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SATURDAY, MAY 19, 2007

Vincent Andrus, owner of Every Last Detail auto detailing shop, recently added custom chroming to his operation. Using the cosmic chroming method, Andrus is able to chrome metal, plastic, wood and cloth. Metal grills chrome well, too.
Daily photo by Emily Saunders
Vincent Andrus, owner of Every Last Detail auto detailing shop, recently added custom chroming to his operation. Using the cosmic chroming method, Andrus is able to chrome metal, plastic, wood and cloth. Metal grills chrome well, too.

Decatur's cosmic chrome man
Local shop one of 2 in North
Alabama with chroming service

By Paul Huggins
phuggins@decaturdailycom 340-2395

Most eyes can't resist the allure of chrome.

There's something about its shiny surface and seeing your reflection that compels you to stare and examine its luster as though it were fine gold.

At least, Vincent Andrus is betting many of you feel that way. The owner of Every Last Detail auto detailing shop recently added custom chroming to his operation, a service he said only one other store in North Alabama and two total in the Southeast offer.

He uses a fairly new process that's not only faster than the traditional chrome immersion method, it also allows him to chrome nearly anything.

"I can do metal, plastic, wood, cloth," he said. "I've even got a guy who wants to bring me a rose from his mother's funeral."

It's the only way to chrome flexible surfaces, too, Andrus added, noting at a recent Victoria's Secret fashion show, models walked the runway in lingerie chromed with the same system he uses.

Andrus, 31, started the custom chroming in January, so he said he hasn't performed much work outside of autos and motorcycles. Once word gets out, though, he expects he'll have more requests like the one he received from Mac Rainey, music manager at Railroad Bazaar.

Rainey gave him an electric guitar and basically told him to do the designs.

"I'm real curious to see it. I'm sure it's going to look really cool on a guitar," Rainey said, noting he'll display it at the store when it's ready.

Andrus said he has received requests to chrome a brass chandelier, a television and even a replica model of the Arc of the Covenant.

Chrome plating dates to the middle to late 1800s. It essentially involves dipping an object, such as a car bumper or molding, into a vat of chromium metal. It produces a shiny, durable product.

Andrus uses a painting technique called cosmic chroming. It's a three-step process that's not as durable as traditional chrome immersion, but Andrus said he's after a market that prefers decoration to durability.

Cosmic chroming is more ideal for people who restore show cars or people who simply want to preserve a keepsake with sentimental value, he said.

Though not as durable as traditional chrome, Andrus said cosmic chrome is more durable and scratch-resistant than automotive paint, and it shouldn't fade, yellow, peel or chip.

Andrus said cosmic chroming allows him to add color tints. A faster turnaround time is another advantage. Chrome dipping can take three or four months, whereas cosmic chroming can do the same job in three weeks.

And anyone who wants to use the dipping method must go to Nashville or Atlanta to find a shop that offers the service, he added.

Though faster than dipping, cosmic chroming isn't easy, Andrus said, and it requires special preparation and painting techniques as well as patience and creativity. Each item requires a unique way of painting it, which includes building custom stands the item rests on while he applies the metal solution.

"You can get one of these machines and think this is instant money, but it's not," Andrus said.

"It's a hard process. There's no room for error. It's not paint where you can go back and sand and smooth it. It's pretty much a one-shot deal."

How does cosmic chroming work?

Cosmic chroming is a painting method using an air compressor much like automotive painting. Depending on the item, it involves two or three steps.

Primer — A two-component catalyzed paint that creates a smooth surface reactive to metal coating in second step. Cost: $15 per hour.

Metalizing coating — A multi-step plating process that creates a continuous reflective film. Involves applying an activator and two rinses in distilled water. Cost: $30 per hour.

Topcoat — Protective automotive grade clear coat. Color tinting can be added in this process. Depending on desired finish, can involve repeated sanding to get surface perfectly smooth. Typically only serious show car types would want to employ third step. Cost: $40 per hour.

- Paul Huggins

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