"newbie" is not a derogatory term...all it means is that this whole metal working, body panel prepping, tool using, paint spraying world you find yourself in is sort of...well...new to you, and we certainly don't expect you to know the ins and outs of this stuff. We were all "newbies" at one point in time, so the very fact that you are here looking for advice is a (very) good thing.
Now having said that, we can potentially save you some time and heartburn by pointing out a few of the repeating themes we've seen at this site for the last several years. Read on...we think you will find this worthwhile:
What is a quality paint job?
On this site we are trying to instruct people in the proper methods that will provide a long lasting and nice looking finish. Just because somebody seemed to get away with doing it another way or cutting corners doesn't really mean anything. Will the paint job hold up or is it trash in 6 months or even 2 years? Looks good today in the pictures but lets see what sitting in the sun for 8-10 hours does for it or what it looks like after first wash and wax job.
The truth is most first time painters do not know what a quality paint job really looks like. They spray their first panel and get all excited (as we all did) thinking its beautiful work when in reality it is not. A professional painter will take one glance at it and read off a list of things you did wrong. You just sprayed your clear coat and all you can see is how shiny it is and he will see things wrong with your body work, primer application, sanding scratches in the base, etc. etc. Just go to a local car show and look at the paint jobs. Many look decent from 20 feet or so but as you get closer the quality jobs will jump out at you. They almost beg you to try and find a flaw in them they look so nice.
Most of the guys at this site are striving for as best a paint job they can do, regardless of the investment of time (in learning, practicing and applying) that it takes. We regularly see guys who have come here with little or no experience take the time to really study this stuff and practice -- and turn out "show car" quality jobs. There's nothing quite like the sense of accomplishment that goes along with that kind of return on investment.
Now, sometimes it's OK to cut corners or use cheap products. When you don't really care about the final result, that's fine. For example: The 1995 [whatever] with a quarter of a million miles on it that you just want to make look less junky...go ahead and us a "rust inhibitor" then body putty and aerosol spray paint. Like putting lipstick on a pig, it'll look a little better but that's about it. There's a time and place for this -- but most of the the time this is not the place where we discuss those techniques.
Tools are important
We often hear an argument that goes something like this: "I'm only going to do this once, so I will probably just buy this [whatever name] compressor, and this
Now, sometimes you can get lucky and pull off a decent job. However, the majority of the time you will have stacked the odds so far against you that you are guaranteed to have problems. If you are new at this you don't want your tools to give you a starting handicap. You want your tools to give you plenty of margin and to "be there" when you need them. Now, nobody has to go out and buy a signature $1000 spray gun or a 30CFM 120 gallon 3-phase compressor (unless you are going into business). However, you do need to have tools that are going to get the job done.
Do yourself a favor. Research here, ask questions -- and listen to what the guys who have done this dozens (or hundreds) of times tell you. Don't consider your tools or supplies to be the cost-saving part of the equation. Your labor is the cost-saving part of the equation! And, believe it or not, if your first time through the process does end up turning out nice you will most likely want to do it again in the near future -- so that investment in tools will pay off. Even if you only do this once, it would be a better idea to buy quality new or used tools -- then have something of value to resell once you are done.
Again, if you absolutely have to "cheap out" on tools or supplies and the project expectations are in line with that thought process -- that's fine. Just don't expect a show car result. Well, maybe after you put six coats of clear down and spend 200 hours sanding and buffing it...but why do that to yourself?
Before you give out advice
Don't take this part the wrong way. If you've learned a new technique, or found a new product we want to hear about it. However...if you painted one car with a $15 spray gun, in a dirty garage, with a tire-inflator compressor and now want to tell the world exactly how to paint cars...stop. Think about what you are doing. You are applying your standards of quality to the expectations of other newbies at this site -- and you could be setting someone up for disaster.
Please...before you begin answering questions at the site ask yourself "Am I really comfortable giving out this advice because I have personally experienced what I am commenting on and I have a high-quality answer"? If you are not sure, then don't make the mistake of taking a guess or giving advice that could be at a minimum wrong and worst case dangerous to someone else. Here is a forum topic that gives an example of what we are talking about.
If you find yourself tempted to answer a question here by first searching for the answer yourself (either here, or using Google) then slowly back away from your keyboard and take a deep breath. It's nice to try to be a virtual research assistant for someone asking a question here - but trust us you do not want to go down this path. The pros here will sniff this out and you will find yourself in a very awkward position. The first few times you will get away with it, but eventually this will catch up with you and the results are not pretty when that happens.
Read the "advice for newbies" thread
It's a living thread, so new information will be added periodically. There are some basics documented there which should help you as you embark on your project. Of course, not all key points can be covered in a thread like that, and every project is different -- so join the board (if you haven't already) and ask questions!
How to receive advice
If you do ask a question and you get advice don't argue with those who took the time to answer your post. Usually one or more guys will answer just to confirm or to add to what another has advised you. It seems some guys post a question but really don't want to hear the answer. They have already made up their minds how they want to do things and are really just hoping someone will agree with them - even if they're wrong. There is nothing wrong with asking for a more detailed explanation of the answer given to your question. However, if you take a defensive position against someone else who told you differently then you are arguing and not listening or learning. If you're happy with that other person's advice then follow it.
Finally, have patience...be humble...and be thankful. Nobody here is a superstar, we are all a bunch of regular guys who have painted cars before and are still learning. Many, however, are professionals in their own right and we should be grateful that they are here to help us out. They don't have to do this...they certainly aren't being paid...they do it out of a sense of decency and wanting to "give back" to the community that they really enjoy being a part of. Sure, sometimes people get a little cranky -- but it's usually when they've posted something that's a known best-practice and the recipient of the advice elects to ignore it and ask the same basic question again -- or they argue about it.
Let's try to keep the site a friendly place that it's known for, and respect each other as we learn.
- Jim ('68 Coronet R/T), and Chris