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Zenith 750 Cruzer I was able to heat up the garage and paint the interior today. That heater you see in the foreground gets my garage up to 80+ degrees when it's about 25 degrees outside!
   
Zenith 750 Cruzer The final paint job looks...acceptable. Not great. The actual finish of the paint looks great, but I had two issues.

For starters I thinned my paint too much. When I painted my RANS S-6S, I painted it in a paint booth I made in my previous house's garage and it was usually close to 100 degrees in there. At that temp, I thinned the paint 100 percent (8 oz mixed paint and 8 oz of thinner) and it sprayed beautifully and with no orange peel at all.

Since it wasn't nearly as warm today, I thinned the paint about 80%. It was still too thin and I got a few real small runs in an area that won't easily be seen so I'm not too bothered by them. I am happy that I have no orange peel at all.

Part of the reason for the runs, was not having the proper lighting. In the pics shown here the garage door is open so it is very bright. When I painted, I needed to keep the door closed and the heat in so it

was rather dark in the garage. So on some areas I was spraying without having great light to see exactly how the paint was going on.

The other main issue, and this is the one that bothers me, is that I'm getting what looks like grit in the paint. It's not dust settling in the paint because it shoots from the gun like that. I did all the proper filtering of the paint, and it mostly seems to happen when I paint something that is laying flat. If the surface is vertical, I get very little or no grit. This happened on my other airplane too when I was using my Citation HVLP system. I think it might be the paint that I'm using. The outside of the airplane will be sprayed with auto paint so I'm hoping I won't have an issue with that paint.

Here's my thoughts though about this interior: right now I'm looking at the baggage area opened up and in bright sunlight with the garage door open and I can see every little flaw. Once the seats are installed the area under the seats won't be visible, and the rest of the baggage area will be harder to see because of the seats. Additionally, once the rear windows get installed (they are tinted), and the wings, and the top tinted canopy over the cabin, the interior will be much darker and I think almost all the flaws will be hidden from view. And of course having the panel, windshield, and all the other parts installed will hide a lot of the surface. This doesn't make me happy that the flaws are there, but it does keep me from wanting to stuff 10 pounds of TNT in the airplane and start over!

Zenith 750 Cruzer

Here's what I mean about the area not being all that visible once the plane is done...

Compare the picture of the factory Cruzer here to the pic of my Cruzer below it. When the airplane is complete the baggage area is much darker and more 'hidden' compared to looking at my pic of the inside fuse wide open with no seats and sitting in direct sunlight.

If this airplane shown here had some dust in the paint in the baggage area, would you really see it if you weren't actively searching for it? I don't think so.

Some other Zenith builders are installing a thin carpeting in their interiors. I've always really liked the look of this and think it makes the plane look way more professional than just a painted interior. I've been thinking of installing it in my plane too, and if I do, well then all of this is a moot point because it will all be covered up anyway. Or as Joey from "Friends" would say, "It's all a moo point-what difference does a cow's opinion make??" But seriously, I really like the look of the carpet and if I do install it, most of the interior paint will be covered.

 
Zenith 750 Cruzer So all in all I'm satisfied with the interior. It's not perfect, but for as difficult as it is to get the spray gun into all the nooks and granny's and angles, it's an acceptable job.

You really have to be methodical about where you start and where you finish. For example, you want to start on the roof, then down the back, and then forward. If you would start forward, then by the time you get the back your air hose would be rubbing on fresh paint.

I have to say the baggage area was very very difficult to paint. There's a lot of areas that are very hard to reach. Sometimes I had to fish the gun through the windows, sometimes I had to spray left handed, and there are a few small areas where I had to hold the gun and spray, but couldn't see the area at all! This was a tough job. Maybe not for an expert experienced painter, but it's more difficult that it looks.

 

   
Zenith 750 Cruzer You also MUST have a spray gun that can shoot upside down. Otherwise you will not be able to properly spray the roof and some other areas. This was the best part of using the Devillbis Gti gun. I have a cup system that is sealed and be sprayed in any direction.

In fact, I think the roof looks the best!

To paint upside down with a DeVilbiss gun, you will need these DeKUPS. They work amazingly well!

 


Right now I'm feeling a little bummed because my interior is not perfect. Honestly, it's 'almost' perfect other than the grit. That's the part that bothers me. Anyway, the finish that I was able to achieve on the interior is acceptable for what it is, and I'm thinking it may be covered up by carpet anyway.


My Thoughts on Painting the Airplane Exterior:

When it comes time to paint the exterior of the airplane, here's what I plan to do to ensure a finish I will be happy with and proud of...

-First I will buy a much larger compressor. I have a 26 gal compressor and it is too small for a big job like painting wings and fuselages.
-I will hire an electrician to install what ever kind of power I need to run a large compressor.
-I will spend the time and money required to build an awesome paint booth in my garage. I have a large garage and will build four walls from 2x4's and use thick plastic siding. I will have the PROPER inlet filters and a PROPER exit fan.
-I will invest in a bunch of fluorescent lights and make sure I have the proper lighting.
-I will be using automotive paint.
-I WILL NOT spray my airplane until I've mastered painting. That means buying extra paint, and practicing for as long as it takes to get consistent, perfect results. I want to understand every single detail about adjusting the gun, the difference in spraying with a 1.2, 1.3, or 1.4 tip, regulators, pressure, and spraying, and I want to use only the best equipment. I want to be an expert before I paint the final paint job on the plane. I want to master spraying the color coat, and also spraying a nice shiny clear coat with no orange peel.

Like anything, preparation is half the battle. I don't want to 'half-ass' any part of the painting. I want a nice booth with plenty of room and lots of light. I want good ventilation, and I want a clean area outside the booth for mixing paint and cleaning the gun afterwards. I want top quality equipment too-I already have a very nice DeVilbiss gun, but I need a better compressor and probably air filters too. Right now I'm using Harbor Freight filters and water trap, but I will probably replace those with a quality product (although the Harbor Freight parts I have do seem to work just fine). I just don't want to chance anything to save a buck! This will not be the last airplane I paint, so why not invest in quality equipment?

And just for the sake of argument (because I was having a discussion with a friend about this), there is a guy here at the airpark who just painted a Cozy. All his equipment is Harbor Freight-he used a $20 spray gun and the same Harbor Freight water trap and filters that I have. He did hire a professional painter though, and his Cozy looks amazing. You would never guess that he used dirt cheap equipment. So it IS possible to get a nice result with 'junk' parts, but I'm not taking that chance. Like I mentioned, I do have an expensive top of the line spray gun, and I just need to bring the rest of my paint system up to that level before I tackle something as visible as the outside of the plane.


I am glad to have this part done though. Now I need to start thinking about the seats now that I can install them. I'm going with the Blue Angels scheme that I posted on the forums so I want to have blue fabric seats with the Blue Angels logo embroidered on the seat back. My advice for airplanes is NOT to use leather for seats. My Cherokee has leather seats and every time I fly in the summer it looks like I pee'd my pants! There's no air flow so your legs and butt will sweat and soak your shorts!


5 March 2017:

I've been thinking about the carpet idea. Even if my interior paint was perfect, I'd still like to have some carpet for that finished professional look. From what others are saying, the carpet makes the cockpit considerably quieter in flight too. So if I do install carpet, it would only be on certain areas. In the crazy looking pic below, the surfaces with RED squiggly lines would get carpet, and maybe I would also carpet the areas with the GREEN lines.

All the areas with the BLUE lines would get no carpet, and luckily in those areas the paint came out absolutely perfect, with almost zero dust (just a speck or two). I'm very happy that my interior paint came out absolutely perfectly as far the surface-the paint is perfectly smooth with zero orange peel. In fact it looks like it's been buffed and polished! That's why I like thinning so much.

Zenith 750 CruzerI'm hoping to talk to some people at Oshkosh this year about installing carpet. I've had this on my mind for a long time but just felt like it's something that I don't know how to do. But if I can talk to others who have done it and get some good tips, I just may lay some grey carpet. It would look great and it would give me piece of mind knowing that the dust is hidden.

See the two oval shaped access holes in the baggage area floor? If I do use grey carpet, I think I would wrap the access covers in the same carbon fiber vinyl graphic material that the top of the center console is wrapped in. How cool would that look??

I guess now I'll let the paint fully cure for a few weeks before I start messing with the fuselage. In the mean time, I have a few things on the wings I can attend to to keep the project moving along.

Still no word on when my engine will arrive.