Switching from Wood Finisher to Auto Finisher

If you want to go from spraying wood to spraying cars, you'll find it's a different ball game. July 28, 2008

I am considering picking up some additional income in addition to building and spraying cabinets, and I really don't want to be spraying for a shop that might be competition with where I am now as they have been good to me. We have a baby on the way and lots of bills to pay.

A good friend asked me about spraying cars.Considering I'm quite accustomed to spraying the best and making it look the best (using CV, 2K poly, all sorts of colorants, etc.), it seems like learning automotive painting would come fairly quickly. Has anyone here who is normally a wood finisher done this (or vice-versa, coming form the automotive to wood finishing)? Any tips? I am talking about possibly working for an established auto paint shop, not starting my own.

Forum Responses
(Finishing Forum)
From contributor A:
I've sprayed quite a few cabinets in "car paint" and many, many front doors. Just a couple of quick coats of "Strength white", sit back and listen to them say "wow". You have all the skills necessary. Get yourself a factory pac kit at the local automotive store (about $100 - gallon of paint, qt. of hardener and a gallon of reducer) and mix to directions and have fun. I think you will be surprised how easy it shoots and how well it works on wood.

From the original questioner:
I'll keep that in mind. I have a handful of local shops I'm going to give a call today and see if they are looking for any gunslingers.

From contributor B:
I have not finished a lot of cabinets, but I have painted several cars. At an auto body shop, you will be expected to be more than a gunslinger. The paint guy usually does all the final prep, wet sanding, and buffing. If you have not had a lot of experience with a buffer and buffing compound, there is no easier way to ruin a great paint job than to burn though with a buffer. What would pass as an amazing finish on cabinets would not be acceptable on a car, mainly due to how smooth and shiny a car is. Definitely go for it, but just remember you are not spraying cabinets.

From contributor C:
It is a different process that you have to learn, but it should come easy. Be wary of the flat rate method that many body shops use to pay their employees. It's great if you are fast, but not such a good deal if you are picky and methodical. Many body shops require you to have a fortune in you own tools as well.

From the original questioner:
That's exactly the kind of advice I've been looking for, it will help me greatly. I actually am somewhat familiar with buffing compounds, as I have occasionally used 3M's Finesse-It II, which is the most insane gloss I've ever seen.

From contributor D:
I would stick to what you do best. These are two completely different fields, and even the technique of laying down the paint is much different than wood. The spraying down of the basecoat and clearcoat is the easy part. The magic is what you are able to do before you apply color and what comes after you are done painting.

From the original questioner:
Honestly, who says that we've yet seen what I do best? I know what I can do right now, but who knows. Aside from that, I'm not going to work for a competing cabinet shop. It's just an ethical thing.

From contributor E:
I came into woodfinishing as an autobody painter and have now returned to automotive painting and paints. Even when I do wood now I use acrylic urethane and often basecoat.

You've got to be much better with automotive than you need to be with wood. Clearcoat is high gloss. Satin woodfinishes cover a multitude of sins you'd never get away with on a car. Also, 2K urethanes are far harder to atomize than lacquers or conversion varnishes and top of the line Iwata, SATA or DeVilbiss gravity feed guns are mandatory. Color sanding and buffing can be learned but you'll likely make one or two very expensive mistakes along the way. It's very rewarding when you shoot a first class job on a silver Mercedes that looks like a diamond.

From contributor F:
Painting cars is easy. It's the prep that you have to learn. The prep is 99% of the job, and the paint is the last step, along with buffing. There's a lot to learn on getting a car ready for painting. I've been doing it for over 30 yrs and am still learning something new everyday. It's very labor intensive. You have to like it.