Wet Sand the Easy Way with Hutchins Water Bug III Sander
Al Hutchins started his company in 1955 building quality pneumatic sanders. Today, the same quality can still be found today. The Hutchins Water Bug III Sander makes wet-sanding a dream.
Clear coats don’t always lay down as smooth as we’d like. Current clearcoats are very hard and dry rather quickly. While this is great for keeping the trash out and speeding up processes, it’s not always so great for getting the clear coat to lay down slick. When we wind up with a clear coat that just won’t behave, we’ll reach for the tried-and-true foam block, sandpaper, and bucket of water. For the uninitiated, the idea here is that the water will keep the sandpaper from scratching the delicate surface as well as washing away any contaminants. I sometimes use the wet sanding method with other applications as well, like final primer coats; it ensures a flat surface before the base coat and clear coat go on. It can be an effective but time-consuming solution. And that’s where the Hutchins Water Bug III makes such a useful addition to the shop.
What’s In The Box?
Let me explain what we’re working with here. The Hutchins Water Bug III Sander uses a 3/32″ random orbital action. This offset really is ideal for final paint prep, as larger orbits tend to create pigtails in the finish. Additionally, and probably the main selling point of this sander, it includes a high-pressure water hose with a filtered, venture-generated flow. The Water Bug has a low-profile and light weight, which ought to reduce operator fatigue. A precision speed-control and adjustable water control allow the user to select the right speed and water output for the task, be it surface prep or finishing. Plus, the Hutchins Water Bug supposedly has a low air consumption rating as well.
Getting To Work
I’ve been restoring and painting cars for the last 30 years. Plus, I get plenty of opportunities to do a lot of panel painting on wrecked cars. I think, if I can be so bold, that it’s fair to say that I know my way around a pneumatic sander. And the Hutchins Water Bug III, without factoring in the water supply feature, shows some real quality workmanship. Sometimes, lighter weights indicate the use of cut-rate components. Though this sander weighs in at 2 lbs, 4 oz, the build quality feels excellent. The speed and water controls feel sturdy, and everything adjusts smoothly.
I’ve been working on a panel where the clearcoat did not dry as smooth and slick as I would have liked, and so I had the opportunity to break out the Hutchins Water Bug sander. From a performance perspective, everything worked really well. The sander starts smoothly and consistently, and setting the appropriate speed was simple. Even without the water running, the sander stands up very well on its own.
With the water running, the Hutchins Water Bug works really well for blending and feathering. I can adjust the water distribution however I need, and with a quick turn of the knob, I don’t have to worry about having too much or too little water. After using the Water Bug, a quick pass-over with the buffer and some polish gets the clear coat back to looking slick.
One Minor Problem
However, on another project, I did run into a little bit of a snag with the water. The water supply line sits in a water bucket, and the pneumatic hose activates the internal water pump to pull the water from the bucket up through the hose. This particular job had me wet-sanding the top of a truck cab, and as I had my bucket sitting on the ground, I realized that the internal water pump has its limits. It doesn’t love trying to pull water up 6′ of hose.
However, I was able to circumvent this issue by pulling the bucket up with me into the truck bed. The moral of the story here is that the Hutchins Water Bug doesn’t love wild elevation differences between the bucket and the work surface. Of course, this issue can be easily avoided.
The Hutchins Water Bug retails for around $450 on the company website. Pro-level sanders will tend to run more on the expensive side of things, and this sander is pricey, even by Pro standards. But, before you run off from this review in a huff, there are a few things to keep in mind. For one thing, the Hutchins Water Bug III will undoubtedly save you time. Rather than taking an hour and a half to wet-sand a panel with a foam block and a spray bottle, this sander can accomplish the same work in minutes, and with better results. Time is money, after all.
The other thing worth mentioning here is that if you do a little hunting, the Hutchins Water Bug can be had for much cheaper than what’s listed on the website. We found one for $298.97, which increases the value here considerably.
If you have the daunting task of wet sanding final clear coats, oxidized boat hulls, or even final paint prep, then you can definitely benefit from the Hutchins Water Bug Sander. Not only does this Hutchins sander work really well, but it also handles multiple tasks at once. The integrated water supply line provides just the right amount of water directly to the surface being prepped. Also, the 3/32″ sanding orbit delivers great results with higher grit sanding discs.
Hutchins has been in the business since 1955, building a reputation for quality and reliability. This same quality shows in even their newest tools, and the performance shows. If you do a lot of wet sanding on finishes, then I highly recommend you taking a long look at the Hutchins Water Bug III Sander. Check them out here, and you can pick up a Water Bug III for about $300.
Hutchins Water Bug III Sander Specifications
- RPM: 10000+
- Weight: 2lbs 4oz
- Air Consumption: 11.0 CFM @ 90 PSI
- Noise Level: 80 dBa
- Part No.: 7544 – Comes with Standard Hookit Pad
- Part No.: 7544RH – Comes with Hookit ll Pad
- Pad Size: 6″
- Price: $299
For more information about the Hutchins Water Bug Sander, check them out here.