case mod 101: how to paint your computer case (part 2)

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sanded color coat shows visible scratches

You could buff this finish out to a decent gloss. But by applying a clear coat, you’ll deepen the gloss significantly. Apply the clear coat to the workpieces generously. Don’t overapply, but build up several thin applications to a wet, glossy coat. Orange peel texture will be noticeable, and dust nibs will seem to be magnetically attracted, but don’t worry. Again, we cure this coat for two days, then we repeat the 600 grit flattening-out-the-orange peel routine. If you cut through the clear coat, a second application is necessary, plus the two day cure before you sand again. By now you see this is not a technique for the impatient. But once you finish the flattening, you get to move up the grit scale again to scratch removal. Lightly sand with 1000 grit and then 1500 grit (and 2000 if you have some) to remove the scratches left by each previous step. This pic shows after sanding with 1500.

after a sanding with 1500 grit

All that sanding work was very very tedious, but it pays off tight now. If you did a good job with the previous steps, the application of rubbing compund won’t be anywhere near as difficult as if you cut corners. By now you’ve got a good six hours into sanding, so I know that if you’re with me here, you’re going the distance. And I promise that the last couple steps are a little less tedious. To buff out the fine scratches, use a high quality rubbing compound available from auto parts stores. Aplly it per the package directions, but fundamentally you rub the scratches out, leaving only a faint haze. Use only a clean, soft cotton cloth for this step. The pic shows our top panel, with one half compounded.

guess which half has been rubbed out

This is the payoff! You’ll see the gloss emerge as you remove the compound from the panels. The matte finish is replaced by gloss with only a faint haze. There are swirl mark removers and glazes available where you get your paint supplies to remove the last traces of haze. You can apply these right after compounding. If you want to use an automobile wax, wait a month for the paint to fully cure first. But with the hand glaze applied, you’ll have the show car look that will grab serious attention.

mirror finish–it took a lot of hard work

And a couple more glamour shots to show off the paintjob:

the chrome really complements the gloss black
is that one can of paint, or two?

The bezel deserves some extra discussion. Most bezels have some curves to them, and it is more challenging to get those complex details sanded flat. Make sure you remove any raised lettering before you apply primer. If you like, you can fill holes or details with auto body filler or putty before priming. The simpler the surface is, the easier it will be to finish sand. Rubbing compound will work its way into vent holes and other openings. Try to get your bezel as clean as possible right after applying rubbing compound.

sanding bezel details will take more time than flat panels

One more pic just to show exactly how glossy this case is:

who’s that bozo with a camera?

linear’s finish sanding secrets
+ When removing scratches, use the next finest grit, and sand perpendicular to the last sanding.
+ Sanding on curved or detailed surfaces like your bezel may work better by hand, but use a sanding block for panels.
+ Be patient. Sand after your paint cures fully; it hardens significantly from the first to third days.
+ Dark colors give a more convincing mirror illusion. Black is the ultimate, but deep greens and blues work well too.
+ If using a metallic color, *do not* sand before you apply clear coat. It will ruin the effect.
+ use a clean soft cotton cloth for applying compound. You’ll need a number of them.
+ Finish sanding is different than sanding between coats. Between coats, you’re trying for flatness. Finish sanding is about scratch removal.
+ Have fun!

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