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I have a 601hd that's being flown but has never been painted.I have no painting experience and there are no aircraft painters in my area.I am wondering if an auto body shop would be a reasonable option and an approximate cost. Any thoughts?
I will echo Ron's suggestion of tutoring the auto body shop on weight. Years ago a friend had a damaged wheel pant. When he priced the cost of a replacement, he took the old one to a well established auto body shop that he had used for car collision repairs in the past. When he got the wheelpant back, it was beautiful, the shape was perfect, the mounting holes all lined up perfectly, the paint gleamed and was a perfect color match, it was a work of art. It also weighed almost fourty pounds! (Bondo, reinforcing metal welded and rivited in, numerous coats of primer-filler, regular primer and finish paint, etc etc). In the end, my friend paid the body shop and then bought a replacement wheel pant from an aircraft salvage yard. The beautiful one is a conversation piece in his hangar.
Also, be sure the shop knows how to prep aluminum for paint, not all do.
Tom, If you are not painting the airplane for show quality you may wish to do as I did and use LATEX...I know it sounde crazy but if you think about it your rain gutters on your house are painted with latex and now Krylon also makes a clear coat for latex. Cost is about $20.00 a gallon for paint instead of $300. a gallon for aircraft paint. If you are interested here is my paint process: (Non-Toxic)
Now for the basic information; Paint and process.
The Paint I chose was ACE Hardware Premium Latex, the primer is ACE Hardware Galvanized and Aluminum Primer.
There is also available a Latex Clear Coat from Krylon, the additional items you will need are Automotive windshield washer fluid, I am using the blue colored stuff, and a product called FlowTrol.
First I prepare the surface with a 3-M scratch pad to give me some tooth for the primer, then clean with Liquid solvent.
In a coffee can I put about 1to1-1/2" of FlowTrol in the bottom and then add primer to about 3/4 to 4/5th's of what it would take to fill the spray gun, Then I stir and add the windshield washer fluid to thin until I can get the paint to run off the stick and go from a run to a drip between 4 and 5 seconds, you may need to experiment for yourself on the adjustment that works best for you.
I then strain this into my spray gun and set the air pressure at 80#psi, ya I know that is real high, I shut off the controls on the gun and then re set it spraying against a sheet of paper until I get the mix I want, then I spray the part.
I use light coats and find that by using a reasonably fine mist by the time I reach from one side of the wing to the other the first part has flash dried and I can go back and add the next coat. In doing this I found the paint flowed out flat without any runs or any type of orange pealing. I layed on enough to cover the part for protection as I know I will be putting paint over it later.
I use the same process with the colored paint and after only a little practice found it was very easy to put on and the results look great, but will look better after the clear coat.
Latex paint runs in the area of about $20-$30 which is a lot better than the $300 a gallon for the aircraft stuff. Now does it look as good as the expensive stuff, probably not but I was not building a show plane it is a working plane and a fun to fly plane I am not looking for any trophy's.
Another thought which has come up since I did my project is Auto Zone and other Automotive stores carry the Dupli-color brand of paints, these are automotive paints of a lacquer base and are already to use out of the can, this may be a little more costly but I am sure the end result would be a better looking result, however, this is back to toxic or semi toxic materiel's and will require respiratory protection etc.
So for the paint is holding up well and as I said I expect it to do better after clear coating it. I hope I have answered your questions and have been of some assistance, You are of course welcome to come and visit any time.