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Can I Really Paint My Own Airplane? by Don Hipskind
Home > Articles > Painting Your Own Airplane
Don Hipskind answers aircraft painting questions in the AXIS HVLP Paint Discussion Board. He operates at AXIS Products - makers of HVLP Paint Sprayer and Fresh Air Breathing Systems.
As a point of discussion let me offer that the most frequently asked question of us when we attend shows and the like is "Can I really paint my own airplane?" My quick answer is "yes you can" but there are several things you need to take into consideration. There is no substitute for experience and if you haven't been exposed to spray painting you need to get some hands on experience before putting that final finish on your new bird. One thing I can guarantee is that almost nothing that I can think of is more rewarding than looking at a project that you finished yourself and because spray painting is fun, I encourage you to bite the bullet and 'do it yourself'.
The things you will need begin with good equipment. HVLP spray equipment is the best for the job nowadays no matter what anyone tells you. HVLP offers low overspray, no moisture problem and only uses half the amount of paint that conventional systems do.
We also strongly recommend a good supplied-air-respirator to wear when you enter that toxic painting environment or you will wish you had. Breathing the stuff is deadly - don't rely on any type of filtered respirator. We want you to be alive and well when it comes time to fly your new plane. We sell the Hobbyair and Citation systems which are safe and reasonably priced but whatever kind you choose - get a good one.
Look at the spraygun when you choose HVLP equipment. Poor quality guns make for poor quality finishes. A three stage turbine is the best choice for power - you will need as much as you can get. The three stage turbine puts out about 5.5psi to the pressure pot which is just enough for fine paint atomization like polyurethane.
Consider protective clothing as well as breathing protection. When you start spraying you will be glad you had on a protective paint suit, hood, gloves and even shoe covers. HVLP offers a real advantage in overspray but still you will want to be fully protected.
When your spray system arrives grab the instruction manual for the spraygun and see how its put together. Work with the various adjustments that it has. Now take it apart and see how it goes together so you will be able to clean it easily. Finally, fill the cup 1/4 of the way with an inexpensive lacquer thinner, hook it up the spray hose and, assuming you are in a ventilated painting area, see how it sprays while making fine adjustment to the gun. You are now ready to begin your hands-on education.
Feel free to post comments to the VAF-WWW message board.