Last time I posted about my nine-year-old’s birthday computer project, I detailed the requirements, the parts, and the plan. I also admitted that this is a learning project for both of us. Here’s the part where I learned: the Painting of the Case.
I read several articles on the subject and ultimately decided that not only did I want to try and achieve a glossy automotive finish with paint, I also wanted to use a masking technique similar to hot rod flame striping to make a custom design.
I don’t do half way.
After discussing it with the birthday girl, she decided that she wanted a pretty sparkly purple design on black. I then searched for a paint system that would give me those options. First, I was going to go with the Krylon Glitter Blast, but after I read nothing but horror stories on Amazon, I decided against it. After more research, I found that the Rustoleum line offered metallic sparkle paints of a number of colors and was pretty well-regarded. Smartly, its spark finish and color are in separate cans. I spent about $150 on various spray paints, sandpaper of various grits, a sanding block, and some rubbing compound. Sure, it was over budget, but this part of the present was just as much for me as for my daughter.
First things first, I took my rough 300 grit sandpaper and prepared by wet-sanding every surface that would get painted. I took some of the original black paint off at some spots, but nothing horrible. The most important thing is to sand off any tiny details, like raised icons and whatnot. They will otherwise be hard to smoothly paint around. Afterwards, I dried it, cleaned it with rubbing alcohol, and wrapped the lower half of the chassis (that I did not want to paint) with masking paper.
After that was dried, it was time to apply the Rustoleum Adhesion Promoter Primer. Since I don’t know any better, I just followed the directions on the can and went through three light coats before moving on to three light coats (again, per the can) of the Rustoleum Gloss Black.
Now here’s where it got tedious. I had to wait approximately 48 hours for the first coat to cure before sanding. Then, I went crazy on the newly-painted surfaces with some 600 grit sandpaper to remove the “orange peel” effect, before lightly spraying three more coats. I repeated this cycle one more time, but moved on to 1000 grit sandpaper.
Now here’s the fun part. I checked out several hot rod sites for tips and tricks and did my best to adapt them. I used some 1/8” striping tape to very carefully lay out a design. I tried a cool-looking flame job, but that was completely vetoed by my harsh patroness. She quickly sketched out some sample ideas while expressing a strong preference for “more loops and swirls.”
Did I mention that I have never done this before?
I warned her, but her hope sprung high, so I did my best. She liked my second striping tape design, so down went the contact paper!
Once contact paper was laid down over the entire surface to be left black, it was time to slowly use an exacto knife on top of the striping tape to cut the contact paper. The goal is to press hard enough to get through the contact paper, but not pierce the striping tape. This was way harder than it sounds, and I could feel my blade tracking off of the tape several times and biting into the tape; sometimes on the wrong side. Ugh.
Now it was time for the purp- no, wait. There’s more. I needed to spray a sparkly Rustoleum Ground Coat to provide a metallic surface. And another two days of curing time.
At least there is no sanding this time, lest we accidentally remove that sweet, sweet sparkle. Finally, we could put two light coats and one medium wet coat of Rustoleum Purple Metal Anodized paint and wait… shit.
Seven days to cure.
You know what else takes seven days to cure? The Rustoleum Clear Coat. So I went ahead and applied that to the purple-less parts.
Once the purple was dried, it was time for the moment of truth. PEEL THE MASK!
After waiting one long, terrible week, it was finally time to try to desperately to sand out all of those final nicks and blemishes from cutting the mask, without destroying that beautiful purple color. I employed some 1500 grit and did my best, but at the point, impatience was starting to take over. Let’s just hope that a solid trifecta of clear coat, buffing compound, and my daughter’s indifference will be enough to hide them.
I sprayed the clear coat over the side panels and let them begin their week-long stasis, while I employed some wonderful 3M rubbing compound to buff out a good shine. It’s not a wax; rather it just smooths out the little imperfections in the clear coat itself.
With the main case and the front bezel finishes done, I was able to start partially reassembling everything. I hooked the front USB/audio ports, power switches, and their wiring back up and re-installed the front bezel to the case.
In Part 3, we’ll see if my patience can hold out while my nine-year-old daughter learns how to build a computer!