Sanding, striping and rubbing your car

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If the finish used requires sanding, go easy, and use No. 400 paper with plenty of water. The No. 400 grade sandpaper is available only in artificial grit. Sandpapers of the waterproof variety for automotive work are made with two kinds of abrasive—garnet, a natural mineral, and a manufactured abrasive. The papers with the manufactured abrasives generally cost a little more but give longer service.

The cost involved in sanding down and rubbing out a spray job is something to consider. Many manufacturers of both lacquers and synthetic enamels produce products which are entirely satisfactory after spraying without any further attention except, perhaps, rubbing to bring up the lustre. And even this is not always required.

Still, there are many old-time finishers who prefer to finish a job with light sanding and rubbing. Power sanding is labour saving, but on a finish job will cut too fast unless extreme care is exercised. During the light final sanding with clean water, wipe the body carefully. This wiping should be done as the work progresses.

Spraying car paint

Then, in order to remove slight scratches and imperfections, apply a mist coat of thinner. This will momentarily soften the surface and flow out the scratches. To make this mist coat most effective, it should be sprayed on at right angles to the sanding strokes.

That means that on regular lacquer jobs the gun will be moved from top to bottom of each panel (see left) for areas that are sanded from front to back. By spraying in this manner, the air pressure from the gun tends to "blow" the scratches together as the thinner softens the surface.

After this coat of thinner, the car should be allowed to stand over night. If rubbing is started too soon, the greatest brilliance and depth of finish cannot be obtained.

In rubbing the finish, follow carefully the directions that come with the compound you choose to use. There are a number of good rubbing compounds on the market. Be sure to use one that does not scratch the surface but which brings it to a high lustre. Such compounds are generally applied with a piece of cheese cloth wrung out in clear water and then saturated with the compound. The material is removed with a dry clean rag. Never use cloths that are dirty or that have accumulated any grit.

If a power polisher is used, be sure to keep it moving about over the surface. Power polishers are excellent when used intelligently. However, jobs have been ruined by a careless workman letting the buffer run too long in one spot. The power polisher should be so held that the revolving pad makes contact toward the outer edge—thus giving a stroking effect instead of a rotary rub.

But even with a power polisher a certain amount of hand work will have to be done in corners and other places where the machine cannot reach.


The last operation before reassembling the car is the work of striping. This can be done in several ways, but regardless of materials or equipment used practice on something before trying to stripe the car.

As to materials, remember this: if you stripe with a lacquer, it can't be wiped off in case a mistake is made. But with an oil base enamel, you have a chance of wiping the stripe off and starting over if the job doesn't suit you. So, until you are an experienced striper, we would suggest the use of an oil base enamel.

The foregoing remarks apply when the striping is done with a brush. However, if you wish to stripe with a gun, masking tape can be used on the mouldings, leaving a space of the desired width where the lacquer spray may lodge. But this system entails considerable work.

In the long run it is wise to buy a pair of high quality striping brushes or striping tool, get some scrap pieces of material to practice on, and then practice.

Many expert stripers and all sign painters use a special lettering paint which adheres well, dries with a good gloss, and does not injure the surface underneath. This latter is extremely important when it becomes necessary to correct a mistake made by a slip of the brush.

Sign painting requires special skill and practice, and those interested in this extra activity should investigate a regular sign-painters' school.

The material for striping—whether lacquer or oil base enamel—should be on hand in quantity sufficient for the entire job before starting. The best striping is done quickly. When striping, one brush is left in the striping material while the other is being used. By having the supply of material in a cup on a palette—or little tray—you have something convenient on which to work excess material from the brush before bringing it in contact with the work.

With the thumb and the next two fingers gently but firmly grip the brush—about the way a pen is held—and with the remaining fingers guide the hand along the moulding. The striping should be started at the right front edge of the hood. One line at a time should be run as quickly as possible all the way around the car and finished at the left front edge of the hood.

When striping any surface whatever, each stripe should be completed in one swinging stroke. As it is obvious that striping is but one coat work, very little polishing should be done on the striping.

Refinishing wheels

In refinishing metal wheels on the best jobs, it is well worth the trouble and expense to send them out for sand blasting if they are in very bad condition. However, with patience, a motor-driven wire brush or sander will get them in shape for refinishing.

Another method frequently used is that of boiling them in a caustic solution, an old oil barrel sometimes being used as the vat. By filling this with caustic solution and boiling the wheels in it—possibly two at a time—all old paint and grease will be removed. Then the wheels should be rinsed with clear water, rust sanded off, and the entire wheel wiped off with a rag moistened with high-test gasoline.

If the wheels are in fair condition, it will be sufficient to sand them well all over. A simple pipe stand is made of 1-inch iron pipe and is a big help when working on wheels. The horizontal pipe on which the wheel rests should be about 12 inches long and 40 inches from the floor. The cap on the end of this pipe will be sufficient to keep wheels from slipping off while being turned, provided a little care in handling is exercised.

Regardless of the material of which the wheels are made the next operation is that of spraying on one or more coats of combined oil primer and surfacer. The exact number of coats will depend upon the condition of the surface. After the last coat has been applied, the wheels should be allowed to dry over night. They should be lightly sanded with paper no coarser than No. 280.

Then they may be finished by spraying on two or three coats of finish of the desired shade. Many owners like their wheels striped; and this operation will be handled as desired before the wheels are put back on the car.

Radiator, top, and rims

No matter how skilfully you may refinish a car, if you fail to take care of such parts as the top, radiator, rims, tires, instrument board and similar parts, your job will not satisfy.

It is good policy to remove tires from rims while the car is in the shop. The tires should receive a coat of either white, grey or black tire paint. Such paint is available from most paint supply stores in pints, quarts, and larger sizes. It is brushed on.

Rims should be cleaned with a motor-driven wire brush where tire meets the metal and given two coats of aluminium paint—brushed or sprayed on.

Tops should be washed thoroughly, dried, and given two coats of top dressing. Allow 12 hours for the first coat to dry. The leather of open cars should be similarly treated, but with special seat dressing.

Wooden bows for the tops of open cars should be sanded smooth, and if natural finish, given two coats of spar varnish.

Trunks should be refinished the same as the top, if of imitation leather. If of sheet metal, they should be refinished the same as the body.

Radiator cores should be sprayed with a thin mixture of turpentine and lamp black. Never lacquer the core of the radiator or use any heavy paint or enamel on it. Thick paint will insulate the radiator from the cooling effect of the wind and cause the car to boil.