Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Cutting and Buffing and Bears, Oh My!

Well, it was bound to happen eventually.  Someone gave me a little tap a couple of weeks ago, and I ended up with some damaged paint and chrome.  Nothing serious, but frustrating...

I had to fix two major spots: One on the driver's side of the bonnet and one around the passenger's side headlamp.  The paint cracked, and if left unrepaired would eventually flake and be prone to rust.  And I knew it was there.

Along with a new grille and chrome surrounds, and a new turn indicator lens, the only damage was to Gidget's pride.  And paint.

So we fixed it!

Here's what needed fixing.  It doesn't look like much, but there was quite a bit of work involved to do it right.

Like I said, not too bad.  But to fix it means removing all the damage... which in this case went down to the metal.

We ("we" is me and my friend Mike) started by removing the grille and surrounds, turn indicator and headlamp, and mirrors and antenna.  Mike decided that the only way to fix the cracked paint on the wing was to re-clearcoat the whole thing, otherwise there would be a blend line that would be visible.  Then, he sanded out the cracked filler on the bonnet and reapplied a lightweight filler.  After a coat or two of primer, it was smooth and invisible (aside from the color, that is).  He also sanded down the crack on the wing and was able to primer without a need for filler.

Once dry and sanded, we sanded the clearcoat on the bonnet and fender.  He taped off the parts that didn't need paint and made the problem go away.

Now watch this.  Coat by coat, the problem area disappears.  He wiped with a tack cloth in between each coat.

Then he applied three coats of clear...


After drying, the fun part began.  That's the subject of this article, actually--the fun of color sanding, cutting and buffing the finish.

Color sanding is the art of taking a perfectly good looking finish and making it look even better by first making it look terrible.  You actually sand your beautiful looking clear coat to get rid of all the imperfections - "orange peel" and "fisheyes".  Do do this, you need sandpaper in increasingly fine grit (starting at 1000), and an orbital sander.  I prefer a "palm sander" as it is easy to control the pressure and speed. 

I started with 1000 grit and lightly worked the surface to remove some orange peel and get things very smooth.  I used slow, steady passes with the sander running at a moderately slow speed.  From there, I went to 3M Trizact pads in grits of 1500, 3000, and 5000.  Trizact pads are to be used damp, so I lightly misted the surface each time and wiped clean in between.

At each stage, I lightly went over the surface until I covered the whole area.  The finish gradually improved until after the pass at 5000 grit, there was actually a hazy shine.  5000 grit is almost like using copy paper as sandpaper.

Once sanding was done (and I did go back a few times to correct more things), it was time to "cut".  Cutting is the application of a compound to start removing the scratches left by sanding.  Here's a couple of shots halfway through a pass to show how quickly the finish improves.  I started by using a wool pad, then followed with a pass using a foam pad designed for use with compound.  I used Meguilar's products for this stage.

Once the passes with the compound were done, I moved to "buffing" with a polish.  You can't really tell too much from these photos, but under brighter light you can see the scratches disappear.

Finally, I finished with a very fine 3M polishing compound and then some Griot's Garage spray wax.

I wrapped up by reinstalling all the chrome surrounds and mirrors, and a new grille from AH Spares.  I treated Gidget to new mirrors and some fancy bumperettes from a Bugeye Sprite.  I made custom brackets and installed a pair in the front, too.  I think she looks sharp!

I call her my tiger cub. :)

I did find a bunch of things to fix, since I am not super skilled at this.  I'll fix 'em.  It's not hard and really is mostly a need for good lighting to be able to see the flaws at the time.  The first time I did this during initial assembly, it took me a week.  This was a few hours.  I'm still very happy and Gidget is better than ever!

More... »