Sanding It Out
Much like sanding a block of wood, removing imperfections from paint and smoothing its surface requires hitting it with a series of abrasives. Color sanding involves sanding the paint with a very fine-grit sandpaper, followed by repeating the process with an even finer-grit sandpaper. The paint is then polished in several stages using successively finer rubbing compounds. "The very first round of sanding uses 1,000-grit sandpaper, which is just coarse enough to remove the orange peel, dust nibs, and fish eyes. In each step after that, you're just removing the scratches left behind from the previous step," Rodney explains. "With a single-stage paint, you're cutting into the paint itself, and with a dual-stage paint, you're cutting into the clearcoat. The depth of the cut is less than one mil, and the goal is to cut the surface just enough to achieve a nice uniform flatness. It takes a lot of practice and patience to color-sand, and you can burn up a panel very quickly if you get it wrong, so I highly recommend practicing on an old fender or hood before trying it out on your project car."
Furthermore, color sanding-or dry sanding-is an evolution of the wet sanding process. The end results of both are the same, but Rodney prefers color sanding. "Wet sanding is an older process where you actually lubricate the paint surface with water. Dry sanding is a newer process that's much faster since you don't have to wipe the water off of the car every few minutes to see how much progress you're making," Rodney opines. "Wet sanding is more cumbersome, since you have to use a block to make sure you're applying pressure to the paint evenly. In reality, the end result is same, but some states now have regulations that outlaw wet sanding because they don't want the sludge it creates running into storm drains. It's only a matter of time until other states adopt similar policies. Color sanding shouldn't be confused with block sanding, which is performed after laying down primer in order to remove pinholes, waves, and scratches from the surface of the body."
What We Did
Color sand the hood off of a '69 Camaro
A slick, mirror-like, show-car finish
$300 - $500
To illustrate the dramatic before and after difference of color sanding, we left half of this Camaro hood untouched. As you can see from the reflections, the untreated half is stricken with orange peel and yields fuzzy reflections. The color sanded half, on the other hand, is as smooth as glass and features crisp, mirror-like reflections.