Auto Body metal working

I've been interested for a long time in auto body work and painting but never had a clunker to play with. Since buying my Ford Ranger, my F-350
will be going up for sale, I hope to sell it within maybe 6 months or so, maybe the 4wd will sell good around snow time. The F-350 I have isn't a show truck but has a good engine and drive train so it's an opportunity for me to try some body work and touch up.
I need to know what kind of sheet metal to get to patch some holes, it needs to be formable, weldable, and close to the thickness of auto body steel. I wouldn't mind having a little extra, I'd like to try forming with hammers, sand bags, and perhaps make an English Wheel.
Also, years back some were claiming to have real good results with the Harbor Freight HVLP paint guns, they liked them better than some of the name brand guns IIRC. Any recommended model of HF paint gun?
Any other good tool recommendations that would be useful in auto body? Power sanders/ power wet sander? I have a Porter-Cable random orbit sander for wood, I guess it would work for auto body. Will probably get a slide hammer type puller.
Any recommendations on paint? I went to Napa and they want $98.XX for a quart of Oxford White, no metallic, no pearl, no clear, just plain white paint. That's OK if that is what it should cost, just want a reasonable competitive price.
So maybe I get to play with making my old truck look better, learning some skills along the way, and it will hopefully help the truck sell better and give the buyer a nicer looking truck. I'm sure I'll spend more than it will help the value but I get to learn something and keep the tools.
RogerN
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http://www.seanet.com/~jasonrnorth/paint1.html http://www.seanet.com/~jasonrnorth/acc2.html
BTDT. The HF guns are excellent. You need a good DA sander, an inline sander, and a good sanding block for finishing. Also good quality sandpaper. The cheap stuff will makethe job much harder.
http://www.metalworking.com/dropbox / see sander.txt and the accociated jpgs.
JC Whitney sells a lot of replacement body repair panels for trucks http://www.jcwhitney.com / sure to find what you need there. JR Dweller in the cellar

-------------------------------------------------------------- Home Page: http://www.seanet.com/~jasonrnorth If you're not the lead dog, the view never changes Doubt yourself, and the real world will eat you alive The world doesn't revolve around you, it revolves around me No skeletons in the closet; just decomposing corpses -------------------------------------------------------------- Dependence is Vulnerability: -------------------------------------------------------------- "Open the Pod Bay Doors please, Hal" "I'm sorry, Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that.."
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Thanks for all the info and links!
RogerN
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Roger, To do this right, you need to make a significant investment in sheet metal tools, which should include a sheer, a brake, rolls, a shrinker, sheet metal hammers, dollies planishing pillows and hammers, as well as several other less significant items. Most of the cost of these can be avoided if you use preformed replacement panels. Of course, this will not help you achieve the skill set of hand forming custom panels, but it does make economic sense. Please also note, that back yard repairs done incorrectly will devalue the vehicle. Please also note that the investment required is not just money, but significant time and very hard work. There are very few people with these old fashioned skill sets still alive today. You will not achieve these with just the experience from one vehicle. Another, not well understood fact is that the sheet metal used in vehicles today is much thinner than what used to be used. Consequently, almost all panel damage results in stretched metal, making panel repair impractical. Additionally, the odds of you achieving the skill set you wish to have is about "0" without instruction from a master. I don't mean to rain on your parade, but you should go into this with your eyes open. Steve

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one comment on steve's suggestions below (which are pretty good) - if the truck has no collector value, a quick tack on of metal over rusted areas and some properly applied body filler and paint may add $$ to the truck, a little hammer and dolly experience is good, and if you can use a gas welder, you can shrink panels if you really want to, though it is a PITA.

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The part I want to do the metal work from raw sheet is a hole in the door probably done by Bobcat, the guy I purchased from used it to pull his Bobcat around in his landscaping business. So, that part is sort of in the middle of the door where the metal is fairly flat and it doesn't look rusted, looks like someone put house paint over it. I don't think I want to try to re-skin the door for the hole. The other metal shaping toys are just for fun, I'd like to play with sheet metal and try to learn to shape it like they do on the Chopper TV programs. For the rusted thru above the wheel fenders I plan to try ready made replacement panels. Other than that there are many places where it is scratched or banged up a little, this truck was used to do work and shows is.
RogerN
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Take a look at the Tinman's site:
http://www.tinmantech.com /
You've gotten good advice from others about the frustration of working with today's thin body sheet metal, which is often a HSLA (high-strength low-alloy) that is particularly nasty. It work-hardens if you look at it cross-eyed.
However, you can have a heck of a lot of fun learning to shape other kinds of sheet metal. I've tried it, with the sandbag and stump methods. I produce something that looks like waves in a stormy sea. <g> Better luck to you. It requires persistence.
--
Ed Huntress



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I guess you weren't trying to make waves in a stormy sea? You can always sell your failures as modern art!
RogerN
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What failures? They were successful experiments. <g>
I was working 3003 aluminum, and it's tricky to shrink it with hand tools. It can be done; you just need to develop some expertise.
Like a lot of metalworking pursuits, you have a few choices. If you want to build replica bodies or something, you'll need all the tools or a lifetime of learning and practice. (You'll still need a lot of both, even with all the tools.) Or you can confine yourself to making simple patch panels without much crown, and do it all with hand tools (and the flanger that a couple of folks have mentioned) -- and patience.
I had no interest in making a lifetime hobby out of it, so I just tried the hand methods. I made my own wooden hammers and sand bag; I hollowed out a stump with my disc sander; and I made my own slappers. My total investment, including the dollies and metal hammers that I bought, was less than $150.
It was fun to play with it and to get an idea of what's involved. And I could see how some people get a lot of pleasure out of it. Doing it well is a real art.
If you look at the Tinman's pages, you'll see some of the art at its highest level.
--
Ed Huntress



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<snip>

I'm not wanting to spend the time and money to do auto body professionally or anything like that. The part I would like to form is almost flat, I need to patch a hole in the side of a door, not much shaping to it. One idea I have for rust repair, not sure if it's any good, is to make a male mold by building up a panel with bondo and shaping. Then use that bondo patch to make a mold to lay up fiber glass repair panels. Trim the sheet metal back, knock out the temporary bondo plug used for the mold, and glue the fiberglass patch to the metal. The idea being that the fiberglass wouldn't rust in a place where the metal did.
RogerN
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Interesting thought. I would anticipate trouble. I made extensive fiberglass rust-repair patches on my mother's '69 T-bird, in the '70s. I was pretty good with fiberglass then because I had been a bonder at Ranger Yachts. I used Plaster of Paris to make a male mold over the rusted-out areas, and then to pull the female mold from that. That, too, is a material I had a lot of experience with at the time.
We could write a book about this but here are some basic issues: Although Bondo is filled polyester, and it works as a body filler, it doesn't get a very good bond to steel. The chemical bond is almost nonexistent; most of what you get is a mechanical, cogging bond with freshly ground and roughened metal. I realize it isn't Bondo that you're talking about for the final patch, but you should be aware that polyester in general makes a lousy adhesive, compared to epoxy.
I actually used epoxy on the fiberglass cloth to make my first patches, because it gets a much better bond to steel. It's very difficult to work with on vertical surfaces and with fiberglass cloth (you *must* use cloth and mat made for use with epoxy if you're going to use that stuff for your resin). Polyester is much easier. You can consider making patches out of polyester and fiberglass and then bonding them to the steel with epoxy, but polyester and epoxy, too, get only a weak bond. The bond between them is almost all mechanical, too, because epoxy doesn't bond to styrene, which makes up a fair amount of the polyester resin. You also have to be super careful to remove the amine blush if you're bonding *to* hardened epoxy, and the wax if you're bonding *to* hardened polyester. Soap and water remove the blush. Sanding is useless to remove amine; it just spreads the amine around. Use acetone to remove the wax from polyester. It will pull off some of the surface styrene, too, which will help.
Then you have issues with different coefficients of thermal expansion for steel and fiberglass-reinforced resin. I had one patch pop off at one end on a hot day. I'm not certain why, but I think the differential expansion put a lot of stress on the bond.
Anyway, you may find it works perfectly for you, or it may be a mess. One thing I can tell you for sure: it's a lot harder than you would think, to get the patch level with the steel and smooth. You could cheat with Bondo, but then you have more weakness.
Maybe it will be no problem. But I doubt it.
--
Ed Huntress



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On Thu, 3 Jun 2010 23:50:44 -0400
<big snip>

My tutor liked fiberglass, has worked well for me, takes some learning though...
I've had the best luck with mat (see no use for cloth in body repair), resin and sometimes adding some gel for a thicker consistency. Try to have some fiberglass/resin behind, metal and fiberglass/resin on top. In other words sandwich the metal a bit in between. Some holes drilled through the metal, with some fiber & resin oozing through seems to work too. Make sure you lay enough fiberglass (thick enough) to be able to sand it off smooth/flush with the original surface. On a hot, dry day you can keep working & playing with the patch till it starts to set, can be helpful in vertical applications. Can get you in a lot of trouble too if it sets too fast and you aren't quite ready for it :) Rough up any low spots and fill with bondo/filler. Prime, paint.
Fiberglass has the advantage of not burning off the backside of the metal panel which may be hard to get at afterwards to rustproof.
If I was just doing some touch up on a truck like you describe, I would see how well a rattle can Rustoleum type white paint matched. Learned a long time ago it isn't worth the hassle of trying for a super-duper paint job in ones driveway or dirty garage. I've had rust reappear overnight, didn't allow myself enough time to get a paint gun loaded up and shoot it after rust cleanup...
--
Leon Fisk
Grand Rapids MI/Zone 5b
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My fiberglass experience is limited to once making a fiberglass part for an R/C helicopter and making a couple of R/C boats by making a foam hull shape and glassing it. Also put glass cloth over a wooden model R/C hydroplane. I've always used epoxy with glass cloth, most of my glass cloth came from Wal-Mart, some from hobby suppliers. I also have a fiberglass kit for training to build homebuilt aircraft with the glass over foam method, but I never used the stuff yet.
So my fiberglass experience is limited but varied. I thought maybe cut out the rusted area, treat the metal remaining, and epoxy (or better) the glass part into place.
RogerN
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I've used a lot of fiberglass, with both epoxy and polyester (and some dabbling with vinylester), and what I tell people who want to try things like you're suggesting is to do it, and see what works for you. You can always cut it out and start over. There are standardized methods like the mat patches discussed by others in this thread, and they work as well as anything, but if you're talking about making a male and female mold, that ain't a standard method for vehicle body patches. You'll have to work it out on your own. As I said, I tried much the same thing, with mixed results, over 30 years ago.
I went through 50 gallons of polyester every two or three days when I worked at Ranger Yachts. I'd just as soon forget it, to tell you the truth. But working in shirts covered with globs of polyester and fiberglass needles every day, and leaving the seat of my car bloody as I drove home, from the rips in my butt that came from rubbing up against raw edges of hull layups before they were trimmed, did give me material for an essay that landed me a writing job at McGraw-Hill. d8-)
We could talk about this forever but you really have to just do it and see. The few basics we've discussed, such as the inter-bonding capabilities of steel, polyester, and epoxy, and treating the hardened resin for further bonds, may save you some heartbreak. But making shapes with the material itself really requires hands-on experience.
Regarding the cloth and mat: The binder in regular mat is made to dissolve in polyester resin (actually, I think it's the styrene that dissolves the binder). It will not dissolve in epoxy. If you use epoxy with common mat, you will have one hell of a mess and you probably won't be able to wet it thoroughly. I suppose you know that you can't use polyester with styrofoam. The foam will dissolve. It works fine with epoxy, but use polyurethane foam if you're going to use polyester resin.
Cloth is less of a problem, but the "chrome" finish on boat repair cloth, and most cloth you can buy through ordinary retail channels, is made to get a good bond with polyester. I'm told it doesn't bond properly with epoxy. My experience with it is inconclusive -- I can wet it out with epoxy, but I don't know how good the bonds are, compared to layups made with the proper cloth. Commercial users of epoxy/cloth layups use cloth made specifically for use with epoxy resin. If you want an expert answer, call the guys at WEST System. They're very helpful, in my experience. And they really know their stuff.
Treat it as a learning experience and you may well enjoy it. But expect things to go some way you didn't expect. It's very hard to anticipate how that material will behave until you've had some experience with the specific kind of application.
And remember, epoxy drools. <g> It's anti-thixotropic, and thickening it up only makes the situation a little better. Adding fumed silica will make it slightly thixotropic and it does help. Polyester is much easier to work with. They use it as the basis of Bondo for some very good reasons, even though it's a lot weaker than epoxy, and it doesn't bond to steel nearly as well.
--
Ed Huntress



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On Fri, 4 Jun 2010 23:10:15 -0400, "Ed Huntress"

Hello Ed,
My understanding is that fiberglass *mat* is made specifically to work with polyester resin, as you've said. But fiberglass *cloth* seems to work well with either epoxy or polyester. I have not yet seen a vendor who sells different kinds of cloth for epoxy and for polyester---though I'm certainly willing to be proved wrong... :-)
I've been told that there are certain surface active agents (soaps, if you will) that may be added to epoxy resin; they displace water and enhance bonding of the epoxy to the glass. Most users I know do not use these agents, though.
The rocketry bunch at www.rocketryonline.com and www.rocketryplanet.com does a lot of work with fiberglass---literally thousands of large rockets have been built this way--- and it's almost exclusively with epoxy as the binder. A lot of these guys do some work indoors and I'm pretty sure that most would be divorced or kilt or worse if they used polyester resin. :-) -- Best -- Terry
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wrote:

It may be, Terry. When I was working with lots of the material, some source I read said that large-scale users of epoxy for layups used a grade of glass cloth that didn't have the "chrome" finish used on cloth made for polyester, because the chrome finish wasn't compatible with epoxy. As I said, I don't know, because I've not used that much of it and never ran any tests.
However, at the time, S-glass was available with and without the finish. I bought some for a project, without the finish, for use with epoxy. Again, I never ran any comparative tests to see how it worked out. My tests are kind of crude, anyway. <g>

It's become very sophisticated in recent years. I'd have to spend some time catching up to see what's available today. BTW, I was using pre-preg at the end of that time, which I grew to really like. If you refrigerate it just right, you can handle it like a sheet of rubber. It's really good for some home projects but you need to know someone in the business, because you have to buy pretty large quantities of it at a time. I was getting mine from Zeston Corp. until they sold out to Johns-Manville. They'd let me cut off as much as I wanted. What a deal! Most of that stuff is A-B cure, but Zeston had some with an amine hardener, or some other RTC hardener, that let you cure it at room temperature.

Their rockets would droop, anyway. <g> I'll bet they know the latest. I'll have to save those links. Thanks.
BTW, what's the latest word on vinylester? I haven't seen much about it recently. R.Q. Riley uses it for his carbon-fiber recumbent bicycle, because, he says, you can use it with carbon fiber without the need to vacuum-bag it. Do the rocket guys use vinylester for anything?
--
Ed Huntress



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On Sun, 6 Jun 2010 12:54:41 -0400, "Ed Huntress"

I don't know of any rocket guys using vinyl ester. I'm just barely aware of the product. As I said, most if not all of them use epoxy. Worth noting: the hobbyists who do high-power rocketry are *not* necessarily technologically savvy. Some of the best rocket motors and rockets I've ever seen were constructed by a friend who has a GED and runs a welding shop in his real job.
Best -- Terry
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wrote:

Aha. Well, working with reinforced materials requires a combination of technical knowledge and a LOT of hands-on experience. The latter is more important than the former, so a hobbyist who does a lot of it ought to make out well in the end.
I love working with it, but part of the satisfaction comes from dealing with its contrariness. The reason I don't do more is that, so far, I've avoided becoming sensitized to epoxy, and I want to keep it that way; and the styrene and other nasties in polyester can make me wheeze after a full day of working inside of a boat hull. It presents some health hazards when you work with large quantities.
And then, there is the fact that the day I started working for Ranger (then owned by Bangor-Punta), a 50-something guy in the shop next door, where they made Luhrs boats, died from silicosis, after 20 years of working in an atmosphere of ground fiberglass dust.
--
Ed Huntress



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Before I had welding equipment, I did a bunch of that on the VW. Some held, some didn't. The stuff that held was done with fiberglass mat and repair gel from one of the local chain parts places. The approach was to cut the hole back to solid metal, ding the edges in slightly, remove rust and paint to bare metal, hit everything with a phosphate rust-converter wash, then clean everything off to squeakiness with acetone(was cheap when I did it). I cut a chunk of mat for the back side, one for the front side and then made up a holder from thin welding filler rod. This had an L hook bent into it, the purpose was to hold the back in place while plastering the front piece on. The idea was to sandwich the existing metal at the edges, approximate the contours of the surface and hold things together while the gel set, about 5-10 minutes in the summer. I had a poly board made for mixing bondo that I used for the gel and a bunch of scraper/spatula applicators of various sizes intended for bondo. They worked well for impregnating the mat and anything stuck on just popped off afterwards. After the stuff set up, I left it for a day and went at it with body files, sander and block. Looked OK after it was primed and painted, the places where I filled in the rocker panel holes don't even show 10 years later. Was not so lucky on inner fender holes, had to be redone about 5 years later. Probably too much flexing and impacts from road trash and rocks. Now I'd just weld patches on. So it CAN be done. If the damage is in an area where fuel lines run and you'd rather not drop the tank and flush things out, fiberglass repairs might be the answer. Need absolutely clean metal for it to stick. I really liked the gel for this, regular resin would just run away.
Stan
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RogerN wrote:

Most of the complex parts can be found as patch panels. You basically cut out the old. Leave a small lip, flange the lip so the panel sets flush and MIG or TIG them in. Grind the welds smooth, then apply a THIN layer of filler and board sand it flat. Then use a good primer and finish coat it. Unless you have a nice temperature controlled storage place and don't plan on moving the vehicle while your working on it you may want to shoot the panel with paint as soon as you get each panel done. Doesn't have to be a perfect coat but primer on it's own have a nasty habit of being hygroscopic.
--
Steve W.
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