About Car Finishes, Polishers, Sanders, And Paint…

I’m embarking on a new hobby / quasi-career in auto finish restoration.

This is coming about due to my managing to accumulate a fleet of several old cars, the newest a 2001, all with various degrees of “paint and finish” problems. And wanting to take some of them to Florida.

Here in California, you can ignore a small rock ding, a scratch, some marginal clear coat. Nothing much happens for a couple of decades. In Florida, between the heat and humidity, and the ocean spray being about 50 miles away wherever you are, trivial penetrations of the paint become rust spots and skin cancer way too fast. So I need to have these “sealed up” before we “go there”. (Part of the demise of the Banana Boat was spending about 6 years in Florida (on and off) and then 2 winters in Chicago… with dinged paint.)

So I’ve been watching a LOT of YouTube videos on painting cars, recovering clear coat, etc. etc. Just a couple of days ago I took my first step and the rusty windshield wiper arms on the Subaru are now pristine flat black.

But sanding an entire car, or even just a hood, with hand held sandpaper isn’t going to happen (even if it did work well on the wipers).

It looks like, for minor defects, you polish them out. A “Buffer / Polisher” and polish on a wool pad or foam pad. If a bit worse, you move up to “compound” and a similar polisher machine (looks a lot like an angle grinder with a plastic / rubber pad to me).

Then, if you are doing painting, you need a sander. Some videos use a palm sander “DA” Double Action. Others use an angle sander that looks a lot like that polisher… I get all the stuff about choosing grit sizes and working up to very fine 2000 grit and all. Even using the long bar sander in an X pattern once the power work is done.

What isn’t clear to me is do I really need 3 or 4 devices, or will one “polisher / sander” do it? And is “Double Action” the same as what we used to call “random” or “orbital sander”?

Then there’s that whole thing of “stick on sandpaper disks” or “hook and loop”? 4 inch, 5 inch, 6 inch, 6.5 inch, 7 inch, etc. etc. That, and particular brands.

I do not need any warnings or cautions about sanding clear coat and reaching metal. I understand the power of power sanders. Just the last time I dealt with one it was about 1960, there was one size in the shop, and one kind of paper. The present zoo of choices will take longer to sort out than it will take to use the tool…

So I’m hoping someone out there has some auto body and paint experience and can cut down the search area by way of a few signposts. Things like “Start with a 6 inch” or “Avoid Black & Decker” or “Buy Black & Decker” or “Nobody buys new stick on, they all buy hook and loop for the new stuff”, or “Never buy one of the ‘does it all’ combo sander / polisher / buffers. The don’t do any job well”. Or “DO buy it, this brand is great!”.

What is my use case?

1) Early ’90s 190 E Mercedes, black, that cost me $400. Paint has a lot of scratches and a couple of places the clear coat is just getting a bit milky looking. I want to clean it, then try polish, then “compound”. IF needed, I’ll sand down the clear coat spots and do a feather into the rest and shoot a bit of clear coat on that area. Then polish…

2) A 1989 Mercedes wagon with horrible clear coat. Pealed off of a lot of areas of the hood, a bit of the roof / fender tops. Paint a little oxidized in places. This car is the “2nd car on the way out” replaced by the newest one. I just want to recover some degree of clear coat. So some sanding, feathering, hopefully not cutting the color coat, and then shoot some clear on it. Doesn’t need to be perfect as it is mostly now used for grocery runs, hardware store stuff, and for when the other wagon is in the shop. (I.e. less than perfect clear coat smoothness and finish doesn’t matter and color doesn’t need a perfect match).

3) My Subaru. Has some minor clear coat starting to fail spots and a line of rust just above the windshield. This will take sanding, priming, color coats, clear coats. Etc. Also I’ll get to learn about using Urethane glue to put the windshield top gasket back in. Inspection shows the rust stops where the rubber starts and is just breaking through the paint.

4) The Diesel. Left parked for decades under a tree dropping acid leaves on it that leached and damaged the paint. Then I bought it as a daily driver. That defective paint has now got some rusty looking stuff showing on the hood and a 1 foot patch on the rear trunk. No clear coat for this car, all oxidized paint or worse. I’m thinking MEK on the hood, sand a lot on the trunk, compound / 400 grit scuff the rest, and shoot primer, base / color, and clear coat over the whole thing. I’ll likely do “just the hood” first to get a feel for it all, then treat that finish as a really good base coat when the whole car gets painted in a rental paint booth somewhere…

5) The newest nicest car gets some rock chips touched up, and a nice round of polishing…

My Experience

I’ve painted a couple of houses (one roller / brush, a couple spray) inside and out. I’ve painted models and various toys, including metal ones. I’ve also done a few fences and touched up some crap spots on a car or two using “rattle cans”.

For a while I had a whole box of “rattle cans” in the trunk and when I saw some graffiti in the neighborhood, I’d jump out and cover it with the nearest color I had (or go buy one). So got some fair experience with cinder block, metal poles, metal boxes, etc.

I’e also done a variety of wood finishes including stains, varnishes, urethane, and water proof paint.

The point being I’ve done wood sanding, masking, cleaning, paint mixing, shooting it, clean up, etc. etc.

The only thing really new here is “automotive finish work”.

Any Suggestions On Tools, Materials, and Such?

So I’ve seen videos with everything from not sanding at all and shooting Rustoleum Primer and Enamel from rattle cans, to hand scuffing with Scotchbright Pads and spraying Rustoleum Primer & Color Coat from a compressor driven gun, all the way up to doing 14 coats of special custom Urethane paint with separate layers of metal flake, candy coat cherry, black detail with platinum flake over, and several top costs of clear all with a prep surface of 2 kinds of bondo / skim coat and a couple of primer and guide coats.. With most of the layers sanded and the final clear coat compounded and polished and rubbed out…

I’m going for somewhere in the middle ;-) I’ve already found out where I can get proper Mercedes color match paints. Though just because it will be a learning work piece, I’m tempted to shoot a coat of Rustoleum on the hood that’s all toast as it can’t make it any worse… Make my mistakes on that, learn what needs learning, then do the other touch up jobs and return to the horrible whole car job again at the end…

So, with that, anyone with history, experience, preferences, war stories, or just sage advice, pontificate away. (Just don’t try to talk me out of it. I toted it all up at about $5000 and it is either I do it or some cars get destroyed… so the downside risk is nil.)

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About E.M.Smith

A technical managerial sort interested in things from Stonehenge to computer science. My present "hot buttons' are the mythology of Climate Change and ancient metrology; but things change...
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33 Responses to About Car Finishes, Polishers, Sanders, And Paint…

  1. Larry Ledwick says:

    All my auto painting experience is even older than yours, hand sanded my first car and primered it so did not use power sanders at all.

    How ever on power tools I find Black and Decker are primarily hobby user tools and do not last long on a job like sanding a whole car. I would opt for Dewalt (my first choice) or Milwaukee if I had to buy new stuff. I have had very good luck with all my Dewalt power tools.

    In highschool I worked in a gas station that did a rub out and wax special to get rid of oxide on paint (again all hand work).

    The reddish rubbing compound is very aggressive an would quickly cut through oxidised paint but if used carelessly would cut all the way to the primer/metal.
    Put a dab on a clean rag and the wet the paint with hand spray bottle and keep it handy to keep ahead of evaporation, and it works pretty quick if you just want to knock off some oxidation. The white rubbing compound is less aggressive and was used for the final prep before waxing.

    The other lesson learned was that most of the appearence of the paint job comes from the customer evaluating shine on the top of the hood and front fenders and a few other top surfaces, so worry more about the quality of finish on those surfaces than the lower doors and rocker panels etc. as most of the oxidation happens on those upper surfaces and the lower will look good even with a reasonably good finish.

    (I know you are a pragmatist so probably do not particularly care about appearance as long as the metal is protected)

    The one thing I was taught about painting was to hose down the area to capture dust before you start, and to wipe down the body panels with a clean rag saturated with acetone as the last step before applying the paint to be sure it is finger print and grease free and to act like a tack rag to pick up bits of lint etc that might be blowing around.

    In really hot weather the paint can dry before it gets to the body panel (you are just creating a clouds of paint particles, so best not try painting when it is really hot, even if in the shade.

  2. Ossqss says:

    EM, I have used my Ridgid palm sander, same 18v batteries as the drill and all the other lifetime warranty tools, and it has done well for basic sanding. It has the option for orbital or not IIRC and a catch bag. I have also used some cheap wallyworld buffers and they work well enough for what I have done , wood doors and car stuff.

    I would share that I have found a really good treatment for plastic headlight fixtures, tested it again on a 2006 Saturn tonight, and it worked wonders. Nu Finish car wax. Apparently the petroleum based chemicals in it interact with the plastic and clear things right up. My 4Runner is on month 6 and still looks like new. Much better than the toothpaste or WD40 methods. The Saturn was in bad shape and I would guestimate it was 80% restored after the first coat and removal, during a rainy wet day also (much better when it can dry completely). I would certainly recommend the 8 buck investment to anyone for head light refreshing. It also does wonders when dealing with Lovebug season on every front facing part of a car (2 times a year here), let alone being a durable 1 year wax to begin with. For those who know of which I speak, simply rinsing those Lovebugs off is a wonderful thing, along with a good coat of RainX on the windshield. They will eat through your paint in about 2 days if not address. If you live in Florida, you know what I am talking about.

    Anyhow, just a mobile drive by to help as possible. Good luck!

  3. p.g.sharrow says:

    I would recommend a 5″ orbital to start with, A round hook and loop is the handiest but you will have to replace the hook pad from time to time. The square sheet machine with clamp ons is a better tool but harder to change the grit paper. Modern filler is a fairly bullet proof 2 part polyester.
    Painting may be a problem where you live due to neighbors and city/county bureaucrats. I would do things in sections from time to time so it doesn’t appear to be a whole car er cars project.
    I’ve painted everything from boats to cars to equipment but I had a place and the equipment.
    Body and fender work is a work of art so take your time. Be in no rush! If the original paint is tight just sand the clear coat away and make the finish dull so you are sure any surface treatments that might effect adhesion are removed. You will need an air system and sprayer to get decent results.
    You will need a lot of practice to get the best results but just getting the job done is not difficult…pg

  4. E.M.Smith says:

    One guy behind me and 3 doors down had a car repair business in his garage (replaced a transmission in my old Honda…) and a tow truck parked out front. Another guy 2 blocks away had a “tent” in his driveway with some old Chevy (Camero?) in it where he was slowly doing body work and repairing it – watched the primer coverage change over several months….

    My point is just that I live in a middle class neighborhood and folks generally are not all “sensitive”… Frankly, the guy “downwind” of me is The Beer Guy (delivers beer…) and would likely be thrilled at me making my rust bucket look less of the eye sore…

    Also I’m figuring that it is a “one day paint”. I’m thinking one or maybe 2 primer, a color coat or two (call that 2 hours all told) then 2 clear coat. I’m pretty sure that by the time anyone knows I’m “shooting it”, I’m done.

    I still want to find a rental booth, though. Better results and my air compressor will thank me ;-)

    I LIKE living in a middle class area where people do things themselves… I’d go BSC (Bat Shit Crazy) in a deed restricted gated community….


    I’ve got a couple of headlights that will benefit from that… Thanks!

    I remember love bugs…


    Yeah… mostly just “make it not rust”, then a little bit of “fix the broken paint stuff”.

    I DO tend to absorb the ethos of any skill I learn, though. Took over Director Of Facilities at a little “start up” that wasn’t doing well (in addition to my Director of I.T. title). One day found myself saying “But that periwinkle jacquard weave fabric is just not right!” and realized I’d “gone over” ;-) Seems I had a latent esthetic sense after all… So as I’m going down the Auto Paint Rabbit Hole, I expect at some point I’m going to try a cherry candy over gold metal flake on something… with a 4 coat crystal clear coat polished and buffed… Just to find my limits…

    “Anything worth doing, is worth doing to excess! -E.M.Smith”…

    So it goes… So I go…

  5. Power Grab says:

    My first car was a red 1970 Toyota Corona. The paint was extremely oxidized when I got it. No clear coat, so this probably isn’t a very applicable case.

    I may have had it a year when I came upon a liquid polishing/cleaning product (don’t remember the name, but it was obscure) and decided to try it on the car. I don’t remember whether I had already tried something like Turtle Wax, or what. Anyway, I started on it; the sun went down and it got nippy, so I rented a booth in a self-service auto repair place to finish the job. People asked if I had had it painted when they saw it afterwards. One person opined that the product might have been something like rubbing compound in a bottle. I’ve never used rubbing compound, per se, so I don’t know.

    The next time (same car, a few years later), a buddy of my boyfriend offered to paint it for me over a weekend if I would feed him and his fiancee. Oh, and I had to buy the paint and primer, etc. I agreed. It actually ended up taking a week, so I got to cook for the crew every night for about a week. At one point, the guy had me come feel the surface before he started painting. He had sanded (by hand?) almost all the paint off the car, instead of just spot sanding and patching, etc. It was amazingly smooth!! He did a great job on it. I guess he just wanted to practice. IIRC, the paint color was Candy Apple Red.

    After seeing how nice that paint job turned out, and after seeing how poorly clear coat weathers, I’m kind of at a loss to understand why they want to clear coat everything these days. I had no idea you could patch it. I thought you were just stuck with a sad, hazy finish when clear coat starts failing. I see a lot of sad, hazy clear coat around here. As a matter of fact, my ex tried some kind of expensive fancy-schmancy car polish on the roof my my teal Tercel. That was a bad move. It just really messed it up. He had a gift for that. If you ever want an investment (or anything you value) reduced to scrap, well, he’s your man.

    Oh, I did use some primer and touch-up paint from a little bottle on a small spot that got scraped by the inside of the (metal) bumper when I had my exciting “Sit and Spin” incident on the icy 2-lane highway on the way to see Hal Holbrook do “Mark Twain Tonight”. But I didn’t find that spot until the next spring when I was washing and waxing the car. I remember the little bottle was not unlike a little bottle of fingernail polish. Having had ample experience with fingernail polish, it was a snap!

    FWIW, I like to paint. I really like the good feeling I get when I’m finished and get to stand back and admire the improvement. I haven’t spray painted a house, but I’ve used roller and brush plenty.

  6. H.R. says:

    Oh dear. At the place I retired from, I was in charge of the paint process where we produced a Class A automotive finish on many of the parts. All of our parts were round tubes (heavy steel hydraulic lines up to about 18′ long).

    Nothing from our process would be remotely useful to you. We used a combination cleaner/iron phosphate to prep the parts sprayed from a 20 gallon/minute pressure washer at 160 F. The prepped parts would go to the queue in the paint room, which had positive pressure to keep out the dust, and humidity was kept below 60%. When a rack was rolled into the paint booth, all of the parts were wiped with MEK immediately before painting. We applied the 2-part acrylic urethane from a metered mixer that could handle 6 different colors. All of the colored bases used the same catalyst at the same ratio. The mixer supplied an electrostatic spray gun which applied the paint.

    Now that I’ve told you about a fun to know, but useless to you, painting process that produces the finish you desire, I can tell you two useful things.

    1) P.G. and Larry covered the important little things, surface cleanliness (!!!!!), tack coat/finish coat (helps avoid orange peel), temperature/humidity (controls solvent pops), don’t be in any hurry to get to the finished thickness else you get sags and runs.

    2) We used Black & Decker hook and loop mouse sanders for rework on runs or orange peel. Great for small rework areas. Yeah, they don’t last all that long. Ours often accidently followed someone home before they broke, so that’s why we used the cheapies almost like they were a consumable. But they are great type for the spot touch-up and small area work. You probably want to look into DeWalt or Milwaukee though, and skip the battery power. With a cord, you never run out of electricity before the job is done. Oh wait…. you’re in California, land of pinwheels and ray catchers. Maybe you do want the battery powered one ;o)

    Oh, if you haven’t already done so, get acquainted with wet film thickness and dry film thickness. They have little wet film thickness gauges that tell you how thick your finished dry film thickness will be. The percent of solids in your paint will be the dry film, so if you apply a 5 mil wet film and your paint is 40% solids, then you’ll have a 2 mil dry film. It probably won’t matter for the small area patches you are doing, but when you get to doing whole hoods or large areas, it could be useful for a uniform finish. Then again, maybe not if you stick to one or two types of paints. Really good painters can tell how thick their dry film will be just by sheer experience watching the paint go on.

  7. H.R. says:

    E.M. – Get a respirator mask and be sure to shave before using it.

    I forgot about home paint booths. A couple of the painters that came through made spray booths in their garages to do side work. A bit of 1 x 3 stick framing, some heavy construction plastic, a box fan blowing through a filter coming into the booth and a box fan drawing through a filter out of the booth and you’ve got yourself a decent, fairly dust free paint booth that’s not exhausting overspray out of the garage and into the neighborhood. You do need some good flood lights to shine into the booth through the plastic. Fire/explosion hazard if you have bare lights inside the booth.

    Probably $100 to maybe $150 bucks in it and you can change out the plastic if you get too much buildup before you’re done with all your painting. If you finish everything and want your garage back, just wad it all up and set it by the curb on trash day.

  8. Larry Ledwick says:

    The guy I bought a house from in the 1970’s had the garage set up for body work paint work. He had several 4′ neon shop lights mounted vertically along each wall. When you turned them on the car was fully illuminated without shadows because the lights were several feet apart. Worked great for working on the car, and you could easily re-purpose the lights after the fact to normal ceiling fixtures in the shop.

    You would really only need 3 or 4 and move them as needed to cover the area you are working on.

  9. Power Grab says:

    Oh! I forgot the one thing that might have been interesting about the time my boyfriend’s buddy painted my car. He did it in my one-car garage that had one window. I believe he put my box fan in the window to blow the air out.

    I was at work when he actually painted it, so I didn’t see it happen. I don’t know if he left the garage door open, or not. And I don’t remember if he used a respirator.

    The main thing I remember was that the job was done very well, even if the conditions were on the crude side.

  10. Power Grab says:

    @ HR re:

    “don’t be in any hurry to get to the finished thickness else you get sags and runs.”

    How long should you wait between coats? Or can you start the next coat when the previous one is tacky but not fully dried?

  11. E.M.Smith says:

    OK, so I’m now in the market for a 5 inch orbital sander, a block sander for the hand work, and a few rubber backing blocks for conforming to surface bends sanding. Hook and loop for the orbital.

    As my compressor is relatively small, it looks like I’ll need to get one of the cheaper guns with a lower “gallons per minute” of air used. I’m fine with that. I actually also got a 1 gallon compressor when in Florida so actually have 2 (the other is an 8 gallon Campbell Hausfield) AND I have a 5 gallon separate tank (useful for carting some air somewhere…). I saw a manifold for sale and might buy or make one and hook all those bits together (IF the bigger one is not bigger enough ;-)

    That ought to be enough for what will be, for me, a “sedate” rate of painting and doing, at most, one hood at a time.

    @Power Grab:

    “Compound” is used to remove more paint that “polish” but a little less than sanding. Use a LOT of compound and too long with the “buffer” on it, you remove the paint…

    One site called it ‘liquid sand paper”…

    “Candy” is a deep transparent color layer that’s very pretty, but hard to do well. If you got “Candy Apple Red”, that’s a deal!

    There are a few different (chemically) paint “systems”. In “the old days” you got an Enamel paint and it lasted about 5 years. More if you took care of it well. Now they use Urethane paints where the sun can fade and damage the “color coat” fairly easily. (See what happens to it and how fast once the clear coat peals…). The Clear Coat is slightly yellow / UV absorbent and it is there to make the paint look deeper and glossy, while also stopping the UV from damaging the color layer. Now we get about 6 to 8 years and the clear coat starts to go…

    IF you are very careful, you can just sand off the top layer of the clear coat (before it peals all the way down…) and then recoat with more clear coat… IF a bit too aggressive, you get into the color coat. Depending on how many coats how deep, you MAY be able to just take off a bit and the clear coat the whole thing… or not.

    There are some folks who still use the non-Urethane Acrylic Enamel.

    How long you must wait between coats depends on the paint system. Old oil based Enamel dries in about 1/2 day to a day (depends on temperature). The new 2 part Urethane takes a catalytic hardener. More hardener, faster drying. It can be as low as 15 minutes… Watch the videos of professional car painters, and they will start spraying and by the time they are done with the coat, the first area is dry enough to start the second coat… By 2 hours it is quite hard.

    For the catalytic paints, to get the coats to bond to each other, you must either re-coat it before it fully hardens (so BEFORE that 2 hours…) OR wait until the next day, sand with about 2000 grit to give a rough adhesive surface, and do the next coat. So, as my Mechanic told me when I was asking for brain–pickings on painting: “When you paint, you PAINT. Don’t stop until it is done. You want it to bond the layers.”

    I’m sure he must have had the garage door open, otherwise one little box fan isn’t enough. I’m planning on a few of them lined up IF I use the garage, but most likely I’ll rent a spray booth.


    I’ve already got 2 x 4 foot shop lights on chains… easy to drop one end. Then there’s the other 6 bulbs along the midline… Probably won’t need that until I work up to the full car for the 240 D. I’m starting with just small spots of clear coat. Some where in between will be ‘a whole hood’, likely outdoors… on a still day.

    I know, I’ll need to sand out a few bugs and dust bunnies afterwards… It will be the practice run with poor cheap paint anyway ;-)


    I think what I’ll do is get the Black & Decker first, then if I ever manage to wear it out, get a good one (as by then clearly I’m “into this” ;-) Or maybe I’ll see what Harbor Freight has…

    My usual tool strategy has been to buy a cheap set first, then whatever wears out I replace with a good one… gives me a full set cheap and good ones of everything I use most of the time.


    Being very un-fond of inhaling toxic stuff, I’m currently trying to figure out what’s the best respirator to get. Lowe’s seemed to just have cheap crap… so I need to find out where to buy something good, or what to order from Amazon.

    And a bunny suit. I’ve always wanted a bunny suit! ;-)

  12. H.R. says:

    @Power Grab – N.B., I’m talking spray painting here; you start the next coat when the tack coat is tacky and not fully dried. The time depends on the paint. Our 2-part acrylic urethane took about 10 minutes to tack at 75F and 60-70% humidity. Drying was more a function of the catalytic action rather than air drying.

    Some rattle-can paints may take 20-30 minutes to tack. As I recall from the last time I sprayed from a can, on the can they gave tack time, dry to touch, and fully dry times at some reasonable usual temperature. Oh and it had caveats on the temperature range for application.

    Do note Larry’s comment above that if temperatures are too high, a fine spray will dry before it hits the surface. True dat! You wind up with poor adhesion and a somewhat powdery or wrinkly looking finish instead of a nice gloss because the paint doesn’t flow out when it hits the surface.

    If you’re using a spray gun and a compressor, to set up your gun you do what’s called a quick pass. You set up a piece of cardboard and make a pass at your proper spraying distance (whole ‘nother topic) about 3 times faster than you’d normally paint. You can easily see if you’re flowing too much paint, as there will be little blobs mixed in with the spray, or if you are too fine and will be applying too dry of a film. Temperature really affects paint viscosity and how it flows out on a surface. You wouldn’t believe the difference a day makes even when using the same paint day after day.

    Ok. TMI, I know, but as p.g. said above, a really good painter is an artisan. We had many a painter come through who said they were a painter… but they weren’t, really.

  13. Larry Ledwick says:

    They have the tyvek bunny suits at Lowes etc. but they are kind of expensive, if you buy them as singles, get them in a six pack they are about $5 and change depending on size.


    Those bunny suits can be used a couple of times if you are careful and have secondary uses for other similar hazards, so I like to have a couple on hand.
    For paint you really should have a mask that uses the filter cartridges rated for organic vapor.
    Some of the urethane and epoxy paint systems are down right dangerous (as in will poison you) if you do not have proper filters, a particulate filter is not good enough for them even if you have good air exchange.

    A quick 20 questions down at the local body shop would probably give you the best info you can depend on.

  14. Another Ian says:


    Now I know what is going on with a couple of small spots on our Landcruiser. I’ll read with interest what you find with redoing such small patches of clear coat.

  15. Another Ian says:

    Watch out!

    “Sacramento County Says It’s Illegal to Work on Your Own Car in Your Own Garage ”


    Via SDA

  16. H.R. says:

    @E.M. – Here’s a fun paint fact for All-Things-Disney-loving Mrs. E.M.

    Our paint was made by Deft out in California. It was a special formulation developed for Deere-Hitachi Excavators and if you supplied painted parts to Deere-Hitachi, you bought and used the special Deft paint and painted to produce a specified finish; gloss, adhesion, film thickness, salt spray resistance, etc.

    Deft also supplied the paint used at Disneyland (and I’m assuming also at Disneyworld). Disney needed a very tough paint that held its looks over millions of visitors touching the finishes and they needed a paint that was deemed safe for contact by children. If little Billy amused himself by chewing on the railings while waiting for a ride, little Billy wasn’t going to ingest any heavy metals or anything.

    I was always impressed that Deft could make a paint product that Disney could use and that got past California’s Chemical Warfare Department. You know, that Department that says every substance on Earth is known by the State of California to possibly cause cancer. BTW I’m surprised they don’t have that warning sticker placed on avocados. Probably just an oversight ;o)

    So Deft makes the special paint spec’d and used by Disney. I’ve always been impressed by Deft’s specialty coatings and the fact that they were able to produce in California without the State putting them out of business. Good people there.

  17. H.R. says:

    @E.M. – I didn’t see your comment/responses to comments until about 7:30 am EST.

    I see by your comments that you have done your usual deep dive into ‘all things paint’ and are already aware of all the factors you have to consider.

    Yeah, get the bunny suits from Lowes. That’s where we got ours with a 5% discount on all purchases since we had a corporate account. The painter supply houses have more of the auto-related specialty supplies and equipment, but don’t have the volume buying power for the common disposable items. We bought our bunny suits, tack cloths, cheese cloth, hook & loop mouse pads, plastic measure/mix cups and a few other paint items at Lowes because their prices were good (better volume than the supply houses) and you could just run down to Lowes for them when you ran out. Our painters never seemed to tell us they were running low, but they would tell us when they were out. *sigh*

    Rent the spray booth when you have anything more than the smaller repair areas you are working on. They will have a compressor large enough to give a constant supply of the volume of air you’ll need. I have a 30-gallon compressor in the garage and several years ago, I bought a spray gun to do a little bit of painting and found even my 30-gallon compressor would not deliver the volume of air I needed to maintain consistent atomization. Of course, some of that had to do with the gun and paint being used. The usual air problem is volume, not just pressure.

    The 5-gallon holding tank in series with your 5-gallon compressor is the right idea and may be fine, depending on the viscosity of the paint you are trying to atomize. I don’t know a thing about the properties of clear coats and other automotive paints as I never used them.

    An airless spraying system eliminates all of the air supply issues, but I’ve had no experience with airless spraying. You might want to take a look at that.

    What Larry said!! Get a respirator rated for VOCs. Your organs will thank you. Online might be your best bet for one, though it may be worth it to pay a couple of bucks more at a supply house to get your first one where you can hold it and examine and check the fit.

  18. Ossqss says:

    Quick note on the sander item. My neighbor purchased a large grinder from Harbor Freight , and purchased the warranty replacement thing. He used it to cut sides out of the cargo containers as he was building a container house out of them. He used up 7 of those through that warranty with no questions asked when he took them in for replacement. Just a thought on sourcing the sander. ;-)

  19. E.M.Smith says:

    On the respirator: Growing up in farm country, lots of toxic sprays, I’m picky about them. Having survived Organuc Chemistry back when benzine was used for final labware wash, I’m sceptical about any organic vapor “safety”. That’s why I’m still doing the search for what is The Best one. Lowe’s looked like just dust things….

    I do have an Israeli full Gas Mask with CBW Cartridge… but that seems like overkill :-)

    I’m hoping for at least a 2 stage (particulate HEPA level + activated carbon). Don’t know if they come with the third stage “nutralizing” chemical pack like the gas mask… Suggested brand or store welcome as “search cost” never my choice…

    Per guns:

    One of my Ah-Ha moments was reading air volume specs. Some are 3 CF/min other 15 or more… My compressor is, I think, about 3.5 to 4 Cubic ft. per min (depends on final pressure) so I’ve shifted from “gun reputation and reviews” to “gun CF” as my first screen. So one that works with the 8 gallon tank compressor. Then gang it with the 1 gallon portable for more volume. Put the 5 gallon added tank right at the painting work area and shortest line possible between compressors, tank, and gun (not 1/4 inch either… 3/8 inch). Crank the compressors up to max, put a regulator at the gun for about 25 psi. That ought to give me fairly consistent pressure at the gun with enough volume. Oh, and a drier just before the 5 gallon tank…

    Basically, treat the compressors as higher pressure sources, the portable tank as dryer and smoothing “capacitor” along with volume buffering, and the final regulator to adjust flow.

    I think the little compressor is 2 cuft, so I ought to have 5.5 to 6 cuft/min available continuous, with a toral of 14 gallons of tank. That ought to drive a light duty 4 cu-ft/min gun fairly smoothly for things like 2 square foot of clear coat repair…


    Oh great… /sarc;

    Now Mrs. Smith wants me to repaint the house in Disney Paint….


    (But she did say it….)

    @Another Ian:

    Sacramento is the State Capitol and where all the government employee control freaks live. Where I am not so much… lots of forlks in my area do home car repair and such.

    As I need to review the How To before doing the clear coat repair, I’ll find a good video on it and post the link. Basically, as I remember it, it was careful sanding with fine grit to remove the damaged clear, feather into thd good area, shoot fresh clear. You still get a small ridge at the edge where new meets old clear, but it looks dramatically better and protects the color coat.

    I’ll probaby do one of these first as it is only clear (no cloud of colored spray..), a very small area (so small intermittent air flow cuft), and as the repair is not perfect, any defect in my paint precision matters less. What is one thickness irregularity next to another?….

    @Larry L.:

    I’ll likely ask my mechanic (who also does small body repairs on Mercedes as needed, so must be perfect color match). I’d feel guilty wasting a body shop guy’s time and spending nothing. I figure I’ve bought a few months worth of my mechanics time over the decades…. 3 to 4 cars at any one time for about 30 years… I’ve paid a lot of his vacations….

  20. Another Ian says:

    “@Another Ian:

    Sacramento is the State Capitol and where all the government employee control freaks live. Where I am not so much… lots of forlks in my area do home car repair and such.”

    But such sources seem to want to spread their infections wider

  21. cdquarles says:

    Re Benzene …. given that our bodies work with benzene derivatives, all the time! … think phenylalanine, for one; you’d think our bodies can handle benzene. You’d be right. Dose and route make both the medicine and the poison (you do realize that you eat cyanide every day, don’t you?). LNT thinking plus weak studies (designed for the purpose?) and poor statistical practices. Chemistry is all about conditions and mass action. No mass, no action. Change the conditions changes the outcome.

  22. E.M.Smith says:


    We were using Benzine like dishwater, by the gallon, to clean our labware. We were told we “ought” to do it under the fume hood, but since there was only one and a whole organic chem class, most didn’t. Loved the smell of the stuff, though ;-)

    So dose was relatively high, and route was a lot of fumes and a fair amount of direct absorption through the skin (did a nice job of de-greasing the hands…)

    Then there were the epidemiological studies that found much higher rates of cancer in Organic Chemists…. so practices have changed now.

  23. cdquarles says:

    Hmm, that wasn’t *my* organic chem classes. We did use the fume hoods, and we used diethyl ether far more often to clean the lab glassware than benzene, with either after using soap, water, and a scrub brush, and with either it wasn’t by the gallon. The problem is, for me, mainly about those studies. I’ve looked at some of them. They use(d) too small sample sizes, extrapolate(d) too much, use(d) the false dichotomy fallacy too much and have LNT type thinking applied too often. I don’t trust them. They’re too certain at best and falsely attribute cause at worst.

    Trouble imputing anything to cancer rates is that cancer is a thing with multiple causal factors in the first place. Then there is survivor bias.

  24. E.M.Smith says:

    I have my suspicions about it too. In German the name for gasoline is basically benzine since up until about the 1970s or 80s most gasoline had a lot of aromatic ring compounds in it to make higher octane rating. We’re talking like 80% benzine. Basically the stuff (with worse mixed in) was everywhere in the millions of tons. Yet we didn’t have mass mortality.

    Heck, at about 16? years old I even managed to swallow about 1/2 ounce… a siphoning effort gone wrong… and “burped gasoline smell” for 3 days… Yet I’m still here 1/2 century later… But maybe I’m “special” ;-)

    IIRC it was about 1975? that they started to ban use of Benzine for lab wash and swapped over to other materials. I was done with chemistry classes by then so don’t know what they changed to. That’s at a “sample of one”, the UC I attended.

    We had what was basically one big fume hood along one wall, divided into a 2 or 3 ‘stations’, and those were used if (when) you were working with something known risky or horrible smelling. Most simple experiments were done at your bench station. As was washing up.

    Our lab room had a “pretty good” whole room fan and they would turn that on, but the vapors still went past your nose on the way out. We’d do that same “soap & water” wash, and dry, but then do a wash / rinse in benzine. Swish in a couple of inches in a (pan sink ?? something) and brush; and then squirt / rinse down the interior with a nalgine squeeze squirt bottle and dump that in the pan. Each student was working with a quart or two and there were about 20 stations. We didn’t all finish and clean up at exactly the same time though. The labware was then put in a dishrack like thing at your station to “dry” for the next use. At the end of the cleaning the benzine was dumped down the drain… (Later I was told that changed too).

    Walking the halls of the chem building, one room had “danger” stickers on the door. I asked. They said that was the guy doing the research on cancer from exposure to benzine and similar chemicals AND that there were a lot of organic chemists got cancer. That’s basically the limit on my “research” into benzine and cancer (well, that and that they banned it for washing use while I was still at the school). Much later I read (somewhere….) that even propane was showing “issues”, but I don’t know where that ever ended up.

    IIRC the “theory” is that the small unencumbered molecules of propane / benzine can easily diffuse into the nucleus and then cause trouble; while the larger ones with more charge distribution on the molecule can’t do that. Don’t know that I buy that reasoning.

    At this point, given how much of Science has shown itself to be horrible corrupted by industry buying desired results and “activists” corrupting it to “change the world”: I’m no longer willing to accept ANY “scientific” conclusions at face value and find myself suspicious of huge chunks of “what we know”.

    Just 3 examples:

    1) CFCs and Ozone: Currently looks entirely like another hypothetical bunk bought by DuPont to keep profits high in the A/C business.

    2) Red Meat and cancer / heart attack: Being shown bogus all over the place, even in the original studies (the involved researcher hid the data showing no effect for a few decades as he “didn’t like the result”…) but the idea is still being pushed by the U.N. (sound familiar) to “save the planet”.

    3) Just about anything to do with “causes cancer” where I’ve basically stopped even noticing the annual swap of “does too / does not” on everything from coffee to beer to chocolate to vegetables to fried foods to…

    So when I say something like “was shown to cause cancer” or “a study found that it causes cancer” there’s an implied giant asterisk and a (*Yeah, right, like those jokers have a clue.) down at the bottom. I just don’t type it out each time as it is rude and snippy and I’d rather not be, plus I’m lazy and that would be a lot of typing all the time… Most folks are already jaded on the “does too / does not” dance so I don’t see it as needed anyway.

    But, back to what kicked this off:

    Having been soaking in everything from benzine in chemistry class to pesticides in farm country to gasoline working on cars and tractors (we used IT for parts washing back in the aromatic gasoline days…) to painting a house and garage and fences and more with Lead Based Paint (from a sprayer…) and a whole lot more; basically ALL of it with zero protective gear: I’m now much less willing to accept “Don’t worry, it is safe” and DO want a very good respirator ( even while being highly skeptical of any specific claim of causality for any given material…)

    Kind of a “don’t know about that dog, but do want dogs on leashes when walking in the park”…

  25. jim2 says:

    Over my 15+ year chem career, I used a lot of benzene for cleaning and other things, with and without a fume hood. I’ve had worse acute reactions laying floor tile :) I don’t know of any long term ones for myself at least.

  26. E.M.Smith says:

    Well, having settled on a 5 inch palm DA… after figuring out that I really ought to start with buff and polish to find out what condition the paint is really in and in many cases to cure (with rubbing compound) many of the defects:

    I did a search on buffer / polisher machines. Seems 6 inch is sort of the standard and not the palm type but the ‘angle grinder’ layout. OK…

    A search on Amazon and some others had me deciding to just bite the bullet and get the Porter Cable everyone used as their benchmark. Then reading Amazon reviews had a LOT of folks saying “Had one for 15 years and finally bought a replacement. The replacement died in {a few months to year} as the drive head broke. This isn’t the old reliable Porter Cable… ”

    So now I’m back at no decision.

    Seems like ALL the “under $200” buffer polishers have a lot of failures in the 1 and 2 star reviews…

    So now I’m thinking I’ll just go get the $50 Harbor Freight one and consider it a disposable / consumable item…

    Doesn’t anybody make “affordable but good” anymore? Is it ALL becoming “cheap Chinese junk” with quality issues?

  27. Larry Ledwick says:

    I am afraid you will find most manufactures have moved to make it good enough for most users to get past the warranty period style of production.

    That said I have had good luck with DeWalt and others with Rigid since they tend to target more serious users like contractors rather than hobby users. The best way I have found to get the better quality power tools is to shop by price point. There is typically a price break just above the cost of the consumer Black & Decker home hobby user, so if you push up to models that sell for just over that discount store price you seem to get a better quality tool, (ie ball bearings instead of bushings, metal gears instead of nylon gears etc.)

  28. jim2 says:

    70$ Dewalt orbital sander has bearings. You can look up parts for it to determine what has what.


  29. E.M.Smith says:

    OK. so back to Home Depot to check out the DeWalt, Makita, etc. etc. good stuff…

  30. Larry Geiger says:

    The only confirmed demographic for Myeloma is auto painters. It is currently believed that it’s benzene inhalation. Symptoms usually come on in the middle 70’s. Otherwise, they just say that they don’t know how we got it.

    Had a friend who went shopping for the most expensive, best, camel’s hair brush he could find. Got some auto paint and painted his whole van with the brush. Polished it a little when he was done. Drove that thing for years. It looked ok :-) That’s here in coastal Florida. The van didn’t rust all the time I knew him.

  31. E.M.Smith says:

    @Larry G:

    Over on the broccoli & radishes thread, one of the videos points out that sulfuraphane increases the excretion of benzene and similar bad things. Perhaps the reason my various exposures to benzine didn’t harm me was my love of eating LOTS of radishes ;-) When the bad siphon event happened, we had a garden full of them and I ate lots of them. They also got the “bad taste” of gasoline out of my mouth… can’t taste much of anything after a batch of hot radishes ;-)

    I’ve seen a car painted with a brush and house paint. It’s, um, er, “Interesting”….

    I thought of painting one car in improvised “camo” that way as the dull finish and low specular reflection would be features… but then thought better of it…. I actually liked the car ;-)

  32. Another Ian says:

    “I thought of painting one car in improvised “camo” that way as the dull finish and low specular reflection would be features… but then thought better of it…. I actually liked the car ;-)”

    Open this carefully


  33. Ossqss says:

    @EM, don’t forget for a few extra bucks at Harbor Freight you can get the full replacement warranty on a sander like my neighbor did on the grinder. He went through 7 in a month cutting those containers out, no questions asked.

    BTW, my friend’s son had his entire pickup coated with Rhino coat. Looks great and never needs waxed ;-)

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