EAA/Sportair's Painting and Finishing Workshop

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Garrett and I attended this workshop in Griffin, Georgia on October 15 and 16, 2005. We learned quite a bit at this workshop, and came away from it with the (potentially delusional) idea that "yes, we can DO this!" If you'd like, you can see some pictures that we took at the workshop. The workshop was a blend of "lecture" (i.e. sitting around talking and asking questions) and hands-on (i.e. Dave turned us loose with dangerous chemicals and equipment).

Dave runs a business in Griffin very close to the Alexander Technical Center. When we gathered at Dave's hangar, we entered to see several planes in various stages of paint preparation or completion. After a brief orientation, we tried our hands at the various techniques for surface preparation. This is the tedious part of painting; the glory comes later. We used air sanders, hand tools, different kinds of sandpaper to prepare the "vintage" Cessna 150 flaps that he uses for this workshop. We learned about corrosion, what it looks like, and how to remove it.

After the initial prep work, we learned how to wash the aluminum with special soaps, and then etched the surface. The etch went on with a pressure washer. This made for quite an overspray area! The area we worked in had plenty of room, but if you go to this workshop, don't wear your favorite clothes!

Every student got a chance to put primer on his the flap that he had prepped (actually there were about 6 flaps for about 10 students, so we did have to share. Not a problem though!) In addition to putting primer on the flap, each student also was issued a 36" square of .032 aluminum sheet for further exercises. If you were careful, you could avoid getting overspray on you.

After the primer cured (we used two-part epoxy primer) then Dave showed us masking techniques. We learned several important things, like how to mask for a checkerboard rudder and how to mask numbers and letters. After a while of showing us how, he turned us loose with masking tape and razor blades to let us try our own. In the mean time, Dave was mixing up the finish coat paint (bright red!) for us to paint the flaps and aluminum sheets.

When we got to paint the finish coat, we got to use both a standard paint gun and an HVLP system. Garrett and I had a hard time getting a good finish using the standard gun (it seems much more difficult to control), but with the HVLP gun we achieved quite a good finish. Probably, we'll end up using one of those to paint this plane.

While letting the finish coat set, we had a final discussion session and talked over what we'd learned. Altogether, it was a very enlightening workshop and both Garrett and I learned quite a bit.

And to top it off, one of the students flew in to Griffin in his beautiful Cessna 195, so we made a point of seeing him depart.

A great weekend!

To summarize: here are Dave's recommended prep/paint steps:

  • Paint removal (obviously unnecessary with new construction)
  • Wash
  • Etch
  • Alodyne
  • Prime
  • Finish Coat
Many builders around here use an abbreviated version of this list:
  • Wash
  • Prime
  • Finish Coat
  • Sand
  • Repeat finish coat and sand until happy.
So far, everyone that's used the abbreviated process seems to have paint that looks good and has been holding up just fine, even after 5-6 years in the air. Conclusions? Not really sure, but worth thinking about.

Conclusion: Useful class if you are planning to paint or trying to decide if you want to. Does a good job of balancing hands-on experience with good advice and discussion.

  • Dave's goal in teaching this class is to make you feel like you can paint your project or make you decide that it's enough of a hassle that you should pay someone else to do it. If you're trying to decide if you should paint your plane, or trying to figure out how you can do a good job, then this is a good class for you to attend.

Contact Information and Cost:

  • Web address: http://www.sportair.com
  • Mailing address: EAA Aviation Center, P.O. Box 3086, Oskosh, WI 54903-3086
  • Cost (at time of review): $289 for an EAA member, or $329 for a non-EAA member. (No discounts for family members.)

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