It’s been too long, almost six months since my last blog entry. Work and family obligations tend to make one hang up the “want-to’s” in favor of the “have-to’s”. I finally have an installment that I’m pleased with. My daughter was a big help with this one, proving what I long suspected, that I am better working with a living, breathing human in the room instead of just myself.
We get into an overview of mentionable projects and happenings since December, and a small review of the Sharpenair airbrush needle sharpener. We also touch on a few Tamco products, including the new Tamco Intensity colors! We revisit a long overdue weekend with the guys from Pinheads and then it’s onto the main topic.
Click to Download This episode has been forced into a few directions. With Thanksgiving, schedule changes at work, and the end of the tax year, the last few weeks has left me with little time to think about what to concentrate on vis-a-vis the subject of this podcast episode.
Working evenings has resulted in my being the most eligible member of the family to go food shopping for Thanksgiving, and I’m happy to report not only did I find everything, I found and corrected the errors on the list (not mine). The turkey came out perfect, the Steelers won,the entire family finally made it to church (I guess prayer works), and I managed to knock out a small project, and prep another two with the extra time off. The christmas shopping is inches away from done and with the majority of it on eBay, I have 6 months same as cash to pay it off.
Spending all this money on turkey, trimmings, and Christmas has put me in the state of mind I wasn’t in last year. Last year I got a bit of a wake up call when my accountant told me I owed taxes. After running my one man lemonade stand for years, a few bigger jobs along with my regular paycheck had me writing checks to the IRS and state rather than endorsing a fat one. Nothing puts you in the mindset of pinching pennies more than paying money to a govt. you already disagree with more often than not. This year I delved into the realm of “year end spending”. This is not normal for me. I don’t hoard per se but I did enjoy seeing my business bank account get fatter than usual. I’m more of an ant than a grasshopper but (and I can’t believe I’m saying this) I started to see how taxes effect small business in a way that actually promotes growth. The basics as I see them are this:
• Whatever money you have left over at he end of the tax year is profit and subject to tax.
• Any money you disburse to yourself or pay others, is also taxable.
• Any business money you spend on equipment/supplies are expenses. This figure is subtracted (deducted) from your profit and therefore not subject to tax.
So, If your going to spend business money, why spend it on government? After all, they’re the single most ineffective over blown entity on the planet. I’d rather spend my money on what I love to do. The internet is piled high with articles on the subject. Here is just one of them.
This electro-pounce was purchase number one. I’d been looking for a used one on a few different forums as well as craigslist. I had even considered conning my electrician cousin-in-law to help me rig one up. I’d heard you could use an old microwave capacitor or something like that.
For those unfamiliar with “pouncing”, or pounce wheels, it’s a method of transferring designs on to a surface like a tracing pattern. Traditionally, a pounce wheel is used by running a spiked wheel over your drawing creating holes in your paper. These can be awkward and cumbersome as they don’t roll very well unless it’s in a straight line or long sweeping curves. Plus, the resulting holes are made up of doors like a tiny advent calendar. Eventually these holes will close or “heal” resulting in inconsistencies. With an electro-pounce, electric current burns a hole through the paper resulting in cleaner, smaller holes that never heal. Because there is no pressing to make sure the small wheel effectively punches through the paper, the stylus glides along so you can achieve much greater detail. Notice the images below and the super tight curves you can get with the electro~pounce.
The unit itself is about $700 new, and you still have to spend money and time to attach a ground wire system and sheet of steel. My alligator clip, wire and metal sheet cost $50.00. Having said that, one good lettering job and it’s more than paid for. To try it out for the first time, I composed names and numbers in Adobe Illustrator and printed them on letter sized (8.5″ x 11″) paper.
These are for an awards banquet. I figured this would be a nice reason to bust out the electro-pounce for the first time.
Anyway, as I said there was other year end purchasing to be done. I won’t go into detail about the iPad other than I’m afraid I’ll never get to use it’s full potential unless I really force myself to learn/use the procreate drawing software. I should have seen that coming though, so busy I don’t have time to learn anything new.
Now before I confuse anyone, this is NOT a year end business purchase. I will be asking my accountant if there is any way to wrote off this expense.
I had bats in my attic. I did not want bats in my attic. It cost me over a grand to remove bats from my attic. For the longest time I though I had one mouse or maybe two mice but as my critic thinking skills took hold I had to ask, 1. What would drive a mouse to climb into my attic? 2. Since when do mice poop in the same place? It only took a few google image searches to tip it in the net that I had mice… with wings. I also found out that it is illegal to kill bats. They’re a protected species. Seems like the only unprotected species anymore is feral pigs, coyotes, and people. Anyway I had cleaned everything out a few months previous thinking any critters still up there got scared off or the new peanut butter glue traps would get ’em. No such luck, and more bat dropping began showing up in the same place as before. By the time I had the funds to do anything about it, they existed in the business account. So the question for my accountant will sound like this? What constitutes a square footage deduction on home office space if all I’m doing is storing an old OS9 mac, and some old portfolios?
’03 Softail standard parts This is more of a COGS (cost of goods sold) item. About a month ago I was asked to fix a scratch on the rear fender of a 2003 fxst. One of those repairs that, if it’s going to look right, needs to be removed, repainted, and re-installed. This guy didn’t want to lose any riding time so I said I would look for one, see how cheap I could find it, make it right, and then it would just be a matter of swapping parts. That way I could take his old one, fix it and re-sell it. Great idea and I found a swanky deal. $50.00 for an already black rear fender same year with no dents. There was some wear from having been on the bike and a scratches but for this money it was a steal. It even has the rear lights and cables to! So I fix it up and go to look for the guys number. I have a habit of putting temporary info into the notes on my phone. Sometimes I’ll back out of the app too soon and lose the note
This was one of those times. No problem, I thought. I’ll just go back to the shop where we met (I was doing some striping there at the time) and get his info from those guys. No such luck. I was stuck with it. So what? All I had to do was to find the front fender and tank that went with what I had, paint them, and sell them. I found the anniversary tank with badges removed for $199.00 on eBay. It’s super clean inside with only some heavy scratches and a slight ding in two places on the right side. I actually didn’t notice them until I was finished sanding off that silver and gold tape. J&P Cycles had a wide mount skinny front fender for $44.00. So for $293.00 I got sheet metal that, by the time I’m done, should go for at least 10 times that much. We’ll see.
…and this… I love these things. An artist reference skull with a few vertebrae thrown in.
Click to Download “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 getsabsolutely 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.
This front fender came to me from Bill Steele of Steele Auto Body in Oakdale. What was described on the phone was a factory custom paint job that needed repair. This is one of my oldest customers and a decent amount of work flows from this shop so when they called, I did my best to make it over ASAP. Waiting for me was a new fender, painted with PPG® ENVIROBASE® using the specific recipe for the gold that Harley used on this model. It was cleared and sanded already. The nature of the graphic and deep build line under the clear indicated an elaborate decal, I knew it was going to tough to duplicate as portions resembled gold leaf, but upon pealing back the decal, I realized I was competing with a machine that had not only laid out a perfect graphic with perfect lines and perfect placement, it did so in only 3 steps. I would have more.
Gold leaf doesn’t look or react the way this graphic tape did once it was pulled off the damaged fender. So matching not only the color, but also the effect, was going to be a riddle. Once back in the studio taping commenced and with a new razor, started the work of getting my lines and peaks as straight as possible.
Using what’s left of the old busted fender, I lay out my lines for gold leaf. I don’t want to rely on later steps as an excuse not to strive for accuracy this early. I also use this step to protect the gold base coat with masking tape.
An application of the glue or “size” to the masked areas as well as a small stroke away from my work for testing. Once that spot is almost totally dry and my pinky knuckle squeaks when I drag it across, I know it’s ready. I’m using 1-Shot fast dry gold size that stays very “gildable” for awhile even though this is a small job. There are great recourses on gold leaf application. This is the DVD I watched before I started practicing. This isn’t a typical gold leaf application. I’m using as a base to match the factory graphic so there is no “turning” or other effects that would lend itself to a complete lesson. In the future, I plan on further posts dealing with gold leaf in greater detail, but for the purpose of this entry, I’ll concentrate on other aspects of the repair.
Gold leaf doesn’t like to have anything stick to it except the glue used to apply it. That means anything like tape or paint mask with aggressive adhesive stuck to the clear covering the gold may peel off. Actually its most likely to. To help prevent this, I add some of the gold size to the 1-Shot tinting clear before I brush it on. Once that dries I take the fender inside the booth for clear coat. You always want a protective barrier between your base coat and other graphics in case… of anything really. A change or (God forbid) paint spill is easily fixed with out damaging the color underneath. As delicate as gold is, I knew it would also need protection.
After a day, it’s dry enough to wet sand. I do so, and go on to mask behind the gold so I can attempt a color match. I only need to tape off the one side to protect the gold as the other side of the graphic gets black. Comparing the factory decal to my 24k gold leaf, the original looks like it has a bit more yellow and some pearl effect. I add a white pearl in base coat clear (paint with no color color) with the airbrush and dust in some yellow candy until I think I’m close. The first try gets wiped off with lacquer thinner (thanks clear coat!) as I wasn’t satisfied with the match. The second try is way closer.
I use UPOL#1 aerosol urethane convenience clear over this step once it’s unmasked after 30 min I can scuff it and move right along. Wear a respirator and have plenty of ventilation. As easy as it is to use, UPOL#1 clear is very strong!
On to masking the gold leaf. For this delicate step I cut strips of ORAMASK 810s stencil film. It’s low tack and won’t peel any top coats off my gold when I attempt to remove it. It gets backed up with masking tape
Awesome! The mask peels off, clear stays on!
Another dose of UPOL#1 convenience clear, scuffed after 30-45 minutes, and it’s time to stripe.
Here’s the fender with the grey only. After I stripe the red, it will go back to Steele Auto Body for final clear and out to the dealership.
Original factory fender
Well, here it is. No ones gonna bang this out with a hammer and dolly!
This decal has what looks to be a combination of leaf, and flake or pearl. It's bracketed by a grey and blood red outline.
Tale of the tape
The original fender two toned colors were laid out first, then the decal applied. In order to avoid a build line that will most definitely show up in our leaf application, I decide to apply the leaf first.
Gold on gold
1 shot fast dry gold size, hardener, and a touch of black is what I used on this fender. Adding black 1 shot to the size (glue) helps me see any hollies (holes) where the gold might not have stayed down. I brush 1 - shot tinting clear over the stripe. All enamel pinstripes and mix clear need hardener added to prevent lifting or wrinkling when coming into contact with other stronger solvents like those in clear coat.
I clear coat the gold graphics. After wet sanding that, I'll mask it off to apply the "adjustment" effect so it will match the original fender's gold graphic.
I tape just before the graphic to protect the base color. I'll be painting the other side of the stripe black so no need to worry about over spray.
Gold looks good
After a few tries at the color adjustment, I have something I like. Carefully the tape is removed.
Getting material to stick to gold leaf is touchy. Putting tape with medium to aggressive adhesion is sure to pull the clear and paint right off the leaf so I use ORAMASK 810S masking film. It's light tack adhesive will not harm my gold work. It's backed up with masking tape.
Back in Black
Once the second base color is applied, I can continue with a second coat of clear. This is a protective layer of clear so any unforeseen unforeseeables can be easily fixed.
Now I can use a pinstripe outline to hide the rough edges of the gold leaf and help even out the balance of the graphic. I match the color to the original decal and endeavor to keep a straight line with a width consistent to the factory parts.
Next to last
Bad habit of mine... I actually did the blood red outline on the other side but in my haste, neglected to get a shot. In the end everything work out and from what I hear, the customer was happy. For not being done with the help of a robot, I'm allowing myself to be happy with it too.
Click to Download In today’s episode I talk about constructive criticism or “critique”. There’s a proper way to judge any art or craft to the artist themsleves. As professionals we want to keep our industry as shiny and respected as possible. One way we do that is by critiquing the work of the apprentices in our industry, and when asked, each other.
Proverbs 27:17 says “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” That one verse describes the purpose of critique. We should learn to see our work from different perspectives in order to gain insight on any imperfections or perceived weaknesses in the work weather in composition of art, or a spot of putty that didn’t get sanded properly. We should approach the instruction we give with humility and the advice we receive from our peers and professional friends with a sense of gratitude and appreciation.
When we scrutinize our own work, it’s best to try and disassociate ourselves from it first. Walk away, set your mind on another subject or activity and upon returning, your eyes and mind will be fresh, and the voices of those peers and pros will come back to you, helping you see things in a more objective light.
The images below demonstrate how, after leaving this piece for a day, I was able to see my eagle head was too square. I wasn’t going to leave it like that. If I had been in a rush or burned out at days end, I might have overlooked this and sent it off. Understandably there’s no such thing as perfection. We can only strive for excellence and to please our customers so we can gets paid!
Learning to see how professionals view our work is vital. It’s the fastest most effective way to learn how to view your own work with a critical eye.
In this first episode of the Custom Paint Podcast I go through my definition of Custom Paint, and why I think the “old cheese and bad wine” art crowd should give it more respect. I also discuss what I plan for future episode topics, and quickly talk about my path into the custom paint profession.