Playing a spray painter was painfully hard for this novice.
ART was my weakest subject at school. And here I was at Axalta’s training facility on the outskirts of Bangkok, learning about colours, cromas, coatings, tints and tones. The other attendees were all “old birds” in Singapore’s body-shop business, whereas this colourless spring chicken could barely manage the marker pens and whiteboard during an offi ce meeting.
This was an art class that also required me to have a grasp of chemistry and mathematics. Whatever I learned about these diffi cult subjects at school, I left it there, so I grasped at straws during the theory lessons on binders, primers, fillers, thinners, surfacers, hardeners, whatevers… There was even a bit of CSI (crime scene investigation), because, according to the trainer, Chris Ortega: “Paint spectra is like fingerprints – every one is diff erent, each has its own identity and shade.”
During the first half of the tutorial, I saw a greater variety of colours on the projector screen than all the Pantone charts I’ve ever seen in the past 10 years. During the second half of the tutorial, I saw stars and secondary rainbows. At the end of the tutorial, I became borderline colour-blind. Before I could play with clearcoats and basecoats, I had to don an overcoat.
By the way, the quality of any paint job doesn’t depend on the number of paint coats it has. It depends on the paint system (Cromax in this case), equipment, adherence to standard procedures, and the professional in the white coat. I was a non-professional in an off -white coat, so it was a good idea to limit myself to a single fender. No car would be harmed, and no car owner would be horrified by my unprofessional paint job.
My putty practice wasn’t a complete failure and my paint preparation wasn’t a complete success, but most importantly, I was allowed to enter the booth with a borrowed (and loaded) spray gun. I was told that in the tedious business of vehicle refinish/repair, spray painting is the shortest stage. It was more like the sweatiest stage for me, because the spraying was tricky and the paint booth was uncomfortably warm with my coat, mask and gloves on. The trainer provided on-thespot guidance, and I needed plenty of it – “parallel to panel… maintain angle… keep the action consistent… control the whole tool and not just the trigger… relax your hand…”
Mixing/ diluting the paint in the correct ratio and degreasing the body panel to be painted were all in a day’s (difficult) work.
Speaking of which, I initially held the spray gun with two hands and was corrected straightaway. I was supposed to use my master hand to do the spraying and my other hand to keep the air tube away from the body panel being sprayed. My standing position was incorrect, too. I was supposed to stand where I could reach either end of the panel without moving my feet – not shuffl e to either side as I did the spraying. It took me just a few minutes to colour the fender, but I was already blue in the face. I couldn’t imagine respraying multiple body panels in one day, and to do so consistently. Relax my hand? No way. My crash course in spray painting wasn’t a total disaster, since no cans of paint crashed into each other, no colours clashed and no spray gun misfired. After all my hard work, it was painless watching paint dry