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Customs Paint and body folks, are you ever truly satisfied with a finished product?

Discussion in 'The Hokey Ass Message Board' started by RidingMechanic, Oct 10, 2018.

  1. RidingMechanic
    Joined: Jul 31, 2017
    Posts: 55

    from Cincinnati

    Have been in the restoration business most of my life in one way or another and I apprenticed to a guy that was an absolute perfectionist. He taught me just about everything I know about paint and body but the downside is I don't think I'll ever be completely happy with a project - especially when it comes to paint.

    I always worry that the work isn't good enough, or I obsess over a little flaw that no one else will notice, but I'll always know its there. And there are so many little things that can go wrong...

    It also makes it really hard to just do something for fun, that doesn't have to be a jewel.

    Over the years I got a coupe pieces of advice from folks..."Know the difference between perfection and excellence", and "sometimes 'good enough' is all you need". It helps a little. Its also hard because with social media, every builders' photos look like a million bucks...

    Curious how the pros deal with this. How do you manage your own expectations and still get the job done? How often do you completely redo something because its not good enough?
    loudbang and CudaChick1968 like this.
  2. s55mercury66
    Joined: Jul 6, 2009
    Posts: 2,793

    from SW Wyoming

    To answer the question in the title, no. Never.
    safetythird and loudbang like this.
  3. Cheetahman
    Joined: Sep 17, 2011
    Posts: 8


    " he who seeks perfection shall never find it", said by some Chinese guy a coupla thousand years ago
    loudbang and da34guy like this.
  4. 56premiere
    Joined: Mar 8, 2011
    Posts: 1,391

    from oregon

    If a person touched it , it will never be flawless. My upholstery work is the same thing.
    loudbang likes this.
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  5. 0NE BAD 51 MERC
    Joined: Nov 12, 2010
    Posts: 699

    0NE BAD 51 MERC

    That's why I stopped building cars for other people. After 45 plus years of doing it and 30 in my own shop , nobody { including me!} can afford the time it takes to do it. There is no such thing as a" Driver" paint job in my world. No one will accept then, and I would not put my name on it. They say driver but they expect "BEST" of show. Hundreds of hours of metal work , followed by hundreds of hours of blocking, followed by hundreds of hours of painting ,color sanding and buffing every piece and then hundreds of hours of assembly. And they will still find and bitch about the fly's legs that that got stuck in the clear on the bottom of a rocker panel! After 30 years in business and hundreds of builds enough was enough. I just wish I could get all the nights and weekends I worked for nothing just so I could get something done and out of my hair! If I could do it over again I would never have gone into business building for others. I should have just built personal projects, because every time I was able to find the time to finish one of my own { not very often} somebody would offer me more than I could possibly turn down and sold it. I always strive for perfection and most people say I achive it but I always think it can be better.Good luck and hopefully have fun! Larry
    Last edited: Oct 10, 2018
    nutbush, '51 Norm, loudbang and 5 others like this.
  6. It’s hard enjoy the fruits of your labour when your eye will just wander to imperfections no matter how minor they are and nobody else can see them. It’s a curse really. I’m even that way with my yard. It can look beautiful and all I will stare at is a small patch of clover or something! Hahaha

    Sent from my iPhone using H.A.M.B.
    loudbang and 117harv like this.
  7. We are our own toughest critic.

    You need to figure out where you're aiming at. If you hit exactly where you're aiming at then it was a perfect shot.
    If you're aiming at true "perfection" you'll never hit it but it will be very nice, exceptional and worth of the designation of excellence, maybe the best specimen ever to be seen to date but it will still be far from flawless and perfect. Who needs true perfection anyway? If you've got a demanding customer base that desires, needs and can pay for perfection it's a fun target to aim at.

    I once owned a car that was judged to have perfect paint numerous times by many different individuals in many different venues. It was a DAMN nice paint job but perfect ?? Apparently it was/is better than any other example where ever it went, possibly better than any other they have ever seen but I knew it wasn't "perfect" BTW it was no fun at all owning that car, actually gave me ulcers.

    I'm happy when the person I'm doing it for is happy, when they get better than they were expecting I'm happy. When they get that googlie eyed look like they just fell in love with their car I'm happy.
    I'm happy when they pay too.

    If they want a car blocked head light to taillight with a 6' long board perfect they gotta know what it's going to cost too. They say they want "perfect" but it still seems subjective.
  8. Hutkikz
    Joined: Oct 15, 2011
    Posts: 71


    I hear ya, I used to marvel at how perfect the the cars were at the big shows. now I can't help seeing the imperfections in even the riddler contenders.
    I just quit worrying about it. F* it. enjoy em for what they are.
    The girls I date aren't supermodels and I still enjoy the hell out of them.
  9. That's the truth!

    A "driver" paint job is equal to anything we'd find on a GM dealer new car show room around here. It's universally flawed with no area better or worse than another. That's just how I get people on the same page with BS words like "driver" quality.

    They get a progressive list "dumpster"
    Dump truck
    Fleet /work truck or van
    Show quality
    Show stopper
    Top 8 contender for riddler/amber
    (Near perfect) ^^

    I'll paint them all, but I won't paint a dump truck job on someone's weekend cruiser.
    loudbang likes this.
  10. After having my 57 for 27 years and not finishing it because it wasn’t perfect ( painted it when I was 16 ) I’ve said fuck it and am putting it together flaws and all! Going to drive the shit out of it and not worry about it. Life’s too short

    Sent from my iPhone using H.A.M.B.
  11. I have known painters with 20-30-40 years of experience that were NOT satisfied in the painting process. Why on earth would a amateur think he could do a good job? I can build an engine,wire a car,do a brake job,set up the rear end and steering but I do not want to attempt to put finish paint on a car. I am 71 years young and have enjoyed “hot rods” for 55 years,but chose to leave paint to the “professionals.”
  12. Boatmark
    Joined: Jan 15, 2012
    Posts: 223


    My day job is senior management with a boat manufacturer - retail between 90-800k. My group owns both product quality and product warranty. In many decades I have never seen the perfect boat. Striving towards that goal is a constant battle, and consumer expectations are getting higher by the day. Being realistic means you pick areas where absolutely perfect (as repeatably possible) is necessary. And where that level isn’t really necessary. I call it high visibility needs.

    One thing many miss, is that a “perfect” finish isn’t just paint. The straightest cleanest paint work will look bad if the panel fit is off. In fact, I would say (baring a full on show car) that to most eyes a “good” paint job with excellent panel fit will look better than an “perfect” paint job with mediocre panel fit.

    All that said, when I work on my own paint jobs I know I will never do it enough to achieve show quality paint. My challenge to myself is to do it better each time. And to admit that for my skills to produce “very good” means sometimes admitting I missed the mark, and doing it over.
    loudbang and Chavezk21 like this.
  13. philly the greek
    Joined: Feb 15, 2009
    Posts: 1,815

    philly the greek
    from so . cal.

    Questioning the last sentence in the original post , define " good enough" . Having worked on some AMBR cars with very nice paint work that was "good enough" to win I find this line of questioning a bit like picking the fly shit out of the pepper . As one of the previous responders said " If a human does it , it probably won't be perfect " is close to on the mark .
    Just Gary likes this.
  14. RidingMechanic
    Joined: Jul 31, 2017
    Posts: 55

    from Cincinnati

    I guess "good enough" is a moving target. Realistically we have to establish a goal before starting and work towards that.

    I made the mistake of asking a local wheel refinisher to take a road rashed modern aluminum rim and "make it perfect"...he more or less asked me to take my wheel and get out! It took a minute to get to the root of the problem, but he told me that "Perfect doesn't exist...all my wheels are refinished to an industry standard of 1 defect per 10 square inches and yours is no exception...I don't want to bother with perfection, regardless of price.". (I can't recall the exact measurement but its along those lines.)

    I was perfectly happy with that, because now we had a standard we could both agree on. And in the end, the wheel looked great, and sure enough if I looked hard enough I could fine one or two little dirt nibs hidden in the finish.
    CudaChick1968 likes this.
  15. 117harv
    Joined: Nov 12, 2009
    Posts: 6,580


    Perfection is the enemy of completion.
  16. squirrel
    Joined: Sep 23, 2004
    Posts: 41,077


    I painted a car, that made it to the cover of Hot Rod magazine....and I intentionally did not do as good of a job as I could have. Because it's supposed to be an old race car. And they mostly were never finished very well (with a few glaring exceptions).

    I'd never make it as a paint/body guy, trying to make a living at it. There just aren't nearly enough customers like me.
    6inarow and jvo like this.
  17. F&J
    Joined: Apr 5, 2007
    Posts: 12,898


    ...because they certainly can...

    ....and, perfection will prevent full, total enjoyment of driving it anywhere, anytime, in any weather.
    Long story short, I apparently have survived a serious illness last year, then went 100% broke this year, my 50 year old daily is now unrepairable, so I've been driving the 32 as a true daily. My life has turned to total happiness, and I now make reasons to take it out each late day.

    It's been bugging me for months on "am I just showing off?" when I then get dozens of thumbs up, waves, and raised fists out of passing motorists windows...?? ...... I finally know why.

    Most of us, since childhood get the never-ending impressions from parents, teachers, employers, etc, that we "aren't good enough", or could "do better". Each time your car creates those good feelings/smiles in so many people...that IS your report card on how others look at your accomplishments. You ARE ok after all, and you ARE accepted.

    I meet 1000 people per month, new friends, made me so outgoing, so content with who I am. All because of some old hotrod. My life has never been better. I now, at 66 earth years, feel young again, reborn, and I now do take time to "smell the roses"

    pic at one of several lakes I stopped at yesterday, ....while others are trapped in some self induced rat race. I don't even feel the need to go to car shows now.

  18. CudaChick1968
    Joined: Dec 11, 2012
    Posts: 98


    I'm an admitted Anal Virgo Perfectionist who is her own worst critic.

    My unwritten "test" of a finished job is whether I would install it on my own car. If it meets my standards, the project gets boxed up and shipped home. On the rare occasion my answer is No, I continue to work on it until the answer becomes Yes.

    Nothing will ever be truly perfect. But I still try to achieve it every time. :D
    Joatha, williebill and F&J like this.
  19. Sporty45
    Joined: Jun 1, 2015
    Posts: 562

    from NH Boonies

    I just finished painting the firewall on my project and got a small run in the clear. I was pissed, because the rest layed on very flat. I will fix it, but my wife asked me who is ever going to see that under the hood. Yup, you know the answer to that question, right? :mad:
  20. Chavezk21
    Joined: Jan 3, 2013
    Posts: 506


    I am having that very trouble right now. I have been working with a metal shaper who is very good. I see the flaws in my metal work on the chop. it was going to be good enough. Skim coat of filler some high build primer and no one would have known. Now it has been cut back apart and it is still apart... So that in itself has limited my enjoyment since I have all the parts to finish the car. I need to finish weld the chop and get the chassis finished and just get it done.
    williebill and F&J like this.
  21. razoo lew
    Joined: Apr 11, 2017
    Posts: 235

    razoo lew
    from Calgary

    ....and, perfection will prevent full, total enjoyment of driving it anywhere, anytime, in any weather.

    Frank said it best.
    F&J likes this.
  22. Bearcat_V8
    Joined: Sep 21, 2011
    Posts: 345

    from Dexter, MI

    I had a buddy in the past who was collision and paint guy. His philosophy was to make the paint on the hood and fender tops, and the fender to hood gaps perfect no matter how long it took. His reasoning? He said that is what the customer would see 99% of the time while they were driving. It if wasn't perfect, the customer would let you know. The chance of a customer noticing a flaw anywhere else was minimal, so that only required the normal effort.
  23. 1-SHOT
    Joined: Sep 23, 2014
    Posts: 1,286


    Read the Mercedes Benz dealer book on how to judge a paint job. The paint job is broken in to 3 zones or areas . They tell you how many dust nibs are acceptable in each area. Also to view in natural light. Even as nice a car they build there is imperfections.
  24. jvo
    Joined: Nov 11, 2008
    Posts: 144


    Where did this perfection shit get started? YEs, we all like to have nice stuff, but it has grown way way out of proportion and reality.
    I use this comparison with friends. Many years ago, when my son was about 10, he was mowing the grass at our home. The house was about 25 years old at that time. He ran the handle of the lawn mower down the side of the house, which had faded aluminum siding, and made a scrape down one piece of siding, the length of the house. Now, if that were my daily driver, which cost at that time, about one fifth of what we paid for the house, I would have had to run to the body shop and put in a claim to fix the scratch on the side of the car.
    To fix the house at that time, would have required replacing all of the faded siding to get a color match and to replace the one piece with the long scrape in it. I didn't bother with the siding.
    When I was young, we painted our cars, and yes we bitched if there were a few waves on the side, but that was just life for an average paint job. Now, it costs more than a new daily driver in some cases to have your rod painted, if you can't do it yourself. To me that is ludicrous.
    There. That's my rant. Here's to the guys that paint their own cars and live with a few imperfections.
    CudaChick1968 likes this.
  25. 34Larry
    Joined: Apr 25, 2011
    Posts: 535


    No.. My wife gets mad at me, calls me a perfectionist, but I can't help it. That's why I go through life half pissed off at my self. One has to learn perfection is unattainable. I don't paint per say. I just lay some color down doing my best. My brother paints like Riddler winners, but only stuff he does, no one else's, not even mine. Like so many others here, some one always takes fault with what he does.
    Fabrication is my downfall at being perfect. Oh well like is said, " That's a nice twenty footer", (not really)
    CudaChick1968 likes this.
  26. rovertenrod
    Joined: Aug 7, 2008
    Posts: 56


    I have the benefit ( massive) of an ex Rolls Royce Factory Body guy helping me an I keep saying “ that will do, you know it’s 80 plus years old right”. Only for him to tell me “once you start down the ,that will do route, that becomes the theme for the rest. He will not accept anything other than his best, I only wish I could achieve that!
    CudaChick1968 likes this.
  27. F&J
    Joined: Apr 5, 2007
    Posts: 12,898


    Let me clarify .... there is absolutely nothing wrong with the car owner that wants perfection, if it truly is for his/her importance, and not subconsciously wanting perfection to prove something to others. However, if that person now cannot take it out wherever in any weather, or fears highway road rash chips, then I sure hope they then build a 2nd car that they can "drive the wheels off of".

    I won't name names, but a local lifelong hotrodder, and lifelong hotrod parts businesses owner, had 2 black highest end 32's.(and many other Magazine cars) He did it all, high end show interiors and paint. He battled the dreaded "C' illness successfully at a younger age, but it returned and he was given the bad news. The last time I saw him at the Milltown show in Sturbridge, Mass, he came with his beater 40 Ford pickup of multi-colored old used fenders, no hood, and a tri-power sbc. He drove over to the swap to spend hours with a longtime vendor friend. That was the meet that I overheard some guy say he was not going to beat it this time. That never left me...we were the same age....he could have taken one of the mega quality 32's, but must have just loved that old truck "to drive".

    A high percentage of Hambers are in the "Autumn of our lives"...please don't waste the "now".

    ^^ that is a quote from Eleanor Roosevelt...and YES, I always wanted a pink & red I just redid mine. Got a problem with that? If so, you come see me, and I'll kick your ass and take your wife out for a a HOTROD.. (we might be gone quite a don't wait up) :cool:

    tb33anda3rd likes this.
  28. s55mercury66
    Joined: Jul 6, 2009
    Posts: 2,793

    from SW Wyoming

    I did not intend to imply in my post that folks should not attempt to do their own work. To the contrary, get out there and do it. Just be ready to accept the fact that you will see things that you may wish you had done better, or differently. Once you accept that, you may find it to be quite rewarding.
    CudaChick1968 likes this.
  29. anthony myrick
    Joined: Sep 4, 2009
    Posts: 3,625

    anthony myrick
    from al

    yes and no
    perfection is an illusion, kinda like chasing Eldorado
    the chase is fun though and satisfaction is a relative term
    it depends on the desired outcome
    I loved doing high end resto/repair work and custom work for people that could afford me to spend the time necessary to achieve customer satisfaction. My satisfaction was a happy customer or knowing that I lived up to their expectations.
    for my personal stuff, satisfaction = fun
    My el'cheapo bus is the most fun I ever had with a vehicle, its also the cheapest build I have ever been a part of.
    so I am perfectly satisfied with my current rides perfect imperfections
    CudaChick1968 likes this.
  30. badvolvo
    Joined: Jul 25, 2011
    Posts: 298


    So many people call me a perfectionist, they are wrong, I just take pride in my work. Hell sometimes I don't even think its decently good. I have found, do not to point out the flaws, not many will notice.
    Right now, working on my coupe, perfection never comes to mind. I keep telling myself, "it's good enough for a drag car". Still can't do less than the best I can do.
    0NE BAD 51 MERC likes this.

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