Enamel paint is used to achieve a hard, glossy finish. Often it has metal flakes or glass powder mixed in with the color pigment. This composition gives it a unique aesthetic, but it also makes repairing or restoring enamel difficult. However, if you have an enamel surface that is chipped, cracked, dull, or all of the above, you may need to refinish it.
The first step to a proper restoration job is to sand down the surface. These tips will help get you the best results.
Use the Wet-Sanding Technique
When sanding enamel paint, you will use a technique called wet sanding. This requires water and high-grade sandpaper. This type of sanding makes it possible to achieve an extremely fine finish without actually damaging the surface. It can take some time to do it right, but you can achieve great results if you use the right equipment.
Use a bucket of tap water and some sandpaper wrapped around a sanding block. Frequently wet the paper by dipping the sanding block into the water.
To ensure that you do not damage any of the underlay, use light and short sanding stokes. Sanding in straight lines is better than circles; sand with the shape of sculptured areas.
Also, even though you will already be constantly wetting the sanding block, make sure you are separately sprinkling water onto the enamel surface as well.
When you have a rounded surface, stop using the sanding block and use a wet piece of sandpaper instead.
Once you're satisfied that the surface looks smooth, rinse it with clean water to make sure it is what you want. You can then buff the surface using a liquid buff compound, though all buffing should be done at a low speed.
Use the Right Type of Sanding Tool
You never want to wet sand using an electric sander, as water and electricity do not mix. Plus, it's more difficult to regulate the power and abrasiveness of a power sander than it is to control the pressure of your own hand. While enamel sanding by hand is time-consuming, it is better to be safe than sorry.
Hard sanding blocks are the best option. However, you could also fold the sanding cloth in your hand and dip the paper in water. If you are sanding a sculpture or textured surface, you need something sturdier than paper. In which case, the block is an important tool to have.
Wipe Away Debris
Make sure you remove all debris before the water dries, otherwise it is difficult to clean up. Use a squeegee to get all the sanded material and water off the surface.
If you are sanding off something with a lot of grit, you need to keep a close eye on your process. You can wipe away the debris periodically to be sure you're still on the right track.
Protect Your Hands
Because sanding your enamel paint can take a long time, you may notice your hands getting sore or chapped. You can use good skin cream to deal with this problem, or you can wear gloves to prevent it from happening. Many people find that they end up rubbing off their fingerprints for a few days when not using protective gloves.
Make Cleanup Easy
You are going to make a mess; water and grit will get all over the floor. Between the moisture and the sheer volume of debris you'll create during this long process, sweeping is not something you even want to attempt.
Just put down a drop cloth, newspapers, or plastic sheeting to collect the water and debris as you sand. It will make clean up much easier when you're finished.
Did you know? Many people sometimes mistake the finish on their cars as being enamel paint. In reality, most cars are actually painted using a combination basecoat/clearcoat finish which, when completed, looks nearly identical to an enamel paint job. This advice is intended only for enamel paint sanding, so be 100-percent certain that you're dealing with enamel before you start a project that involves you sanding down and ruining your automobile.
Edward Kimble, a professional painter, and the author of Interior House Painting Blog contributed to this article.