Prepping and Priming for the Subsonex Paint Job

Paul Dye uses a Scotchbrite wheel along a line of rivets in order to ensure a slightly roughened surface to hold the primer and paint.
Paul Dye uses a Scotchbrite wheel along a line of rivets in order to ensure a slightly roughened surface to hold the primer and paint.

With most of the masking completed last night, the team immediately started into Scotchbriting all of the external aluminum areas on Paul Dye's SubSonex jet. The rivets were attacked first with a rotary, power Scotchbrite wheel. Three passes at slightly different angles ensured that the rivets were adequately scuffed. The fiberglass nose cowl was also lightly sanded. Soon, neighbors started showing up and the broader surfaces received attention.

John Stahr sands the nose cowl.
John Stahr sands the nose cowl.
Pretty soon, the neighbors arrived and joined the effort to scuff every bit of exposed aluminum and fiberglass.
Pretty soon, the neighbors arrived and joined the effort to scuff every bit of exposed aluminum and fiberglass.
The aluminum surface after Scotchbriting.
The aluminum surface after Scotchbriting.

As scuffing progressed towards completion, team members started preparing the temporary paint booth. A shop fan was set up in an open window at one end of the shop to be used as the exhaust fan..

Temporary exhaust fan installed.
Temporary exhaust fan installed.
John Stahr wipes down the entire plane to remove the aluminum and Scotchbrite dust.
John Stahr wipes down the entire plane to remove the aluminum and Scotchbrite dust.

The paint "booth" is a remarkably simple structure. One hundred feet of 10' wide Visqueen-type plastic was tapes from the ceiling to surround the project. A hole was cut into one side for access and ventilation with the plastic taped to the floor in that area. Air was now drawn into the "booth" and blown to the outside by the exhaust fan in a window immediately across the shop. Because the outside temperatures were near freezing and the shop doesn't have central heat, a propane heater was set up just outside the intake opening to heat the air drawn into the booth. The system worked great. No fumes came into the rest of the shop and no cloud developed within the booth. Our only casualty of the day was an Exact-O knife puncture caused while cutting the plastic.

Paint booth installed, it was time to prime. Note the propane heater (yellow cylinder in lower right) heating the air before it is drawn through the paint booth.
Paint booth installed, it was time to prime. Note the propane heater (yellow cylinder in lower right) heating the air before it is drawn through the paint booth.

The last step before applying primer was to thoroughly clean the surfaces. First, Stahr wiped down the entire plane with damp towels to remove most of the aluminum and Scotchbrite dust. Then, pressurized air was blown into all the nooks and crannies. In the last step, Stahr wiped all of the aluminum surface with metal cleaner while two others followed right behind to wipe the surfaces dry.

Stahr's preferred metal cleaner.    
Stahr's preferred metal cleaner.

 

Stahr rapidly wipes the wing with metal cleaner while two others quickly wiped the moisture off the wing.
Stahr rapidly wipes the wing with metal cleaner while two others quickly wiped the moisture off the wing.

About 5:30 pm, it was time to shot primer. It took about a half-hour for Stahr to finish the first coat. After maybe 15 minutes, he applied a second primer coat to the nose cowl and top of the wings. Done for the day.

Tools of the trade.
Tools of the trade.
N958PD at the end of the first full day of work. Gray primer finished.
N958PD at the end of the first full day of work. Gray primer finished.

Watch the day condensed into 7 minutes:

Louise Hose

Louise Hose is an instrument-rated, commercial pilot who regularly flies her RV-6, her husband’s RV-8, and an RV-3B and a Dream Tundra, which they built together. They live in Dayton Valley Airpark in Nevada. She also edits the monthly, free digital newsletter, The Homebuilder’s Portal by KITPLANES®.

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