Tech Articles

Tech articles about anything related to Eastwood Tools, Paints, and Chemicals.

  • How To Paint & Set Up Your Spray Gun With Kevin Tetz

    How To Paint & Set Up Your Spray Gun
    With Kevin Tetz

    In September of 2013 Kevin Tetz from the Paintucation DVDs did a live stream and demonstration at Eastwood HQ in Pottstown, PA. If you missed it you can watch the whole thing on YouTube as Part 1 and Part 2, or just read our handy summary here covering all the topics he talked about including the live questions and answers.

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    Compressor requirements
    A question that comes up a lot on the Eastwood forums and tech lines is “how big of a compressor do I need to paint a car?” Can you paint a car with a 2hp 15 gallon home compressor? Yes. Should you? No because you aren’t going to have enough air, or the clean dry air you need to atomize the paint for a proper glossy finish. A 2 stage, 60 gallon tank compressor with a 3.5hp motor should be considered a good starting point if you are planning on painting cars, preferably with a cast iron cylinder. And you need to go out of your way to be sure you have clean dry air. A larger tank and 2 stage pump means the compressor doesn’t have to run as often, and the air can cool down. Compressing air makes it hot, and the moisture gets trapped in it. Letting it sit in the tank lets it cool and the water sinks to the bottom.

    Air Supply Plumbing
    A lot of guys who have a good sized compressor, and an expensive high quality desiccant filtration and air drying system still complain about bad quality, moist air. One of the reasons for this is having the filter and water trap too close to the compressor. You need at least 20 feet, and preferably 50 feet so the air can cool and dry after being compressed. If you have a small shop it’s not feasible to just run 50 feet of pipe in a straight line from the compressor to the pain booth, but you can cheat.
    The trick is to run 10 feet of pipe vertically, up and down, up and down, until you have 50 feet of pipe in about 5 feet of space. On this diagram A is the compressor (in the rafters), B is your desiccant filter (also up high), and C is a drain valve at the lowest point in the plumbing.

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    By cheating it vertically you create low spots where the water will naturally collect, and by putting the filter up high you are helping it do its job of separating it from the air. The best way to plumb the shop is with a “halo” style system. Run a loop of large diameter pipe around the perimeter of the shop, up to 2 inches, with 3/4 inch pipes dropping down to work areas where you need them. The pipe then becomes a secondary air storage tank, increasing your supply of air. Then if you slope the whole system downward, with a drain at the lowest part of the drop, and your regulator slightly above it, gravity will help you dry the air.

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    Fast Pipe Shop Plumbing
    Modular air line systems, like the Fast Pipe system from Eastwood, make is very easy to plumb your entire shop with air. With its easy to cut tubing, easy to connect fittings, and aluminum construction is promises much cleaner air than the old black iron threaded tubing that was formerly the industry standard. Black iron and rust inside, and tiny flakes of iron or rust can find their way into the paint. These new systems use aluminum tubes, coated inside and out, to resist corrosion and deliver cleaner air. These systems were originally created for hospitals and the medical industry, so you know they provide pure air.

    Refrigeration systems
    If you have an air aftercooler, do you still need 50 feet of air line? - No. Professional refrigeration systems typically are plumbed in right after the compressor, and before the tank. The air comes out, hot and wet, and gets super cooled before getting to the tank. A moisture separator is built into it and takes the water out as it cools. These systems are expensive though, and most home hobbyists aren’t going to have them, it’s more of a professional body shop set up. What has been done by some guys, with some degree of success, is to build your own out of an old kitchen refrigerator. Make several coils of copper tubing that fit in the freezer compartment. Make a hole in the side of the freezer for the tubing to go through, and back out. Hook the line from the compressor, to the freezer, then back to the compressor tank. Now not only do you have a way to cool the air, you can keep beer and lunch in the refrigerator part.

    Air Hoses
    Because you need enough air volume, as well as pressure, it’s important to use a big enough hose. Never use an air hose smaller than 3/8 inch diameter, and 20-25 feet maximum between the hard line and the gun. With too long of a hose you are going to have a dramatic air pressure drop between the regulator at the wall and your gun. Use a good flexible air hose too, so you don’t get tangled, or end up having to move awkwardly while trying to spray.

    Air Fittings
    It’s also important to use full sized 3/8 inch inside diameter air fittings on the gun and hose. Using 1/4 inch or 5/16 inch fittings or hoses can dramatically affect the spray coming out of your gun. With the same settings, same gun, same paint the fan pattern can be up to 4 inches smaller top to bottom, just with the wrong fitting.

    Humidity and Time of Day
    When you are painting, you often can’t plan what the weather is going to be like. Summers can be hot and humid and ruin a paint job, even with the best set up and technique. Use the time of day to your advantage. Typically mornings are the coolest, least humid, and most bug free time of day. Get all your set up done the night before and wake up with the sun to shoot first thing in the AM.

    Spray Guns
    There is no need to think you have to spend a bundle to get a spray gun that will give you quality results. Learning the proper techniques and using them is more important than spending hundreds of dollars on a spray gun. Kevin Tetz’s 68 Mustang show car “Jaded” was not only painted with all Eastwood paints and primers, he shot it with the Eastwood Concours Pro and Evolution spray guns. On the floor at the SEMA car show, with other professionally built cars and even Riddler award winners, the paint on “Jaded” was just as good.

    Technique Dos and Don’ts

    A common mistake people make is in being lazy, or reaching too far ahead of themselves, and not keeping the spray gun perfectly perpendicular to the surface being painted.

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    When the spray nozzle is not held 90 degrees from the surface, the spray pattern causes one end to get too much paint, and one end to get too little.

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    Hold the gun just right and you get an even spray with perfect edges on your fan pattern.

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    A good way to practice this technique is to just tape a cheap 4” paint brush to the end of the gun. Practice keeping the brush just off the surface, and perfectly aligned.

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    Another mistake people make when they start painting is standing in one spot and just swinging their arm across the panel. This results in a curved arc of paint, not a straight line.

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    Kevin pulls an assistant out of the audience, and teaches him the correct way to work his way across the panel. Standing with your feet slightly apart, hold your arm straight, and move side to side at the hips, so the gun follows a straight line across the panel. Done correctly the gun will follow the tape on the box, or the black arrow, from one side to the other.

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    In order to maintain the correct straight line, you may have to bend your wrist a little at either end of your pass. But with enough practice it will become second nature, and you’ll do it instinctually. Another thing you can practice with the paint brush taped to the gun is your overlap. Proper overlap is typically about 50% from pass to pass. With the paint brush/spray gun practice tool you can move along the cardboard practice panel just like you were painting. Since the brush is about 1/2 the size of the fan pattern, you want to move the width of the brush with each pass.

    On Gun Regulators
    Small air pressure regulators are available and often used between the gun and the air hose. But before committing to using it like that, make sure it doesn’t cause you to hold your hand at an unnatural position.



    It may seem okay now, but think about how it’s going to feel after you spray the 3 coats of base coat and 3 coats of clear all the way around the car. A better solution may be to use a regulator on the gun, and at the wall, then adjust the one on the wall until you get the pressure reading you want at the gun. Now you can take it off, and the gun is much easier to maneuver.

    Practice Paint
    For the sake of practice it’s best to use something completely non-toxic, and paint something free and disposable. Today Kevin is painting a cardboard box using water based craft paint you can pick up anywhere. This makes cleanup super easy, and you don’t need to wear a respirator to spray it.
    Open up the fluid control valve on the gun all the way and spray an example. If the spray pattern is not roughly football shaped, adjust the fan pattern control until it is. The dot at the top is wrong, the shape below it is correct.


    A peanut shaped spray pattern usually means the air pressure is too high, and the air horns are pinching in the edges.


    A banana shaped pattern typically means one of the air horns is clogged, the one the curve is bending towards.


    A teardrop shaped pattern means your nozzle itself is partially clogged, or has some sort of dirt caught in it.


    Cleaning a New Spray Gun
    New spray guns are not ready to paint. Typically they are coated inside and out with an anti-corrosion chemical that needs to be cleaned off in order to get the best results. Since you don’t know exactly what they use, its best to just clean the gun like you would after using it. If you don’t clean it you can have problems ranging from dirt in the paint, to chemical incompatibility.

    Leap Frogging a Car
    You may not realize this, but it is important to start painting the car in the proper place, and work around it in the right order for best results. The order Kevin likes to use, which he calls “Leap frogging” or the push-pull method, is this: start at the edge of the roof and work toward the middle, from the other side start at the middle and work toward the edge, down the sailpanel, other sail panel, across the rear decklid and trunk, quarter panel, back to the other side quarter panel, door, other side door, fender, other side fender, hood, front of the car and done. This method means the edge of the paint is as wet as possible when you overlap it.

    If you start in the middle of the roof and paint to the edge, you let that edge dry for several extra minutes before overlapping it and painting the other side of the roof. Then you have to apply the overlap extra wet to make up for the drying that has occurred. This is especially important since the roof of the car gets some of the worse that weather and nature can throw at it over the years, so you want it to be extra tough. Many pros do start in the middle and work toward the edge, but until you are a pro, Kevin suggests his method.

    Finding the Wet Edge
    How do you find the wet edge, when spraying the 2nd coat? Or spraying paint over a similar colored primer/sealer? Or when spraying clear? – Well, there is no trick, or easy way to do it. You just have to find the right angle, and look for the reflection of the shop lights, or sun if you are outside. You may have to move back and forth and up and down till you find it, but just keep at it until you find the light.


    This is one of the reasons why you ought to be wearing eye protection when painting. With eye protection you can get your face right up close to the body as you spray and see the reflections. Even if you just wear a cheap pair of safety goggles and throw them away afterwards, they will keep the bounce back paint out of your eyes. Modern urethanes cure by the isocyanates reacting to moisture in the air. If it gets into your eyes, or other mucus membranes, it will start to harden and cure, and you don’t want that.

    Painting Fast
    How is it that guys on reality TV shows can paint so fast? Is the film speeded up? – No, it’s not sped up. They are just good and have the techniques down. The first thing to consider is if you have enough air, and at the right pressure. If that checks out, then the most important aspect is having the gun in the sweet spot distance from the panel. Get the distance right and you can sweep back and forth almost unbelievably quick and get good coverage and perfect flow out. Also make sure you have a big enough tip on the gun, so you are getting good flow.

    Spraying Primer
    What size tip do you use for spraying primer? – It depends. Primer surfacer, which is viscous and high build is going to need a big tip – a 1.8 or 2.0. Polyester high build need a big fat tip like a 2.0 or larger. Other primers can be sprayed with anything bigger than a 1.6.

    Why use a sealer? – The point of using a sealer is to have a continuous color coat to apply your top coat to. If the primer coat is already a solid color, and close to the color you are applying, you can eliminate the sealer coat. On the other hand, if you have a spotty primer coat, spraying 1 coat of sealer will mean eliminating several coats of top coat in order to get good coverage. Anytime you can eliminate a coat of paint and the solvents in it, you should.

    For application over bare metal, after media blasting for instance, Kevin recommends epoxy sealer. Not only does it protect really well, and goes on easily, and can be coated over for up to a week afterwards without having to sand.

    Soda Blasting
    What has to be done to remove the coating left after soda blasting a car? – It is very important to use a cleaner after soda blasting to remove the thin layer of sodium left on the metal. The film will actually inhibit rust for a short period of time, but it has to be removed completely before any primer or paint goes on. Eastwood’s After Blast is a good way to clean and etch the metal between blasting and paint.
    Of course do to the nature of this unscripted, live streaming demonstration, Kevin touched on a ton of topics. For more in depth explanation of paint and body matters the Paintucation DVDs are a great place to start, or the many other videos Eastwood and Kevin have done over the past few years now on YouTube.

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  • Starbird Rod & Custom Live Choptop Workshop- How to Chop a '56 Lincoln Mark II

    At the 51st Annual Darryl Starbird National Rod and Custom Car Show over the February 20th-22nd weekend Darryl Starbird and Star Kustom Shop chopped a 1956 Lincoln Mark II. The chop began Friday when the show gates opened and ended when the gates closed Sunday afternoon. The event was held to showcase and educate the public on how master customizers lower the lid to enhance the profile and look of automobiles.  Click Here To Read Full Post...
  • Custom Built Tailgate for Pile House

    Possibly the biggest undertaking yet on this truck was making the new custom bed for Project Pilehouse. To quote Ron Covell in a metal shaping class at Eastwood headquarters; "I think those bedsides were the single largest pieces I've ever seen bead rolled in my life!". The bed was definitely the largest part of a vehicle I've fabricated from scratch.

    So when the time came to start designing the tailgate for the bed next, I initially thought "oh this will be simple, it's small and will be just like the front panel of the bed". I was sorta right, but the difference is that an added layer of difficulty was added when I decided I wanted the tailgate to actually function AND be as clean and "sanitary" looking as the rest of the bed. You see, I'm a bit jaded when it comes to my opinion on styling on custom cars, and I often tend to want to do things the "hard way" so they look better than what I see the majority do to their projects. This means I am also normally working out of my comfort or skill level. I know what I DON'T want and what I think will look "right", but making it all a reality can take some help from others here at Eastwood.

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    On this tailgate project I first established what I didn't want, no ugly chains or straps and hooks, and no obtrusive latches or handles that would detract from the cleanliness of the rear of the truck. I also didn't want it to look like a piece of plate was welded into the opening and I had a "wall" of flat metal on the back of the truck. I started by cutting a piece of cardboard and spent a day or two drawing on the board and standing back and staring at it before erasing it and drawing something different. It seemed no matter what letters or designs I put on the tailgate, nothing seemed right. The truck is a "Custom" and isn't really a Dodge, Chevy, etc anymore, and beadrolling "PILEHOUSE in the tailgate panel seemed a little too over the top. In the end I went back to the K.I.S.S. theory and mimicked the design on the front panel of the bed for continuity. No lettering was necessary, I'd let the small custom touches do the talking!

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    Once I had a design laid out, I measured the tailgate opening and cut out 1"x1.5" box tubing for the frame of the tailgate. These matched the size of the bed supports they'd be butting up against and would also keep the tailgate from becoming a giant boat anchor on the back of the truck.

    I first decided I wanted NO visible latches or handles on the tailgate. This meant latching the tailgate was going to be a little bit of a feat on its own. I enlisted the help of Product Designer and Eastwood R&D guru Mark R. here at Eastwood. He's helped me work through the engineering difficulties on most of my off-the-wall ideas on Pilehouse; luckily he likes a challege. Mark and I worked through a few ideas until we came up with the idea of putting keyed slots in the uprights of the outer uprights of the tailgate frame that would allow you to remove and lift the tailgate up and fold it down. The tailgate "latches" would be a perfectly cut opening on the bottom of the top tube of the tailgate on either end that would slip over the bed supports. Sounds simple right? Sorta.. lets show you how we did it!

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    We started by measuring the height of where our hinge pin needed to sit so we could see how long the slots in the side supports needed to be. The height of those slots were also determined by the height that the tubing needed to sit when the tailgate was closed PLUS the panel gap needed on the bottom and the sides, PLUS the sheet metal thickness of the outer "skin" we'd be adding later. We decided to use drill bits and round bar stock to set the height and gap on the tailgate uprights. If you keep these round bar or drill bits taped to the vehicle or at least nearby throughout the project you can quickly set pieces up each time you test fit them. With the height of the hinge point and the slot length traced out, Mark took the uprights to the mill and machined the slots. He also added a small indent on the bottom part of the frame so the hinge pin could slip fully seat through the upright.

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    I then took a piece of round DOM tubing that matched the upper rails on the bedsides and cut it to length to match the width between the bedsides. Next we cut out the underside of the tubing so it would fit tightly over the bed supports. This also gave us the final height the the tailgate frame uprights needed to be. We wanted the uprights and top cross brace to fit inside of the top tube for structural rigidity. I left the tailgate uprights tall so they would support the top tube and I clamped the side supports so they were square and gapped correctly. I then used the TIG 200 to partially weld the bottom cross bar and the two outer uprights together. This gave me a "U" shape we could begin to build off of. I then cut the outer supports down and welded the upper crossbar to the uprights.


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    The next issue that presented itself was the interference of the recessed design of the outer metal skin with the center uprights on the tailgate frame. The panel facing the outside of the truck would be rolled with our new forming dies to give a "pressed" look and the center of the panel would be offset to the inside. We decided to work around this by having Mark mill a channel into the center of the uprights so they would clear the panel. With everything test fit I welded the support braces in place and we had a complete tailgate frame.





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    With the frame built we test fit it into the opening with our round bar for our gap and made sure everything sat as it should. We then marked and drilled the holes for our pivot points at the bottom of the tailgate. We decided to use grade 8 bolts that we cut the heads off of for the hinge points. Butt welding these directly to the box tubing was asking for failure over time, so Mark machined up mounting blocks out of steel that snugly fit inside the box tubing and were drilled and tapped to accept the bolt. We used a drift to tap the blocks down into the box tubing until the tapped hole was lined up with the hole we drilled in the box tubing. I used the professional spot weld drill bit to cut an opening in the backside of the bed supports that I could plug weld the mounting block in place through with the MIG 175.

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    Now that the tailgate frame was mounted and functioned correctly we were ready to move on to making the sheet metal skin that would actually be visible when done. I started cutting two pieces of 18 gauge with an extra 1/2" of material on each side so we could fold the edges over and weld the two skins (inner and outer) together. I then realized I had to take the material thickness of the two pieces of 18 gauge out of the opening in the bottom of the top tube to allow them to slip up inside of the sandwich of round tubing, box tubing, and sheet metal. This was solved by a few passes over the opening with the flap disc on the angle grinder. We then test fit the panels onto the frame to make sure I liked the look of the simplified design before we continued.



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    The bead roller was mounted in the vice and we installed our new offset forming dies. These dies allow you to create a "pressed or raised" look in a panel depending on how you set the dies. I set the gap between the dies (determines the size of the "ramp" in the bead) pretty tight so we had a steep, deep pressed design like the bedsides. We ran both panels through the bead roller and then notched the corners of each panel to clear the pivot on the bed. We also marked and broke the 1/2" edges on the panels.

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    Here's everything test-fit together and this is the home stretch where everything really starts to come together that you had been working on! After checking my gaps I noted some spots on the corners that needs a little hammer and dolly work and removed the panels to prep them for final assembly. I cleaned everything with a red scuff pad and then wiped it all down with PRE to prepare for primer. I chose our black self etching primer to apply to the entire frame and the insides of the outer panels that would all be hidden. I laid 3-4 medium coats to assure I had every inch covered completely with primer.

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    I then assembled everything one last time and butted the edges of the skins where they were broke for welding. I set the panels up so there was little or no gap where the panels met so I could metal finish the sides to hide the weld seam that would be visible when the gate was open. I did small runs jumping around the seams until I had all sides welded solid and the two outer skins were one.

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    I then used a 36 grit sanding disc on the pneumatic 1/4" angle grinder to knock the welds down and blend them into the metal. I then went back and touched up any pits or low spots in the weld seam with additional weld and sanded the entire area with 80 grit paper on the palm DA sander. This gives a nice brushed finish that highlights any major high or low spots.

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    With the skin welded together and to the frame I test fit everything one more time and made witness marks of where the top tube sat when fully seated over the tailgate and ran a handful of short welds that connected the bottom of the tube to the top of the tailgate skin. I did this for a couple reasons, one was to secure the round tubing to the gate, the other was so the tubing wouldn't flex or bow from lifting up on the tailgate when opening. I didn't want to weld the entire seam as it was a little overkill and I wanted to avoid putting too much heat into the skin since I can't get behind the panels to hammer and dolly any heat shrinkage out. I will be adding a small bead of of our flexible, paintable seam sealer to these seams to give a finished look when the truck someday is painted. I plan to add some small high tensile wire tethers to the sides of the tailgate to allow it to sit open.



    The result is an ultra clean tailgate that matches the rest of the bed and I'm pretty excited as this is one of the last major exterior panels of the truck that we needed to make (I can almost see a light at the end of the tunnel!). I can't wait to see this all in paint and the questions that will surely come at a cruise-in or show... "How does the tailgate open or latch?".

    Next I need to decide on a bed floor, metal bead rolled, or a traditional wood slat floor? Weigh in on your opinion in the comments!


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  • How to Repair Clearcoat Defects

    Since the 1980s the automotive manufacturers have been painting cars with two stage, base coat/clear coat systems. That may not seem all that long ago to some of us older guys, but these cars are now 30 years old and entering prime project car territory. Because drivetrain technology had hit its stride by then, cars like 5.0 Mustangs are still running and driving just fine. But many cars from the 80s and 90s have clear coat paint that is just peeling and flaking off in chunks. Some cars, like the Plymouth Neon, seemed to have paint and clear coat failing before they were even off lease.  Click Here To Read Full Post...
  • How to repair a damaged Aluminum Alloy Wheel

    In this part of the country (Mid-Atlantic) cars, wheels especially take a beating during the winter. Slippery roads, corrosive salt on the roads, and potholes that could swallow a small child wreak havoc on your automobile. The cost to replace a damaged aluminum wheel can be VERY costly. In the classic car world wheels may be obsolete and impossible to replace if you have a damaged wheel. I decided to tackle repairing a badly damaged aluminum aftermarket wheel I have had stashed away for years.   Click Here To Read Full Post...