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Leading Basics

Leading Basics and Installation Guide
by Troy Smith
Body Mechanic/Fabricator

In this article we will be taking a closer look at some leading basics on a restoration project vehicle.
The purpose of this article is to explain how to professionally install and finish lead repairs using proven techniques. This can be the difference between a quality repair, and a repair that could fail in the future.

Disclaimer: Before we begin, all standard safety precautions should be followed when working in a shop environment. Common sense rules the day!

In Image 1, you can see that the area we will be working on is the factory seam where the rocker and the quarter panel meet, just above the jack post. This area has been cleaned, prepped and is ready for the lead work to begin.

Image 1

In Image 2, you can see the seam on the left but you can also see on the right, that the rocker edge is below flush in relationship to the quarter panel and the bottom door edge. We will be addressing both of these issues during this repair.

Image 2

In Image 3, take notice of the 3/32” gap, that at just few feet away looked negligible, but up close looks clearly out of place.

Image 3

Image 4, shows some of the basic tools we will need to do our lead installation. From left to right, we have a smoothing paddle, tallow, our lead, a brush and Flux­-N-SolderTM (the tinning product, which will be referred to simply as flux for the remainder of this article) followed by our heat source.

Image 4

Image 5, I have already applied flux to the area making sure to flux a larger area then the repair requires in all directions (more on this later). Now, in this image I am heating the flux just enough to reach its melting point ­ around 612°F. The propane torch that I’m using here burns at around 3600°F. So finesse is key from here on out. Taking my time I warm small areas with the torch until the flux flashes. Then I message the flux with a
wire brush to ensure 100% adhesion through out. This is the most important step of this type of repair. If the flux does not stick properly, then contaminants like paint or fillers are likely present. These contaminants can effect the finish of this repair and even the finish of the final paint job.

Image 5

Image 6 shows the entire area has been fully “tinned” and is ready to accept our lead.

Image 6

In Image 7, you can see that I have already started applying the lead. Like before, lead has a very low melting point so I work in small areas making sure not to over heat the base metal or the lead. Too much heat will warp the surrounding metal and the lead will simply liquefy and drop off.

Image 7

In Image 8, I have taken the smoothing paddle with the tallow as a lubricant, and smoothed out the lead making sure that I have slightly over applied lead in all directions. Over applying will ensure a complete repair during the finishing stages of this repair. Now I will repeat this process down to the end of the rocker, doing an area of about 6”each time.

Image 8

Image 9, shows some of the basic tools we will need to metal finish our lead installation. From left to right we have a hand block, 2 body files and 2 inline sanders. Note: lead is a contaminant and is not intended to be sanded. Most of the finishing will be done with the body files to keep the dust down. The sanding is used only as a visual guide to locate the highs and lows, like you would when doing traditional body work.

Image 9

In Image 10, I have started to file down the area while checking for any potential imperfections along the way.

Image 10

In Image 11, you can see the repair is almost complete. Most of the extra lead has been removed and the lead has been feathered out in all directions. Now we need to double check the accuracy of the work done so far.

Image 11

In Image 12, we are taking a closer look at our accuracy. We can see the the area that was the lowest in the beginning is now slightly too high. This will better match the natural contours of the door, but does require a little more filing.

Image 12

In Image 13 and 14 , the metal finishing has been fine tuned to match the shape of the body and our repair is now complete.

Image 13
Image 14

Some closing thoughts… Controlling the heat is key to this type of repair. Once heat control is mastered, lead work can be done on vertical surfaces like this and in this case in particular, slightly over hung or upside down.
Thank you and good luck on your own restorations…

Paint Removal Techniques

As any restoration project finishes up on the pre-final paint processes of, “apply stuff and sand it off” over and over again;  A common query is, “ What is under all the stuff and how did you get it to that point?”

Before we begin our paint removal techniques session, let’s have a point of understanding. Do we really need to take this baby down to bare metal to refinish it? Look, it is your car. You do what you think is best. In my opinion, you have to go to bare metal to do the job right. Why? Call me if you really don’t know.

As you may recall, we tackled many a rust paint removal on a frame. As for the body sheet metal, the process is the same – but it isn’t. The thickness of the frame metal is much more forgiving than the body sheet metal. Older pre 50’s cars had a standard 12 to 14 gauge metal which handled more aggressive grinding and blasting. The 16 to 19 gauge modern sheet metal bodies are not as forgiving.

Improperly prepped sheet metal will eventually start to rear its ugly head and begin to show signs in the final paint. It may take months or years to show up, but it will show up and there will be no question of why you are seeing blemishes under the final paint. Blemishes in the paint are another issue.

Forget all of the “possible” approaches to get down to bare metal. As far as I am concerned, you only have two options. Only one if you are going to do it yourself.

1st option, or the only DIY option: Blasting with sand or broken reconstituted glass. These are the only media that will cut the rust down to bare metal properly. Both methods can cause metal distortion. Glass generates less heat. Keep the blast nozzle at a low angle to the work piece. Coming at the metal with the nozzle at 90 degrees or sightly less is going to create problems. Try to finish the body blasting in as little time as possible. Then coat the bare metal ASAP with Epoxy Primer ONLY.  Remember primer is not the same as Epoxy Primmer. If you can’t finish all the body parts in one day and coat them, do one part today and another tomorrow. This is more time consuming due to paint clean up, but you will be happier with the results.

2nd method – Dip Bath, with dip neutralize bath and sealed with E Coating. E coating is that black paint stuff you get on factory new parts.

There are three (3) important elements of this approach. Don’t take short cuts even if the guy who might do it says,  “it ain’t necessary.”

Body and parts get submerged in a bath that removes everything but the metal. (It will remove the metal if you leave it in for too long). Body and parts are submerged in a second bath. I said submerged, not sprayed or rinsed. The 2nd bath neutralizes the chemical in the 1st bath.

If you don’t neutralize the 1st bath, it will work out of crevices over time and attack your paint – I speak from knowledge.  Finally, have the body and parts E Coated for ultimate rust prevention. As an acceptable alternative rather that E Coat, an Epoxy Primer coat immediately after stripping is OK. You can’t wait until you get it home to do the Epoxy Primer.

That’s it! A good solid base for the re-birth of your classic!

Got a question? Give us a shout or send an email sales@eastonmuscleandcustom.com

The Rusty Frame Problem

During the planning stages of every properly done restoration project, what to do with the underbody or frame, demands consideration.
The 1970 El Camino resto mod is no exception. You guys and gals didn’t think we were going to bolt on a lot of cool stuff and not properly detail the frame did you?
Over the years, we at Easton Muscle and Custom have explored, and even tried some approaches, to what are we going to do with the rusty frame. Some things work. Some things work really well, and some things don’t work at all.
The real honest approach to the “rusty frame” problem is very simple: You only want to do it once – and you want it to last.
The car frame, or underbelly, takes the most wear but needs to look great on an outstanding car. It is the foundation for your project.
I am not going to discuss all the possibilities we have considered, like soda blasting, rust converters, or Por15. If you want to discuss these options with me, send me an email: sales@eastonmuscleandcustom.com

What works for us:
The rust and scale must be removed down to bare metal. The best, less time consuming and least expensive way to do this, is by blasting the frame with sand or glass. Easton Muscle and Custom started with very inexpensive equipment which has evolved over the years.

1. A common inexpensive approach is with a gravity feed blasting unit. The media hopper is filled while gravity allows it to flow into a mixing valve where air pressure forces out of the hose and nozzle onto the work piece. This approach gives good results, but is more labor intensive than the upcoming equipment choices. Pluses for this method are; low equipment costs for the blasting and air compressor units.
2. Small Pressurized blasting units and a higher CMF Compressor. Similar to the above, but the hopper is pressurized which forces the sand or glass down to the mixing valve in greater volume. This type of equipment provides a greater flow and higher nozzle pressure, which cuts to bare metal faster.
3. Commercial grade Pressurized Equipment with a large CMF compressor.
Strictly a volume upgrade to the unit in #2. High volume at high pressure reduces completion time.

The choice of sand or broken glass for frame blasting. Which ever one you choose will work well. Why? Unlike other media choices, blasting sand or reconstituted glass is sharp edged and durable to cut through the rust to bare metal. Both can be used more than once, if properly screened to remove all debris. Sand is a little more dirty and causes an elevation of heat friction. It is also hazardous to the operator and environment. Broken glass product has all of the pluses of sand, but is less hazardous and causes less heat. Note: blasting heat is not a concern on the thick frame material. Thin sheet metal is a different story. We use “Fastblast 40-70” reconstituted Glass. Check with several material suppliers to see what they recommend for the equipment you are using. I say “several” suppliers, because they may recommend what they have in stock, not what is best for your equipment. You can always bounce it off us at Easton Muscle and Custom.

Please make sure you use the proper safety and protection gear when blasting. This stuff can hurt you or a bystander.

Finally, get the bare metal covered with epoxy primer or powder coating as quickly as possible, especially in high humidity areas. Bare metal will start the rust phase in a matter of hours. There are very few options that prevent rust on bare metal. For cost and the ability to do it yourself, nothing in my opinion, is better that Epoxy Primer. Other things can be better or cheaper, but not both.
Epoxy Primer, not to be confused with regular primer, look alike but are not the same. Epoxy Primer seals the bare metal from the elements. Regular primer does not.
Next best is powder coating. Not only does it prevent rust, you can also choose colors for a real custom look. Powder coaters often prefer and will do the blasting part as well. If you are leaning towards this approach, check pricing with your Powder Coater.
Best option, in our pinion, is E Coat, a specialized approach to preventing rust on your frame for a long time.

Got a question? Give us a shout or send an email sales@eastonmuscleandcustom.com

In the next issue we will discuss paint removal on the sheet metal body and preparing for metalwork.

Automotive Wiring Harness Replacement and Installation

The purpose of this article is to present a sampling of photographs with comments directly related to the rewiring of an automotive electrical system. This particular vehicle went through a rotisserie restoration, and after painting, is now ready for installing a new, better than original OEM, custom made wiring harness. Also, as an option on this project the gauges in the instrument cluster were professionally rebuilt and tested to OEM specifications.

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The Importance of Seam Sealer

Seam Sealer is often an overlooked step of the restoration process to save time and money. Negligence of this critical step can result in moisture seeping through the seams of the unibody,  which will eventually cause rust to form between adjacent panels. By seam sealing these newly fabricated joined panels you have blocked off those areas most susceptible to moisture,  resulting in years of protection for your restored vehicle.

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