Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Luthier and body woman

The other evening Mike and I modified my banjo. We had already taken the resonator off the back of it, but there was still the resonator ring and that was uncomfortable because it cut into my thighs when holding the banjo in my lap. To remove the ring all the nuts on the banjo head brackets have to be removed, then the ring pulled off and the nuts replaced. I think there are around twenty of them. The big trick was to find a tool to remove the nuts, since I did not have a banjo wrench. Mike had a broken adjustable wrench and pliers, we used those to remove the nuts. It was a tedious process, but at the end when we had finally removed the ring and replaced the nuts, Mike said, There, now we are luthiers!

Well today I can say, There, now I am a body man! Body woman? At any rate, today I fixed the hole in my truck.

I was going to do it yesterday, but not being enthusiastic about the task I managed to find lots of other jobs to fill the day. At 4.30 in the afternoon I finally went out to the truck and poked at the hole with a bit of sandpaper. Sure enough, not an easy job and even more complicated than I thought it was going to be. I tried to formulate a plan of attack, ran over it with Mike after supper, he made some suggestions, and I went home mulling it all over. Definitely not an easy task.

The problem is that the hole is behind a wheel well, into a cavity that was full of mud when I first looked at it. I managed to spoon out most of the mud and could see another hole in behind the first hole, no doubt the entry point of all that mud. Upon closer inspection I realized it wasn't really a hole but rather a gap between two pieces of the truck body. On the other side of the truck this gap is much tinier and filled with a gasket, but on this side of the truck the gap is almost a half inch wide (and three or four inches long) and the gasket comes nowhere near to filling it.

I was thinking that if I filled the hole on the outside, mud would continue to get into that cavity via the gap behind and cause it to rust out. I thought I should somehow block off that gap. My idea was to use a piece of fibreglass cloth leftover from the kayak building last summer and a whole whack of body filler.

Anyway, this morning I realized that my abortive effort to tackle the job yesterday was part of a pattern with me. When I have a big job to do and I don't really know how to do it but suspect that it is going to be much harder and more complicated than the instructions seem to suggest, then my first step is to avoid it. I can put it off for days, weeks, finding other more important things to do. I need a new compost pile, I need to clean up the garbage in front of the house, I need to plant some more seeds, I need to pull up some more bracken. Anything but the task at hand.

My second step is to read the instructions and try to do it, usually under the most unpromising of conditions, such as at the very end of the day. This is the critical step. This is where I finally come to grips with how hard it really is, how big and complicated a job it really is. Now I get it. The instructions lied, this is not easy.

The third step of course is to come up with a more realistic plan of action. Now I know I have to start earlier in the day (doh!), and I know what tools I'll need and have some idea how to start.

So today I started at noon instead of 4.30pm. I used a wood rasp and a file to remove the worst of the rust and paint, and I also decided to take on another spot on the truck that was not yet a hole but soon would be. In fact I managed to create a new hole with the file. I removed the plastic rims around the two wheel wells adjacent to the old hole and the new hole. Under one of the rims was a yet more rusty metal, so I filed that down too.

After a couple of hours of filing and sanding I finally had it down to a point where I thought I could start filling the holes. My new hole was easy, it was small and there was no cavity behind it to worry about.

The plan I had for dealing with the gap behind the original hole turned out to be worthless, the combination of fibreglass and body filler was just a mess. I ended up just glopping body filler into the cavity and attempting to smear it over one end of the gap, leaving the other end open, on the theory that since I could not make the cavity waterproof then I should leave some of it open so that any water or mud that did get in there could still potentially drain out.

After several rounds of glopping in body filler and letting it harden, the gap may or may not have been partially filled and the outer hole was finally closed. Of course now I had almost a quarter inch of body filler sticking out of the hole and smeared around it, so when it was dry I now had to file or sand it all off. So more filing and sanding, filing and sanding. And I had to add yet more filler because there were pinholes in the glopped filler when I sanded it down.

Finally it was sanded down to a point where I thought I could start painting it. Certainly not perfect, still a bit of a raised patch, but good enough. This is after all, an eighteen-year-old truck with over 300,000 km on it, hardly a perfect specimen. The next step was to tape and paper around the areas to be painted, leaving only the parts I wanted to paint exposed. By this time it was close to 5.00pm, but in June on a nice sunny day I had several hours left in the day to work. And, once I got the primer on, it would be OK to leave it to the next day to finish, since the weather report is for several clear sunny days ahead.

The primer went on easily. You had to leave ten minutes between coats, I put several coats on and it all looked fine. I cleaned up and went home for supper.

After supper I went back and looked at the truck, and I thought I could probably go ahead and put the final coat of red paint on, there was still lots of time left in the evening. So I sprayed the red paint on over the primer. The instructions for this paint say I only need to wait 3-4 minutes between coats and I should probably do two or three coats. By this time the mosquitoes were thick, it was getting tricky to work. The first coat I sprayed exactly over the primer, on the next coat I moved all the tape and paper back a bit to spread the paint beyond the primer. Everything was going well and there was quite a bit of the red paint left, so I thought that the quarter panel with the hole in it could do with a bit of brightening, it is the most faded part of the truck. So I moved all the paper and tape back to include the entire panel and sprayed it all. Several times.

Gee, this went much easier than I expected! Of course the light now is not the best so maybe it looks so good because I can't see the imperfections. Tomorrow it may look horrible, but that quarter panel already looked horrible, it can't be any worse!

I cleaned up and went home, but I had to go back out to admire it again. Hard to leave it alone. I went over to Mike's to tell him about it, he in turn told me a perfectly depressing story about Nazi atrocities during World War II. So I had to go back to admire the truck again before it got really dark.

The instructions say I am supposed to wait a few days to buff it, I have no idea what buffing means. I may or may not pursue it. In any case, I think I can get my safety sticker now. Yippee!


20th Century Woman said...

Annie, I am impressed. Impressed at your perseverance, impressed at the safety rules in your place, and most of all impressed at the good writing that made a story about fixing a hole in a truck really interesting.

Barbara Anne said...

Way to go, body woman!!!!! You did it!! Hail woman, well met!!

BTW, buffing is a polishing technique done with a buffing cloth.

I so agree with 20th Century Woman that you are a wonderful storyteller!!


Wisewebwoman said...

I am literally gobsmacked at your ability to get down to a gruesome and challenging task and get it done, my dear!
Now: picture please.

Zabetha said...

Yeah, I knew I should have taken before and after photos, but I didn't. I fell down on that job. I might post an "after" photo, but I don't think it will tell you much.

Barbara Anne, that was kind of what I thought but the instructions on the can sounded like it might be something a little more complicated than that, and now I'm being told about something called "rubbing compound", and apparently there's different kinds of rubbing compounds, so I'm glad I have to wait a week so I have time to find out what it all really means...

Still don't have the safety sticker, the guy took the afternoon off when I went to collect it, now I have to wait till next week sometime.