This month’s blog is a little different – stay tuned for more tips, tricks, how-to’s and technical help, but this time I want to bring you behind the scenes with the UK team, specifically a ‘Jay’s-eye-view’, and write about the crazy few weeks we’ve just had. It’s been eventful…
Interviews and video tests
We kicked off with special-guests at our facility. For those of you who don’t know, in its previous guise as ‘KDS Keltec’ Kelly Harris was responsible for developing our two-storey custom-designed shrine to car care. We’ve got multiple types of car lifts, air lines, a spray booth, 200+ fixed lights (some strip, some spot, some square, all zoned on remote controls), not to mention all the diagnostic and experimental instruments, test panels, tools, compounds and other gadgets a detailing engineer could ever wish for. And, since joining Lake Country, we’ve expanded our training and testing zone area even further.
Naturally, this means we’re keen to invite detailers to visit; not long ago we welcomed Jim ‘White Details’ White for a collaboration, as well as Mat ‘The Detailing Space’ Reynolds and others, so when we heard Jack ‘Cav’ Cavanagh wanted to come and meet Kelly (who he’s followed for some time) we were delighted.
For those who haven’t heard of him yet, Jack – or ‘Cav’ as he prefers to be known – is ‘Mr Stjarnagloss’ and one half of Top Gear’s Clean Team. He announced his arrival with the bark of a racy sounding E46 M3, shod with semi slick tyres and loaded with cheeky winks and excitement (if you’ve ever seen him on Instagram you’ll know exactly what I mean). After a quick facility tour his inquisitive side took over and we spent a couple of days exploring the pros and cons of different types of aftercare products, doing practical demonstrations, even assisting him with some polishing tips that he put straight to good use (using the UDOS 51E) on his own car.
I have to say, Cav’s every bit as funny and likeable as his on-screen persona but when the cameras aren’t rolling he’s also got a really genuine, sincere and professional side to him, grounded by a real thirst for knowledge (which explains why he’s been such a fan of Kelly for many years).
After filling ourselves with cheeseburger pizza – a hideous but also wonderful abomination – we sat down with Cav to shoot some LC Talks episodes (compered once again by the wittiest man in detailing, Bert Youell of Pro Detailer Magazine) which pitted Kelly against Cav in the battle of the LSPs: “Ceramics vs. Wax.”
Finally, we took things up a notch with and film some real-life, unrehearsed, unscripted product destruction tests. On a finely sanded panel – intentionally left dull to simulate uniform surface defects – we applied a variety of products to see a) how much filling (gloss-adding) they were capable of, and b) what it would take to fully remove them, to simulate durability. Later, we did something similar with ceramic coatings and in both cases results were surprising to say the least. Spoiler alert: I felt almost cruel letting Bert struggle to remove old high spots, but it made for some fun footage. Make sure you’re subscribed to our YouTube channel to catch these videos as they release!
The annual Waxstock show – postponed for the last two years thanks to a public health situation – is probably the largest dedicated car care event “in Europe, if not globally” (according to the website) attracting hundreds of exhibitors and thousands of visitors. Oddly, despite examples of my work having been exhibited previously, somehow I had never attended in the past – and this was about to be my first major public event as a representative of Lake Country. It was also the first Lake Country event to be planned and manned by the new UK team so, although none of us are new to the game, it was still going to be a learning experience…
This being a fresh start for Lake Country outside of the US meant that we had the opportunity to develop a brand new show setup. In the lead up to the show we had settled on a flexible design – simple, clear, future-proofed with artwork options, and configurable for multiple layouts. We’ll be using it at HQ as a backdrop in our training zone from now on, and taking it with us to other events where our pitch might be a different layout altogether (such as it will be at Automechanika in September).
However, deciding that we could go one better, at the very last minute – and I mean on the Bank Holiday Friday afternoon before we set off Saturday morning – while we were just about finished with loading the van, Kelly was custom building some metal framework. Using bits and pieces, brainwaves, guesstimates and adrenaline, Kelly built mods that allowed us to mount test panels onto the transport ‘buckets’ which the stand is stored in. This gave us a dual-podium setup, helping with storage and making it much easier to do demos and project to a larger audience. Hopefully a few people reading this came along and saw for themselves?
The Saturday morning bacon and coffee fuelled drive to the CBS Arena in Coventry was a smooth one, with cab conversation mostly on the exploits of our preferred automotive vloggers (hey Seen Through Glass, Kelly and Sam are both avid fans!).
Setting up the stand was made much easier by the fact that we had assembled and disassembled the whole thing at HQ twice in the week beforehand. Briefly, I had a brain fart and was concerned we’d left a few key components 100 miles away but it turned out we had everything present and correct, exactly as it should be. Great success!
As exhibitors we were invited to join a huge dinner on the Saturday evening, hosted by the Waxstock organisers. After a rousing speech from PJ welcoming us all to the show, we enjoyed a very smart three course dinner that was improved – in my humble opinion – by a special sauce that our table-mate Mike Phillips had brought along with him.
Others at the table couldn’t handle the heat but I’m into that kind of thing, so we talked hot sauce for a while before a few drinks over a few hours and a trip to the casino… at which point things become ever so slightly hazy, although I’m reliably informed that I spent a good amount of time discussing – in excruciating math-laden detail – the physics involved in the action of a random orbital polisher under different pressure conditions. What can I say – it was a work event after all!
Sunday morning gave us time for an enormous breakfast, after which I saw the huge queues at the entrance. Damp weather did put a small number of attendees off coming, which I can understand – part of the show is an outdoor ‘show and shine’ and if you’ve just preened your car to perfection, do you really want to drive it through the rain to be judged? However, there were thousands. Absolutely thousands of visitors and they all seemed to come through the entrance doors at once! Within minutes I was being asked great questions from all sides about our products; by midday I had lost a good chunk of my voice. I think I spent half my time, maybe more, up on the podium removing sanding marks, demonstrating the benefits of microfibre pads, explaining efficiency-boosting techniques, even accepting myth-busting challenges from certain well-known industry figures…. You know who you are 😉 And I absolutely loved it. The day flew by. I don’t think I left the stand for water until 3.30pm (and I completely missed the stage slots that Kelly had) but it was such a lot of fun, and the people I had interactions with were all so receptive and engaging that I could have done it all again straight away.
Sadly, I couldn’t do it all again. Closing time arrived, and immediately we had to disassemble the stand, pack it all up, hit the road back to Kent – stopping only briefly for a disappointing KFC, and arriving home in horrendous rainy weather after 10pm on Sunday night.
3D / Mike Phillips
Feeling exhausted, we did the sensible thing and took a day or two off. Right? Well, no.
We were unloading the van first thing Monday morning, and spent the day setting up the entire trade stand again in our new training area along with all the demo kit, polishers, compounds, pads, trolleys, trestles and panels in readiness for two days of training with special guest Mike Phillips – the hot sauce guy – from 3D Car Care.
In collaboration once again with our friend Bert Youell of Pro Detailer Magazine and the PVD, we covered many ‘myths’ around sanding and products, before deep diving into aspects of advanced paint technology that we don’t often get to talk about.
Unfortunately Mike missed out on a portion of the first day – he wasn’t feeling so good – so myself and Yancy stepped in until Mike was able to make a grand entrance in the afternoon, just in time for pizza (again…)
The second half of the day was spent mainly on practical training, with participants given the chance to try out 3D’s clever new sanding system alongside their range of products and the full Lake Country / LC Power Tools suite. It’s always fun and immensely satisfying to help people learn new tricks and watch them grow in confidence as they progress. Nevertheless, and as I’d anticipated, Mike’s demonstrations often took another approach to how Kelly or I would teach and it was interesting to see how pupils received different information and put it to the test.
Mike’s long and undeniably distinguished career spans many decades and is not to be sniffed at; even so, I found it fascinating to learn how and why an old-school (he won’t mind me saying that) all-American might take an alternative view on certain techniques or processes, compared to the ways that I and many others in the UK and Europe do. My suspicion is that a lot of it comes down to the different expectations and budgets of customers in different international markets, although I’m certain there’s more to it than that. Let’s talk about that another day.
Before the days drew to a close with an extended Q&A, we dedicated about an hour to glass scratch removal and demonstrating the capabilities of our Rayon pads. We just needed to a suitably ‘tired’ old car to work on…. luckily, Bert’s Subaru was close by… 😉
And Then ...
Oh and did I mention I immediately followed all that by detailing, and recording myself detailing, a one-of-a-kind Lamborghini Countach so that I can make my own YouTube mini-feature for you guys? I think there’s about 8 hours of footage I need to go through, which will take me a while, although I did post a little outtake already: spot the intruder!
And Finally ...
Yep. I thought I was just tired from the guest interviews, the mad rush of Waxstock, the continuation with Mike Phillips, and the tricky/long job on the Countach.
You guessed it…. turns out, it was Covid. Mike had it too. Kelly as well. No wonder we were all exhausted, and (not that it counts as a rest) I’m looking forward to spending some time holed up in the editing suite for a while!
I’ll be back with a regular blog next month. Meanwhile, you can find me on Insta and Bookface at the links right here. See ya!