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“Have you ever painted a fire hydrant?” was the question directed to me via email by a woman looking to surprise her husband for his birthday. The very heavy cast iron hydrant had been in their yard for years and was either being replaced or moved. In either case, they saw it as a memento of happy years spent at the residence and desired to repurpose it as a patriotic back yard decoration. Upon accepting the job, I was supplied with some images of other similarly painted fire hydrants utilizing heavy flake and candies. I then decided that this would be an opportunity to try my hand at heavy flake. The hydrant was delivered already blasted and in zinc primer. It’s surface is very forgiving, being about as smooth as any road so there would be no sanding and buffing around the already complicated shape, thank God.
Anytime I venture into uncharted territory, I take every opportunity to hit “Ye Olde YouTube University” and nag my network of custom paint and/or body shop pro’s what experience they might have had with the unfamiliar material. After that it’s amateur night. I learned, a little from past experience, and also shop tales of the leftover flake that would not die, and that the stuff gets absolutely everywhere!
Knowing these hard lessons way before I got started felt like a look into the future, I could out smart the old timers who decided to let the fake fly, and deal with the aftermath of the leftovers landing in paint jobs for up to three months later. I share booth space, so keeping my mess down was a huge concern for me. My “solution”? An old EZ-UP tent that I could set up inside the booth and wrap in shipping cellophane thereby keeping the mess contained. This only worked partway, as I failed to take into account two things, the height of the booth ceiling, and airflow. Still, I’m not giving up on realizing a better way to accomplish the “clean room” effect for my next flake job.
As for the rest of my concerns, it’s a Fire Hydrant! I can relax a bit, right?
The experiment continues. Flake comes dry in a plastic can. It’s not like the silver base coat I laid down as a base before I applied the flake. It has to be carried in a clear. Typically this would be a DBC500 if you’re using a PPG system, or SG150, House of Kolors special clear for flake and pearls. I’m using a Martin Senour system. Their base clear would be TS209 clear binder.
…which isn’t with me…
…and this is a fire hydrant…
So instead, I’m using a discontinued Planet Color product known as PCMC5 or “lockdown clear”. PCMC5 is a low build Intercoat Clear coat specifically formulated for custom designed artwork for vehicle refinishing. The unique properties of this product allow for the “lock down” of base coat layers of ground coat and graphics creating a uniform foundation for additional graphics. In addition to locking down the base coat color, PCMC5 allows for taping, or the use of spray masks for graphics or other special effect techniques. PCMC5 does not need to be sanded prior to topcoating, eliminating a time consuming step in custom paintwork. It stays workable for a week, after that you have to hit it a grey scuff pad. But why take the time to tell you all this?
…because, like all good things, it’s discontinued…
After talking to a few Sherwin Williams rep’s I finally found one who could tell me why the whole Planet Color line (including 16oz cans of candy dyes for only $40.00) is no more. In May of this year (2016) Sherwin Williams bought Valspar, House of Kolor’s parent company eliminating the need to have a competing custom paint line.
…I sure do hope they do this thing right…Step 1. bring back the lockdown clear.
Aaaaanyway, after watching many YouTube videos on spraying flake jobs, it was off to harbor freight to purchase a cheap syphon fed spray gun with a 1.7 tip. Pretty big tip but I’m still taking the Dremel tool to it. Even that HUGE opening still managed to get clogged here and there. This some serious flake! The PCMC5 clear is my carrier for the flake and once the hydrant parts are pained a standard silver, I once again don the shoot suit,respirator, head phones, and head back into the saran wrap booth-in-a-booth.
As I get set to flake this thing, all the advice, videos and past experience is fresh in my mind. The hydrant is heavy and awkward to manipulate even though it spins on a plank with casters. The caps I was able to remove are stuck to the two magnets of my DIY fender stand. I spray from a distance letting the material cascade to the surface while swirling and shaking my flake gun. It doesn’t look like anything is happening so I try some blow back by placing my gloved finger over the tip of the gun causing the air pressure back into the paint can. Now I can see some progress. I stop.
This repeats for a few sessions until I feel I’ve covered enough and that’s when I notice the sags. Because I have the tent wrapped in plastic, I’ve interrupted the airflow of the booth. Air movement helps the drying process and in my desire to keep the majority of the booth clean, I’ve created “a variable”. In addition, my attempts to reach the areas underneath force me in closer, because it’s close to the floor. It’s also become apparent that the clear I’m using to carry the flake is causing it to lay down flat rather than standing up in some areas. The sags “pull” the flake tumbling downward like so many stones in a mudslide. Ironically it’s these areas that the flake shows the kind of sparkle I wanted all over. Notice the drips on the caps. I’m so ashamed!
There’s so much more that has to happen to this thing, I take comfort in knowing that the busy design will more than likely hide these issues. Tomorrow is another day.
I return armed with a sheet of vinyl paint mask stars, masking tape, and candies.
Once the masking is done I can bag the striped portion and go to town with the royal blue candy.
It’s dry enough for taping, I carefully reverse the bagged area to reveal the stripes and cover the blue and stars.
More candy. I’m constantly looking for areas of weak color.
The bags come off and I start to peel off the little stars, and tape. Once everything is unmasked, I apply another round of PCMC5 as I will be returning tomorrow to paint the eagle on the back.
Add wrinkle effect with purple candy and a little black.
Back together. Now for the eagle.
I picked this image in part because it would do the most to hide the sag in the flake and because I had just done a symmetrical straight on shot of an eagle the week before. I wanted a challenge. I got more than that as the hydrant is s close to the ground, I got a sore back and had to hold my brushes at odd angles as I worked on the lower portions of the image.