Body Building Tools You Need For Painting & Repair
A list of Tools You'll Need to do Your Own Bodywork
From the September, 2003 issue of Modified Mustangs & Fords
By Kevin Tetz
Photography by Kevin Tetz
If you've decided to tackle the body chores of your current project, or are even considering it, you've probably been overwhelmed by the assortment of tools that are available. And chances are you've been overwhelmed with the cost of some of them too! There's an amazing array of specialized body tools, and costs can get out of hand quickly; but you still need to have the right tools for the job. So where do you start? There's a big difference between collision and restoration repair so the first order is to figure out what your goals are. Someone with a MIG welder and some basic metalworking skills can install a set of floorpans in their vintage Ford without a fully stocked body shop, but if you have a car with the front bumper wrapped under the footwell from a banzai encounter with an unsuspecting light pole, you'll probably need to enlist the help of some professionals. Either way, you're still going to need a basic set of body tools to start off with. A great place to shop is The Eastwood Company. The company has been providing specialty tools to the automotive hobbyist for over 25 years, and its selection and value are second to none.
Expect the unexpected! Wear safety glasses with mechanized tools, use jackstands under your project, wear gloves when handling metal or solvents, suit up when painting, and use appropriate fresh-air-supply gear when using toxic chemicals such as paint strippers, catalyzed paints, and media-blasting sand. Take care of yourself, and live to bust another knuckle!
HAMMER AND DOLLY SET
HAMMER AND DOLLY SET
Probably the most basic way to massage sheetmetal is with a good set of hammers and metal dollies. The dolly is placed behind the metal as a backing brace while the damaged area is smoothed with the appropriate-face hammer. Using Grandpa's claw hammer for pounding out dents is not only cheesy, but it can be dangerous as well. Use only hammers designed for striking metal.
Price range: $20 to $270
We've put together a list of what I think are "must haves" in the body shop. Many of them are multipurpose, making them economical purchases that cross over to other repair areas, and some of them are specific-duty. All of them will save you time and energy when you reach for the right tool for the job!
Tools don't have...
Tools don't have to be complicated to work well. A simple file set will come in handy for many jobs, such as reaming holes, metal finishing body panels, and detailing your fit and finish. Make sure you choose metal files instead of woodworking tools!
Price range: $5 to $25
Sanding blocks are essential when shaping your bodywork. Different angles, shapes, and sizes can re-form contours, and long, flat blocks can handle long, flat panels, helping get rid of those nasty ripples when you look down the side of your car. Blocking is one of the most important techniques to master, and having the block you need, when you need it, can save you countless hours and frustration.
Price range: $6 to $50
Clamping panels together for...
Clamping panels together for welding, as well as hundreds of other uses (and abuses), makes a diverse set of vise clamps a definite must for your basic tool collection.
Price range: $5 to $30
A D/A (dual action)...
A D/A (dual action) sander can be a real time-saver. It spins as well as orbits, creating a smooth and even cut. When used properly, a D/A sander can be used for topcoats, surfacers, or even stripping paint from panels. It's important to keep the pad as flat as possible on the panels. Avoid digging holes with the edge of the pad. Smooth, even pressure is the key. Electric D/A sanders are available as well, but are not as versatile, especially when wet sanding! DOH!
Price range: $29 to $200
There are countless...
There are countless uses for this tool, including sectioning frames, fabricating, rust repair, and general body repair procedures. It's handy, but potentially dangerous--20,000 rpm can do some damage when a wheel comes apart. Hang your safety glasses and gloves next to this guy.
Price range: $19 to $60
Old school! A crude but effective way to rearrange sheetmetal. Drill your holes in the low spots, thread in the screw tip, and take the dents out! Lots of follow-up work to this, and potential comeback damage on blind panels. Moisture can wick through fillers and contact bare metal to promote rusting.
Price range: $19 to $60
The stud welder...
The stud welder pulls dents without the Swiss cheese effect. It welds pins to the metal, then you use the slide puller to pull the dent out. When you've shaped your metal, just cut off the pins and prep the surface for finishing and priming. This is a much better long-term repair. The stud welder can also be used as a shrinking tool when no pin is used. Great bang-for-the-buck value.
Price range: $215 to $315
Believe it or...
Believe it or not, several all-purpose tools such as a Dremel set can aid you in ways you never thought of. Small cutoff wheels, detail sanders and polishers, plus high-rpm drills all come in handy in those hard-to-reach areas. Great for detailing.
Price range: $29 to $60
If you plan on...
If you plan on doing metal replacement, a MIG (Midi Inert Gas) welder can be a great investment. The cleanest weld will be achieved with a setup that uses an argon/O2 mix to shield the weld from contamination. Flux core welders are effective, but much messier. A MIG welder is not the only way to replace panels and patch metal, so before you spend your cash, look into bonding adhesives as an alternative on smaller repairs.
Price range: $150 to $1,500
Metal prep, polishing, rust removal, and even buffing can be accomplished with this one tool. A Roloc, or twist-lock attachment, makes quick work of changing tips or blades. Buffing pads twist onto the same mounting pad as grinding wheels.
Price range: $19 to $39
If you're using pneumatic tools, or especially if you're painting or priming, your air compressor is the heart of your workshop. Choosing the right compressor can make your world a lot easier, and pennies from heaven will rain down upon you! Just kidding--no miracles, but your tools will work properly and efficiently, and your project will go a lot easier. Too little output (CFM) will starve your tools and paint guns, and will overwork the compressor. Results of this can include contamination of your primers and paints, and premature failure of your air tools. Think of it like this: Air volume is measured in cubic feet per minute; air pressure is measured in pounds per square inch--two very different measurements. You need to carefully match the output of your compressor to what your tools will be demanding. If you plan on painting, pay attention to the ratings and requirements of your guns.
A dryer setup or moisture separator is critical to the proper outcome of your paint projects and long tool life. Having your dryer too close to the compressor can allow moisture to bypass the unit, and still contaminate your air. Place this unit at least 25 feet from your compressor to allow moisture to separate properly so it can be removed from your usable air.
Price range: $50 to $300
Even if you're only going to get your ride into primer, you'll still need a quality gun to shoot primers and surfacers. Thinking that "it's only primer" doesn't apply anymore with today's 2K products. Materials are vastly improved, but much more expensive as well; and they need the correct air volume and pressure to do what they're designed to do. If you're on a budget, get a good-quality, moderately priced HVLP gun with a 1.4 fluid-tip setup and use it for primers and topcoats. Just make sure to clean it thoroughly between uses. If budget is not an issue, get a dedicated gun for each procedure, but stay with HVLP and compliant technology--they're much more efficient and will actually save you money when applying your materials to the project.
Price range: $29 to $500
A computer in your...
A computer in your workshop? Not necessarily, but close by so you can use it to reference everything from parts sources to MSDS sheets and painting procedures. Gearheads are turning into computer geeks, and, in today's information age, a computer is one of the best assets you can imagine. Online shopping for tools can be an eye-opening experience, and you'll soon learn the ropes of Internet bargain hunting. Even if you don't have your own online computer, most public libraries offer free Web access. The recent advancements in high-speed access open up the possibilities for online product demos, technical seminars, and information on a much wider level. The opportunity to compare notes with people all over the world and of all different skill levels has never before been as accessible as it is now.
Price range: $500 to $2,000
INSTRUCTIONAL VIDEO TAPES...
INSTRUCTIONAL VIDEO TAPES
Shameless plug? Yes siree! The Paintucation video set is a must-have for your reference library, showing you excellent techniques, as well as important safety tips. The new "Bodyshop Basics" video covers the fundamentals of the trade, giving you the necessary foundation on which to build your skills. An added value of the tapes is the free (yes, free!) Internet tech support and Web site at www.paintucation.com. Current updates, a Q&A board, a readers' rides page, chat rooms, and a great community of fellow enthusiasts are just some of the features of Paintucation.com.
Price range: $39.95 to $140.00
The learning curve for doing your own bodywork can be frustrating and painful, but it doesn't have to be. Having the right tool for the right job is more than half the battle, and making a game plan before you start melting down your credit card is very important. You don't have to buy the best of everything to get effective results, but spend your money wisely; and remember that good value sometimes comes with a bigger price tag.
If you enter into this field with an open mind, a reasonable budget, and a willingness to study some basic techniques and principles, you can get excellent results right out of the gate!