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John Buchtenkirch 02-13-2014 01:39 PM

panel reading for metal finishing
4 Attachment(s)
After reading some recent posts I realize that some members don't have a good understanding of how to read a panel when they are trying to straighten it, an idea that seems very foreign to me because I came up through the auto body trade where it was somewhat of a necessity. This is how I do it, others may want to add variations of their own or their personal tricks and tips. ><O:p>
The first photo shows a pickup truck roof skin that had and air horn mounted on it, there was two holes to weld up plus some damage from the weight of the horn. The trouble area is already primed and cross filed, I use the lightest coat of Krylon primer, it dries quickly and wipes off nicely with lacquer thinner if needed. The yellow lines show the direction of the filing and if you look carefully you can see file lines in the primer. The idea is to only file off the primer, not any of the metal. I use a dull vixen file blade in an adjustable holder, I crown the file so one half to three quarters of the file touches the panel. When filing I always stroke the file at 20 to 30 angles off the centerline of the file body, it files fine like that because of the curved tooth designe of vixen files. If you find that you are filing metal off the panel your file is either too sharp or you are pressing downward too hard. <O:p>
You CAN NOT file a panel with sandpaper and a sanding board, they just do not cut accurately enough for this type of work. Sanding boards have foam backers and are designed more for blending auto body plastic than cutting 100% straight. Obviously the shiny areas in the photo are high and the areas untouched by the file are low but I always confirm that by running my hand over the panel anyway. If I'm trying to get a panel extra nice or even ready to be chromed I may mist coat it and refile it several times through the job, there is no rule that says you can only do it once.<O:p>

Attachment 26289
The second photo shows the direction (arrows) of running my hand over a panel. The idea is to feel for waves, low areas and high areas, not the texture of the metal so you want to feel more with the palm of your hand and underside of your fingers, not necessarily with your fingertips if that makes any sense. I feel the panels in several directions but always by rotating my hand and using side to side motion (like you sand a car), I never stroke my hand parallel to my fingers, a bad habit to get into.<O:p>

Attachment 26290
The third photo is the underside of the roof skin with the arrows showing the two holes I filled.<O:p>

Attachment 26291
The fourth photo shows the underside after it has been primed and filed for reading surface irregularities. It shows that you can also file and read concave panels by crowning your vixen file the correct way. You can even use a shrinking disc on slightly concave panels but it has to be one of the more flexible ones without the safety edge. Yes, I know they are dangerous but you have to let the disc stop spinning before you lift it off the panel. Keep in mind the closer the panel gets to straight (should be called “true flowing curve”) the harder it is to read.

Attachment 26292<O:p>

</O< font></O< font></O< font></O< font></O< font></O< font></O< font></O< font></O< font></O< font></O< font>My final thoughts are that this is geared towards fine metal finishing, not production body work and also there are variations on this, none of this is written in stone but there’s some basic ideas here to get some of the younger guys pointed in the right direction. I will try to post a few more tips tonight or tomorrow, right now I've got to dig some damned snow. ~ John Buchtenkirch

outsider347 02-13-2014 01:46 PM

Tks John

Bookmarked this

nightperson 02-13-2014 02:00 PM

one thing that helps me when feeling the panel is using a thin rag under my hand- I'm not sure why but it seems to make the highs and lows more obvious

jag2be 02-13-2014 02:02 PM


Great tips for the beginner!:D
But in the second photo it is better to close the fingers, then one will even have more feel then with the fingers open.
Also for the beginner put a tiny magazine paper sheet between the part and hand and you will feel even better.

longyard 02-13-2014 05:19 PM

Thanks for taking the time to write and photograph this lesson John. Very helpful and ought to be a sticky.

Tom Fritz 02-13-2014 09:07 PM

I always find that if I close my eyes I can feel the panel better. Less distractions for my ADD riddled brain?:lol:


Irrational Metalworks 02-13-2014 10:09 PM


Originally Posted by nightperson (Post 90569)
one thing that helps me when feeling the panel is using a thin rag under my hand- I'm not sure why but it seems to make the highs and lows more obvious

I agree. I use my Kevlar gloves that I'm already wearing anyway! Bare skin doesn't glide through the areas as well, for me!

hogdaddy 02-13-2014 11:53 PM

Thanks John for posting this with the pics it shows well what you are describing.

foamcar 02-14-2014 07:49 PM

John - Great topic and thanks for sharing your method. I am a rank amateur at this. I bought Wray's shrinking disc and it included a video on how to read panels and remove low spots. He recommends a Baltic birch disc with 6" fairly fine sandpaper attached. Then using a wide marker you blacken the area and go over it with the sandpaper disc. This also show low and high spots. This method has worked well for me, and I found that the wide Marks-a-Lot marker works better than a Sharpie. Dries faster and does not stink as much.


metalman sweden 02-15-2014 06:04 PM


Originally Posted by Tom Fritz (Post 90596)
I always find that if I close my eyes I can feel the panel better. Less distractions for my ADD riddled brain?:lol:


Im not surprised Tom :lol:

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