July 2, 2009

More New Toys! (er... tools)

If you've been following my progress, you may have seen evidence that I've been agonizing over some decisions about my interior paint for a number of weeks now. I decided a while back that I want to paint all the interior parts of the cabin before riveting it all together. Not only does this avoid all the masking and taping later on if you paint it when the cabin is finished, but I believe I'll get better paint coverage, fewer runs or sags, and attention to details if I paint each part separately outside the plane before it all gets put back together. It would be hard to reach some of the corners and tight areas on some of the parts after it's riveted together. In addition, can you imagine the prep job, trying to scuff, clean, and prep the entire interior? Plus, I kind of like the look of the rivets contrasting against the parts you're putting together. Those are the main advantages, as I see it. The main disadvantage is that you can scratch, marr, and damage to some extent, the paint on the parts you are riveting. You can take careful precautions to avoid most of this while you're riveting. I figure I can easily touch-up the paint here and there if necessary after riveting, and it would be easier in the long run.

Mind you, I've never done any of this before. So these are only my opinions. Your mileage may vary, as they say. But this is the path I choose to follow. Another reason I want to dive into some of these painting issues now is because I'm giving serious consideration to painting the exterior of the plane myself. So I want the experience and knowledge that painting the interior can give me. By the time I'm finished with the interior, I should have a good idea whether or not I want to tackle the big exterior job. It would be easy to just grab some rattle cans and spray the interior and move on. But I decided against that, tempting as it may be.

I also decided that for the interior paint, I don't want a shiny glossy paint that would give off a lot of reflections. I don't want it real flat, either. Just a hard, sort-of-dull satin finish. This rules out a lot of the automotive finishes. I asked one guy at a local automotive supply paint store if the product came in satin or flat finishes, and he told me "do you see any flat or satin cars driving around? They all use high-gloss paints." Duh! There are flattening agents that you can buy, but I don't want to get into mixing and proving any of those. Good grief. I face a steep enough learning curve already. Then I learned that there are some paints out there specifically designed for aircraft interiors. I also learned that there are some water-based paints, so you avoid the toxic fumes, the solvents for thinning and cleanup, etc. But are they as good? Are they as durable? I asked some friends online and got some very good feedback.

So having made some preliminary decisions, I dove into the research and information gathering that I typically do before a job like this. This is where you can really get lost. It's very easy when you're involved in a project like this to over-think things. You want your plane to be "perfect". You don't want any mistakes. You don't want to make any decisions you will regret later on. You want people to go "Ooooo!" and "Ahhhhh!" when they see your work. So naturally you want to take care and learn and study and make an informed decision. But the problem is, without any experience, you have little to go on. The reading and researching gets you immersed in a world you're unfamiliar with. You don't know how to separate helpful stuff from reams of marketing materials and safety data sheets, and pretty soon your head is swimming. You talk to people and you don't know who to believe. Everyone has an opinion. So what's the best kind of paint to use? Frankly, there are a lot of good products out there, as I see it. So who knows. You fret over color choices, how will this match with my upholstery, how about the exterior of the plane, does this fit with it? And how and where am I going to do this? I don't have a paint booth. Am I going to build one of those now? What about all the safety issues? I don't have a breathing apparatus either, just one of those masks with the filters. Is my compressor big enough for the job? What about air filtration? And what about paint spraying guns and tools? This and a million other questions fill your mind. This has been going on for weeks now. I ordered some fabric samples for the upholstery because I thought I better match things up. I ordered a chart of color chips for the interior paint. I talked to my technical counselor. I spent many hours on the internet and making phone calls, and driving to some local paint shops to get some help and answers. It's crazy. The more you learn, the more you realize how much you don't know. You're not getting any closer to feeling like you have good answers. On the contrary, it's feels like you're going backwards, wondering if you're ever going to get over the learning curve.

So, thankfully, a good friend of mine who has a flying RV-6A gave me a reality check. He just got back from a flight to Wisconsin with his wife, visiting family and friends, and he told me to stop worrying about paint and get this plane flying! Life is short and full of surprises, he said. It only took me a minute to realize, he's right! Thanks, Kevin! I owe you one.

So I picked up the phone and ordered some paint and primer. I just want to get this done. I decided to go with a product called JetFlex from Sherwin Williams. It's a water-based paint designed for aircraft interiors. I figure if it's good enough for Boeing to buy by the truckload, it's good enough for me. It comes in a satin sheen just like I want. It cleans up with warm water and doesn't have toxic fumes to worry about. So I'll worry about the breathing apparatus and the fancy paint booth later, if I choose to paint the exterior. The colors on the sheet they sent me are great, but there are thousands more colors they can custom mix if you need to match something. You can't buy this in a local Sherwin Williams paint store, as I found out. The guys in there hadn't even heard of it. When I faxed them the product data sheet, they looked into it for me and found out they can't order it in. It's a different division of the company. The aerospace division. I was doing all this to try to avoid shipping. But since it's water-based, there's no hazmet shipping fee. I also learned about a seemingly little-known rule called the ORM-D Consumer Commodity Rule. Under this rule, they are able to ship small quantities of hazardous materials to consumers without the hazmet fee! I was very happy to learn about this, because all of us need things from time to time that have to be ordered, and this rule, if employed, can save us a bundle on these fees. Deal with someone who understands this or is willing to check into it. (Vans? Is anybody listening?) So anyway, my primer, which is a 2-part solvent-based product, falls under the hazardous category. But they are shipping the primer to me along with the JetFlex topcoat under this rule with no hazmet fees. Yippee!

So in the meantime, I've been out shopping for toys (er... tools!) to upgrade my equipment. I've been using a crappy little cheapo sprayer from Home Depot up to now, along with rattle cans, for the priming of the interior parts of the plane. It didn't matter much about the finished appearance, just that it was done. But now things are different, so I followed the advice of Randy Lervold, my friend and technical counselor, who has finished and painted 2 award-winning RV's himself. Why should I reinvent the wheel? He's done a lot of research into these things, and I will take his word any day.

Don't buy a sprayer like this. This is the one I've used up until now. It gets the job done but it creates clouds of paint hanging in the air. Most of the paint is wasted. It doesn't work that well.

For about the same amount of money, you can buy this model number 66222 HVLP gun from Harbor Freight. I'm really impressed with this gun. You get a lot for your money here. I'll be dedicating this gun solely to the use of primers from now on.

Here's the whole kit, as it comes from Harbor Freight. It was on sale for only $39.95 (normally $59.95). I added the key-ring assortment of cleaning brushes for a few dollars more. I'll report more about how well it works as soon as I get some experience under my belt.

And now it's time for the "big gun", so to speak. This is a top-of-the-line DeVilbiss GTi 620G Millenium Spray Gun. I will be using this only for topcoats and clearcoats. This is a gun that the pros use. It can be a bit spendy to get one of these, but I saved a ton of money buying it from a vendor on eBay and not buying any of the frills. I bought just the basic gun with a 1.4mm tip. It didn't even include a paint cup (an expensive component, by the way). It was about $180 plus shipping. You can easily spend $500 in a local paint store for this gun.

So what am I doing for a paint cup? Well, here's the whole setup that I got. I bought a set of these DeKups to try out. They come in various sizes. This is the 9 oz. size. There's a hard plastic outer holder with lid and an inner liner and lid that's very thin and collapsible. It even has an indexer that you slip in between the hard outer cup and the inner liner cup to use for measuring the components right into the cup. No separate mixing and pouring! When you're done spraying, the inner thin cup and lid are disposable, and all you have to clean up is the pathway through the gun to the tip. It should save a lot of time and cleaning solvent. The DeKups come in this nice dispenser pack, making it easy to grab another one when needed. The DeVilbiss also has a bladder system available, kind of like ziplock bags that you can use instead of the standard cup. It allows you to spray upside down, on bottom surfaces like wings or the fuselage. I'll pick that up if I decide to, later on. So how well will all these new toys work out? We'll just have to see. Stay tuned and watch. I'll be reporting as I get into this. I'm really excited to get going!

As I mentioned earlier, I've never had any kind of filtration on my air system. I just hooked up a hose to my compressor when I started on the empennage and haven't done anything since. I figured it's about time to upgrade my air system. I don't have much of a condensation problem in this part of the country, getting water in my air, but I don't want to risk it any longer. Especially with the paint that will show. So while I was at Harbor Freight, I picked up this beefy-looking industrial filter and regulator. I'll see how it goes with some of the primer. I may end up adding something more, or maybe one of those small filters that go on right ahead of the spray gun. We'll see.

Now I just have to figure out how I'm going to mount all this stuff and put it together for use.

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Contact me: swayze "at" europa.com (replace "at" with the @ sign... no spaces... you know the deal)