Chapter 25 – Big Detour

Most of this post is simply a copy and paste of an email that I sent to my buddy Dave Berenholtz in response to a question he asked me about flying in primer and paint choice:

I’ve gone off the rails yesterday and today going down a long rabbit hole assessing paint systems. I’m trying to do a good cost-benefit analysis and of course acceptable characteristics of each system.  I have to say that I see a lot of fine cracks on canards at RR, etc. and while most all pass the 10-20 foot fine looking test, but get up closer . . . well, fine cracks start coming into view on a lot of these planes.

And then there’s the inevitable chips and dings that show up as well. I don’t plan on necessarily escaping any chips and dings with ANY certain paint, but one of my main requirements is maintenance. In other words, refnishing the chips and dings with a paint that will hold for another year or two before other chips and dings show up. I also see a lot of these planes that look good from a bit away, then when you look at the edges of cowlings, canopies and hatches, they are dinged up pretty good. Thus, why I want to have quick, VIABLE touchup capability.

I also pondered on the question about flying in primer.  I know many builders do it and it’s the en vogue thing to do, but I just can’t bring myself to do it. I had a good discussion on this with another good buddy of mine, Greg, who isn’t an airplane builder but is very smart in general and very smart on cars. He noted the trend of car restorers to get vehicles restored, on reworked chassis, beautiful engine & awesome wheels, driving around in primer waiting for that “available” weekend to paint it… which of course never comes. The video Nate Mullins just posted on FaceBook of his wife climbing out of the back of his still-in-primer plane is a perfect example. No offense meant towards Nate, he’s an awesome builder and very knowledgeable Canardian, it just shows how with our human natures, we tend towards certain characteristics.  And I just want to avoid that construct altogether.

In other words, I would rather select a paint system that looks REALLY GOOD, is maintainable and easily reapplied if/when I need to do any refinishing for mods or repairs; rather THAN have AWESOME paint that comes a year after I’m flying, requiring me to:

  •  take my airplane offline for a good while, meaning NO flying while I paint it
  •  add complexity, difficulty and logistics in breaking down, cleaning (bugs, oil, tar, etc.), prepping (and re-sanding!) an operational plane for paint
  • be flying for my first 6-12 months in a not-so-great looking plane (e.g. primer)

Moreover, I’m not married to either roll on or spraying, but obviously roll on would be great since I could finish it here at home (without building a makeshift paint booth!). I am thinking seriously, for both cost and weight in going Burt’s route and doing a minimal paint job on the bottom of the wings and canard, then going more serious with top stuff.

Additionally, I’ve added a new categories to my tracking spreadsheet where I’ve accounted for all the major stuff I would need for each system, which allows me to show a head to head comparison for costs, painter characteristics, and vendors (where to buy).

In fact, today I had a long detailed conversation with my boat people up in Rhode Island. I relayed all my specs and requirements (above) and they confirmed that the MONO-urethane would be a really good way to go for me. Yes, it is slightly less hard-shelled and has slightly less glossy-ness than 2-part polyurethane, but it’s MUCH easier to paint without being finicky or needing self-contained breathing apparatus (yeah, I just about killed myself painting my motorcycle, even with gear… not good!), it is much more easily repaired and touched up, and it really does look good. So good in fact, they said that beer bets could easily be won for people trying to pick out the mono vs 2-part systems if they were side by side… very difficult to tell.

Plus, for the garage/backyard builder, both of the paint experts I was talking to said that mono-urethane, or single stage polyurethane, will make me very happy and fit the bill for what I’m doing. Thus, I’ve narrowed my choices down to two boat paints that can either be rolled on or sprayed: 1) Epifanes mono-urethane, or 2) Pettit EZ Poxy polyurethane (com’n, how can you pass up a paint named EZ Poxy?!).

The scratch test on Epifanes beats out a number of harder shelled 2-part polyurethanes, so, it is tough stuff. A little bit more expensive than I was looking for, but not too crazy. Probably about $500-600 out the door for a good paint job. The advantage for the Pettit is it’s less expensive, easier to apply and would be less total weight on the airplane after painting, albeit slightly more difficult to repair and maintain afterwards (doesn’t blend quite as easily as the Epifanes).

With either system I can still shoot some auto paint on top of it for some cool accents. Still, a fair bit more research to do though before I make my final choice.

Ok, back to some “real” airplane building!


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