Some modest painting tips

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DarthMuffin

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I see a lot of people struggling with getting good paint on their rockets. I'm not a professional painter, but I have painted a few cars and done some paint correction and body work in a home shop. Here's what I can pass on:

Spend a lot of time on prep.

You should almost always be sanding with a block or form of some sort. If you use your hand as a backer the surface will come out just as lumpy. I have a bigger hard rubber sanding block for large areas and a smaller dense foam one for smaller ones. You can get creative and use dowels or whatever you can find that fits the form you want to make.

Finish with 240 to 400 grit prior to paint.

Consider using a "guide coat" of primer just barely misted on when doing your final prep. Combined with a sanding block you'll easily see where the low and high areas are. If you can't sand down to the lows you can fill them with spot putty, available at most any auto parts store.

Do a final wipe with wax and grease remover or at least denatured alcohol. If you have any silicone sprays in your shop consider using a silicone remover, that stuff gets everywhere and causes fish eyes in paint (most paint shops do not allow any silicone based products there). No touching with ungloved hands after this.

1-2 coats of primer, 2-3 coats of color, and then at least 3-4 coats of clear will get you a good finish. More clear isn't a bad idea if you're going to go nuts with the wet sanding, or just want the extra thickness to be able to wet sand out scratches in the future without worrying.

Shake your spray paint cans well. When you think it's shaken enough, you're halfway there.

When painting, keep the gun or spray can about 8-10" away and perpendicular to the surface.

Start and stop the spray off of the rocket, that's when it spatters.

Move at an even speed, almost robotically.

You should overlap passes by 50%, this is the #1 tip to get a good result. This means if you're making horizontal passes, then top to bottom, your next stroke should be centered on the bottom edge of the previous stroke. The net effect of this is that when you're not perfect with lining up your strokes (nobody is), paint in the problem areas will be +/- 50% rather than +/- 100%.

For even passes I find it easier to paint rockets hung horizontally when possible.

Follow paint instructions for recoat times, if it needs baked/cured, and how long you have to wait before you can wet sand (probably somewhere between 2 days and 2 weeks depending on paint).

If you get a run (a drip going down the surface) in the color coat, you'll need to sand down or wipe off and start over. If you get a run in the clear coat, it's not the end of the world. After the paint is cured and hard you scrape off runs with a new razor blade, held perpendicular to the surface making lots of light scraping passes. This works pretty well, as in most people won't notice, but not 100% perfect. The scratches left will be cleaned up when you wet sand.

A good wet sanding tutorial is here

The jist is sand with about 2000 grit and a dense foam sanding block. Especially with spray paints (not as hard as automotive 2 part paints) it really only takes a few strokes with very light pressure. Wipe down the spot and you'll see you've knocked down maybe 2/3rds of the orange peel with some low spots left. You're good to stop there unless you put on a lot of clear and are going for a show quality finish. A second light pass with 2500-3000 grit can be done if you like.

Cutting compound next and then polish and you're done. I use a dual action buffer because I have it, small foam pads on drills would work. For something as small as a rocket you can even do it by hand. Either way go slow and be very careful not to burn through the clear, especially around edges and where the sides of the pad may hit the fins.

For cutting I use Chemical Guys V36 Cutting Polish and their orange hex-logic pad.
For polishing, V34 Hybrid Compound and a white hex-logic pad.
For rockets you could probably get away with just the V36, especially for spray can paint. The V34 made very little difference last time I used it.

Bonus tip for polishing the aluminum nose cone tip: This takes a lot of elbow grease but I liked the result. Start wet sanding across the grain with progressively finer sand paper. I then went to jewelers rouge on a buffing wheel, followed by Mother's mag and aluminum polish (by hand). A clear coat will kill a little of the shine but will keep it from tarnishing. You should probably clear coat unless you want to re-do the Mother's polish every season.

After you're done and you have any decals on that you need, I like Turtle Wax Hybrid Solutions Ceramic Spray Coating. Very easy to apply, very slick (seriously, I can't get a grip to get the nosecone off without a rag), looks great, and realy durable. The $15 spray bottle at Walmart will last forever (and do your car too) and gives high end ceramic coatings a run for their money in tests.
 

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aviserated

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Decant Testors Metal Flake Enamals for better control using airbrush. Testors can take days to cure, but results can be really good and glossy without having to color sand and buff. Be patient.
 

neil_w

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After you're done and you have any decals on that you need, I like Turtle Wax Hybrid Solutions Ceramic Spray Coating. Very easy to apply, very slick (seriously, I can't get a grip to get the nosecone off without a rag), looks great, and realy durable. This stuff is cheap ($15 at Walmart will last forever, and do your car too) and gives high end ceramic coatings a run for their money in tests.
Hmm, interesting. Does that stuff work over Future? Or would I use that instead of Future?
 

DarthMuffin

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Hmm, interesting. Does that stuff work over Future? Or would I use that instead of Future?
I don't know what Future is, but I'd wipe down with isopropyl or denatured alcohol and then put the Turtle Wax Ceramic on. If Future doesn't come off easily with alcohol I would expect it makes a suitable base. My educated guess here is because the professional level ceramic coatings I have done all have you prep by wiping with isopropyl.
 
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Back_at_it

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Any of the SIO2 type sprays will work great to shine a finished rocket. I'm partial to the Meguiar's brand but they are all the same basic stuff.

As for Future. It works great for display models. I stopped using it on mine as I fly everything and the soot and crap from the ejection gets stuck in it and you have to strip it and reapply which isn't as easy as they want you to believe.
 

BDB

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Does anyone have any tips for making paint jobs more durable? I haven't messed with wax/ceramic coats before, so I'll try that next. But many of my rockets, especially the ones with LOC-type tubes, end up with cracked paint in places, presumably because there is some flex in the airframe. Does anyone have some advice about paints and clear coats that look good but are flexible?
 

Sandy H.

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Does anyone have any tips for making paint jobs more durable? I haven't messed with wax/ceramic coats before, so I'll try that next. But many of my rockets, especially the ones with LOC-type tubes, end up with cracked paint in places, presumably because there is some flex in the airframe. Does anyone have some advice about paints and clear coats that look good but are flexible?
I have never had any paint crack on a rocket unless it crashed or maybe near a fin fillet if it took a hard landing. It might help if you post what kinds of paint you're using and the process you use.

I've used most generic paints (Krylon, Rustoleum etc.) as well as Testors, airbrush paints (Createx???) and even latex sprayed from an HVLP gun. I've never done automotive paint on a rocket, so if that's what you're doing, I have no experience. (I have done automotive paint, but on cars and motorcycle helmets etc.).

Hope you get some good advice. It would be lame to have a paint finish crack, especially if it took a lot of effort to paint the rocket.

Sandy.
 

BDB

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I typically use Rustoleum primer and paint. My paint jobs tend to crack at the aft end of the rocket or at the top of the airframe. Presumably this is from landing and jostling during descent under chute. Here's an example of a recent crack that happened. The paint is Rustoleum Universal Metallic Carbon Mist (a new favorite color).

IMG_0497.jpg
 

Back_at_it

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I typically use Rustoleum primer and paint. My paint jobs tend to crack at the aft end of the rocket or at the top of the airframe. Presumably this is from landing and jostling during descent under chute. Here's an example of a recent crack that happened. The paint is Rustoleum Universal Metallic Carbon Mist (a new favorite color).

View attachment 485702
You're not going to prevent that. Paint will flake off when the tube is bent/crushed.
 

manixFan

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Great tips, I'll add a few more:

  • Choose your primer color based on your final color - white primer for lighter colors, grey or black for darker colors. I know that seems obvious but too often folks use what they have on hand and don't think about the next step. (And some paints - like silver - look better over a dark primer, which may be counterintuitive.)
  • If you have a rough surface, like hand-laid fiberglass, use a different color primer after several undercoats. As you sand you'll be able to see the high/low spots very easily.
  • Keep a painting notebook that details atmospheric conditions, type of surface (cardboard, phenolic, fiberglass, etc.) and brand/color of paint. Doing so will help you spot trends based on weather, brands, etc.
  • As much as possible, stick to the same brand of paint, much easier to achieve consistency
  • Buy quality sandpaper - I find wet or dry type sandpapers give me much better results than inexpensive paper backed sandpaper
  • Try not to ever paint in a hurry or when you have very limited time - many of the dumb mistakes I've made were when I tried to squeeze in one more coat when I really didn't have the time
  • If you live in an area with a lot of airborne bugs, fog your painting area before you start - much easier that touching up a bunch of dead bugs stuck to the paint

Tony
 

BDB

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You're not going to prevent that. Paint will flake off when the tube is bent/crushed.
I was hoping someone would have a magic flexible paint that would do the trick. I suppose the other option is to build rockets with more rigid airframes, e.g. fiberglass.
 

FredA

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I was hoping someone would have a magic flexible paint
There was a brand of paint sold at our local hobby store that was formed a thick more flexible coat and they recommended it for their acrylic bodied RC cars that took a beating on curbs.
I know I have or had some somewhere -- will search a bit -- but it might have got donated to hazmat since we don't rattle-can much anymore.
But search for something along those lines.
 
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