Although sandblasting is the go-to method for rust removal and preparing metal for painting, we were DIYing it, and we don’t have any experience with sandblasting. Also, it requires purchasing sand, making a bit of a mess, and tracking down two working sandblasters for us both to use. Instead, under the recommendation of more than one experienced friend / family member, we decided to go at it with wire wheels, attached to angle grinders. This is the same tool we used for re-shaping and cutting the steel during the build, but with a different attachment on it (see pictures).
If I had any apprehension before about using grinders, it was all gone by the end of this process. Thursday, August 20th, we worked non stop from 4:00 pm until 11:30 pm and on Friday, August 21st, we worked from 11:30 am until 8:30 pm – JUST grinding off rust. That adds up to a total of about 15 hours of nasty, dirty manual labour. A hot shower and gas station sandwiches for supper were never so glorious in my life. At this point I was starting to understand why the quotes we got for this work were so high…lol. It’s like those scenes in army movies where the fellas in charge make the newbies scrub the floor with a toothbrush. Unbelievably slow progress. It was pretty mind numbing, but also sort of therapeutic in a weird way. We of course had respirators, gloves, safety glasses, and long sleeve shirts to protect ourselves, but even then we encountered a few rogue moments when the grinders fought back. I’ve got a bruise on one leg and Tim has a bit of a (shallow) gash above his elbow. But none worse for the wear! It was actually really cool to see the steel getting all prettied up; the quality of the welds and the integrity of the whole thing became much more apparent.
We were really nervous at the end of the night on Thursday about leaving the freshly cleaned steel overnight prior to painting. It only takes 3 hours for the oxidation process to start up again; however, it mustn’t be visible to the naked eye. When we came back on Friday, all was well and we just carried on. I should mention that all this rust I’m talking about is just surface rust, nothing major. The steel is brand new, but it is carbon steel, not stainless. Anyway, the anticipation was quite high to get going on our first coat of paint. The stuff we got (from my paint expert uncle!!) is a black epoxy paint, that must be added at a 1:1 ratio to a curing mixture (hardener). Once it’s mixed, you have 1.5 hours to apply it. We took a guess at how much we should mix – 1 litre of each, for a total of 2 litres. Lo and behold, we covered the whole trailer in an hour and 45 minutes, with not a drop to spare. Random luck. By the end of it, the paint was kinda like tar… you definitely gotta be quick with it. We just used a couple of rollers and a paint brush to apply. Actually, we used the brush for all of a minute towards the end, and it wasn’t very effective- rollers were best, for sure.
We set up Tim’s GoPro on a ladder to take our first stab at making time lapse videos. This is probably the best way to show you what we did. We made one of a portion of the grinding process (forgot the extra battery and charger at home), and another of the entire painting process. We’ve set up a YouTube account for this purpose, and I’ve also stuck the videos in here for you to see!
Since we got one coat out of roughly 2 litres, we figure we can get 4 coats out of our 2 gallons of combined black and cure paint. I don’t think we can handle putting more than 4 coats on, and I don’t think it’s going to be necessary. We did a killer job (if i say so myself) of the first coat, and triple checked all corners and undersides. Saturday, August 22nd, we applied coat #2, after letting the first coat dry for a full 24 hours. The process was repeated again on Sunday, and today (Monday), to complete the entire job.
Putting paint on bare clean metal was satisfying and easy to track your progress with. All subsequent coats, not so much. Trying to see black on black is basically impossible, and the dry paint looks basically just as shiny and glossy under the lights as the wet stuff does. We had to be much more methodical about the order in which we did things so as not to lose track. There was definitely a bit of touch checking to see if certain parts had already been done. Anyway, there’s only so much you can say about paint, haha. I’ve likely over done it as it is. This is our life now!!! And we’re loving it 🙂