Steve Eldredge

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Excellent story of Steve's flight to Brodhead and Oshkosh in 1999

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Steve Eldredge’s Latex Paint:


From: Steve Eldredge

Subject: Re: Latex finish for fabric.

Date: Mar 17, 1997

Ok here it is. It was Experimenter, not SA.

Sept 1996 Issue. Just in case you don't have it the following is a readers digest version.

1st. Cover the airframe using the poly fiber process. Their "spiral bound classroom" ie covering manual is worth the $5 (now $10 as of the last ad I saw in sport aviation). But do not poly brush the whole surface of the fabric.

2nd After covering, shrinking, taping, stiching, etc, seal the fabric with two coats of high quality flat black exterior latex paint. Mike Fisher recommends TRU-TEST, I used Sherman Williams. Apply with a quality brush or 4" wide foam brush. 1st coat perpendicular to airflow, second parallel to it. Brush marks can be minimized by adding a paint conditioner such as FLOETROL. My recommendation here is to not use a paint conditioner on the first coat, because those area's that already

have the weave of the fabric filled, ie over tapes and access holes, the latex has a tendency to crawl rather than stick if your paint is to thin. I brushed the first coat and plan to spray the second with an

airless sprayer.

3rd Sand entire surface with 600 being careful not to damage the fabric. Fisher recommends sanding between coats.

4th Apply a light coat of white latex over the black where light colors will be applied.

5th The final finish Fisher used was Dupont DULUX Automotive Enamel of your choice of colors. Apply with an HVLP system for best results.

Stevee E.


A little late, but as requested here is my experience using latex paint on my aircamper.

Sadly, before you can paint, you must cover that beautiful wooden creation with fabric.

I found that the most helpful resource is the Poly-Fiber covering manual. It cost me $5 at the time, but even at the current price of $10 it is still the greatest covering deal around. I poured throught that manual several times to get my questions answered. I even called Norm at Poly Fiber about a question regarding reinforcement tapes and he was very helpfull and unhurried. I followed the Poly-Fiber manual with care up to the point where you are instructed to poly-brush the entire weave of the fabric to seal the weave. I also choose to use the generic fabric from Aircraft spruce rather than the more expensive STC-PMA Poly-Fiber brand. At this point in covering you have finished heat shrinking, rib stitching and applying all the tapes. I heat smothed all the seams again as the last step before beginning to paint. One thing that I might regret omitting may be washing the whole surface of the fabric before applying tapes or rib stitching with MEK. At this point however I'm not sure that it is really nessesary. Time will tell.

About the paint. I used Sherwin Williams best grade exterior laytex. I choose this brand because of other builders experience with its ease of use and good durability. I spend a long time researching and talking with some experienced painters and they all agreed on the sturdiness of the product.

They garentee the paint against fading shrinking, cracking and peeling. It is 100% UV formulated and has a 20 year warantee. The first coat over the bare fabric is unthinned flat black applied by brush. I used a good quality 4" brush. It helps to have a 2" brush to get around the small corners as well. This first coat is meant to fill the weave of the fabric. I took care to work it in, yet still leave it as thin as I could. It seems that even, thin coats prevent cracking and keep the weight down. After the whole plane is painted black I went back and gave the parts that would recieve a dark color (green) a second coat of black. The second coat I applied with an airless sprayer. Poly-Fiber says that this is a mistake, but I has good luck spraying the second primer coat and was pleased with the reduction in time it took. It also made for a smoother surface. Some argue that back in the 30"s and 40's that brush strokes were the norm. For those that would get a light finish color (white), I mixed flat white together with the black (50-50 ratio) for the second coat. At this point then the whole plane has been primed with two coats of flat paint. At this point you have the choice of going with straight laytex, or using an automotive enamal. I have seen both examples and the automotive finish will cost about $500-$800 more for two colors, or about $150 more for the latex. The auto enamal will naturally look glossy and lusterous. I didn't have the $$$'s or the equipment, or the desire for a glossy finish on my plane, so I choose to continue with the latex.

For the color coats I used Sherwin Williams High Gloss products. I am not a professional painter and I got a little excited when the plane began to show some color. Unfortunately I got over anxious and didn't let enough time lapse between coats and the fuselage coats sagged horribly. I panicked. I salvaged my botched attempt by rolling the whole mess with a short nape foam roller. I thought I had ruined the whole thing. The next morning however a miricale had occured and it turned out being fairly smooth. I took more time on the wings. The finished product looks good. I'm sure I could do better next time. I hand lettered the "Air Camper" logo on the side.

A few additional hints.

Paint while temps are in the 70's. I painted in higher temps and the exterior formula dried too quickly for propper wetting out and blending with previous coats. Dont be tempted to apply more than 3 color coats. You will notice that the finish gets more and more lustrous as you do. Beware, you are adding much unwanted weight and expence, and the likelyhood that thick buildups will crack. Experiment with applicators. I think that I will do my next finish coats with a roller. I sprayed my wings, in the heat of the day and feel that a roller combined with cooler temps would have given better results. Durability is good. I have tested with avgas and autofuels and the latex holds up against both. The primer however peels right off. Keep fuel away from parts without the finish coats. In spite of the fact that the

finished product is fuel proof, It seems to be affected by standing water. I have noticed that during a rain storm the standing beads of water will fade the finish slightly. Panic time again. Really I didn't have to worry though, after the water evaporates the color returns without a hint of the previous problem. I waxed a test section and this eliminated the water spot problem.

It has been nearly a year now that I have finised painting and I am very pleased to report that I have found no cracks or other problems. The plane has sat out through several snow, rain and ice storms without a problem. Touching up couldn't be easier, and the colors have remained vibrant. I figure that my paint costs were less than $200, and total covering cost including poly-fiber cements and coatings were less than $500. I doubt it will be an award winner for fine finish, but it will be inexpensive, durable, non-toxic, and protective for as long as I fly it. An added benifit is that I always have the option of spraying an auto finish right over the top if I want too.

Hope this is of some use.

Steve E


From: Steve Eldredge 

Subject: Latex method described

Date: Dec 20, 1999

Included are several emails that I have written in the past to others on

this subject. If you have further questions please ask,

Steve Eldredge

The latex coatings are not really that hard. You cover the aircraft using the stits (poly fiber) process up to the point of putting on the first poly brush coat. Instead of filling the weave with the poly

brush you brush on a coat of flat laytex outdoor black 90 degrees to the airflow. Then another coat to fill the weave parallel to the airflow. The black is the UV protection. After the black is done put on your dark color coats, for lighter surfaces paint a coat of flat white to hid the black. The secret is keeping the coatings thin to avoid cracking. Mine is two years old and still looks fine. It isn't an award winning finish however.

I actually brushed the first two coats, then sprayed the white primer for the wings, to smooth out the brush marks and just left the fuse as is, then sprayed the color. Rolling on the final coats is also an option. Just depends on what kind of finish you want. Duane used the UV latex coats and then sprayed an automotive finish to get the wet look.

... I have been satisfied with the latex method that I have used, and would use it again on a vintage airplane such as a piet. I did learn a few things doing it however, that I will pass along. I painted my project when it was too hot (80+ degrees) and had trouble with the paint drying too fast. The High Gloss latex need time to dry correctly. Also I used an airless sprayer like you paint a house with. I would try a regular spray set up next time. I also would be more patient in applying second coats. I admit that once it started to take color, I was anxious to see the luster I hoped for and applied successive coats to quickly which caused some catastrophic running that I had to fix.

More Q&A

I was just now looking at your message dated 03/03/1988 regarding the latex fabric finishing method you used on your Pietenpol, and wondered whether you were still satisfied with it. From pictures

of your a/c at Oshkosh this year, I must say it looks great!

There are a couple of things in your message that I would like clarified:

1. It seems you used the Poly-Fiber steps to attach and shrink the fabric. After applying the surface tapes, was there any reason why you did not use Poly-brush to fill the weave of the fabric? Was it a matter of cost? Or was there a technical reason?

yep. both really. If you fill the weave with poly-brush the latex won't have enought tooth to stick to the slick coatings. I had to brush some places a couple of times to get good adhesion where there was a significant buildup of poly-brush already.

2. You stated that you used Sherwin Williams best grade exterior flat black latex to fill the bare fabric and that it is "100% UV formulated". Does this mean that the latex itself is not affected by UV rays, or does it mean that the black latex coats prevent UV from deteriorating the fabric? (Normally, aluminum pigmented coatings are used to reflect the sun's rays in order to shield the fabric underneath.)

The color exterior latex paints themselves are UV protected, and the flat black performs the same function to as the aluminum pigmented coatings in other systems. you know that your UV protected if after the two coats of black you cannot see light through the fabric. Using flat black just assures that no light will reach the fabric through other color coats.

3. My Pietenpol was recovered in 1985 after 15 years of service with a Grade A cotton cover, doped finish. I recovered it with polyester fabric, doped finish. It is still good, but it is time to look at that wooden structure again. Aircraft dope prices are out of sight and your method seems to be a good one.

I only have 2 flying years on mine, but so far so good. I touch up with a brush during the annual condition inspection and within a couple of days the colors blend well. If I had the money I'm sure I would have gone with a more conventional method, but this is what makes mine a special piet to me.


From: Steve Eldredge

Subject: fabric paint

Date: Dec 20, 1999

I bought the generic 1.7 or 1.8 oz fabric from AS&S 36 yards and if I remember right it was about $3.60 a yard. I would get 38 yards just in case.



Jean Dilatush

Sent: Thursday, March 01, 2001 8:55 AM

Subject: Covering finishes


I have noticed a great deal of correspondence regarding the finishing of fabrics for Piets on this website, and thought that I might be allowed to put in my two cents worth.

First, I used the non-certified 2.7oz fabric as sold by Super Flite,(much less expensive) Then used a ceconite adhesive to apply it along with the tapes.

Second, there was an article in the September 1996 issue of the "Experimenter" (probably still available from EAA) where a homebuilder used a combination of black latex house paint applied with a foam brush, probably so that the bristles would not push the latex through the fabric which might create runs on the inside. Then the final color coat was an automotive enamel.

Before starting this job, I phoned Ed Fisher who originated this process and he assured me that the finish has stood up over 10 years on his various aircraft.

You might want to get a copy of this article, or give me you mailing address and I'll make copies for you and send them.

Mine turned out beautifully!

Regards, John


From Steve Eldredge 

Subject: Covering finishes

Date: Mar 01, 2001


Good to here from you, Glad to be joined by another house paint piet. With regard to oil can's comments, I had some concerns about peeling, grip to the fabric, UV protection, and elasticity. I am satisfied after 3.5 years that I did the right thing by using latex. I haven't been disappointed with its performance. Other than not having the requirement to reach speeds of 100 mph, houses are subject to nearly all the same demands as airplanes, as far as finishes go. I have painted cedar shakes on my home painted with latex. The high quality house paints must be flexible, UV protected, and virtually all are guaranteed against cracking, fading, peeling, etc. At least twice a day the wood expands and contracts and the paint keeps up.

My paint is obviously an experiment in progress, but I'm happily building flight time and memories, (not to mention my bank account) waiting for the first crack!

Steve E.

From: Steve Eldredge (

Subject: RE: latex test square (long)

Date: Fri Aug 11 - 12:15 PM

Hi all,

I'm flying my piet that is starting its tenth year of life under latex finish. I've repaired it as well. I used the high gloss Sherwin Williams and don't regret it. Check the archives for the process I used. Nice thing is, two years ago when I needed to repair a wingtip, I marched down to the local paint store and they mixed up a quart of the same color and you can't tell where the repair is. An iron at about 250 will roll the old latex off exposing the underlying fabric nicely. No sanding. Very cool.