Monday, June 20, 2005

The Yager Road Body Shop…

From my post the other day, you know how we got here....

Mitch’s garage was an oversized 1 car garage; it was about 26’ long and maybe 14’ wide. Your average bay in a standard shop is more like 30’ long and 16’ (or so) wide. So we had some limited space, but between the two of us we fashioned some 6 to 8 inch deep wall cabinets to hold some tools, a small and fairly narrow ‘paint bench’ we used mainly for mixing paint, and ran air lines up on the wall to keep as much open floor space as possible.

There was no heat and no A/C in the old garage and we’d rigged up an old washing machine motor and fan blade in one window to act as our exhaust fan.

Mitch’s boss (yep, the first car we did belonged to Mitch’s boss) brought his wife’s old station wagon over that first weekend. We made a pretty good list of the things that needed attention, talked with Abe for a bit and then he left everything in our hands.

When I asked Mitch what he’d quoted Abe on the job, it was pretty obvious we’d have to be careful, and creative, if we were going to make any money. Fortunately, there wasn’t much rust on the old girl just a lot of dings, dents, scratches and chipping and flaking paint.

So we got started. In the process we’d talk about what type of paint we should use for the final finish. Now most of my (admittedly limited) background had been with Activated Acrylic Enamels, Polyurethanes and Lacquers. Mitch on the other hand had never sprayed anything but straight enamel.

(As an aside, most everything today is polyurethane based and uses an ‘activator’ which causes the paint to cure chemically, rather than by simple evaporation. While these are great for the finish, improve flow out, reduce drying times etc. They are also very dangerous to use as they contain isocyanates, and can adversely affect your health.)

So, we decided we’d squirt Abe’s car with enamel. It would minimize any of the problems associated with Lacquer, not to mention the sanding and buffing it also requires, and would cost significantly less than the newer paints.

As we worked our way around the car, it was getting very, what I call, ‘square’. What this meant was that the body panels were smooth, all the lines were straight as an arrow and there were no pin holes or other blemishes in the work. I was very pleased with what we’d done in about three evenings, and very much looking forward to getting the car in paint and getting paid!

So on Friday, I stopped at the paint store, picked up the paint, some reducer and ‘fish-eye’ eliminator (just in case), as well as a few fresh rolls of masking tape.

When I got home and back over to Mitch’s place he’d just finished putting on the guide coat and we quickly did one last block sanding on the car. With that finished we each did a last walk around and proclaimed her ready to go.

But, instead of starting right in on the paint, we decided to have a couple of beers, move the car outside, sweep down the garage, blow off any loose residual dust, etc. so we could hit it fresh in the morning. That’s just what we did. We also sat on the steps of his house for an hour or so, tipping beers and looking forward to the morning.

The morning… now that’s when our troubles started.

I’d never shot an entire car in enamel, and it takes a slightly different touch than the quicker drying paints I was used to, and, it’s extremely susceptible to rapid temperature changes… all things experience would have taught, and were about to teach, me!

The first coat went on just fine. The color his boss had chosen had good coverage ability (meaning it was opaque, rather than translucent, in nature) and even this first tack coat was looking really nice.

We went outside, got a cup of coffee and smoked a cigarette or two waiting for that first coat to ‘tack up’. To ‘tack up’ means waiting for the paint to begin to dry, so that when you place the second coat on, the additional weight of the paint won’t cause it to run, sag or otherwise ruin the finish. You may hear other folks call it ‘flash time’, it all means the same thing

Well, instead of 15 minutes, it took nearly 30 to tack up; Mitch suggested we add a slightly faster reducer this time, in hopes of cutting down our wait time. I agreed, and that’s what we did. Unfortunately, what we didn’t take into account was the rapidly rising temperature that day.

The second coat started out going on beautifully, smooth as glass, and very shiny. But, by the time we’d gotten fully around the car, the paint was looking much less smooth and not very shiny at all. In fact it was looking more like primer than a finish coat!

Once again we discussed the situation, decided we’d go back to the slower reducer, and even add a touch of ‘retarder’ this time (a retarder slows down the dry time, and usually aids in the flow out or smoothness of the paint).

We got started mixing that 3rd coat immediately as the last one was more than ready. This time, the temperature had now climbed well into the mid 90’s, and the 3rd coat was a disaster. It just flat looked bad, almost no shine and simply not acceptable.

As it was now about 11:15am, we climbed into the truck and headed over to the paint store (which was open ‘til noon), we made it with maybe 5 minutes to spare. The guy behind the counter knew us both and listened to our tale of woe and made two suggestions. One, put off delivering the car until the next day, and second to hand sand the car tonight, and top coat it in the morning using no reducers or additives. So we bought more paint, and some materials to assist in block sanding the car by hand (there goes a little more profit) and headed home.

It was well after 9:00pm that evening before we could actually sand on the car (remember I told you enamel takes a long time to dry!) and nearly 1:00am by the time we finished. We blew the car off, ran tack rags over it to pick up dust, and re-masked it before leaving though, which had us both leaving at well after 2:00am, with promises to be back and ready to go at 7:30am on Sunday.

Sunday morning came far too early, but, as usual Mitch’s wife had coffee made and was ever confident in our abilities.

(Debbie’s a wonderful woman, every bit as great as Mitch in every way. She rarely if ever was ‘down’, and would often come out and help us mask up cars in preparation for paint. She’d always make a beer run for us, and more often than not, had coffee on in the mornings, offered us a sandwich around lunch time, and always had something tasty around dinnertime! She was, in my opinion, a perfect match for Mitch, and he for her!)

So about 7:45 we started getting ready, by 8:00 I was full on spraying on that final top coat. It went as well as we could have hoped. It wasn’t as nice as any of our subsequent jobs would be, but it was shiny and smooth!

By 9:30 the paint had tacked up enough that we rolled the car out into the sunlight. You know what? It actually looked pretty good! A hundred times better than when we’ve got it, and with each piece of chrome trim we placed back on, it looked even better.

Abe showed up around noon and we’d pulled the car back into the shop before he got there. He asked how things had turned out, we of course neglected to mention any of the problems we’d had, but instead inferred it had been a bit more work than we’d anticipated, but a deal is a deal.

I wish I had a picture, of his and his wife’s faces, when we backed that old station wagon out the door. The sun was out and brilliant that day, the car was just gleaming and so were they.

Abe slid Mitch a small wad of cash, we all shook hands and off they went.

After they’d gone, we opened a beer to celebrate, as only 24hrs before things had been looking pretty bleak. Mitch and I then took what we called “Deb’s cut” for the household expenses off the top, took the money to pay for the supplies out, and divvied up the remainder. As I recall, he and I spent the rest of that afternoon, sitting in Adirondack chairs in the shade, drinking beers and talking about what we should paint next.

That always seemed the best part of the job to me, sitting with my best friend, having a couple of cold ones, laughing at our mistakes, and planning the next ‘money maker’. I’ve mentioned before, we were all pretty broke in those days, but living seemed easier somehow. Maybe it’s time, maybe it’s a trick my memory plays on me, but I’d love to be living that way now. With as good a friend as Mitch, doing something we really enjoyed to do, and making some ‘mad money’ in the process. This was the first, of many of these jobs we did in that shop, if you folks are interested, I’ll attempt to relate a few more as I can.


Karyn Lyndon said...

Do all your stories have happy endings? Hopefully you're planning on writing

Bill said...

Well.. pretty much I guess they do!

I've never attempted to write anything in the romance arena... maybe I should give it a try? :)

I have never, in my life, missed an agreed to deadline, or failed to deliver to a client what I'd promised. So, in that sense, there are no real bad endings.

I've had nearly everything I've ever attempted go wrong, in one way or another along the way though!!

No_Newz said...

I am glad it all worked out in the end. Who knew it would be such a long process, damn. I hope father's day was wonderful for you! Thank you for the birthday greetings!
Lois Lane

Bill said...

Lois: You're welcome, I hope you had a great day! I had a very nice Father's Day.. quiet, but nice.

Spirit Of Owl said...

The thing about you, Bill, is that you just won't be defeated, right? Whatever has to be done, you'll go the extra mile, pull out the stops, and get the job done. You're also a perfectionist, who takes a great deal of pride in his work.

Those are such impressive qualities, and being as tenacious and determined as you are seems to have made you a successful if very hard-worked man. :)

Of course, to never have missed a deadline in the IT world makes you something of a genuine superhero!

Comfort Addict said...

That's a nice story of another one pulled out of the fire.

Bill said...

Spirit of Owl: You've pretty much got me nailed... I tend to just roll up my sleeves and get the job done. I'm nothing if not persistent :)

As for deadlines... you'll notice I said 'agreed upon' dealines. I've missed plenty that were unreasonable (and made a few), but I always told them going in that they'd picked a target that could not be hit (so I don't count those).

I'm no 'superhero'... far from it, I just get up every day, and put one foot in front of the other and do the best I know how to do.

It's really the only way I know.

Bill said...

Comfort Addict: Thanks again!

You know, seeing your words has me thinking that my life, especially professionally, has consisted mostly of me pulling 'stuff' out of the fire.

Things always seem to go wrong, but, somehow (and often because I've had help), in the end it all gets resolved.

I'd never quite looked at it that way before.

Firehawk said...


I told someone the other day, "Here's the trick: take what you feel to be a reasonable and logical amount of time to finish a project, then multiply it by two if you've done it all before. If you've only done something like it, multiply by three. If you've never tried something at all similar, go ahead and mutiply your time estimate by ten. That way, you have a prayer of getting things done."

I've found the people who can come through on their promises generally fairly cautious about what they promise to deliver. If you doubt it, don't spout it. You'll just come off looking like a fool. I like the part about "agreed upon" deadlines. That's in important caveat.

Again, a good story. You've been blessed with a lot of good friends over the years, it seems.

Bill said...

Firehawk: First... Sorry I missed this before this... second, you're absolutely right on time estimates, adding additional people to the team often adds, not takes away time too.

I have had some good friends, the really good ones though, were few in number, but long on memories!