Auto Body and Paint Supplies 101

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Part 1: Filler Fundamentals

By “Rotten” Rodney Bauman

How much must we spend to save a buck on auto body and paint supplies? Generics aren’t cheap. The leading brands are just plain spendy, but either way, there are ways to stretch that buck. For savings on auto body and paint supplies, it’s largely who we buy from, but it’s also how we care for what we buy.

02 Washing hands before handling paint supplies
Although we can’t overstate the importance of working clean, this won’t be about hand-washing. Instead, just know that we do this quite a lot.

As a youngster honing the craft that would become a career, I didn’t even know how spoiled I’d become. Back in the ’70s, in Southern California, I had good teachers. In addition there were automotive paint stores with knowledgeable employees who’d help a kid get started. In Riverside we had three such stores at that time. They all ran delivery trucks, but for my own side jobs I’d walk in just to interact with those guys who seemed so doggone cool.

03 Cleaning up the masking tape before storing away
So, we’ve talked about tape. Mainly for its protective cellophane we buy ours by the sleeve. Inside the wrapper the masking tape is clean. We’ll sterilize the outside before stocking.

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My, how times have changed! At least here in Northwestern Montana, our paint stores are parts stores. That means body and paint materials slide across the same countertop as auto parts, as well as greasy cores. From there it gets worse as the delivery driver checks oil, pumps gas, and maybe munches on a snack along the road to our shop. By the time we receive our greasy goods, they’re seriously contaminated. As a conscientious painter I’m aware of that. If you’re not, perhaps you should be.

04 Polyester dust isn_t good for the masking tape
Inevitably, there’ll be times when gravity is not our friend. The body stall floor is kept pretty clean. The polyester dust isn’t dirty, but it’s not good for masking tape.
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Granted, we might seem extreme, but really body and paint professionals and hobbyists alike should think things through like surgeons. Tools and materials ought to be kept surgically clean from start to finish for any job that counts. Since most of ours do, we find it’s best to approach them all the same way. Providing we’re working primarily at one location, good habits are easily established and maintained. For bodywork, and moreover, paintwork, we really can’t overthink cleanliness. On that note, let’s move on with a few examples.

05 Cleaning up masking tape we got from the Paint department
Blowing with clean compressed air might almost save what’s left of this roll. It could still be good for something, but not so much next door in the paint department.

To get started, can we talk about masking tape? Around here we like ours fresh and clean. The individual rolls on the parts store shelves have been handled, and there they are, displayed on their sides so they’ll attract impurities. For that reason, we don’t buy individual rolls. Our little paint department isn’t high production. For us, purchasing an unopened case of masking tape is overkill, so we’ll usually order masking tape by the sleeve. Each sleeve is protected by cellophane, which we’ll sanitize before it’s put away in a clean steel cabinet where we’ll fetch it as it’s needed—one roll at a time.

06 Paying for premium Wooden Stir Sticks
From our local auto parts store a handful of wooden stir sticks would be free, but what else has the counterperson’s hand just handled? We prefer to pay-up for an unopened box.

For as long as I’ve been in the trade, paint strainers and handfuls of wooden stir sticks have been complimentary freebies. Here, since our paint stores are parts stores, we’d prefer to pay-up for ours, as we’re not so keen on mixing spendy materials with porous, grease-impregnated sticks. From our local auto parts store an unopened box of wooden sticks is cheap. Their freebie handfuls, however, could cost us plenty.

07 Sterilize the tear off mixing board prior to use
From our parts store this tear-off mixing board came without a protective wrapper. Before it touches anything, we’ll sterilize it and dispose of the top sheet.

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Lately as we know, there’s a shortage of certain paper products, but what’s up with sandpaper? Longboard air file sheets in particular are rather hard to come by. Ordinarily we’d replenish with complete, unopened boxes, but our parts stores carry only five-packs. The five-pack packaging features an open window so the top sheet is visible and vulnerable. To those of us who care enough, the top sheet is junk.

08 Sandpaper shortage only five pack available at parts store
We’re not exactly sure why, but there’s a sandpaper shortage as of late. For longboard air file sheets our parts store carries only five-packs.
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Also in short supply are staples such as face shield, disposable gloves, painting masks, organic vapor respirators, and even their replacement charcoal cartridges. Once those are introduced to moving air, they’re activated—and they won’t last long. If they must be reused, their shelf-lives can be prolonged just by storing them in a chilly place, sealed in a clean freezer bag. Keep in mind, however, once the original packaging is opened, the clock is ticking. If your respirator goes stale you won’t likely know it ’til you’re sick. If it weren’t for their current scarcity we wouldn’t recommend reusing them at all.

09 Five packs of sandpaper top sheet gets contaminated through the open portion of the package
To a busy shop, five-packs are a tease. Worse yet, the top sheets get contaminated through the packaging’s open window. What do you suppose the dark stain might be?

Here in our own body stall with metal work done, we’re preparing to do a fair amount of filler work on the unibody frame cab of a 1955 second series Chevy truck. Yes, it’s the same truck, but that’s not what we want to talk about. Instead, let’s talk some more about materials. For the job at hand we’ll begin with fiber-reinforced filler and finish with our old standby, Rage Gold. Our local auto parts store carries both types of filler, but we’ve noticed their prices are high.

10 Auto body and paint supplies current shortage
Less mysterious is the current shortage of other necessary auto body and paint supplies. This is only a sign of the times—and that’s enough about that.

The better Plan B would be Summit, but this time for some reason we drifted to try a supplier that we’ll just refer to as “Brand-X Mudmart.” Long story short, that filler shipment didn’t work out so well, as we sure-enough paid more and waited longer only to receive damaged goods in an undamaged package.

11 2 gallon sized cans without damage
For the actual job at hand we’ll use fresh fillers. From Brand-X Mudmart this box has arrived in good order. Among other materials the box contains 2-gallon-size cans.

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From here, for the purpose of illustration, we’ll recapitulate some things we’ve talked about. This’ll begin with some of our own standard procedures and end with due propers for our new, solid, Plan A materials supplier. We’ll show you how we’ll procure the majority of our body and paint shop staples from now on.

12 Damaged goods from company requires metalwork
Sometimes, quite oddly, damaged goods arrive in undamaged boxes. Could it be that we’ve been specially selected? Following a bit of extra metalwork, this’ll sit flat on a bench.
18 Clean sanitized hands are important when dealing with auto body and paint supplies
Although we can’t overstate the importance of working clean, this won’t be about hand-washing. In our next installment we’ll see the aforementioned products being used.
17 Undamaged goods from Summit racing painting supplies
It’s nice to receive undamaged goods. To the naked eye our Summit order also looks clean. We may seem extreme, but here we treat all incoming shipments the same.
16 Paint supplies from Summit racing arrived in good shape
The package weighed in heavy, but since our order totaled a little over $99, shipping was free. This transaction went so well, I think I’ll call in another order—already.
15 Gallon sze can of Rage Gold from Summit racing
Currently from our parts store we’d pay $93.92 for a gallon-size can of Rage Gold. From Brand-X Mudmart a smashed can costs less, but for $63.99 Summit wins!
14 Ordering 2 gallon sized paint cans from Summit racing
Here we’ve ordered similar goods from Summit. This box also contains 2-gallon-size cans. For an even-better price, we’re receiving cans that aren’t smashed.
13 Smashed paint cans from local parts store
And here we go again, with the other smashed can. If this came from our local auto parts store, it would’ve cost considerably more, but at least we could’ve rejected it.

Summit Racing Equipment
(800) 230-3030

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