Automotive refinishing masking is a job that appears deceptively simple. It is one of the job duties with which many entry-level workers start in the paint department, but it is not as simple as it appears. On the surface, you are covering the areas of the vehicle that will not be painted and opening the areas that will receive refinishing. Simple, right? Except that since each paint job is significantly different from the previous, a detailed plan must be made every time. With masking, you must be thorough, pay great attention to detail and work fast. The better the mask job, the cleaner the finished product will be. Another challenge is the vast array of masking materials to choose from, each with its own specific task. Finally, I have never stopped from being amazed at the innovative ways that workers come up with to use old materials. So let's investigate the details of this large and varied job.
Masking starts with the vehicle inspection. As part of the paint department, you may not see quality control as your primary job. But before the department starts work on a new job, those involved should read the work order and understand what the estimator has designated for this repair. Often, it is best to go over the work order with the shop foreman, allowing both of you to inspect the repairs, confirming that all work ordered has been done and completed to company standards. Starting a paint job only to find there is still work that must be completed will cost both time and profit.
A painter should check to see if the repair has gotten too close to the next panel, requiring it to be blended. Most painters believe that it takes at least 12 inches of blend room before the next panel. If there is less, for whatever reason, the next panel should also be blended.
Also, the inspection should check that the repair area is ready for paint. Is the repair flat and straight? Are all body lines correct? Do all the newly installed parts fit properly? Has the vehicle been de-trimmed as needed?
Check that the non-repaired panels to be blended are free of dirt, debris, chips and scratches. If there are defects in a non-repaired area, it may be necessary to call the customer and offer the opportunity to repair them before the blend.
The obvious question is, "Are all vehicles blended?” This is hotly debated, with managers and painters alike having strong opinions. There are those who say "blend it and send it." In other words, yes, all vehicles will be blended. They believe that today's very complex paint colors with metallics, multi-stages and pearls make it nearly impossible to match a panel’s paint colors without blending. Others believe that some colors can and should be panel painted, which saves time and material. This is a decision that you as a painter must make; but, many shops believe that all vehicles should be blended, as it makes more money and has less repaints in the long run.