Dorothy Gets A Facelift

So, I've been spending the past few months working on my 1970 VW Bus, Dorothy. I've been getting her ready to paint with some last minute sanding, getting a paint room set up in my dad's shop, and figuring out exactly how I was going to get enough air to power the gun that I had.

The Room

Well, the getting the room set up was the first step in all of this, and it turned out to be very easy (for me, at least). It was easy for me because my dad took care of it all, slapping plastic up on the walls/ceiling and getting the floors covered with painter's tarps. Thanks, sir! Since the room has been built, I've spent plenty of time getting it cleaned up and back in working order, but the initial setup was all him. Here's a few pictures of the room right now, after all the painting that's been done inside it (ooh, foreshadowing!):

Where the painting (aka magic) occurred.
The room from the other side, facing the doors.

The paint on the walls is from either me testing spray patterns, or getting rid of the last bit of paint in my gun before calling it a night. The other side of the room is in front of the big double doors that lead into the shop, and let in a ton of light (and sometimes wind, which is a pain!)

My Painting Gear

One of the things that I wasn't sure about going into this was: will I have enough air capacity to power my gun nonstop for a few hours at a time? All the information I read online was telling me that I needed a huge compressor, with a minimum of 25 gallons (50 would be ideal, they say) of air capacity. The kind of compressor that you set up in a shop and it's bolted to the floor. The kind that runs the air through steel pipes around the building, with built in moisture drops and such. You know, the kind that cost thousands of dollars! Well, I had a couple of small wheelbarrow compressors at my disposal (thanks again, dad!) and their combined capacity was maybe 20 gallons. The primary compressor was running a 5hp gas engine, so it could recuperate air very fast, and the other compressor was just going to act as an extra place to store the air.

So we chained them together, with the air running from the primary compressor to the secondary compressor through an oil/water separator, back out the secondary compressor, through an inline water filter, and then through yet another water filter at the gun (a $30 Harbor Freight HVLP gun, because I'm classy like that). So this whole convoluted setup would maybe push enough air and keep all the water/oil out of the lines to allow me to paint uninterrupted for a few hours at a time. All that we could do was test it, and hope for the best.

We tested the setup by letting the compressors get as much air in them as possible, then sprayed air through a nozzle for as long as we could before the pressure dropped. The compressors couldn't keep up with the nozzle entirely, but we figured that they would recover fast enough to still be feasible. And the gun wasn't going to put out as much air as the nozzle did, so we were hopefully in the clear.


And so, with the room situation taken care of and the compressors all set up, it was time to prep my parts for primer. I had spent a few months before all of this sanding the body down to either bare metal or primer, removing rust, patching holes, and doing minor body work. All that was left now was to give each part of the bus a sanding with 400 grit paper, and then 600 grit paper, to have a nice, even surface for priming. It took about a day, but each and every part I needed to spray was finally ready for primer!

All the parts I can pull off the bus, all lined up waiting for primer.

With the sanding done, all that was left was to clean the parts, close up the room, and get to spraying!

Me, ready to start painting!
I wiped everything down with TSP before I sprayed.

The paint and primer that I used was from the Finish 1 line from Sherwin-Williams. It's a 2k Urethane primer/paint, and it's single stage which means that I didn't have to mess about with a clear coat (good for us amateurs, but it's not going to look as nice as a professional job). It took me about a gallon and a half of primer for the entire bus inside and out, and around 4 days of actual spraying to get it all primed. Here's the body, all primed up:

Inside the front of the bus.
The front of the bus after primer.

Next: The Paint!

Fast forward two months, I had just gotten a new job and was short on both time and money, so the painting had taken a back seat. With the cold months looming, I had to start painting again before the weather turned and it was too cold for my paint to dry properly. So, back to the booth! I had to sand down the parts again using the same 400 grit then 600 grit method, to take down any bad spots or dust that had landed on the wet primer (of which there were many), and then clean them all to prepare for the top coats!

Each of the single color items, such as bumpers, brackets, and the engine hatch, all took two days worth of spraying to complete (one for each side!) The doors, since they were going to be two different colors, took three days to spray (inside black, outside black, outside white). The body has already taken one day of painting (for the inside) and I still have two more days left for doing two colors on the outside. I just finished up the doors two days ago, here's what they look like now:

The passenger door, completely painted and ready for some sanding/buffing.
The back door, engine hatch, part of the engine compartment, and front bumper.
The sliding door, looking good.

What's next?

And so that's where I am now with the painting! There's a few more days of work to do on the body before it's ready to be painted on the outside (sanding, the bane of my existence!), but stay tuned in the next few weeks and I'll have an update for you. And once all the painting is done, I get to start on the electrical and interior! Oh boy, you mean I get to put all this junk back in it?

Everything I pulled out of the bus, all in one convenient heap.