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Sunday, October 7, 2018

Triumph Spitfire Body Filler - Passenger's Door

In another milestone event, I've put body filler on the passenger's door. And I even smoothed it out, too! Still some work to do yet, but the door is now smooth as a baby's behind! To the video:

As I've mentioned several times before, I don't have the skill (or the camera) to properly photograph befores and afters for a lot of this body work since the surface is pretty monochromatic and the camera just doesn't like to focus on that stuff. So, please watch the video (and subscribe to my YouTube channel if you haven't yet!!) to get a better appreciation of the process.

With the epoxy primer still within its seven day window for covering, I wanted to get body filler on the door and the boot lid. I was a bit too optimistic, hoping that my hammer and dolly work would allow me to get away with a thin skin of body filler to sand down, left with panels ready to paint. Not so much.

I haven't used body filler since about 1986 or so on my MG Midget, and that wasn't a great job from what I remember, using it to fix a rust hole in the sill (which lasted about 2 weeks, I think). That being said, I was able to get the body filler on both panels on Friday in advance of my weekend visit. In studying up for this, a fair amount of the posts that I found on the SPI Forum said that the person would wait overnight between application of their filler (not necessarily the same kind I was using) and sanding. So, that was my intention; get the filler on one day and sand it the next (or next). However, the instructions on the can say that it's sandable after about 15-20 minutes. Who am I to doubt, so I tested it out and, sure enough, it was!

I used too much hardener on the first batch, which caused it to rock up on me way too soon. I'm using Evercoat Rage Ultra, which is an off-white color, almost grey, out of the can. The hardener, which it comes with, is a bright blue color. My first batch was a robin's egg blue color, and, as I show in the video, that's not a good color for body filler. The next batch was much better and its color, and the color that I thereafter tried to get, was a bluish-grey color, more grey than blue. I used a 4-inch spreader and got the stuff on there...like spreading icing on a cake.

Filler on the door. Some pretty thick spots on there, but overall okay.

Being used to waiting on the paint to induce and dry and all of that, it's nice to be able to work with something shortly after applying it. I started with 40-grit sand paper and worked the filler down. As you would guess, it makes quite a mess with all of the sanding dust, but it's not horrible. The stuff sands easily (at least me with no experience thinks so) and I kept at it until most of it was gone, filling in the low spots like it should. Considering myself ahead of the game, I left it at that in anticipation of returning for my weekend visit. 

Not as sanded as it got, but you can see the epoxy and bare metal peeking through in spots.

In this case, it was the next day. After consuming my so-much-better-than-Dunkin breakfast sandwich from Old Mystic General Store (great pizza, too), I got back at sanding.

This was definitely trial and error as I continued to find some pretty bad spots, one of which I took the shrinking disk to. But, I stuck with thin layers of filler, trying to build my way up to a smooth surface. Unlike the first time, however, the subsequent applications were directed at the problem areas. The worst of those was towards the back of the door. Not sure if it was poor hammer and dolly work on my part or if the door just took a beating in this area over the years (or both), but the top, middle and lower portions of the door around the handle area were pretty rough.

Another application of filler in the problem areas. The green tape to the right is on the troublesome crease.

Close up of new filler around the door lock.

Another area where I had problems was towards the very front of the door, where the crease it. This took a few tries but I think I got it to where it's acceptable, though it may take a coat of epoxy to really show me if it's good enough or not. Sorry, but no good pics of that area.

As the day wore on, the filler application went a bit better each time as I became more confident in mixing it with the hardener as well as spreading it over the panel. I used a lot of filler, but I took most of it off as I went, sanding through it as I think you should. As I've said many times, my goal was to use the filler to correct areas that my lack of hammer and dolly expertise left imperfect, not simply as a cover for damaged areas.

As far as what I'm using goes, I've already mentioned the body filler. Way back before I knew what I was getting myself into, I purchased a 7-piece Dura-Block sanding kit. And when I say way back, I mean it...like December of 2014. Almost 4 years later, I'm finally getting to use it. I set it up with the shortest block (~5.5" long) with 40-grit, the next size block (~11" long) with 80-grit, and the full size block (~16" long) with 150-grit. The final grit, 220, I also did with the 16" block, ripping off the 150 grit (I've got another 16" block coming so I don't have to do this). The very final work on the area prior to paint is with a maroon Scotch-Brite pad.

As for sandpaper, I'm using Dura-Gold (pressure sensitive backing to match the blocks I bought as opposed to hook-and-loop) and did not have to change the paper out during any of the work documented in the video. When the paper did load up with filler, which only really happened to the 40-grit at the very beginning of sanding when the filler may not have been totally dry, I simply used a coarse wire brush to lightly scrape it out. Granted, I'm not sanding metal here, only polyester, but I was surprised that it lasted, and I'll continue using it on my next visit.

I continued for several hours, applying additional filler as needed, mostly in smaller and smaller areas, until I got the door about where I wanted it. Frankly, towards the end I was getting a bit sick of it, so there are two spots where I need a bit more, but I did get the entire door down to the maroon pad phase and boy, was it straight (those areas excepting) and smooth! I don't think that door has been this nice for a very long time.

The door as I left it. Wish you could touch it to feel how smooth it was!

I'm happy with the way the body filler, sanding blocks, and sandpaper performed and, as of now, I don't have any intentions of switching to a different method of work or brands of products. To give you an idea, from the first filler application to the point I'm at now with the door, was about 7 hours of work. I'd say I have another 1 or 2 hours to fix the areas I mentioned, so I'm looking at about 8 hours of work. Of course, as my experience grows, I'm sure I'll get faster and the damage to each panel will obviously dictate how much work needs to go into it, but I'm looking through winter, at least, until this phase is done. Oh, boy...

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