Details, details, details…

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John Stahr sprays white paint as the final area paint on Paul Dye's SubSonex. Most of the jet is masked to protect the earlier laid colors.
John Stahr sprays white paint as the final area paint on Paul Dye’s SubSonex. Most of the jet is masked to protect the earlier laid colors.

The fifth day started bright and early with the limbering up of the spray gun and the deployment of white – the final major color to go on the jet. John Stahr checked over the masking to make sure it was all correct before shooting three coats of the bright white that ironically will probably be listed as the major color of the airplane when filing a flight plan… “white/red/black”.  A short break followed to let the paint set up, then unmasking began – the jet revealed in all its basic glory. We say basic because when the masking was removed, the detailing began.

Spraying might look easy, until the belly work starts.
Spraying might look easy, until the belly work starts.
The SubSonex has a Y-tail that also needed painting.
The SubSonex has a Y-tail that also needed painting.
Most of the masking was removed after the white dried and the basic paint scheme was revealed.
Most of the masking was removed after the white dried and the basic paint scheme was revealed.

Details make a John Stahr paint job – little things that mean much to the owner, applied with a fine air brush, and hand mixed colors. While Stahr was laying out the locations of the many detailed elements of the design, two team members began going over the whole airplane with a fine-toothed comb, looking for spots where overspray of one color appeared on another, or where colors bled around rivet heads. They put a small piece of tape near each spot they found that needed touching up, and Stahr will go back with a fine airbrush and a practiced hand to clean them up.

 

Oops! One small area on each side hadn't been laid out exactly to plan so Stahr had to re-mask the area to correct the deviation with a little more paint.
Oops! One small area on each side hadn’t been laid out exactly to plan so Stahr had to re-mask the area to correct the deviation with a little more paint.
Detail spraying commenced with touching up a few areas.
Detail spraying commenced with touching up a few areas.
Two team members made a close inspection and flagged areas that needed attention after the general, area painting.
Two team members made a close inspection and flagged areas that needed attention after the general, area painting.

Watching an artist work is magical, because while it is hard to imagine the skill involved, at the same time – he makes it look effortless. But that is years of practice, and decades of experience showing. Stahr’s practiced eye knows exactly how to blend out a blemish or create a gradation in an N-Number. There are a number of safety placards on the jet, and while stickers could have been used, his demand for perfection calls for hand-airbrushed placards which will live under the clear coat which will be the final step in the process.

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After the area paint had dried, Stahr placed pre-prepared pieces of contact paper that would act as templates for detailed image work.
After the area paint had dried, Stahr placed pre-prepared pieces of contact paper that would act as templates for detailed image work.
Template placed for the N-numbers.
Template placed for the N-numbers.
Explosive parachute sign painted on the side.
Explosive parachute sign painted on the side.

Stahr also started creative, free-hand spray-painting, including a few nebulae.Stahr also started creative, free-hand spray-painting, including a few nebulae.

Known for his stunning 'angels' on the belly of airplanes, Stahr is working on more space-themed image for the retired Lead Flight Director for NASA's Shuttles.
Known for his stunning ‘angels’ on the belly of airplanes, Stahr is working on more space-themed image for the retired Lead Flight Director for NASA’s Shuttles.
As night time came, the jet was looking like a mess again.
As night time came, the jet was looking like a mess again.
Some of the more detailed stencils were cut by hand in the shop....or on the jet!
Some of the more detailed stencils were cut by hand in the shop….or on the jet!

The N-numbers were finished before the night was over.
The N-numbers were finished before the night was over.

Air Brushing will continue for at least another day as the final designs are incorporated and flaws fixed before that clear coat – but with Day 5 in the bag, the end is definitely visible on the horizon.

Watch the time-lapse video of the day:

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Paul Dye
Paul Dye, KITPLANES® Editor at Large, retired as a Lead Flight Director for NASA’s Human Space Flight program, with 40 years of aerospace experience on everything from Cubs to the Space Shuttle. An avid homebuilder, he began flying and working on airplanes as a teen, and has experience with a wide range of construction techniques and materials. He flies an RV-8 that he built, an RV-3 that he built with his pilot wife, as well as a Dream Tundra they completed. Currently, they are building a Xenos motorglider. A commercially licensed pilot, he has logged over 5000 hours in many different types of aircraft and is an A&P, EAA Tech Counselor and Flight Advisor, as well as a member of the Homebuilder’s Council. He consults and collaborates in aerospace operations and flight-testing projects across the country.

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