Two questions I get often are “How do you stripe straight?” and “How do you stop and start exactly where you want?” And because the answers are connected I can answer both questions at the same time.
One of the first keys to striping is keeping your head still. This is as essential in striping as it is in sports. I coach baseball and when I coach pitchers I tell them “don’t move your head.” When a right-handed pitcher steps back with his left foot his head remains motionless, directly above his right foot. The same thing applies for coaching batters. When the pitcher steps back with his left foot…the batter also coils back – but his head never moves, either.
Next, when the pitcher strides forward, so does the batter – but only about 6 in. Why? Because if the batter would stride forward 18 in. his head would drop to a different level – and so would his eyes. You don’t want that. Just like a batter a striper needs to keep his head still and take normal strides.
And, just like a batter, a striping contractor needs move smoothly, or glide. Runners and Olympic walkers don’t move their heads. They glide along the same “plane.” Everything from their neck down moves – but not their head. So while striping keep your head still, take normal strides, and glide – that way your eyes can focus.
But where do you focus your eyes? I once took some speed reading courses, and I learned that reading fast depends on the right balance of “hard focusing” and “soft focusing.” Think of it as also focusing on what you see out of the corner of your eye. Keep that in mind.
“Lining Up” Your Machine
Getting your machine where you want it involves getting the tip guard, which houses the tip, just off to the side of your chalk line, and getting the machine to travel straight. Here’s how to do that:
First, hard focus on the chalk line and at the same time soft focus on the tip guard – or vice versa, you decide. (I snap chalk lines to the side of where the stripe actually belongs – not down the middle.) Remember, there isn’t any paint flow yet. When it does flow you want the side of you paint stripe to land exactly on that chalk line; not over it and not an inch away from it. (If you miss, don’t make a correction. You’ll learn why in a few paragraphs.) To get lined up you might have to perform a test shot on a piece of cardboard, just for practice. You’ll get the idea.
Now, push the machine forward. Make sure you’re traveling parallel to the chalk line by staying hard focused on that chalk line and soft focused on the tip guard. If you’re traveling parallel, you’re ready to go.
Two things are important to know when starting to apply paint. First, you don’t need a “running start” so don’t think that. If full speed for you is 3 mph, fine. You can put the gun directly over the starting point and just start walking. Second, don’t try to “drag race” up to speed, either. Just start walking. Think of your striper as a grocery cart. So what if the customer gets 24 mils of paint during the first 12 in.? You won’t go broke. You don’t even have to add this into your paint costs! And it looks great. And it’ll last. Relax and just start walking. You’ll get up to your speed in probably one stride.
All that said, back to starting out. Remember, the machine is already “lined up,” which means when the paint flows, the side of your painted stripe will land right on your chalk line, which you snapped along the side of where the stripe belongs.
1. Roll the machine back to about 6 in. before your starting point. That’s all you need.
2. Hard focus on the starting point – that’s what’s important right now.