How are people going about painting their airplanes? Are you waiting until you've finished flight testing and then painting (which I assume involves a lot of disassembly)? Or are you painting parts as you finish them and then install them? 

What about the interior? A bunch will be covered by upholstery, but a lot won't. 

Lastly, anyone done a vinyl wrap? Is it lighter or cheaper? I watched a video of a 750 being wrapped and it didn't look like much disassembly was involved at all.

Sorry for all the questions, this is a part I have virtually no familiarity with.

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Carl,

I would buy a quart of the Alumiprep and dilute as directed. Wear gloves and use a green scrubby pad to get any corrosion off the aluminum. Thoroughly rinse with water. Only buy one quart of the Alodine since it has a short shelf life. Use full strength pour into a plastic throw away container and brush it on with an old brush. It will turn the surface to a yellow tint. Once again use gloves and rinse after application. Wipe down the plane with a old rag to get it dry before applying any paint. Now would be the time to use a small sprayer in the crevasses and hard to reach places before doing any application with the roller. Make sure you buy plenty of 4" foam rollers. Use a new one in between coats. Don't forget to use the dry roller 5 minutes after the wet roller. Allow 24 hours for the paint to dry before applying the next coat. I used 2 gallons of paint because of the extra surface area (Leading edge slats, struts, etc.). My hangar partner used 1 gallon and 1 quart on his Zenith 650. Seeing that you have a Zenith Cruzer the quantity of paint will probably be somewhere in between the two. Take your time and I'm sure you will get good results. The surface seems to get shinier the longer it cures. I hope I have covered all of your concerns. Good Luck.

Stephen:   I really thought I wouldn't bug you anymore, but another question / method...

I was boning up on Alodine, and noticed that conventional wisdom says to wait 8-24 hrs before painting, but that you really don't want to wait MORE than 24 hrs.  I'm thinking that my big piece will be the not-on-gear complete fuselage.  I'm thinking that it will take me more than 8 hrs to paint the whole thing, so will bad things happen if I spread it over 2 days? Besides, I'm going to have to flip the fuse around a bit to do the underside, etc.  Will the Brightside dry *enough* to allow it to have contact the next day on sawhorses (padded)?

Carl,

I really don't think you will have any problems. I would paint the underside first to get the hang of how to do the process. That way if you have irregularities they won't be seen. Then rotate and complete the rest of it. It should be dry the next day in order to put on the saw horses. I applied Alodine on the whole airplane at one time since it was fully assembled. I then did the crevasses first, the underside the next day, the rest of the fuselage the day after and so on. The wings were done last and you saw the pictures, I think it came out pretty good. Like I said you may need 2-3 coats before it looks like it has completely covered the aluminum material. Make sure you clean up at the end of each day using lacquer thinner and throw away the foam rollers. Get a small 4" roller pan and use a smooth piece of plastic or metal inserted in the pan so that you can roll off the excess paint instead of the traditional ridges that are in the pan. This will give you a smooth look when rolling on the paint. Have a small detail brush handy along with a rag to wipe off any excess paint dripped on the floor or the plane. Make sure you mix about 10 per cent Interlux 433 Brush-Ease to the paint before painting. This will make the paint roll on smoother. The consistency will be close to almost water. Also use the Interlux 216 Special Thinner if you are spraying so that it flows through the nozzle ok. You may need to try different consistencies to get it right. Try it on some test pieces first to see what it looks like. Have fun.

Stephen, what brand and model rollers did you use?  All the FOAM rollers I’ve found thus far are only marked good. They left a lot of (?) dandruff in the paint, so I washed them then used tape on them to pull off remaining stuff. Still looks like crud. 

Dud you use compound or other buffing compound once dry? Sand between coats?

Carl,

I used the 4" foam rollers from Home Depot and Lowes. They are usually in a plastic package of 4. Make sure you use a new roller each time you paint. I did not need to sand or use buffing compound between coats. Make sure your environment is clean so you don't get any debris on the roller. It took 3 coats before the surface really looked shiny. Also make sure you mix the Interlux 433 Brush Ease with the paint at about a 10% ratio which thins out the paint to almost a watery texture. This helps with a smooth application. 

Thanks for the confirmation, Stephen.  I've been using the "good" foam rollers from WalMart, but just yesterday discovered the Home Depot foam.  They seem denser, but otherwise the cell structure looks about the same. I washed (water only) the rollers and followed-up with rolling them on some tape to pick up any dandruff.

I've just been using 4x6" test pieces, prepped and alodined.  I'm using the Fire Red (!), and it covers VERY well.  Used the Brush Ease as well.

Alodined two more test pieces last night and will paint later today.  I had a "duh..." moment this AM when I realized that although I prepped the test subjects very well, I then laid them on an un-prepped surface; just slight roller movement off the test pieces *could* have picked up some trash, so I'm going to apply paint on a different support stand.  Sheesh - if it was something that simple I'll be kicking myself!

Thanks again;

Adam.....l vinyl wrapped my CruZer with 3M 1080 vinyl wrap and although you could wrap it once complete, it is easier when you can turn components, i.e., wings, horizontal stabilizer, etc., over to work the bottom side, also leading edge slats on the 701, and 750 and flaperons and elevator.  I’ve wrapped leading edge slats for other builders.  The great thing about vinyl is you can start with small pieces and develope your expertise as you get to larger components, also NO paint booth, no priming and sanding.  Yes it is lighter than primer and final paint.  Another plus is that it covers and seals your rivets.  If you need more info or would like to see pictures of my CruZer you can reach me at cpbrammer@cox.net.  Good luck. 

Chris, Any comments about the corrosion protection of a standard paint job vs. using vinyl graphics? Obviously 6061 aluminum is usually good enough for most guys but I hope to put my plane on floats some day. You noted that the vinyl seals the rivet heads which I never thought of as being a perk but it makes sense. I have been pretty set on white paint with vinyl graphics for some time now but you have me curious if the paint will do anything other than add weight.

Dustin....I don’t have any specs. on the vinyl and sealing, but I know how well it covers the rivets and adheres to the aluminum.  I wiped down each component with alcohol or Acetone before applying the wrap and it becomes very difficult to remove once you’ve squeegeed.  It does become costly, about $1200.00, as I recall.  I would think aircraft primer and paint would be more costly.  I could cover a wing, by my self in about 8 hours without the need for a paint booth, respirator, etc. and no buffing out.  I do use detail spray wax to clean and keep a very slick surface.

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I'm about to finish my 650 fuselage and will soon be ready for final assembly. All my parts are just sitting unpainted waiting for that moment. As per several of you have pointed out, now would be the perfect time for painting, and my specific question, maybe naive, is why NOT use spray can Rust-Oleum (or any brand as a matter of fact) Self Etching Primer, a couple of coats, and then an automotive spray paint on top of that? I made a test in scrap 6061 and it looks really good. Each can runs for 4 or 5 bucks, and I would, most likely need around 10 primer +10 paint, which would add up to about $100?

Funny you should mention that.....  My first airplane project was a Sonex. I polished the aluminum, but rattle-canned all of the fiberglass parts: cowl, wingtips, tail tips, & wheel pants. I was blown away with how good it looked. I'd always just ask friends how the paint looked. They all thought it was impossible that it was spray out of a can.

I used the better grade of Rustoleum, and rustoleum primer and clear coat.

I used one coat of primer cuz it was going on top of gelcoat anyway. I then followed-up with two color coats. The trick, I discovered, is to READ THE CAN.  As an example, the can (at the time in 2011) said a second coat could be applied within smoe interval; don't recall if it was 10 mins or 30 mins, but it was relatively short.  If I stayed with that interval, it all flowed-out smoothly.  If I waited an hour, or even 12 hrs, it would all wrinkle up just as if I was applying lacquer over enamel (or whatever the sequence is).  If I blew the "window" for the second coat, I'd have to wait 2-3 days before the second coat.  I only sanded with 400 wet IF there were imperfections.

Once I let all that dry well, I'd shoot with a coat of clearcoat. I'd let that sit for a few days, then sand it out with 400 wet regardless of condition. After the second clear coat, I'd again wait a few days then sand it, and then compound with a light compound using a rotary buffer. Came out like glass.

The only issue I was not happy with was that it wasn't necessarily birttle, but anything sharp hitting it would result in a scratch. Even lightly. Never "flaked" off, but several scratches resulted. Additionally on the cowl, some stress cracks developed in the paint from repeated on-off cycles during Phase 1 testing, which is normal (the on-off cycles that is).  Perhaps if you used one of the Rustoleum products that's made for plastic it might have better resiliency

Look on Youtube for "rattle can painting". The one video that convinced me was of some guy painting a motorcycle gas tank..

All that said, it would be a BIG job to do the entire airplane. Perhaps one panel/section at a time, but still...

I would use endura...   Google ( Endura paint ) That stuff is amazing and will work every time. It's the best paint I've ever used

it goes on nice and thin so it shouldn't add too much weight, super glossy if you want it to be, and they will make every colour under the sun And it will out last almost every other paint. It's very scratch resistant and not the easiest to polish so spray it how you want it to look 

-(FTH0001) acid etch then

- (Alodine (1200S) then

-aluminum primer (EP-PA) then

-painted with (EX2C topcoat 

RSS

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