Successful Farming - - ANGELESS IRON® - By Dave Mowitz, Ex­ec­u­tive Ed­i­tor, Ma­chin­ery & Tech­nol­ogy

Auto body putty is not a fix-all for ev­ery sheet me­tal restora­tion chal­lenge that comes down the pike – par­tic­u­larly for fill­ing in deep dents, nicks, or gouges. That’s be­cause any vi­bra­tion can cause the body putty to crack or pop off me­tal. Es­pe­cially on trac­tors, which vi­brate a lot more than cars, mak­ing them poor can­di­dates for the whole­sale use of putty – a com­mon prac­tice in auto re­pair.

“You’re al­ways bet­ter off pound­ing out deep dents or re­plac­ing heav­ily pit­ted parts with new me­tal,” says vet­eran re­storer Jeff Gravert of Cen­tral City, Ne­braska.

A $70 to $150 in­vest­ment will buy you a good set of auto body tools. For ex­am­ple, East­wood Com­pany sells a sev­en­piece set of pro­fes­sional-grade ham­mers and dol­lies for $99.99 (800/343-9353 or visit east­woodco.com).

Body putty, how­ever, when ap­plied in thin lay­ers, can be a god­send when fill­ing small im­per­fec­tions and pits or hid­ing a patch job. Nat­u­rally, the key to any suc­cess­ful putty job is prepa­ra­tion. Putty, like paint, ad­heres bet­ter and stays in­tact when ap­plied to bare me­tal. So make sure you com­pletely re­move all oil, grime, sol­vent, rust, and paint from the sur­face.

In the good old days, your choice of body putty was lim­ited to plas­tic fillers. Not any­more. Ever­coat (ever­coat.com), a source for pro­fes­sional auto body sup­plies, has 15 dif­fer­ent filler prod­ucts.

Of­fer­ings range from a light­weight resin filler called Rage Xtreme (guar­an­teed to be pin­hole-free) to Me­tal-2-Me­tal. The lat­ter in­cor­po­rates fine alu­minum par­ti­cles, and Ever­coat says it’s the “near­est thing to lead.”

An­other Ever­coat in­no­va­tion, Fiber Tech, is for­mu­lated with Kevlar, which gives it su­pe­rior strength.

what’s the best filler?

When in doubt as to which putty to use, the best bet is to start with a ba­sic Bondo-like prod­uct, tak­ing care to ap­ply it prop­erly and in lay­ers. Re­mem­ber to sand be­tween lay­ers and re­move all dust be­fore ap­ply­ing the next coat.

Don’t be com­pletely put off by al­ter­na­tives, though. Ever­coat’s Me­tal-2-Me­tal vir­tu­ally elim­i­nates cor­ro­sion un­der patch ar­eas, mak­ing it ideal for use on sur­faces ex­posed to wa­ter (from radiators) or flu­ids (like fuel). The me­tal-filled putty sands out nicely.

An­other filler prod­uct worth tak­ing a look at is a liq­uid-thin glaz­ing putty that fills in all pin­holes and mi­cro­scopic seams.

buy a spreader set of tools

If you’re a se­ri­ous re­storer, you’ll want to buy a spreader set of tools con­sist­ing of dif­fer­ent types of flex­i­ble spat­ula-like trow­els. Some sets come with a plas­tic mix­ing board, but cov­er­ing card­board with alu­minum foil works just as well and is cheaper. When you’re done, just toss the foil.

Be­fore us­ing auto putty, be sure to use a Scotch-Brite pad to scuff the sur­face of primed me­tal to give the putty some­thing to ahere to. Next, use com­pressed air to blow off the area to be filled. The key to mak­ing a per­ma­nent putty re­place­ment is to avoid deep ap­pli­ca­tion thick­ness. In­stead, keep the amount of putty ap­plied as thin as pos­si­ble to avoid fu­ture crack­ing and pop­ping.

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