As I worked on my RV-7A project in recent years, in the back of my mind I kept hearing the voice say, "you'll never be able to afford the paint job." Like everything else in aircraft building, the paint job is where people are trying to outdo each other. It's not unusual anymore to see $20,000 paint jobs.
And, sure, I could do it myself -- well, wait, actually there's no way I could do it by myself -- but I don't have the equipment, the facilities, the talent or the patience.
I've thought about a polished airplane, but I've made a few dings and dents in the plane's aluminum over the years of construction. But something interesting happened once I started flying the plane: I no longer cared much about having a perfect airplane and learned to love her just the way she is.
Then I saw this plane at Oshkosh:
Isn't that beautiful?
The paint portion is perfect for my plane since I can't polish the top skin forward of the canopy. I built up the area with balsa and fiberglass. And the paint location is perfect for a plane with lots of fiberglass that needs to be painted.
And the process is perfect, too, because winter in Minnesota does not lend itself to flying. And its accompanying cabin fever lends itself to puttering at the hangar. You know, like polishing.
The next day at Oshkosh, I walked into the Nuvite tent and said to the man, "tell me how to do this." And he did. I probably could've put together a cheaper operation, but I want full bore, dropping about $900 on everything I need to make this happen. Fact: $900 < $20,000.
True, there's still money that will eventually be spent on paint, but overall the project should be much more affordable, and -- although I don't much care - the fact is that if you put a nice paint job and a nice polish job side by side, people will gravitate to the polished airplane.
This week, I started on the long process by learning more how to do it right. This EAA video -- if you don't mind me saying something good about EAA -- was a great help.
I've decided to start with the tail -- kind of like the order of building -- and work my way forward. First up: the rudder. Here's the before: