Do it yourself
CTALK - Cito Beltran (The Philippine Star) - June 21, 2019 - 12:00am

In today’s world the term DIY or Do-It-Yourself generally refers to doing something yourself, first, to save on labor cost and as a form of self-expression or talent. Rarely will you hear some one tell you to Do-It-Yourself so that you can have a better understanding and appreciation of what goes into a project or work, how much it costs and how difficult the process can get. I once suggested to readers that if you feel that your house or condo is small, try cleaning the entire space with a toothbrush or hand wiping it with a rag. Only then will you realize how much space you actually have!

For the longest time, I have heard a number of people particularly guys who complain or criticize craftsmen, technicians, mechanics and painters and the likes, claiming that the work takes too long, the labor charges are too expensive etc., etc. This is quite common among men and their cars. They complain that car repairs are not done quick enough, that parts are expensive and paint jobs are not cheap. Recently I even heard about jokers insisting on warranties for work that was done more than six to 12 months ago! I am confident that if most of these people actually tried doing things themselves they probably couldn’t, would lose more money from taking time out from their high paying jobs, and would be shocked if they actually attempted DIY.

I have been around cars for most of my adult life and have often managed the repair, restoration of a number of cars through the years, but most of the time I’m usually the “shop boss”, the delegator, or the client and never the one who does all the work. I’ve done some work on my own but I never attempted to actually do it “backyard American style” where you do all the work yourself whenever you have a few hours to spare. Two months ago I decided that talk is cheap and I should attempt to actually paint one project car all by myself. From the looks of it, my project, a 1966 Mustang Coupe will take me one to two years to finish, but it is a great reminder for me and a lesson to anyone who comes to visit my home that anything involving manual labor, craftsmanship requires a lot of time, work, money and a barrel of patience.

The car I got had been left in an open garage for about 20 years. Just cleaning it took several days. It required the use of degreasing chemicals to clean up the engine and the engine bay. I spent close to P1,500 just for cleaning materials, cloth and brushes. Then we had to strip the interior out of the car to make sure that they are not broken or damaged by the chemicals I was using. All that took at least a week to do and occupied the bed space in our guest room. Most people don’t even take into consideration that when they leave a car with the mechanic they are occupying someone else’s space and this could be ugly when you can’t come up with the parts or the cash to get the work started or completed.

After the clean out, I had to get several gallons of an acid-based gel type paint stripper which I carefully brushed section by section in order to remove the old and damaged paint on the car. You do this because if the old paint is so bad, any attempt to just paint over it will ultimately peel off when the fresh paint chemicals soak into the old paint. This stripping process is labor intensive, slow and painful and expensive because a gallon of the striper is about P500 and I estimate that I will easily go through six gallons, several steel brushes, paint brushes, rags etc. The hard part is working with products that have toxic fumes, burns holes in your skin, and old paint that refuses to just peel off. It takes about two weeks just to strip the paint but it does not end there.

What follows is another three to four weeks of sanding the surface areas of the car in order to remove any paint or chemical residues as well as rust. Depending on the gravity of the rust or residue adhesion, a one square foot area can take you at least an hour to manually sand down to “white metal” quality. But given that I am a one man job, I can only do sections at a time because you need to sand, prepare and prime or paint primer over the prepared surface as soon as possible. In a humid country like the Philippines the rule is you cannot leave the work unfinished or unprimed overnight because it will be rusted next day! Many car owners don’t even know that during the preparation, you have to tape and cover parts or areas you don’t want to work on or spray yet. Most people have seen a car being painted but rarely do you see the part where mixing containers need to be cleaned with high grade thinner that burns the skin, the chemical washing of the spray gun etc. and the amount of rags you go through just for cleaning equipment and yourself!

As I took you through the initial stage of my DIY challenge, I hope that you somehow realize that any work involving manual labor and craftsmanship can never be cheap and not easy and takes time. Any shop that gives you quick and easy or cheap will most likely end up disappointing you. Try to DIY or Discover It Yourself so you can better manage your expectations and not unfairly judge or treat the people you work with.

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