A Room Inside a Room and Body Work Adventures

   Posted by: kdavis

The last several weeks have been a blur of activity, all surrounding the body work adventure. When I first thought about doing my own paint and body work, I was pretty scared about it, hearing all of the 100’s of hours required to do it and how difficult it was. Now that I’m neck deep (literally) in the process, however, I’ve found that it’s not any worse than any other part of the build, and actually just as enjoyable.

The first thing to realize about body work is it makes an absolute MESS. If you use 2-3 pails of body filler, 80% of it will probably end up on the floor as sanding dust, which has the consistency of a light bread flour. Depending on what your work area is comprised of, it’s unlikely you’re going to want that stuff all over the place. If you happen to have a small one-car garage, and nothing else in it, you might be okay, but if you don’t, then you might consider building your “room inside a room” like I did. Basically, I built a two-stage room, a sanding booth, and a paint booth.

I thought I’d pass this along to other guys doing their own paint/body. I have a pretty large shop, about 1200 square feet, so the prospect of cleaning dust from the entire thing scared the crap out of me. I also plan to paint at home (we live in the boonies, so no EPA stuff,) so I wanted to build my own booth.

The first revision of this is a self-contained sanding booth, which after generating 1/4″ of dust over the entire floor of it is already proving well worth it. I’ll firm it up a bit more and add an air handler and real door before I start paint, but this is good for now.

To keep it simple, I just made it 10′ x 20′ x 9′ high. That means only about 6 cuts on the pvc pipes, the rest just stick together.

I used 4mil plastic, which is about $25 for 100′ at Lowes. That completely covered all 4 sides and the “roof” completely with some left over.

I sourced all parts at Lowes, with the exceptions of the 3-way corners, I had to buy those online. You can get them at Amazon, but they might be cheaper somewhere else. Amazon.com: 1-1/4″ 3-way Elbow PVC Fitting Connector: Everything Else
Like I said, I need to firm it up by adding some T’s and additional cross braces on the sides and top. I ended up duct taping some braces for the time being since I didn’t want to drive the 30 minutes back to lowes.

I used 1″ SCH40 PVC which is about $1/stick cheaper than 1 1/4″ schedule 80. Even at full 10′, it’s pretty stiff, but adding a cross brace at 5′ is better. You’ll have to do the math for yourself between more fittings and thicker PVC. The 1″ is also easier to store when it all comes down. The only thing I had to adjust for is that the 3-ways were 1 1/4″ so I did some bushings to reduce them down. You might be able to find actual 1″. I didn’t really do the math until I got to lowes.

I didn’t glue anything, it’s all just fit together, and the plastic attached with duct tape ever 4-5′. The duct tape works really well as it sticks instantly to the plastic.

Adjust your size as needed, I bought the pvc lenghts, T’s for the braces and mid points, and the 3-way corners, plus the plastic (which will be replaced before paint. I’m also adding a working hinged door, an air handler filter, and kraft paper on the floor, so I’ll update that later.

I also added and taped up the holes for my air hose, long shop vac hose, and the overhead extension cord. It’s not completely air tight at this point, but after about 30 hours worth of body work, it’s kept probably 98% of the dust out of the rest of the shop.

This all cost me about $125, so far, plus the other stuff that I need to buy later, another $40 or so.






And the Real Work Begins:

Since Christmas, I’ve tried to spend as much of my free time out in the shop as possible, and I’ve managed to rack up 30 hours worth of body work time. I’m actually quite surprised at how far I’ve gotten in that amount of time.

I had already knocked down the seams before I drove around in gelcoat, but I still needed to go back and do the job right. I went all around the car, and used my angle grinder to cut down each seem to remove the gelcoat completely from each one, checking for any gelcoat in the actual seam. My car is a MK3.1, and it appears that the overall condition of the gelcoat bodies has improved to the point where the real hard work on the seams is largely unnecessary. I didn’t find more than just a couple of spots where the gelcoat was deep enough into the seam to require that much come out. In general, I ended up grinding down the seems and taking 3/16-1/4″ deep from the level of the rest of the body.

The nice thing about the seams not being in bad shape is that it meant that I could skip a step that was necessary on previous bodies: applying HSRF to each one before doing to filler. I was a little nervous about skipping it, but after all of the horror stories with sanding HSRF, I was glad that I didn’t have to deal with it.

So, the next step was to begin filling the seams with Rage Gold, the preferred filler of other builders. It’s nice stuff, mixes pretty easily and sands of very well. After reading other informative posts about doing body work, I used one of the tricks I found there, using a hacksaw blade to screed the body at the seams. The advantage is that you can pull the blade across the seam while bending it to the exact contour of the body. This makes for a surprisingly smooth sanding surface, rather than having to sand a very bumpy surface. I found that you can only really use this method on the tops of the fenders, but as this is a big part of the seams process, it’s a huge help.

It took 3 coats of filler to get the seams to a point where I was satisfied with them. I used my Dewalt palm sander (1/4 sheet size,) to do all of the sanding on the first two coats, which made it go pretty fast. I did the 3rd coat by hand, mostly with a small foam sanding pad. This coat left a few pin holes and low spots, so I’m currently working on touching up those areas. I’ve run out of Rage for now, so I have to wait for that to show up before continuing.

The other thing I’ve started on is getting the doors evened out with the body. I spent a few hours working on the door alignment, adjusting them to the point where they were in the “best fit” position. On both doors, the fitting at the cowl and at the bulkhead ends were the worst, and required a lot of building up. The end result is, of course, having the doors and the body line up perfectly all the way around. I’m on the first coat of filler on both doors.

One “tool” that really makes doing the filler easier is a “mixing pad.” It’s basically a clip board with a handle on the bottom, and a pad full of non-porous sheets (like wax paper) that tear off one at a time. You mix the filler a little at a time, then tear off to a clean sheet for the next set of filler. I found that even in my shop where it’s about 60 degrees or less, I could only do about a 4×4 inch by 1″ thick amount of filler before it started to set up. Once it sets up, you can’t spread it any more, it just doesn’t flow well enough.

I also found that you don’t have to be afraid of running out of hardener. I was worried about that as I mixed each batch, but when the can was empty, I still have quite a bit left over (probably 5+ batches worth.) I did make a mistake on one of my batches and didn’t get enough hardener. It’s not evident until you go to sand, at which point, the filler will ball up like crazy and gum up your sand paper. I was glad it wasn’t very much, I went through way too much paper, and it was a pain.

Another tool is a sand paper cleaning “stick.” You can get them on most wood working websites, and even amazon.

Once my filler gets here, I’ll finish up the doors. I ended up putting too much filler on the top of the doors, so I’ll blend that in and fare out both ends, plus all the way around. The driver’s door was far worse than the passenger, but both of them needed quite a bit of work.

While I wait, I need to sure up the body buck so it’s more solid for sanding. My next filler steps are to finish the doors, clean up the trunk lid lip, and then work on the rolled cockpit edges, as well as getting the door, hood, and trunk lid gaps perfect at 3/16″ using Greg M’s foam insulation trick.

I’m finding that most of the body work is just easier to do with the body on the chassis, since a lot of what needs to be done centers around the door, hood, and trunk alignment. All of those parts are tied into the chassis, so you really have no choice but to leave it on. The pro painters have enough experience to not need this, but most builders don’t, including myself. The downside is it makes an absolute mess of the chassis, so I’ll have hours and hours of clean up work to do.

More to come….









One other thing I’m working on is getting the “bend” of the hood corrected. It’s too flat where it meets the cowl area. So, I’m taking a page out of Scott’s book and using a ratcheting tie down to bend it. If it were summer, I’d leave it out in the sun, but I’m using a small space heater instead, which is far slower, but so far it’s working quite well.


New Air Compressor and Sound Abatement Enclosure

   Posted by: kdavis

Finally found a nice 60 gallon air compressor (Husky 3.2HP 60 Gallon from Home Depot, made by Campbell Hausfeld) for a decent price, so Kenzie and I got up way early on Saturday morning and made a 6 hour round trip up to Great Falls and back to pick it up.

The guy had been using it for a couple of months, so it’s basically a new unit. I changed the oil, cleaned the filters, hooked it into the Rapid Air system and fired it up. WOW, that thing is LOUD! Bummer. But, it seems unless you drop about $3k on a 2-stage very low rpm commercial air compressor, this is just the nature of the best. I had set my expectations too high.

Never fear, though, it’s nothing a few hours and some scrap lumber and carpet can’t fix!

Having already built a sound abatement enclosure for my generator, I had a pretty good idea of what I wanted to build for the compressor, so I went to work.

My major failure in my plan was that I neglected to account for the tank itself, and it’s ability to act as a giant speaker. Although I had enclosed the head unit of the compressor, which is the source of the noise, the tank itself actually transmitted that noise even with the head enclosed.

So…back to the drawing board and a full enclosure was built.

Here’s the summary of the final product. I am very happy with it, and glad it won’t make me pee myself every time the compressor kicks on.

I would call this a major victory.

Noise Reduction = SUBSTANTIAL

Cost – $0.00 (if you had to buy all new lumber, I’d figure 3-4 8′ 2×4’s and 2 sheets of 1/2″ 4×8 OSB, plus some 3″ and 1″ wood screws.)

Time – 3 hours (including rework, if i had done it right in the first time, it would have taken 2 or less.)

I finished up the rest of the enclosure last night, and tested it out. I’ll put all three videos in here just for easy comparison, but man, what a difference.

Knowing what I know now, the best way to build this out is to frame from ground to a couple of feet above the compressor head. If you’ve got the ceiling room for it, the easiest way would be to just use all 8′ pieces. Mine is in the corner, so it limits the back lumber.

All wood surfaces are lined with old carpet (which you can get free, check craigslist, or just call your local store, and go pick some up at the next install). I put in a trap door so I can still get to my drain. The floor is also sitting on a big piece of carpet and then additional pieces under each foot. The only surface not covered are the 2 wall surfaces.

The top has a hole cut out for the 110v kiosk fan, and I have holes for my Rapid Air piping. The fan runs all the time, but I’ll probably just unplug it unless I’m going to be doing a lot of work and the compressor will be kicking on and off. For a basic refill, it’s totally unnecessary.


Video: – Video camera is the same, with some variance in the distance.

No Enclosure:

Head Only Enclosure:

Full Enclosure:

The Shop Is DONE!

   Posted by: kdavis

Finished the paint over the weekend and the barn door thresholds. So, we’re officially done with the build now. WHOO HOO! Now the fun part starts, moving in and organizing.

General stats:

Started (dug the hole) – 4/7/09 or so.
Finished – 8/22/09

Did all of the work myself on the inside, plus all of the gravel work (concrete gravel, driveway) and dirt work. Hired out the framing, roof, and siding. I did the concrete forms and prep, and we did the pour and finish ourselves in 2 1/2 days with 4 guys.

Budget wise, I went over by about 15%. Those $200 trips to Lowes will kill ya, and also I hadn’t originally budgeted for the labor, and the barn doors were more than budgeted.

I’m so pleased with the project, it’s a great space, and I look forward to getting back into my car project!

Thanks for all the feedback and ideas!

All of the Pics can be found here (shop pics are the top ones, organized by build stage.)


Here’s my wife’s least favorite sign:

Now, back to the COBRA!

Shelving and Workbench

   Posted by: kdavis

I finished building the workbench and shelving last night. I decided to just go old-school 2×4 and plywood. They are cheap, strong, and hold a ton of stuff. At the end of the day, it really is just a shop, so these will be just fine, no paint, no frills, and at $100 total, well worth it.

Using the existing building framing, you can get away with not adding legs on the back wall. If you’re wondering how strong they are…I put my body weight dead center on the weakest part of the plywood on one foot (more psi), and they held up just fine. I don’t plan on storing iron up there, so that will be more than adequate.

All that’s left is to put the door threshold in and paint the trim (probably tonight.)

Move in day is approaching…then back to the Car.


The Lift is In!

   Posted by: kdavis

Thanks to my buddy from Benco Equipment and my other buddy Matt, we installed the lift today in just over 2 hours.

This lift is by Direct Lift, and it’s the OH8000 model. It’s the whole reason the shop has 2 ceiling heights as the OH bar required 12′ ceilings. I am SOOOO glad I did it.

It’s pretty simple construction, and will lift my suburban with no problem, so the Cobra project will be nothing at all. It has asymmetrical arms and lots of different adjustment and spacing capabilities.

I posted today that my boyhood dreams have come true now…ever since I saw my first lift in a garage. I’m pretty darned happy.


Full Album

Video of the First Up and Down Rotation:

Epoxy Floor

   Posted by: kdavis

After much prep and cleaning, and a good bit of work overall, the epoxy floor is now in, and curing.

The hardest part of the process was cleaning up my drywall mud/texture and painting mess. If I did it over again, I wouldn’t be so quick to talk myself out of laying down a full drop cloth to protect the floor, would have saved a lot of work.

Since the floor was new, I didn’t bother doing any sort of big mechanical prep (ie: diamond grinder.) I wanted to keep overall costs low and install pain to a minimuum. I acid etched the floor with 20% muriatic acid at a 4:1 ratio or just a little less (1 gallon of acid to a 5 gallon bucket not quite full.) I used a cheap garden watering can to put it on, which worked well and allowed for great coverage.

I think I ended up using about 7.5 gallons of acid on my 1200′ floor.

The product I used was Rustoleum Professional Epoxy Kit – brown with flakes. For my 1200′ project, I used 3 kits of the 2 part system, and 3.5 kits-worth of flakes (I started a little heavy on the first section). I’m keeping the 4th kit for long-term touch up. I got my kits on amazon for $99 each shipped. You can also get them at lowes. I went with the brown setup to match everything.

I’m very pleased with how it all went down. The flakes take a lot of practice, and the floor has thin and heavy areas. I really like the non-slip factor with the flakes, which is really important since wet/snowy feet will be in and out of the shop a lot. I could top coat with clear, but because of the non-slip need, I’m choosing not to.

I’m hopeful for long-term durability. For the cost, especially compared to other systems out there, I’m very pleased so far.


Getting Closer – Paint, Texture, Vinyl Stripes, and Trim Done, Finish Electrical Underway

   Posted by: kdavis

Quick update here:

Finally finished taping, painting, texture, and got the vinyl stripes up. The trim is also up, and electrical finish is underway. Just need to paint the trim and do teh electrical, then epoxy the floor.

I ended up doing very little sanding, just a little bit around the big joints that were in hard to get smooth places. All in all, post texture and paint, you can’t really tell, it all turned out great, and I’m glad I didn’t spend too much time.

I did learn that I HATE ceiling work of any kind, especially on 10′ and 12′ ceilings. I should have budgeted for more Advil in my project.

If you’re doing any painting, use a Paint Stick, lots of variations on this, but it’s basically a big reservoir for paint in the handle that you “suck” into it and then push as you roll. Big time saver.

I am taking a bit of a break from painting, so expect to finish the electrical this week, then finish up the trim painting and on to the floor. Can’t wait to finish it all.

A note on the stripes and the brown.

The floor will be light brown epoxy, and the brown is a fleck color. The Cobra will be Orange, hence the stripe.






Taping is Done

   Posted by: kdavis

5 buckets (300 + lbs) of mud later, the taping is done.

Since I’m texturing, I didn’t have to be too fussy, but it’s still a heck of a lot of work. After 5 buckets of mud and 1500′ of mesh tape, and a BUNCH of inside corners, it came together.

BTW, first time using the inside corners, and they seem to be way easier than just the mesh tape.

For those that are interested, I used an 8″ taping knife for the first coat, then on to a 12″ knife for the 2nd. This seems to give really good results. I’ll need to go over a few rough spots with the sponge and that’s it. No sanding at all.



View the Album

Quick Shop Update – Rough In Electrical, Driveway Done

   Posted by: kdavis

The driveway is in, and I’m about 1/2 way done with moving the dirt around, which will finish up the outside stuff. I’m really just avoiding insulation and drywall.

The electrical rough in is complete and rough in inspection is done as well.

I got one of my signs (coke) up this morning, and plan on setting the big Washington Chief Gasoline sign tonight, should look great.


Got the Washington Chief Gasoline sign up. What a great sign, and it’s unique, which adds to my liking.

The guy that sold me the sign (garageart.com) said if you find one of these for real, they can fetch $40K + just for the sign…crazy.

I like it that it also has Montana in it as part of the wording.

You can also see at the bottom of the pic the “ding ding” air line for my Milton Bell. Once the gravel stiffens a bit, I might run it out a little farther, but it’s on concrete for now.

Shop Update – Siding Done, Rough In Electrical Done

   Posted by: kdavis

Some more progress, going strong still. We’re about 4 weeks post-pour.

Siding and trim and outside paint is now done. I finished the electrical rough-in over the weekend, and my father in law is doing a little work in the panel today, so we’ll be ready for rough-in inspection after today. The insulation is on site, so as soon as the inspector comes, I’ll insulate and be ready for drywall.

The only thing left outside is to put the finish fixtures on, caulk around the trim, and then do the driveway. My wife is also trying to talk me into color on the front door, still need to do some mockups to decide that one.

I also ordered my signs today (big coke sign and a Washington Chief Gasoline sign for the front).