I. Wet sanding, wet sanding, wet sanding and buffing!

posted Oct 16, 2016, 7:51 AM by Dane Belden   [ updated Jul 7, 2017, 9:52 AM ]
To get a base coat / clear coat finish just right you really need to wet sand it and then buff it.  Think about it, you started with a block sanded FLAT primer surface, but you added 2 coats of color and at least 2 costs of clear.  No matter how good you are with a paint gun you will have some degree of orange peel built up with that many coats of paint.  Add to that the miscellaneous airborne trash that ends up in the clear surface and you really have to block it down again and buff it.  While difficult to photograph, when you look close in places you can see the tell-tale mottled finish of orange peel.  Just above the fender extension (headlight bezel) there is some.
So to get it flat you need to go through a series of wet sanding steps (with a block) that begins with 1500 paper.  There are plenty of good sources on the Internet to go though the process of wet sanding and we took the approach of going from 1500 to 2000 to 3000 before we did the final buff.  Be prepared for a lengthy process - this step isn't difficult, it just takes time.  It can be a bit discouraging because you take the nice shiny surface and make it hazy with this process so it feels as if you are going backwards (in effect you are, but you end up in a much different and better place).  Here is the body after 1500 grit wet sanding:

It is difficult to see the difference with 2000 grit, so here is 3000 grit - the shine is coming back, especially when viewed at a rather low angle:

A little closer on 3000 grit:

Once the body has been completely wet sanded to 3000 grit and cleaned of the residue, it is time for the payoff - buffing.  3M Perfect-It system is used because it works.  It is a 3 step system of scratch removal, swirl removal and machine finishing. and the results are stunning - this is the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow when the last step is complete.  

Those who are really paying attention will see that the roof hasn't been wet sanded - that is because it will have a vinyl roof put on and we wanted to have as much paint on the roof as possible to protect the metal under the vinyl.  Here are some shots after final buff:

Getting a good reflection shot is tricky with the body contours of the 1970 Chevelle and the very heavy iridescent metallic of Shadow Gray - photographs just tend to look grainy, but hopefully you are able to see what can be done with the painting process.  Now the Chevelle will be re-assembled and sent off for a new vinyl roof.  Once back in the shop the mechanical work on the restoration will begin.