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How to Paint More Efficiently

A little known maneuver called the “two step” can help high-volume painters save time and energy.

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There’s a little known tip that I would like to pass down to painters who might have never heard about it. It concerns how to isolate adjacent panels from sealer overspray when blending into them. I call it the “two step.”

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The two step was passed down to me from another painter at the Carcoa franchise I worked at in the mid-1980s in Los Angeles, where I was painting up to eight cars a day. He had been painting six to eight cars a day for three years at the franchise, so needless to say he had the two step down pat. When painting that many cars, you have to make the task as easy as possible with minimal movements around the vehicle, and that’s what the two step allows you to do.

Boy, the maskers were fast, too; one guy had worked there for five years masking cars. It wasn’t accurate by any means, but heck – it was only $129 for a complete and only $250 for a complete color change. The paint was synthetic enamel, so it was very glossy but could only hold up to the sun for a couple years before starting to disintegrate.

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The used car dealers were our biggest customers back then. I was surprised they gave us Cadillacs, Porsches and other expensive cars to paint, but the price was right. The booth had another set of doors you drove through into the bake booth, then you opened the entrance doors and had five more cars sitting there, masked off and ready to paint. Argh! I don’t miss those days, but all that high volume work gave me a lot of experience.

The Two Step
First, I jambed out the used doors on the vehicle. I had to fix some dings and primer and block them, otherwise they would have already been sealed and basecoated on the outside and there would have been no reason to seal them on the exterior.

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Before I masked off the quarter panel and front fender, I prepped them to blend and sprayed adhesion promoter on them and the surrounding areas. I also had to paint the door jambs the day before as the center pillar had to be pulled and the doors fitted a couple times.

Some painters shuffle around like an old rock star on stage when there’s no need to walk back and forth. The photos below show how I keep my left foot planted in the same position and, by taking just two steps, I increase my reach so I can cover 10 feet with each movement back and forth. This two-step method saves a lot of energy if you do a lot of painting all day long.

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If I hadn’t masked off the primed and blocked doors, the sealer would have traveled to the top of the fender and you would have had to paint over it and then have a perfect butt match with the hood. I sealed the doors, baked the vehicle, then put on color coats till I got good coverage before I removed the paper from the fender and quarter. I saw that my match was very close, which was good, so I proceeded to do my last four coats, blending a bit further each time.

I like to think that most people in this industry pass on the tips they get from others, just like I’m doing here. My best to all the painters out there!

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Tom Ferry is the head painter at Ketchikan Autobody and Glass in Ketchikan, Alaska. He can be reached at [email protected].

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