I was surprised at how much effort it takes for a good paint job. Despite knowing better in an academic sense, I still half expected it to be a matter of picking up a paint gun, pointing it at the part and pulling the trigger.
Fortunately for me I was there to document not paint, so I got to watch the guys working rather than expend a lot of elbo grease myself. The time that went into this project is literally measured in days, not hours. The project started by removing everything to be painted from the bike. This includes all body panels, the gas tank, the fenders, faring and numerous other small pieces. Everything that gets paint comes off the bike.
Then each piece is sanded to remove any old decals, pin-striping and built up paint. Any dents or cracks are glassed or filled in with putty and then sanded again. The putty and sand process is repeated until each piece is smooth and has the correct shape.
Finally ready for primer, the pieces get a final sanding to provide a key, or rough surface, for the primer to grip. Once keyed, each piece is degreased before priming.
With the first coat of primer on, the painter can go over the pieces with fine grit sand paper on a block looking for minute imperfections. These can be filled out by applying more primer and sanding again. These are imperfections too small feel or see before the glossy finish is applied. We’re talking about raising or lowering the surface by less that the height of a coat of paint.
Most of this can be done in a fairly relaxed area. Once the paint starts going on, it gets more serious. We move the parts into the paint booth when we start applying primer, but we’re still fairly relaxed. Once the real paint goes on, we try to limit the number of trips in and out of the paint booth. We’re careful to not let the door slam, or to do anything that could introduce particles into the air. The air filter fans are roaring so loud we can barely hear each other, causing much of our communication to be with hand signals.
Now comes the clear coat. This is the glossy finish that will show any imperfections. The pressure is really on now because this is the final step. Right or wrong, what we get with this step will be what we live with.
Fortunately we got a good paint job. Even with all of the precautions we took, I did see a couple of places where it looks like a speck of dust may have gotten on or in the clear coat. Hopefully those tiny little specks can be buffed out, but I was amazed to see any imperfections with all of the precautions we had taken.
The finished parts are beautiful. “Illusion Blue,” is the color we were using. There were times when I was holding my breath. A good name for the color I was turning would be, “anxiety blue.” Looking at those beautiful parts though, just call me, “envious green.”
— Guy Wheatley