.


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Re: Confessions of a first time Model T Painter

Post by Marshall V. Daut » Fri Sep 20, 2019 8:18 pm

After paying out the C.K. Yang year after year for paint jobs that cracked within four years or had very little color sprayed along the lower portions because the "professional" painter was too lazy to get down on all fours to spray there, I decided to buy my own equipment and learn how to paint my antique cars and Corvettes myself. This ain't rocket science and after having dealt with various painters for decades, I decided you didn't need to be an Einstein to do this kind of work. I read books (long before the Internet), asked questions of amateur painters and experimented painting. My first attempt was on my 1926 Coupe. There was a learning curve, as you experienced, but I learned through my mistakes and lots of practice. I also tried a couple different brand name paints until I found one that sprayed well and more importantly, sanded and rubbed out nicely to simulate the deep look of lacquer. I decided on Ditlzer/PPG products, spraying acrylic enamel at first and then upgrading to PPG's Concept Series paints, which I REALLY like for those reasons. 'Hard to get around here anymore and I HATE Centari! What cr*p paint it is! Stay away from it at all costs!
One thing I discovered along the way is that without a good filtration system of some kind that incorporated water traps and oil filters, it was all but impossible get blemish-free spray jobs. Water from the compressor in the form of condensation and traces of oil got past the compressor's piston rings and would invariably cause little craters in the paint, what you call solvent pops. They don't sand and buff out, leaving popped craters instead and showing the primer beneath. I now use two of those round orange filter bulbs at the inlet of the gun and loop the hose from the compressor up over a garage beam and then back down into a loop to keep as much water back from the gun as I can. But the real secret - and one that you might want to try next time you spray - is to add a cupful of fisheye preventer to each canister of mixed paint, amount depending upon the size of the can. Follow the mixing instructions on the pint can. Don't add too much or else the finish will be rippley and you won't be able to sand and rub out to a smooth, deep finish. You will like the results.
Attached is a photo of a 1930 Model A Town Sedan I painted 10 years ago with PPG's Concept paint, catalyzed, sanded and buffed out. I shudder to think how much this two-tone paint job with window reveals painted lower body color would have cost if I had taken it to a "professional" paint shop!!! And then there were the green wheels and the black fender/splash aprons. YIKES!!! $$$$$$$$$$$
And yes - a paint job is 90% preparation, where the REAL work is.
Marshall
Attachments
Sedan door reflection.jpg


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Re: Confessions of a first time Model T Painter

Post by NealW » Sat Sep 21, 2019 9:01 am

Beautiful paint job Marshall! Your comments are a good reminder about having an inline water filter. I used one of those red traps right before the gun, but didn't think about using two. I also used fish eye preventer some of the time, but I saw no difference and it added a lot of time because the instructions called for waiting 10 minutes after adding to the paint. From the online research that I did, it seems to be solvent pop was the cause of micro pitting in my case. I can't know 100% for sure though.

I also failed to mention the importance of putting a regulator/gauge right before the gun, and use that to determine gun pressure. You check the pressure at the gun by pulling the trigger part way (before paint will come out) and look at the reading. I set my gun at 30 psi, which is what my paint recommended. It is amazing how much higher the pressure was at the tank regulator in order to get 30 psi at the gun. Lots of loss in my case through the long hose and fittings.

One other lesson learned that I failed to mention was to always check the spray pattern at the beginning of each painting session using a piece of cardboard as a target. While cleaning the gun after painting, it is easy to knock the spray pattern knob. I learned this the hard way when spraying one time. The paint came out as a circle instead of the desired oval pattern, resulting in too much paint being concentrated in the circular pattern leading to a run. Always check the spray pattern and flow rate before turning the gun on to what you want to paint!

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Re: Confessions of a first time Model T Painter

Post by Steve Jelf » Sat Sep 21, 2019 10:04 am

I remove water and oil from my air lines with this tank bought at an auction for $2.
IMG_4130 copy.JPG
The drain valve and other added parts cost more than the tank.


Wheel painting: I made the mistake of using regular gray primer on the metal parts. The inevitable dings and scratches of mounting tires were glaringly obvious. I believe the traditional phrase is stood out like a sore thumb. Rather than use a darker primer I switched to primerless paint. I use black gloss Rustoleum for wheels.

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The wheels I painted seven years ago look as they did then.
The inevitable often happens.
1915 Runabout
1923 Touring

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