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Old 04-23-2013, 11:06 AM
BruceEicher's Avatar
BruceEicher BruceEicher is offline
Join Date: Feb 2012
Location: Wilsonville/Aurora KUAO Oregon
Posts: 746
Default Paint for airplanes

HulaGirl has been flying now for 18 months, 175 hours with the 3M 1080 film holding up just fine.

Alternate to paint finishes:
Vinyl color wrapped finish, along with polished Aluminum.
I wanted a finish that I could do myself, within my skill set and in my hanger which does not allow spray painting. Plus a process that can be done a little each weekend while keeping the plane flight ready.
Added benefits;
It offers a lower cost and is easy to redo for bad application technique, hanger rash, wear, or just plain getting tired of looking at it. Plus it is a clean process with little clean-up.
Products used;
3M 1080 Controltac film for all colors but chrome. And Avery Conform Chrome. The 3M comes in a width of 60” (which worked great for the 8’s wing cord) and the Chrome is 48” wide. For my scheme I purchased 40 running feet of gloss Intense blue, 6’ of gloss white, 6’ of gloss black, 6’ of matte black, 5’ of gloss bright yellow and 10’ of chrome. This gave some extra for mistakes…I also used 2.5 rolls of knifeless tape (164’ each roll), less than a pint of 3M primer and same of 3M edge sealer. All that is needed for special tools is a couple felt wrapped squeegees and an electric heat gun. I also bought and liked the Rapid Prep surface cleaner and Rapid Tac application fluid for final surface clean prep. Above all totaled $1300
Flyboy Accessories produced their Military Graphics package adding squadron letters and “HulaGirl” lettering. $480
Professional Sign and Graphics in Wilsonville OR did the HulaGirl Nose Art, Lei Tail Art (with both graphics purchased online from image stock house) plus guns produced from my photo of a museum P-51 $327
I did sneak the unfinished Cowl and Spinner to Tualatin Auto Body and they gave it back filled and painted in 4.5 days for only $810. Bringing the project total to $2900
I will share my experience on the steps I used. I am not at all saying I achieved perfection or that what I did was the right way. My expectation was a “ten foot” quality finish and I feel I attained such. But with a little redo here and there plus some more polishing I might get it down to 7 feet.
Preparation of surfaces.
The film does little to hide surface imperfections and textures. (Coverage over flush rivets and fiberglass pinholes looks great.) The same sand, fill, sand, prime and sand process could be done as with paint. But I did this prep on the more porous fiberglass like wheel pants, hand fabricated windshield and leg transitions, plus the canopy skirt. Wing and tail tips, gear leg fairings, and empennage root fairings I just lightly sanded the smooth release coat surface. I am happy with the results, especially considering the easy prep. Prep for the aluminum surfaces was just cleaning. I experimented with Applying the film over a sample that had been scotch padded and it covered fine.

Planning of cuts, shapes and applications of film.
I avoided some compound curves with planned seams. Seams should be overlapping down and aft to avoid airstream lifting and water seeping. So I started from the rear and the bottom of the plane. Most pieces were installed oversized over the top of the knifeless tape. The knifeless tape is applied like pin striping where you want a color line. Then after the oversized vinyl is applied you pull the fine line through the film cutting it in the shape you outlined. Many times two applications of this tape were used, once for the bottom or rear layer and again to make the small overlap seam of the next piece. But with flat applications like the wing Invasion Stripes, I cut out the film with a long straight edge and razor to the final width. Then careful application of these large stripes I lined up the seams and saved both film and tape for the long straight color seams. I did use the tape on the leading wing and trailing aileron/flap edges. After all colors were down I pulled the long tape line to get a straight cut on these edges.

I applied the 3M primer on all leading edges of the planes surface a couple minutes before application, then the knifeless tape over that. The primer turns the film adhesive to more of a contact glue instant stick. Also use the primer around openings like air ducts and tie-down screw holes, plus inside concave curved surfaces for better adhesive.
The film adhesive is pressure sensitive, goes on dry, and had micro air channels in the adhesive surface that helps prevent air bubbles. You can lay it on the prepped surface, being careful not to stick it to any 3M primer parts. I did a large percentage on the bottom of the plane, so a light finger push can be used to tack it down, line it up and still snap it back up to reposition. Work from the center out with the squeegee.
Heating the film allows it to stretch and curve. It takes some practice and re-learning with the stretch as opposed to model airplane product Monocoat, which shrinks when you heat it. (There were many times when I wished I could shrink the wrinkles out.) Heating also final sets the films adhesive and re-squeegee will force all air bubbles out. Also use heat and a cotton gloved finger to push the film over and down small bumps like rivets. I either used a sharp razorblade to trim outside edges or tucked it in and around to avoid exposure of the edge. Go back each applied piece with heat and squeegee to final set and smooth.
Two last steps are to clean the edges with alcohol, removing overlapped primer and glue. Then I used the seam sealer on leading edges.
Bruce, Katie, Hana and RV-8 HulaGirl

Last edited by BruceEicher : 04-02-2014 at 05:27 PM. Reason: repost process
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Old 04-23-2013, 11:11 AM
flyboy1963's Avatar
flyboy1963 flyboy1963 is offline
Join Date: Oct 2008
Location: Lake Country, B.C. Canada
Posts: 2,416
Default awesome!

now If I only had a hangar, i'd have one less excuse for not having any graphics on my ship!

I've done a few wraps, and still haven't nailed down the are doing great!
just a reminder that the convention is to do the bottom first, then the top, and work back to front, so that your lap seams are less likely to 'catch' dirt and moisture, or just erode. ( at 200 mph!!! There is also clear sealant in a felt pen applicator, and, or transparent film if you want to tape the seams for better durability in problem areas.
Perry Y.
RV-9a - SOLD!....
Lake Country, BC
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Old 04-23-2013, 11:34 AM
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f1rocket f1rocket is offline
Join Date: Jan 2005
Location: Martinsville, IN
Posts: 2,326

I'm planning the same thing for my RV-12 this winter. Polished and wrap. I think it's a great idea (although I have no idea how to apply wrap).
Randy Pflanzer
Greenwood, IN
Paid through 2043!
Lund fishing Boat, 2017, GONE FISHING
RV-12 - Completed 2014, Sold
427 Shelby Cobra - Completed 2012, Sold
F1 EVO - partially completed, Sold
F1 Rocket - Completed 2005, Sold
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Old 04-23-2013, 02:08 PM
pierre smith's Avatar
pierre smith pierre smith is offline
Join Date: Jan 2005
Location: Louisville, Ga
Posts: 7,840

Quite a few of the Nascar racers use wrap these days..and they run 200 MPH.

Pierre Smith
RV-10, 510 TT
RV6A (Sojourner) 180 HP, Catto 3 Bl (502Hrs), gone...and already missed
Air Tractor AT 502B PT 6-15 Sold
Air Tractor 402 PT-6-20 Sold
EAA Flight Advisor/CFI/Tech Counselor
Louisville, Ga

It's never skill or craftsmanship that completes airplanes, it's the will to do so,
Patrick Kenny, EAA 275132

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Old 04-23-2013, 02:22 PM
Ron B. Ron B. is offline
Join Date: Nov 2007
Location: Yarmouth, Nova Scotia
Posts: 2,408

I would be concerned with moisture getting under the vinyl and not being able to dry out.
Thanks Ron
RV-14 Flying
AirCam flying
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Old 04-23-2013, 02:23 PM
Join Date: Sep 2010
Location: Chile, Valparaiso
Posts: 294

Bruce, excelent work its beautifull, the wrap work also.
Hern?n Santib??ez
Valpara?so, Chile

RV-7 TMX-IO-360 G3X and VPX Flying over Chile
2018 Dues Paid
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Old 04-23-2013, 07:19 PM
humptybump humptybump is offline
Join Date: Feb 2011
Location: USA
Posts: 3,179

So Bruce, I guess you'd say you are vinylly finished with your plane ?
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Old 04-23-2013, 07:35 PM
fatherson fatherson is offline
Join Date: Oct 2009
Location: Albuquerque, NM
Posts: 427

Originally Posted by humptybump View Post
So Bruce, I guess you'd say you are vinylly finished with your plane ?
Interesting rimshot: "badhumptybump!"

And that's a wrap, everybody.
Stephen & Tyson Humphrey
father-son team building new lives and an RV-9
VAF Donors: 2008 to 2014 * Friends of the RV-1
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Old 04-23-2013, 10:09 PM
RV Wannabe RV Wannabe is offline
Join Date: Jul 2010
Location: Shorewood, Il.
Posts: 230

Originally Posted by pierre smith View Post
Quite a few of the Nascar racers use wrap these days..and they run 200 MPH.

Ya, but their life expectancy is how many races??? I assume he hopes his will last longer!

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Old 04-03-2014, 02:35 PM
BruceEicher's Avatar
BruceEicher BruceEicher is offline
Join Date: Feb 2012
Location: Wilsonville/Aurora KUAO Oregon
Posts: 746
Default Update

A few have asked, so I dragged this old thread out and reposted for an update.

I have flown 175 total hours, 125 with the vinyl and am still quite happy with the color wrap.
I have found that planning of forward facing seams and edges are very important. I have an edge color change (from vinyl underneath to polished aluminum on top) right at the flying surface?s leading edges. I flew several hours without any of the liquid seam sealer. The direct air impact to the raw edge tattered a small section or two. And on the wheel pants where two colors overlap on the leading edge the wind impact did the same. Once I applied the clear seam sealer the wear has stopped for over 100 hours now. I have not used the sealer on any other seams but the leading edges and have not had any peal or wear. There is even a fuselage invasion stripe that the installer (me) laid in the wrong order causing an overlap facing forward but has no lifting.
One case of hanger rash and another of scraped wheel pants on a destination hangar door threshold was so easily repaired in a few minutes.
I have been masking the artwork and wrap when polishing the aluminum with all compounds but the final Nuvite S. The S compound does not seem to touch the film but time will tell?I might continue to wrap the plane as I grow weary of polishing.
I feel the film gives my bare aluminum protection from moisture but will continue to watch for any signs of trapped moisture, loose rivets or other concerns with this product.
Overall, I could not have beat the time or cost for the final look with paint.

If anyone is in my neck of the woods, contact me and I can offer a look, demo or lend you a hand with yours.

See you at the fly-outs/ins...

HulaGirl with Spencer Air Girl, Arlington WA fly-in 2013
Bruce, Katie, Hana and RV-8 HulaGirl
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