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  Guest Editorial

"Blend Within the Panel" ... Something Doesn't Add Up

Posted 10/11/2006
By Mike West

How much time does it take to blend coat? As you know, there has been a great deal of controversy regarding this issue. So let me try to set the matter straight.

First of all, painting a repaired area within the blendable range of the edges of the panel is a technique that repairers have used since the advent of the spray gun - in 1924. When clear coats became available, they provided a way to protect the blended edge from deteriorating. The whole technique is intended to prevent a mismatch to the adjacent painted panels.

It works! So what's the problem? The problem is some insurers are attempting to allow less labor time to perform this operation on a repaired part than the allowed time for the equivalent new part.

Question: Does it take less time to perform the "blend within the panel" procedure on a repaired part that is ready to paint than it does to paint the same part in a new undamaged condition?

Answer: No, it does not. It often takes more time.

The contention I've most often heard is that "you're not painting the whole part, so I'm not giving you full paint time. I will give you full clear coat time, though."

My sarcastic answer to that: "Thanks a lot."

Remember, this is a repaired area. If you haven't negotiated the feather edge, prime and block operation for the repair, you're already behind the "eight ball." Now, you're going to prepare the entire panel for paint (the clear has to adhere also, doesn't it?). You still mask it off like you would a new part and mix up your base coat like you would for a new part. Then you're going to apply wax and grease remover, dry wipe and tack off the panel. Hmmm, this is also the same as a new part. I don't see any time savings yet. OK. Let's apply one coat of "base fix" or a sealer ... yep, same as for a new part. Now ... let's tack it off again so we keep it clean, and then apply our first coat of color. Maybe this is where that "imagined" time savings is supposed to be. But ... believe me, for a refinisher, that time savings is just a mirage-like illusion. No painter would rather "blend within a panel" than just panel paint edge to edge. Why? Because it is a highly skilled, time-consuming, difficult procedure and has a certain element of the unknown to it.

Why unknown ... you ask? Because, when working with metallics and pearls in the base coat, it is difficult to tell, for sure, how that blended area looks until you clear coat the panel. Then ... it's too late if it's silvery on the edge or mottled. You have to wait until the clear has cured for your next attempt. This definitely is not the same as painting a new part. Painting a part in its entirety is a much easier, less-time-consuming operation for the painter and easier on the nerves, too.

The fact that you are not painting the entire panel with color is really negated with the several steps that are involved in providing the invisible blend. You may not be applying color to the entire part, but you are stepping out your color and then you are adjusting your color with additional blending clears and reducers to achieve a better "letdown ratio." All of this must be done to achieve that invisible blend where it meets the original color. These are time-consuming steps that are not necessary when painting a new part and more than make up for the fact that you're not painting the entire part with color.

Wow ... we've finally got the color on and blended. Let's tack it off again, just like we would on the final color coat of a new part. It's clear coat time. Two coats are applied and ... it looks good.

Let me see now ... what about that beneficent offer our adjuster made to pay us "full clear coat time." Gee, according to my "P-Pages," clear coat includes mixing, cleaning and tacking the surface, applying material and cleaning equipment. There is no mention of prepping the panel so the clear will stick, or masking everything off. That must be in my reduced paint time!

Hmm ... something is not adding up. Please be aware and think about it.

Mike West Mike West, a longtime member of the Automotive Service Association, is an I-CAR instructor, collision chairman for ASA-Washington and owner of Southtowne Auto Rebuild in Tukwila, Wash.

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