The Unified Theory of PDR – PM87

unified theory of PDR 87th episode


What ya gonna do on this dent? Push it, pull it, knock it down.
Look again. How about now?
Explore with us a simple approach for paintless dent repair. See why and how the best use it daily and some don’t even know they’re using it.
This is how all the methods of dent removal come together for you to make faster, easier repairs.
Once you see it, you’ll know why we call it the Unified Theory of PDR.
Because I don’t love the word “theory” for its dual meaning, a definition is needed. As used in our discussion, it “a set of principles on which the practice of an activity is based.”


Derek Olson: “Thanks for joining us this week. We are on episode 87 and coming at you with the unified theory of PDR. It’s not something that’s been a revelation just all of a sudden, it’s really something that’s been 10 years in coming. We want to talk to you about that and what it means for you and how it can help you.”

Tim Olson: “Yeah. I think you guys will enjoy this. You probably heard the unified theory before. We stole that, so here’s the nerdy stuff, so tune out if you want, but just real briefly, it’s something to do with physics, so it’s a combination of both electromagnetic, weak and strong interactions or forces are merged into one single force, and so that’s why we call it the unified theory of PDR because it’s a marriage, if you will, or a revelation of techniques that will help you in all.

“What we mean by that is we, or I should say myself in particular, learned in ’92 to push from behind. There was no glue pulling, and so it was all push from behind. At the same time, there’s a divergence where it came from with body shops. It was hammer and dolly, and so it was this at the same time as that, but of course, with PDR it was this, then that, so never at the same time. While some guys have kind of married those two together, I don’t think that’s really part of what we’re talking about here, though it could be.

Derek Olson: “Just to be clear when you say that, you’re talking about pushing and knocking down?

Tim Olson: “Yeah, so there’s guys that will, let’s say you put a tab on and you pull on it while you also-

Derek Olson: “Hammer around it?

Tim Olson: “Hammer an eyebrow. That would be very similar to hammer and dolly.

Derek Olson: “Yes, it would.

Tim Olson: “Most of what we do is this, then that, so it’s a little bit of knockdown, a little bit of pushing or pulling. Right, so it’s not the two at the same time most times, so where the forces all come together is, what we’re going to talk about is really pushing from behind, glue pulling?

Derek Olson: “Yeah, glue pulling.

Tim Olson: “And blending. Here’s kind of what you wouldn’t really know it I think, and this is where if you guys can mentor somebody, it’s awesome because sometimes you don’t really know what you know. You’re not aware of what you know. You just do it. Derek’s brother is working with us now, and he’s newer in the business. He’s got a couple years under him, but he’s also taking on bigger and bigger stuff, and as he does, he’s hitting those walls that we hit over time, then it’s like, “What about this? What about that?” And so experimentation, he can do it and come to his own conclusions, or there’s a customer waiting, so I can come in and say, “Here’s where you can go or demonstrate.” The other thing is a question that I think you should ask on every dent is what’s the next best move?

“We had a student here a couple weeks ago that I asked him that very question, and his answer was excellent, but his answer was also sort of what we’ve gone beyond that, and so he said, “Well, I see there’s highs here. There’s a low here.” He kind of identified all those spots, and that’s good that he could identify them because it really showed how far along he was, and he’ll be just fine, but when I looked at it, I only really saw one thing, and that was what really was the high spot. You kind of had an example of that yesterday didn’t you, on a dent?

Derek Olson: “Oh yes. I did a bedside on a three quarter ton truck, and it had a, maybe a five inch, really it was a crease. It was up towards the top of the bedside going down towards the first body line, so as I’m pushing it, of course, it’s eyebrowed, but not super severe, but then as I’m doing some pushing, part way through that, it actually pops, and then I’ve got a high spot where I was pushing.

“I figured it would pop, but I really didn’t want it to do it right then, so I brought that high spot down a little bit, and of course, it immediately brought the dent down, but that told me to reassess, and now really the eyebrow is the thing. It’s not pushing anymore because if I continue to push, and I could, but it’s going to have a lot of push marks, and I want it to be really smooth. Now I’ll start playing with that eyebrow a little bit, but again, I didn’t fully take out the eyebrow because at a certain point I realized, “I have a really low light and I’m attacking this eyebrow, and I can see how it’s affecting the non eyebrow part.” As I’m watching that, I can see okay, now it’s time to start pushing again. Actually, it didn’t really need to pop. It just needed the eyebrow to be released of it.

Tim Olson: “I like that because it makes you think of biblically, violence begets violence, whereas resistance begets resistance in PDR. What we mean by that is if you have resistance in an eyebrow or crown, however you prefer to think of them, then you are going to have issues with pushing because you’ll have to have an equal amount of resistance, whereas if you get to a lower level of resistance, then now you can push with less force, causing less push marks that stay at the end. What happened was when the student, do everybody starts off getting a dent to a, he had already taken, this was a dent that was above and below a body, so it went through a body line, so he had really done a good job of taking it to the point where it was near finished. Really all he needed help with was what do we next to make it really smooth and how do I push clean from this point on?

“The solution was for me, and I realized that just put the light far off and see what the hammer can do, and when I put the light far off and low, then you realize okay, well there’s really one pronounced high close to the body line that it’s kind of obscured because you think well, the dent above, dent below, and then the body line. Sometimes when you get a high on the line, you just don’t know, but it had become the most significant pressure in the dent, and so then when I started blending that out, what was interesting was that I didn’t stop. I got that down, and it’s like, “Well, what is the rest of this?”

“That’s how we sort of realized that there is a unified theory of PDR. That is that with blending that, it made me think of what if you were glue pulling this? It was a dent that was accessible from behind through the window, so we’re not glue pulling it, but that’s when we sort of came to the revelation that hey, we really are pushing from behind, and proved because of glue pulling. Why would we say that, you think?

Derek Olson: “Well, because you have to look at the bigger picture all the time, and what’s holding this low from actually pulling through? That’s different than with push behind because you can kind of force it because you can get a tool on it. You may not always put your light as far back, which would be the best way to see the bigger picture, and so you’re just not thinking about blending quite the way you are with glue pulling because blending is your only option with glue pulling to make your pulls go.

Tim Olson: “Right. You can only go down.

Derek Olson: “Yeah.

Tim Olson: “Good point. Here’s the thing with that, because it also helps you pull through, like you said, to glue pull, it will also make it a clean, smooth repair at the end because those same principles that make for a pull that’s pullable also make for a smooth repair. Instinctively what you’ll start to do when you learn to glue pull well is you’ll actually, let’s say that you have a spot that may be just one sharp high. Well, you’ll find yourself actually pushing around that high and making it sort of a moundy high that’s not just one spot that would just kind of sink in when you knocked it down, but you turned into sort of a dome, if you will. I’m talking about less than a pencil head of eraser. Pencil eraser head. You turn that into a dome and now you can work that down, and not everything falls down because you sort of put that little dome in there.

“That’s why we’re talking about this unified theory of PDR is that everything sort of marries together, all the disciplines, so glue pulling, pushing from behind, and blending, but with the blending, what was interesting was I know that the student probably wouldn’t have thought to do that because maybe he’s not at that level of grabbing the hammer instead, and this was a 20 inch hammer, Drew tools hammer, which is my favorite, but that long of a hammer is just about right, and so the low light, getting back, and really working that dent.

“What was interesting was just how much of it, how close it already was even though it didn’t look good. It was kind of rough, kind of like, “Oh, I don’t know. What do I do to try to straighten this out? What’s he going to do?” You know? Really when you start to blend it, then it’s like okay, well now it’s not only easier to come back, it’s just going to be cleaner, cleaner and smoother.

Derek Olson: “I just had a thought that this actually saves a lot of time, doesn’t it? Thinking about it this way because I’ve had a lot of dents where I feel like I’m just back and forth with it, and then I think I’m at the end of it and then I’m like … I still see something there, like there’s some waviness to it, so now I’ve got to really go with a super low light, but chances are I probably could’ve done that sooner.

Tim Olson: “Sure. When you did, that’s where the blending hammer comes in so well, blending polished hammers. It all comes together so well because then when you’ve got the low light you can say, “Okay,” but you’re too far away from it to work probably, especially if it’s in a door. You just can’t, unless you use an upside down method from Dent Wizard or I think Tom Price teaches that.

“Unless you use a method like that, you’re not going to get far enough back from it, so the only thing you really can do is blend, but the blending kind of leads to a better, smoother repair because now you can move the light back in and you’ve got less work to do from behind, same as you would with glue pull. That’s why we kind of call it the unified theory, and it’s interesting because you know we’ve talked about on this podcast before there was a student, it’s just one of those things you don’t see unless you’re training somebody I think because it’s like you ask somebody how to do something, how they do something, and maybe they can’t, they don’t know. That’s the challenge of a teacher is can he actually break down what he, sometimes not, because you forget.

Derek Olson: “Yeah, so it’s more like an intuitive thing for-

Tim Olson: “Yeah. Or you just do it so much that it becomes natural, but when you see something, it’s not as if you’re trying to make yourself shine on the backs of your students, it’s just that it’s now in your face that not everybody knows this. Even though it’s intuitive to you, it’s not something that just somebody picks up. They could, but it’s much better to have it explained to you on a podcast, so welcome.

Derek Olson: “Yeah, you’re welcome.

Tim Olson: “I do think it’s interesting, so I mentioned before in some episode back that the first time I saw it was a student that, and this was, whoa, this is going back actually way before polished hammers, so we’re talking 2001. I had a student that it was a pretty good sized six inch dent below a molding on Mercedes, and it probably was stretch. I mean, every dent is stretched, but it probably was overstretched, and the student worked it out, but it was moundy. I was like, “Oh, well you got it moundy.” He goes, “Well that’s the way they always do.” He said, “When you work a dent like this it’s always going to be moundy like that,” and so somebody had taught him that and that’s okay. Maybe that’s what they thought and sometimes it’s true, but it’s rare, so it’d have to be pretty stretched, overstretched. I said, “Well let’s see if that’s really true.”

“Of course, back then, it was a knock down. I may have had extended hammers. I think Dentcraft had them back them, so I may have grabbed an extended hammer and put a low light on it and just started flailing on it. You should’ve seen the look on his face. When I was done, a couple more little pushes of where I had overstriked it. Is that word? Then it was flat. He’d never seen that before. It’s not as if … I’ll tell you where it actually led to something. It wasn’t me that taught this, but it was something that my instructor that taught me, my boss said, he said, “You probably need to use the whole light.” Because we learned on stripe, and he said, “Try to use the whole light.”

“I always thought, “I don’t know what he’s talking about,” because you get focused on the one stripe, three quarter inch stripe on a bulb, but it’s one of those things when somebody says it to you it’s like, man, it’s ingrained. It’s like, “What does he mean, and how can I spot that?” Actually, I can say that probably did lead to eyebrows, seeing them, just knowing that little mind trick of well, I don’t see it but it must be there because there’s a resistance, so give him credit for that. Another example of it happened just this last week where your brother was working on a crease and he had nailed it as far hitting the crease and had worked it up tight, pushed next to push. All that, but the crease was actually high. He was having trouble trying to figure out how to get this finished out.

“Well, what was happening was the crease sharp enough to be overstretched, and so it was wanting to mound on him, and so in that case, really the only you can really do is just to really work the metal and really put the light low and just start hitting it with the, I prefer the sharper edge of the blending hammer. Pretty tight, keep it dressed out, but it won’t hurt the paint, but it’s going to bounce because it’s an overstretched area. That’s when you start to realize, “Okay, well I can really go at this and fatigue it a little bit and shrink it back in place,” and you’ll know that because you think that’s a pretty hard strike that I just put in it, but it really didn’t move anything. It more bounced, and so quite a few of those placed tightly together can really make a mound go down. Have you ever experienced that, Derek?

Derek Olson: “Yes, many times. It’s pretty amazing because when you’re looking at it, you really don’t think it’s going to return to the right shape. It’s pretty crazy to watch it.

Tim Olson: “Yeah. This is, we’re kind of letting the cat out bag really because this is pretty high level stuff. Of course, it’s not great to just describe it. If you saw it in action, it’s much better, but I actually think that you can get the gist of it because it really is, it’s marrying all those three things together, and if you’ll really think about how that is. Why does a glue pull not get stuck? That’s a painful thing, isn’t it? When you know that you put a dimple in a glue pull?

Derek Olson: “From knocking down? Yeah, that is.

Tim Olson: “It’s a good teacher. I’m not sure that’s ever coming out unless you just really over pull it and you’ve got chance of pulling paint. You learn from painful experiences like that, so but now how can you take that same thing and apply it in this unified theory of PDR and use it also in pushing from behind? I mentioned one way, which is kind of instead of just attacking one sharp high, why not work around it, turn it into a dome? Depending on the circumstances.

“Now let’s talk for a minute about how we kind of came to discovery of it. I mentioned earlier about my boss planting that seed, try to look at the whole light. Well, I’d never worked stuff like that before, and honestly the striped light wasn’t conducive to it. It helps you to push clean, really clean, but it wasn’t great off for far off seeing eyebrows and things like that, so what really kind of led to it was the fog bulbed or the shadow light. It’s actually kind of funny if you look at an old catalog, you realize man, there’s a lot of attempts at making this bulb do shadow, so we used pipes, we used boards to stick out above the fluorescent. We used poster board, and then of course if you’re a shine through kind of a guy, then you’re trying to spray the exact right fog in front of the bulbs in the exact right spot. Today, they’re actually printed, which is pretty cool, on some screens. I like those pretty well.

“Of course, sort of the marriage of technologies too, right? Around 2007, we filmed that first Polished Hammer video, which was really blending. Then we also had started using the fog bulbs, but then just a couple years later, 2009, Bill Hulett came out with the near perfect LED light, which is really, everything else since then’s been a copy, so I think Bill’s the OG. I think he should get the credit for coming up with that shining the LED through a lens, and that’s what appealed to a lot of people because they were already using some kind of a through the lens type sprayed fog with Krylon, but now it was actually created by the light hitting it right at the exact angle.

“It’s kind of interesting to think of how those technologies kind of melded together, so that’s sort of how we came across it. We were already using a low light in situations and using blending, but it was sort of just like this thing that you come across and it’s like, “Oh, we’re doing that. We didn’t even know we were doing it.” That’s until you train somebody and see that they’re actually not doing it and you realize, okay, that’s … Have you had that experience?

Derek Olson: “Yeah, that’s been interesting because it’s kind of like using the LED light, but as if it was a stripe light from back in the day and just, because when I switched from fluorescent to LED it just was so drastic for me and I just felt like I could see so much more.

Tim Olson: “It reminds me of the story that Carlos Jacobs told me. He trained some years ago with the PDR system, the mentor system. He got to work with somebody there in London that he said, he goes, “Man, this guy does not finish his stuff out, and I don’t understand it.” I think that maybe that’s what some of this is, so the guy that’s having trouble finishing his stuff out is actually, it’s not a matter of pushing out tiny little micro lows and things like that. It’s actually a matter of looking at big picture stuff. Then I think you’ll find that the 10% is actually easier to get.

“Of course, you know, so let’s talk about obstacles for a minute to keep somebody from doing it. I mentioned the stripe. I learned on a single stripe, which of course, is to push clean. I think line boards are going to be an obstacle to what we’re talking about, so I’m anti-line board, although it may sound like it. Line boards are awesome to push clean with, but they are not awesome for doing what we’re talking about here, this, we call it unified theory of PDR because while they have a place, maybe at the finish check and see if you actually push clean, I think they can obscure some of the subtleties of what we’re talking.

“The same thing if you’re using a stripe or using a one single kind of anything for whatever you’re doing in PDR. You may not be seeing the big, big picture, so whatever it is. Some guys teach natural reflection. I’m sure that natural reflection really shows it. If you go outside and you see an area that you worked and oh, wow, it’s wavier than I thought it was because those things are mega farther off than you could ever get your light, you know? Looking at something that’s at an angle is crazy. It could be 100 yards away, yet it still reflects in that panel and it shows you what’s there. Sometimes natural reflection can reveal those things, but you don’t really need it. Just a very low light will reveal it.

Derek Olson: “Yeah, that simulates it enough.

Tim Olson: “If you approach a dent, I think that you’re pushing from behind, is that oversimplifying? Approach it as if you were glue pulling it?

Derek Olson: “Oh yeah. That’s a good simplification of it to get the idea across.

Tim Olson: “Yeah. That’s really what we’re talking about today, guys, and obviously this is a very, very short podcast episode. I think it’s probably one of the pivotal, I actually feel like this might be a pivotal episode for us.

Derek Olson: “Yeah, I’m sure we’ll refer back to this quite often because it’s kind of the thing that it’s that crossroads of when you’re, you can push clean. You can push okay, but you’re just not happy with it because you still see something. This is kind of the thing that changes all that.

Tim Olson: “I really think it’s actually easier. If you think about what would you rather do, would you rather be up on it with your head on it trying to push right there, or would you rather be back kind of comfortably with a longer hammer, your hand resting on the panel, and just some strikes to that, even the weight of the hammer is bouncing on the panel, and things are moving around. To me, that’s way easier than actually pushing from behind.

Derek Olson: “I really agree with that. I did a rear right quarter panel on an Escalade yesterday, and it’s one where you drill up into the wheel well, and so you get great access to it, but it was exactly that. At the end, I thought there was something there and I’d have to … I just couldn’t quite tell where it was with the light close to me, so I thought, I’m going to have to get this light far away and kind of get my head back and try to push it, and that really wasn’t it. It was all knocked down at the end. It just blew my mind because with the close light, I did not see that at all and it just totally smoothed it out, got the body line looking perfect. It was awesome. It was, like I say, all knock down.

Tim Olson: “Let’s talk for a minute about are we just talking about dents that are in the sides that are kind of extreme or are we talking about, will it work in hail too?

Derek Olson: “I think it does work in hail too because you’ve got some, if you’ve got a sharper dent, you need to know exactly where to push there. I guess that kind of goes back to using a higher light, like you suggest doing, and moving it back.

Tim Olson: “Yeah, I think so too. [crosstalk 00:23:57] That’s exactly what I was thinking is that because if you start with a light high and you start close to yourself and then move away from yourself, you’re actually getting a second look at those dents that are close to you and at a lower angle. When I say second, I mean second, third, fourth, fifth, because I don’t know how many times you’re going to have to lower your light, but I usually have to lower it three or four times on a side, which some guys may say, “Well, that wastes a lot of time. Set it low and go,” but I think that you miss stuff. Those guys will over push at the beginning because they just haven’t, you know. They’ll wonder why their stuff’s not clean at the end because they just push too hard at the front. High light will keep that from happening on hail, and when you’re done, what I usually find is it’s actually clean and less trenched. Not even trenched at all, really.

Derek Olson: “Because you saw your pushes so well at the outset.

Tim Olson: “Yeah. You can see the center better and all that, so I think its the way I push everything now. Travis Daniel said something in the interview we asked him about and he mentioned that, he said, “Well, I think there’s a lot of different ways to push and you kind of go to decide,” and I think that may be true, but I actually think that we’re not the first guys to discover this. I think guys are using it already. Either they’d know it and are not telling, or they don’t know that they’re doing and maybe after listening to this, they’ll go, “Oh yeah. I do that already.” I think there’s a good number of people that will probably think, “Oh well, that’s not the way I push,” but that’s okay. You can take it or leave it, but it actually, to us at this point and the sage of our learning, it really feels as if it’s the best way for what the metal wants, and I think that trumps what we want.

Derek Olson: “Yeah, that’s a good point.

Tim Olson: “You know?

Derek Olson: “Yeah. It definitely speeds up the repair. That’s what blows my mind. I think back on my previous years and I kind of fought dents more than I do now, and it’s exactly for the reasons that we’re talking about, thinking about it in a unified way. Get that big picture look.

Tim Olson: “That is the unified theory of PDR. You’ve never heard it called that because no one’s ever called it that before, so we will take credit for the name, but nothing else because we didn’t invent PDR. We didn’t invent cars. We did not invent sheet metal or physics.

Derek Olson: “That’s right.

Tim Olson: “But we love it as much as you do and we really appreciate you listening to the Paintless Mentor podcast. Derek, thanks for being with us today.

Derek Olson: “Thank you, I enjoyed talking about it.

Tim Olson: “Yeah, me too. We will see you on the next episode.

Derek Olson: “See you.

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