Enter keywords or a search phrase below:

You Can Repair Metallic Paint

In a recent issue, several individuals expressed interest in expanded coverage of paint finishing/polishing techniques.

When our Editor came knocking at my shop door, asking for my input on said subject, who am I to refuse His Lordship’s royal request?

I look at it this way: I get to help out, show a viable method of achieving a quality finish, and smack an old wives’ tale out of the park — all at the same time .

Sounds like a winner to me!

Murphy (of Murphy’s Law fame) came to visit the shop during a painting session, in the form of my youngest child.

She opened the door to the paint booth on a windy day — the “Paint In Progress, Do Not Enter!” sign on prominent display in large block letters evidently did not register within the confines of her college-educated mind — Yup! Dirt and debris had found its way onto what was once a pristine finish.

I can hear the screams now: “This idiot is going to sand a metallic paint job! You can’t do that!”

Yes … you … can!

The trick is to sand the entire body to maintain the consistency of the color.

When metallics or pearls are propelled through your airbrush, they tumble every which way possible, and land accordingly. They stick to the surface on the body in the same manner. Be it the first coat or the last, they are sticking up however they choose to land.

With me so far?

If you were to lay down 12 mist coats of color, and wet-sand the thickness of two of those coats on all the parts, you are now down to 10 coats overall, correct?

As long as you have wet-sanded lightly and evenly, all of the parts are evenly matched colorwise. Be it the eleventh or the seventh coat being removed, they were tumbling out of the gun on every coat. Wet-sanding will flatten the paint surface; no argument there.

However, when polished or cleared, the quality and properties of the metallics and pearls come back up to the forefront of the finish. You lose nothing — be it sheen or depth and richness of color — by doing so!

And with Murphy’s laughter echoing through the shop, it’s time to go to work!
Thanks to Murphy’s Law, “Dirt and debris had found its way onto what was once a pristine finish,” says Donn Yost. How to fix this metallic paint job?
All the tools that are needed to complete the task at hand. Starting in the upper left-hand corner: Micromesh rubber-backed polishing cloths in the following grits: 3200, 4000, bottom of the bowl, 6000, & upper right-hand corner, 8000 & 12000. In the bowl? Cold water with a dash of Original Dawn dish detergent. Missing from the photo are patience, focus, a gentle touch, and more patience.
Be sure to do all your work under adequate lighting – preferably fluorescent – because almost all show halls have it. What you show under, you must build under!

Starting with the 3200, dip it into the bowl of soapy water and lightly sand the entire body, hood, valances, etc. Watch the edges and high points to avoid burning through the paint. It can and will happen on occasion!

Should you do so, no big deal. A couple of overall mist coats will cover up the burn marks. Be sure to wash and rinse the body and parts periodically to remove the sanding debris. Also, dry it off and inspect it frequently to make sure you haven’t missed any dirt or other imperfections. Continue this process with each grit, up to and through the 12000.
Home stretch, working the 12000, and I am pleased with the results. Surface is as smooth as the proverbial newborn’s behind. There are a few spots that will need to be touched in with a mist coat or two, but as I stated earlier: not a big deal! I mixed this paint batch on the thin side to begin with.
These are the same areas that were photographed initially. The debris and inconsistencies in the finish have been removed. Yes, the finish is flat in appearance. However, after the clearcoat is applied, the depth and richness of the color will appear. Coupled with a mirrorlike sheen, this will have a show-quality finish after it has flashed out and undergone a light polish-out.
The clear has just been applied. Unfortunately, the photo was a wee bit darker than I’d have liked. One can, however, plainly see the reflection of the electrical box and lighting fixture in the roof’s finish. A bit of wet-sanding to level the finish, then a polish-out will follow. See? It can be done, and with relative ease at that!
This is a bit of a side step, if only to prove a point. A young modeler recently asked me on line to explain how he could achieve a show finish. I explained the steps in detail, and lo and behold, the boo birds began to descend: “You don’t have to take it up to 12000.“ “Ridiculous, 600 is plenty, you won’t even see 12000 alter the surface!” And it went downhill from there!

Look at the lower-right portion of the roof. You can see the scuff marks left by the 12000. Now direct your attention to the center of the deck lid. Burn-through? Uh-uh! That is the dried residue of the clear that was removed when I lightly sanded the trunk with the 12000. And as as another old wives’ tale goes swirling down the drain, I leave you with the words of my Pap, who always said, “visibility lends to credibility.”
Break out the bowl, fill it with cold, clean water, add the dish detergent, and line up your polishing cloths again. I had little orange-peel in the clear finish, so I just started with 4000 and worked my way up to the 12000-grit. Again, sand gently; you want to smooth the surface, not gouge it! Be sure to watch the edges too, and wash and rinse frequently in these steps.

Here we have the body completely wet-sanded. The color looks much lighter in direct sunlight in the photo, but is still that deep, beautiful shade of teal.

I had yet to wash and rinse the body, hence the white residue that you can see, which was left from the final 12000 go-around.

Side note: Periodically clean your polishing cloths by scrubbing them with a toothbrush using Dawn Original Blue dish detergent. This removes unwanted debris and paint particles that could be sanded into your next finish, thereby scratching the surface and having your mouth washed out with soap for cussing.
Now let the fun begin! The body has been washed off, rinsed thoroughly, then blown dry with compressed air. Taking a dab of the Scratch X, I began to gently polish the surface. Gently polish the X into a haze, then follow it with the Novus 2. The Novus will remove any leftover haze and bring about a brilliant shine. Whenever you polish a surface, be sure to use soft squares of cloth. Too harsh of a cloth can and will leave scratches in the finish. Work a section at a time, moving the cloth constantly.

For those of a braver nature, Scratch X will remove light orange-peel. However, it can and will burn through if too much pressure
is applied. Better served with the sanding cloths!
The only thing polished here at the moment is the roof. There is quite a difference between the deck lid and the roof at this time. Hmmm ... I see a cable box, a gutter, electrical feed lines to the house, brick wall, etc. in the reflection of the roof. At this time in direct sunlight, the color appears completely different, but is simply an illusion.
Well, here it is: Glass-smooth, consistent color with no loss of metallic brilliance or flattening of the metallics. Another old wives’ tale just bit the dust. The color is Testor’s Teal enamel, cleared with Testor’s Top Coat Clear.
Here we have a lower hood valance that has been cleared with Testor’s Wet Look Clear.

Oh ... excuse me? What was that thud, you ask? No problem, that was Old Man Ken Hamilton falling off his walker. He passed out from shock when I mentioned I had used lacquer. Bob Downie will be along shortly to take him back to the Old Lacquer Users Home For The Aged.

The aforementioned method works just as well with lacquer as it does with the enamels.


Read and share your comments on this article

Want to leave a comment?

Only registered members of are allowed to leave comments. Registration is FREE and only takes a couple minutes.

Login or Register now.


50-plus great reader tips!