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Finding ideal surface paint for a dirt oval

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  • Finding ideal surface paint for a dirt oval

    Way back in March I got a bright idea, build a new version of Shepherd Speedway - my 4' x 14' paperclip oval in use from around 2005. I love the track but wanted one with wider turns and longer lap times. The new design resulted in a 6' x 14' 3 oval with 3 routed lanes that formed a continuous loop so 3 times around brought a car back to where it started. As a solo racer this was my way of making maximum use of the track and having to learn to drive multiple lanes during a race session based on recorded lap times.

    Nine months later the new track is taking shape. After having the track CNC routed in August the corners were banked and bracing added to ensure the desired shape. After weeks of delay debating how to finish the surface I went with 3 coats of white primer & sealer followed by 3 coats of what I though would be a good surface color paint - Chamois by Sherman Williams.

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    But, as can be seen above the paint the looked caramel colored on the swatch and in the can turned out to be more of a 'spicy brown mustard' color when dry. The MDF now has a 6 coats of paint on it but I'm considering adding another topcoat to get a better surface color.

    Anyone have a paint color to recommend from their 'dirt' track, infield, or a diorama?

  • #2
    I wonder if a lite coat of a tan paint would change it any ?


    • Homer
      Homer commented
      Editing a comment
      Mr. Slothead,
      I too, put Sherwin Williams to the task. Actually dug up some Georgia Red Clay from my backyard and had them color-match it. Ed Bianchi (Slide Guide), then in Hershey, PA, did the application and I was very happy with the textured look. If I can find a way to put in a picture, I'll do it here.

  • #3
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    • #4
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      • #5
        This is Glidden's "Fresh Baked Pumpernickel" from Home Depot.


        • Zcarfan
          Zcarfan commented
          Editing a comment
          That looks perfect!

      • #6
        Thanks to everyone who's offered an option so far. Keep the suggestions coming. I'll probably go back to Sherman Williams or Home Depot tomorrow and try to find a match for one of them. So far when I look at colors chips online they may look perfect at first but then later are too red, too yellow, or too brown. I never thought finding a paint that looked like a clay racing surface would be this difficult.

        The bare MDF color was the best yet, but I had to paint it to cover up the screw holes patched with wood filler. I ended up having 14 screw holes in each corner section to secure the track to the bracing underneath it.


        • #7
          Well , if you have a scrap piece of MDF take it with you as a color sample , get that color or a little darker .


          • #8
            They should be able to color match it


            • slothead
              slothead commented
              Editing a comment
              I thought of that and cut a small piece of MDF to use for that purpose. But, so far I've forgotten to take it with me every time I go paint shopping.

          • #9
            Good luck with the color selection. When we painted our dining room I rolled samples of three colors side by side on all four walls. When we tried to make a choice it was like looking at twelve different colors!😂. Midwestern clay is different from southern which is different from the northeastern stuff. And it looks different under the lights than during the daylight. Lowe’s sells small sample jars (I can’t remember which brand) that can really help to see the final shade under the lighting conditions in your track room.
            Mike V.
            Western North Carolina


            • #10
              Yes, 'dirt' or clay varies in color by region and other factors (such as moisture content, etc.). Lighting is also a major factor, especially for yellows and most browns I've selected actually turned out to be classified as part of the yellow color family. My road course is lit by 3 LED bulbs hung over the track in chrome clamp on fixtures. I bought mostly LED lighting years ago at IKEA to use when building another oval that I'll have to pull out of storage to try out.

              Thanks for your comments - I'll see how the track looks when illuminated by those.

              I'm not looking for the perfect 'dirt' or clay color, just something that looks realistic. My wife is a retired nurse and mom of 3 and says the current color is 'baby poop', while I prefer to refer to it as 'brown mustard'.

              I just looked over by my closet and noticed a leather travel bag given to me when I retired - that's the perfect color!


              • #11
                I might be able to find the Sherwin-Williams formula for Homer's "Georgia Clay" -- which, by the way, is what S-W labeled it. I'll post it here if I do.

                That paint is one of their two-part epoxies. I applied it with a chemically resistant foam roller purchased from McMaster-Carr. It produced a glossy but slightly stippled surface that Homer was very pleased with. He told me it looked very much like a real clay oval after it had been wetted down.

                I painted the MDF for his track first -- before any cutting or routing. I applied one coat as a sealer, then followed up the next day with the top coat. It is a good idea to let the paint cure for four or five days before routing. Otherwise it will come off as strings during routing. Not really an issue, the track cleans up fine, but it is an indication that the paint has not fully cured. I think it best to wait until it does.

                I use home-made MDF router bases. They won't scratch the paint.

                Sherwin-Williams gloss epoxy paints give excellent grip to silicone tires.

                One very strange thing about those epoxies. They attract insects. Them little buggers will land in the paint and die there, leaving marks and swirls from their final struggles. I ended up putting a screen door over the side door of my garage to keep the bugs out while still allowing some ventilation. You do need the ventilation to avoid stinking up the house. I put a box fan in front of the screen to help provide air exchange.

                As mentioned above Sherwin-William will formulate a color to match a given sample. They have special equipment to scan said sample and work out the color mix required. If Homer's Georgia Clay isn't quite to your taste, they should be able to work something up special for you.

                Ed Bianchi

                PS to Homer - Great to hear from you again! Need any more Slide Guides? Or are you going to motivate me off my dead butt to make you some more Wingmaster Sprints?
                Last edited by HO RacePro; November 18, 2020, 12:23 AM.
                Ed Bianchi
                York Pennsylvania USA


                • #12
                  Oh, I just remembered. I did another clay oval for a midwestern customer. The color of his clay was more like a UPS brown -- much darker. Sherwin-Williams did it -- oh god forgive me -- up brown!

                  The track I built for Homer was my only six-lane track. All of my other tracks are four-lane. He has one corner with the slots squoozen together mid-turn. Also a one-off feature for my good man Homer. I built a special plastic routing template that I could distort as required using a jacking screw. I'm proud of that track.

                  Ed Bianchi
                  Last edited by HO RacePro; November 18, 2020, 12:28 AM.
                  Ed Bianchi
                  York Pennsylvania USA


                  • #13
                    Hi Homer, I always read your posts on the old Wizzard board.
                    Here is the Bianchi dirt oval that is now in Southbridge, MA.


                    • #14
                      I appreciate all the feedback. The photos and comments have helped me consider options. I was up late last night checking out paint colors on the Sherman Williams and Home Depot websites and found a few of interest. My wife and I were in the Sherman Williams store in town at 8 am this morning and pulled about 8 possible paint chips to compare. They all looked very similar when in th the display but looked very different when laid out side-by-side on a table top. I ended up choosing a color that barely caught my eye online.

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                      I got a to go sample quart of Decorous Amber for $8 and am going to try it out soon. But the high temperature today is 29 degrees so that may be put off till Friday when it should be close to 50 degrees and I can do the painting in the barn or at least open up some windows for ventilation.

                      Do I love the color of the chip - no, but it's better than how it looks now.


                      • #15
                        I painted the straight sections with the paint, Decorous Amber, as seen in the chip in the prior post.

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                        I'm pleased with it and think my buddy Gilligan is too, but it seems like he needs nap badly.

                        Each section got 3 topcoats and will be sanded with 400 grit or higher sandpaper to achieve a smooth surface for silicone tires. The corner sections still need to be repainted with the new paint and I hope to get that done soon.