A Little Project Here In Houston Texas!


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I decided to paint my own plane because I wanted a custom scheme. We stripped the paint down to the metal and cleaned, prepped and alodined the surfaces.
Its been a long project due to interruptions of having to stop to work on other planes to keep paying the bills.

We are preparing to apply the final UC coats in the coming days.

I will post the steps and issues I went through in this process if anyone is interested. Just think about any issue you might have had and then multiply the size by about 4!

Here's the before pic and a drawing of the planned scheme.

A special thanks to Barry for his expertise and guidance!
I am very pleased with the quality of his products. They performed well!

I attached Pictures of the finished job! Finally there!

I will try to provide information on the steps that were required to accomplish this project.



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Planes aren't the only things made from aluminum , so would be a good reference post for anyone new to aluminum.
Till you mess with the stuff, particularly tig welding it, it's hard to believe some of the negative al characteristics. Immediately starts oxidizing after sanding & the oxidation is almost a heat barrier when welding, so cleanliness is more important than raw steel on a wet day.
I've seen a local Maaco shop get good holdout results on repairs down to bare metal on aluminum mail trucks using low cost 2kprimer &ss. Their typical speedy get it in & out timeframe on a small down to clean bare metal area has alot to do with them getting away with it. Not something that would work on a whole plane.
Painting our Plane!

Our Challenge:
We wanted to strip and paint our plane with a custom design! Our biggest challenge was that the surface area of the plane's body(fuselage), tail, wings (top & bottom) and the control surfaces was probably equal to about 6 full size cars. That will be a LOT of materials and painting!

What it was!


What we wanted!

Mooney N222KR.jpg


Painted VW's for Dad after he rebuilt them. Used siphon guns like Binks & DeVilbus.
Used acrylic enamel and retarders. (46 Years ago).
I am a Pilot/Flight Instructor and an aircraft owner.
I am a retired IT analyst. That's where I get my planning talents.
My wife Ann, is a crafts person. She offered lots of creative ideas!


Determining the products that would be needed.
Projecting the volume of paint, reducers, additives needed and numerous spread sheets.
Paint scheme: went through a lot of designs until we found the perfect design.
Color scheme: Original colors were changed at near the last minute!
Had to learn to use the HVLP gun (pressure, volume & sweet spot)
Researched the masking tapes & masking materials.
Talked to several: aircraft paint shops, aircraft painters, paint material experts.

Paint tests:
4 pieces

strip, prime, base, pearl, chameleon,
no clear
several types of pearl and chameleon powders
Masking tape tests
air pressure adjustments
needle adjustments
find sweet spot
primer glossy
base glossy
pearl and chameleon satin/shine

Fiberglass repairs:

The upper & lower cowling required repair to: gel coat cracks, adding stiffeners and fastener hole repairs. I probably spent 70-80 hours repairing both pieces. I'm a perfectionist!
This task is not directly related to the SPI products. Maybe break these steps of this task out in a separate post.

paper cups(not waxed)
Evercoat Lite Weight filler
fiberglass tape and cloth
carbon fiber tape and cloth
polyester resin
epoxy resin


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Paint Masks Fabrication:

Plane Schemers, Jonathan

We provided some pictures and drawings of our desired paint scheme to Jonathan at Plane Schemers. Once the scheme was finalized, the masks were produces. The masks were configured and computer printed (cut) from a continuous 24 inch wide of low tack vinyl material. It was covered on the front with a adhesive brown paper frisket to give it some rigidity while working with it. The back had a light weight paper on it. The masking came rolled up in a tube.

They might be able to make a mask to do custom flames!

Trial Application of the Masking:

Due to the complexity of the scheme, we did a trial positioning of the masks. We taped the mask on the plane to check the fit and alignment of the lines. We marked a lot of reference points on the mask at joints and rivets to help get the mask back into the same position. This also gave us an idea of the amount of time it would take to apply the mask. The upward curve on the vertical fin on the tail took the longest time to align the masks above and below the horizontal tail surfaces so that the curve looked continuous. The masks appeared to be very accurate as to fitting the curves.




Application Plan:

Epoxy primer-2 coats

White base-2 coats

PWP pearl powder in IC-2 coats

IC -2 coats

Temporarily re-attach control surfaces

Masks and masking

Black base-2 coats

Mask black not to have chameleon applied to it.

PWP chameleon powder in IC-2 coats

IC-2 coats

Remove masking

IC-2 coats

UC coats-3

Component groups:

We tried to break down the components into manageable groups instead to trying to paint it all at once. It also provided an opportunity to identify and correct any issues that occurred on a smaller scale.

  1. Wings
  2. Fuselage(body) & tail
  3. Control surfaces, cowls, inspection panels and miscellaneous parts
  4. Screws and fasteners



Masking tape: paper tape, vinyl 3M vinyl #471, foil tape.

Masking materials, brown paper, polycoated blue masking paper, plastic film, aluminum foil & tape.

Paint stripper-Aero Clean Technologies, PS-3010

Phosphate etch (not acid) -Bonderite C-IC 33 (formerly Alumiprep 33)

Alodine- Bonderite M-CR_1201

SPI products: epoxy primer, bases, clears, retarders, reducers and cleaners.

Black base.

White Base

PWP pearl pigments,

PWP chameleon pigments,

Scotch Brite pads, maroon & gray

lint free cloths

nitrile gloves


80 gallon compressor/220V wide open pressure, 15+ CFM

HF Air separator

Motor Guard M-100 filter on hose/sprayer end

½ inch 100 foot hose (blew the hose out before each session to clear any moisture)

10 foot 3/8 whip hose

High flow connectors and couplers

LPH400 with 1.3 tip,

Motor Guard RG4049 regulator at the gun

stand 500W halogen lights (for light and heat)

extension cords (12 gauge)

ProLite TEKNA 703663 pressure feed spray gun

2 ½ gallon paint pot

paint gun stand/holder

HF paint cups(only used on initial paint tests)

MPS/PPS spray gun cups and liners

Zinnor full face mask

paper overalls

mixing cups and buckets

paint stirring sticks(gross)

Diesel space heater

wall thermometer

laser temperature gun
Project Steps:

I. Stripping:

We used a liquid/gel like paint stripper used by several aircraft paint shops. The Aero Clean Stripper (yellow) comes in 5 gallon jugs. Used about 14 gallons for the whole project.

Had to remove components from the plane or protect components from the stripper. We did not remove the control surfaces yet for this stage. We masked: plastic, fiberglass, rubber, Plexiglas windows, antennas. This was done with the foil products.

We removed the fiberglass cowlings, then masked the engine and prop.

We performed this project in our hanger. Not very air tight.

We did the stripping in January. Temps were in the 50's over night. Applied the stripper with a 4 inch wide natural fiber paint roller. This allowed us to apply a generous coat and do it quickly. Left a space heater running over night set at 72 degrees. Next morning results were amazing! The paint literally slid off the plane. Probably over 90 % of the existing paint was soften/loosened up. We scraped the material off with plastic scrappers. We had placed plastic sheets on the floor to catch and collect the material.

We applied more stripper to the remaining spots and periodically stirred the material to soften/lift the remaining paint.

After scraping the bulk of the loosened materials off of the plane, we power washed the plane. We applied a stripper neutralizer on the metal and then power washed it off.

We then inspected the aluminum for any spots of corrosion or remaining paint. One thing, I noticed was that along the leading edge of the wing, the paint had been chipped by small rocks or debris. Each of these spots had a slightly dark appearance. This was mild corrosion from the now unprotected aluminum.

This step took 3-4 days. I thought this would be the hard part! Turns out it was the simplest.



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II. Prep:

The control surfaces and other components were removed. Any remaining paint left in the crevices or around rivets were touched up with stripper.

A final wash of all the surfaces was performed.

We used an air DA with maroon scotch brite pads saturated with the alumiprep 33 over entire plane's surface. The hard to access areas were addressed by hand with maroon scotch brite. Again we

addressed any areas with additional corrosion issues.

We immediately applied the alodine product to the freshly cleaned surfaces. Alodine is an excellent adhesion promoter use by aircraft painters.

We removed and applied fresh masking material that might have been compromised during stripping/cleaning processes.


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III. Prep/Clean hangar:

Since we were painting in retaliative unsealed hanger, we had to do the best we could. We tried to cover some of the gaps in the doors. We pulled the plane out and power washed the floor, walls and ceilings to remove as much contaminants as possible.

IV. Painting

a.)Applying Epoxy Primer:

The plane set for a couple of weeks before we could apply the primer. We chose to re-clean with the surfaces with alumiprep-33 and then re-apply the alodine treatment.

The next day we wiped the plane with 700 cleaner before painting.

We mixed a gallon of primer and let it “cook” (activate) for 30 minutes.

I purchased a ProLite TEKNA 703663 pressure feed spray gun and a 2 ½ gallon paint pot to be able to apply the material continuously without having to stop to refill a paint cup. The gallon painted the fuselage (body) and most of the tail. The gun had about a 14 inch wide pattern. It laid the paid down quickly and with a good coverage. Overlap was about 60%-70%. Each wing took 3 quarts to do the top and bottom on each side.

Now it was confirmed that it would take 2 ½ to 3 gallons for each coat of product.

Sprayed a second coat of primer to give a good streak free surface. The coating was pretty smooth and shiny. Temps about 80's. Mid-May, usual 70%+ humidity for Houston.

b.) Applying White Base:

Mixed about 1 gallon at a time using 895 reducer. Added a few ounces of retarder to test and get a feel for how the effectively the retarder worked. It produced good results. Almost a full shine!

Sprayed a second coat of white with about a 75% overlap with the ProLite Tekna and paint pot. Applied a couple of days after the epoxy primer. Temps about 80's. Mid-May, usual 70%+ humidity for Houston.

c.) Applying White Pearl:

This was the task I was dreading the most. The pearl would look streaked if the overlap was not satisfactory. The pearl power was mixed into IC with the appropriate reducer. Worked hard at maintaining about a 75% overlap. The other issue was due to the size and shape of the plane I could not walk end to end as I sprayed. Received a tip to not end the pass on a joint or panel line. Continue the pass into the center of the panel and then overlap from the other direction. This seemed to produce good results with no streaking.

Temps about low 80's. October, usual 70%+ humidity for Houston.
d.)Applying IC:

Applied 2 coats of IC over the pearl to help protect the finish while applying the masking for the next steps.

Part way through the first paint batch, started getting red specks on the paint surface. Turned out that the red rubber paint supply line from the paint pot was deteriorating. It was a new hose, just must not have been very good quality. Since I already had the paint in the pot, I switched to the LPH-400 with the 27 ounce MPS/PPS cups. It covered a lot of area for each cup. I pre-filled several cups at one time to reduce stop time for the refill. Turned out to not be as big of an issue by using the PPS cups.

e.) Reattached control surfaces and cowlings:

The components needed to be in place in order to mask in the lines and color.

f.) Masking Application:

We taped the masks in place with paper tape and when everything lined up, we would pull the vinyl backing off and lightly press the film in place.

It took a day to apply all the masks to the fuselage. Another day for the curves on the wing tips.

The bandit mask around the windshield and side windows was done by hand taping. It took a full day just to do this. I thought it would be easier to do by hand. Not! To get the curves even on both sides took some doing. Used tracing paper to form equal curves on the top. Used the 3M 471 tape for these edges.

Since the mask material was a vinyl product we had almost no tape bleed under the edges. When the vinyl crossed a fastener (rivet) or a seam edge, we cut the vinyl and bridged across it with foil tape. Once each mask looked to be good, we went over all the vinyl edges with a plastic squeegee to press the edges down for a good seal.





g.) Applying Black Base:

Added a few ounces of retarder to the mix just to help keep the finish relatively smooth. I didn't want to have to do any sanding.

Temps about low 80's. October, usual 70%+ humidity for Houston.


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h.) Mask Black not getting Chameleon:

Used coated paper to cover the black base sections that was to remain black.

i.)Applying Blue/Purple Chameleon:

This step used exactly the same process as the application of the white pearl. The chameleon powder was mixed into IC. It was amazing seeing the chameleon appear as the first coat was sprayed. As long as the overlap was maintained, there was no streaking.

Temps about low 80's. October, usual 70%+ humidity for Houston.



j.) Removed Masking:

This was the time to find out if our masks edges were good or had bleeding underneath? The mask pulled off very easy with no paint lifting. There was no bleeding under the vinyl edges! Cleaned around a few rivet heads that had a slight bleed. There were no issues or bleeds around the windows.


First time plane was rolled outside!!!

k.) Applying Clear Coats:

I applied 2 coats of IC as I had several gallons of product. Added several ounces of retarder to each mix to help keep everything smooth and shiny.

Then applied 3 coats of UC. Added more retarder to the final two coats. Going for the glossy finish!



l.) Final Steps:

There are a few places that will need some cut & buff attention.

Issues Encounterd:

Orange peel:
Had very little orange peel. Only occurs when the gun/hand moves out of alignment.

Runs: Only occasionally occurred on edges.

Temperatures: When the temps were 80 and above, I was using 895 reducer. Didn't have any issues, nice slow dry. When it was cooler, I would add heat to the hangar to get around 75 degrees and then check the metal with a laser thermometer to verify the temperature. Used 870 at this time.

The only issue, I had was when shooting clear over the black base, the metal was barely 70 degrees. Also used 895 reducer instead of going to the 870. In consulting with Barry, the guess was that the slow reducer and low temperature did not allow the reducer to evaporate quick enough and caused base crinkled up. No fault of the product. My bad!


We allowed to crinkled areas to dry for several days and then wet sanded it and re-shot.

Dust: If it was a relative windy day of say more than 10 miles an hour, I would see some dust in the paint. When I saw dust or trash in the paint, I'm guessing that it came from within the plane. If doing again I would use my 24 inch air sprayer and blow from the inside out to help release any dirt/dust particles from within the airframe. This would have to be done while the plane was still outside so as to not pollute the air in the shop.

Over spray: The over spray was not sticking to any degree. It just took some time to clean it off the surfaces. After the paint had set over night, when spraying the next day I would cover parts of the plane with plastic just to save the hassle of having to clean it.

Touch ups:

We did have some spots that were sanded and then re-shot. The trick was using the correct reducer for the temperature to allow good flow out.

It's Finished!!!!!!



Would I/We do it again? The answer is not so simple. I'm a perfectionist. That created a lot of “2 steps forward and 1 backward” situations. I have a significant amount of knowledge as to how to do this now. I don't want to do this for a living. I just like working on airplanes!

We want to thank:

Barry Kives (SPI) for all his patience and time to explain to me what I needed. His previous experience with aviation painting was a definite asset to this project. Looking forward to flying to Blairsville and showing him the plane. A big THANK YOU!

Jim C,

Jim offered a lot of experience and expertise in the techniques related to the application of the PWP pearl and chameleon products. Many Thanks.

Paint With Pearls, Lindsey provided a lot of information related to the application of their products.

SPI Customer Service Phone Reps- Don't remember their names but always helpful with getting the right product!

SPI Brian the IT guru that helped do these posts!

Of course the thanks go to my wonderful wife, Ann, of just over a year. Her first job was "Hoseman". Really did a good job!
Now she walks up to a paint job and points out the orange peel or the runs!!
My wife is also a hose-man...and when we go to a show...she notices everything in paint jobs on the cars lol

This looks like an area in alvin on 1462?
There was 4 of us applying the stripper. Only took a couple of hours. Stuff is pretty thick so there wasn't much in the way of drips on the undersides.