Known Johnson

April 23, 2006

Weekend update+

Filed under: General — Tom @ 11:54 pm

So Friday I saw the doctor and decided that I really don’t like this guy. He’s gruff and seems like he’s really being burdened to see me the few times I’ve been there. If you ever watched CBS’ Becker, he was a lot like that, but minus the smoking hot nurse. Be that as it may, he immediately recommended a neurologist to take a look at my brains and gave me a prescription for something to take in the meantime should I get another migraine. Given that it’s going to be a month before I can get in to the neurologist, it might unfortunately come in handy.

He also gave my foot a cursory glance and asked, as if annoyed by me even presenting the issue to him, “How long has this been hurting? Three weeks? Go downstairs after this and get this x-rayed. If something turns up, we’ll have you see an ortho.” And when I heard “ortho” my brain immediately filled in “-pedic surgeon.” I realize I’m jumping the gun on this, because he could simply mean “-pedic specialist” or any number of other similar things, but “surgeon” was the word that immediately came to mind. So, anyway, I got a number of x-rays of my left foot and hopefully tomorrow I’ll get a prognosis. Whatever it is, I hope it doesn’t involve “surgery.” I’m hoping it’s simply going to heal on its own, but given the way things have been going so far, who knows?

Saturday I got back to a little project that I’ve been working on for a few weeks. Back in December I had a minor mix-up with a large piece of ex-tire with my then one-week old truck. It cracked my grill, dented the bumper cover, and left an array of tiny damage in various mostly impossible to see places on my truck. I had briefly thought of investing in Honda’s aftermarket grill, a very truck-y looking solid-black grill, but at well over $200, that thought quickly evaporated. A while later I discovered that Ebay is the clearing house for stock Ridgeline grills and grabbed one for $25. Due to a shoddy seller, it took 40 days and lots of bitchy emails to finally get it in my hands – what a hassle – before I could even think about my next step. That, simply, was to paint the aluminum bars of the grill a dark color because, as other Ridgeline owners have noted, its stock grill just isn’t very truck-like looking.

So a few weeks back I went in search of paint. I had assumed just straight black, maybe a high gloss to set it apart from the flat black plastic of the rest of the grill, but saw high up on the racks at Lowe’s an intriguing twist on black: Black Metallic, from Rustoleum. It would still be black basically, but would have just a tiny little something extra when the sun hit it. I grabbed some Rustoleum primer and clear coat as well, knowing that if any spray paint was going to be durable, it was this stuff.

And so I painted. A lot. I amazed myself with how much paint I get get on something 18″ by 5″, but the key, learned from years of building model kits, is to be thorough. The result was the best paint job I’ve ever had, period – the paint gleamed like glass, something that is very, very hard to achieve straight out of a spray can. However, I didn’t get everything perfect – the flat plane of the grill came out nearly flawless, but the perpendicular sides came out with a lot of rough overspray. Sanding was my only option, and I chose some high-grit paper made for automotive finishes and grabbed a bottle of rubbing compound, something I’ve never used before. I won’t go into details about that, but the results were astounding: hours of painting, sanding, and rubbing and the rough sides came out glass smooth just like the front face of the grill, and it was perfect. Until it chipped – all that work, ruined.

It turns out I forgot something very, very important: you can’t just paint over chrome. Chrome is too slick for paint to adhere to. It has a surface that primers can’t etch into which to get a firm grip. I’d forgotten this because I’d assume that the inserts in the grill were aluminum, but it turns out they’re just plastic with a very high-quality chrome that is the spitting image of chrome. I knew, again from years of model-buidling experience, that chrome was easily stripped off using oven-cleaner such as Easy Off or anything with sodium hydroxide as its main ingredient. This is nasty stuff – it basically eats away anything but plastics and certain types of paint. If you get it on you and don’t clean it immediately, it’ll turn your skin into jelly before you realize it. Nasty stuff.

So I grabbed some rubber gloves intended for oven-cleaning, got a big plastic storage container, and doused the grill in oven-cleaner. I closed it up and let it sit for hours, checking it every so often. Well, after a while the paint had loosened, but there was no sign of the chrome letting go. So I left it in overnight. By the next evening, the paint could be brushed away like a goo, but the chrome still remained. I sanded it with the harshest grit I dared, doused it again, and again found no change. This was, without a doubt, the most durable chrome I’ve ever seen. I only had one choice: sand like crazy and then let the primer grab onto the roughened surface. It’s not preferable, but a good primer should be able to handle it.

And so finally a week ago I got out and gave the grill another impressively heavy paint job – so heavy that I ran out of my black metallic, but luckily had gotten a good finish with what I had. The paint needs to be good and thick to resist the junk that’s going to be flying into it at highway speeds. I nearly finished up the can of clear coat as well, and then set the grill aside to dry for most of the week. One last sanding and rubbing-compound application and I have a stunningly professional looking paintjob. I took photos but they unfortunately just don’t do it justice – you have to see it in person to really experience it. Come on out to Phoenix and let me show you my grill.

Today I did the surgery on my truck. Using instructions from College Hills Honda, who kindly offer the official Honda aftermarket grill instructions (warning, PDF file) online, I removed my front bumper cover and replaced the grill. It was nerve-wracking, but ultimately it was really pretty simple. I was done in about a half-hour . . . following hours of painting and polishing, of course. The end result is satisfyingly subdued – just like a truck grill should be.


For comparison – top is the original, bottom is my painted version. The photos of the truck don’t show it very well, unfortunately – a combination of angle and too much sunlight. Sorry. The above will have to do. Click through to Flickr to see it bigger.

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