Friday, June 7, 2013

FJ Cruiser: Platform - Let the Painting Commence!

This morning I finished the last of the masking, and set up all the parts for painting.  Some parts are going to be half orange gloss enamel, half rubberized deck coating (the surfaces the dogs will walk on); some are all orange enamel (having no exposed horizontal surfaces).  The half and half parts I laid out on sawhorses, orange side up (since I'm painting that first).  The all-orange parts I hung up, so that I could paint them in their entirety in one go.

First step: primer.  I followed the recommendation of the “paint expert” at Home Depot, and bought two quarts of oil-based primer that's good for both wood and bare metal (that's a combo that's hard to find).  The orange enamel is water-based, and depends on the primer for good adhesion to the metal-and-wood construction of the platform.

I figured that putting the coat of primer on would take maybe an hour, hour and a half.  It ended up taking four and a half hours, and by the end of that non-stop marathon brushing session, my arms are mighty tired.  I'm pausing to rest them between sentences here :)

It's been a good many years since I did any serious painting.  I got a big surprise when I started using the primer this morning – it wasn't thin and watery like the primers I used years ago.  The consistency of this primer reminds me of cornstarch-thickened clam chowder – the stirring stick would stand up in it for quite a while.  The coverage and adhesion of this stuff was just awesome compared to the primers I've used in the past.  It seems paint technology has come quite a way in the past twenty years or so!

Many years ago I had a job working for a slumlord in Trenton, New Jersey – a rotund Dutchman named Mr. Van Czak.  It was a horrible job, but Mr. Van Czak taught me quite a few things about lots of “handyman” subjects (and also a thing or two about women, but that's a subject for another post :).  One of the things he taught me was that you should always use a brush for applying primer.  If you must use a roller or a sprayer, use them only for the topcoat.  Why?  It's because a skilled painter wielding a good brush can “work” the paint into every nook and cranny on the surface.  Even surfaces that look smooth really have many small imperfections.  By brushing the same spot in multiple directions, the brush's bristles will work the paint into all these little places, resulting in better adhesion and no holes in the coating.  Rollers (but see note at the end of this post) and sprayers don't have this characteristic, and they will leave many minor imperfections in the paint coat.  But...if the primer coat is perfect (brushed on), then a roller or sprayer on the topcoat doesn't really cause a problem.

So I brushed on my primer, and worked the paint in just like Mr. Van Czak taught me, 45 years or so ago.  Here's what today's work looked like:

Some tricky masking, on the inside of this connector.  The piece of wood that fits in there must be removable, so both the inside of this connector and the mating wood part must be masked off.  The wood was easy, but on the inside of this connector was tricky!

Another tricky masking job: the hinge holes.  I never had to mask a hole before!  I did this by stuffing masking tape in there to completely cover the hole, then trimming the edge with my (very sharp) pocket knife.  I had to do eight of these - what a pain...

Hanging parts, on ropes rigged to pine trees, with steel wire risers and hooks I fabricated from 3/16 steel rod.  This all worked great, except it really pissed off our grey squirrel.  He sat up there in the center pine tree, high over my head, and hollered at me for hours...

The half-and-half parts, laid out orange-side up on sawhorses...

I'm hanging them from the points where they attach to the FJ. You can also see the hook I fabricated, slightly different for each part so that they hang correctly...

This is the biggest part by far, probably as much surface area as all the other parts put together.  It took me almost two  hours to paint this one piece!

All done with the primer (it's white).  Whew!

Those nuts and bolts are a real challenge to brush paint onto...

On rollers: I noted earlier why brushes do a better job at painting than rollers do.  When I was in the Navy, around 1974, I ran into a kind of paint roller that actually did the job as well as brushing.  I met this paint roller because of a job I was given as a punishment (nominally for looking unmilitary, but really because I pissed off the officer in charge of my group): for a month I was placed in charge of a group of Bosun's Mates as they repainted part of the ship.

If you haven't been in the Navy, then you probably don't know much about Bosun's Mates.  They're the people who keep the ship in shape, cleaning, painting, repairing rope works, etc.  Some Bosun's Mates are very bright and skilled people.  Many, however, are not.  In fact, the Bosun's Mates had a very well-deserved reputation for being closer to our evolutionary ancestors than most people.  Some of them really could drag their knuckles when they walked.  Some of them could lift hundred pound objects with their pinky fingers, while drunk.  Some of them could read, sort off.  Less of them could do arithmetic.  Being put in charge of a group of them was an unending challenge.

The first thing my group of Bosun's Mates did was to grind off the old paint in the area we were repainting.  This creates an ungodly noise, clouds of dust, and is generally awful.  The Bosun's Mates didn't seem to notice all this, though.  Then they cleaned the surface with a dilute acid (this is metal we're talking about).  Finally it was time to paint, and for that they broke out their electric paint roller.  This paint roller looked a bit like an over-sized electric drill with the roller holder sticking out from where the drill bit should be.  It didn't rotate, though - it vibrated, in a pattern designed to emulate the brush strokes of a skilled painter.  Very clever!  I tried it for a few minutes myself; it was easy to control, did a very nice job painting, but the vibration was really intense – far more intense than a palm sander, for example.  I could feel my whole arm going numb.  Once again, the Bosun's Mates didn't seem to notice.

On one break we took during the repainting, I noticed that the Bosun's Mates were calling their roller “Sheila”.  Naming their tools is not a normal Bosun's Mate behavior, so I asked them why.  One of them eagerly obliged with a detailed explanation, promptly making me very sorry I had asked.  It seems that soon after receiving the new rollers and noting their vibrations, the Bosun's Mates came up with an, er, alternative use for the the roller – as an aid for masturbation.  All of my Bosun's Mate team proceeded to tell me, in very graphic terms, about just how wonderful this new roller was for it's off-label use.  I'll spare you the details, except to note that they were quite clever about making use of this tool.  It was very clear that they had all had a lot of personal experience with the roller, developing a close personal relationship with it.  So good was the roller, in fact, that they decided the rollers (the ship had four of them) each needed their own feminine names. 

If you've never been in the Navy, that conversation and its subject will probably seem unlikely and outlandish, but trust me, in the U.S. Navy of the '70s, that was behavior well within norms.  With women on ships in today's Navy, I suspect the culture has shifted just a tad.  Maybe.  I debated about whether to pass the word on the off-label roller use to the guy in charge of the Bosun's Mates, but in the end I decided not to.  If they wanted to have a romantic relationship with a paint roller, that was their business...

I've never seen one of those vibrating paint rollers for sale anywhere.  A quick Google search didn't find any, either, though I did find this patent talking about the same general idea.