Protecting Bare Metal – Howard Astill
The most common question I get asked is ‘how do you keep bare metal from rusting’ during a project, such as Tail Spin? Bare steel that’s left exposed to oxygen and moisture will rust so we need to take a number of steps to minimise it. It’s difficult to keep the vehicle away from oxygen but you can avoid moisture by keeping it in a dry location. A conventional steel shed is a start but my workshop is also insulated and lined to prevent condensation inside. In the summer I use a reverse cycle air-conditioner to take the moisture out of the air.
The metal we’re using to fabricate Tail Spin is called ‘cold rolled steel’ and it comes with no protective coating which is why it’s usually stored standing on edge to avoid moisture settling on it and starting rust. After finishing a panel I make it a habit to immediately apply a treatment, called Deoxidine, over it with a Scotchbrite pad. It’s a metal conditioner that changes the structure of the surface so it doesn’t oxidise as easily. Usually, the treatment will last about three months, as long you don’t touch it.
And touching the metal with bare hands is a real issue because the moisture and oils in our skin, particularly if you are a bit sweaty, will start the rust process even if Deoxidine has been applied. While working on Tail Spin, we found that where people lent on the car we would end up with rusty handprints. Typically, that was where people put their hand around the tail-light buckets (which used to be the headlight buckets!) to lean into the boot.
The trick I’ve learned is to wear gloves constantly while I’m working on a job. They are a TIG welding type glove made of deerskin. Unlike normal leather gloves they allow me to feel exactly what’s going on because there’s just a very thin layer of leather. I go through a pair every two to three weeks but it’s worthwhile because if you are never touching the bare metal with your hands the Deoxidine treatment lasts pretty well. When I reach the surface preparation stage I re-sand each panel and apply Deoxidine again – whether any signs of rust appear or not. Then I follow it with PPG Epoxy Urethane Primer in preparation for the filler work. If you’re serious about the quality of the final paint job, you need to get serious about surface preparation right from the start.
- Tail Spin: Metal Work – ‘Playing The Percentages’
- PPG colours set the trend at Summernats 28
- Tail Spin project – Heavenly body design, with Howard Astill