Painter Invents a Better Way to Sand Vehicles with Fast Blocks

Painter Max Major
Painter Max Major invented a simple tool called Fast Blocks that enables refinishers to sand vehicles faster and easier.

I love writing about technicians, painters and other collision repair professionals who invent tools or products to make their jobs and lives easier.

Auto body shop people have come up with great ideas over the years, but how many of them ever make it out of the lunch room?

It’s not easy to make any invention a reality. First, you will likely need to invest your own money to develop it, and then who’s going to sell it for you? If it’s a really good idea, there will be people who want to steal it, and if you think a patent will protect you, all I can say is "LOL." In this story, a painter named Max Major invented a simple tool that enables refinishers to sand vehicles faster and easier and with fewer hassles. His company, Fast Blocks, has gained momentum since its inception and consistently receives five-star ratings from painters worldwide.

Major, 31, was born and raised just outside of Nashville, TN. He came from a family of people who had college degrees and worked in offices, without any tradesmen on the family tree. But he knew at a very young age that cars would likely play a major role in his life, so he pursued it relentlessly.

“I was raised that if you didn't go to college, you didn't have a chance at succeeding,” Major said. “I spent every waking minute working on cars. On the weekends, I would sit in front of the TV watching 'Power Block' on Spike TV. I found my way into the paint shop the same time Stacey David built the Copperhead truck on the show and I was hooked right then and there!”

During his senior year in high school, Major got a chance to work in a body shop as a painter assistant/detailer when a friend of his quit and recommended him as his replacement.

“He asked me if I had any interest in taking his place and naturally, I was all for it!" Major said. "I was still in school, so I had to negotiate with them. They said if I could get a day's worth of work done in a few hours every afternoon. If I could, I could have the job. After a few months working there, I started to ask a lot of questions, hanging out with the body techs or the painters who were more than happy to help me.

One day, the painter at the shop fired his prepper/helper and was looking to find a replacement.

“I begged and pleaded for a shot at being the painter’s helper but the deal was the same," Major said. "If I let the paint shop get behind, I was gone. So, I .did everything I could to stay ahead, which meant skipping school once in a while.”

Major worked at the shop for a couple years, then moved on to a larger high-production shop, where he was a painter’s helper for the next 2.5 years.

With a resume that was partially fictional, Major talked himself into a job as a full-time painter at a different shop.

“I was finally given the chance to move into painting full-time, so I jumped on it," Major said. "I kind of lied with the help of the painter who I first worked with to land a job. The deal I had when I was hired was that I had to paint six cars every day. Up until that point, I hadn’t painted six cars by myself total. I knew that I could figure out how to paint with my background as a helper for the last four years.”

The new job wasn’t a slam dunk and before long, Major was overwhelmed.

“What I didn't anticipate was the high level of quality that they expected," he said. "This made the transition very hard, and I was ready to quit more than once. They had three painters sharing one paint booth and I needed to turn between 100 and 130 hours most weeks. We couldn’t be in the shop before 6 a.m., and most nights the latest we could stay was 6 p.m.

"As a result, I worked hard to become more efficient. I starting trying different tools to increase my efficiency. I changed my schedule and processes for prepping cars, so I could stay on target. I knew that If I couldn’t stay on top of it, they would hire more painters or fire me.”

While Major was looking for a better way to do things, a family member said something that eventually led to the invention of Fast Blocks, he said.

“One day, my grandmother called me, and the first thing she said was ‘You’re the most artistic and creative person I know and I need your help.’ To this day I still think she called the wrong grandchild because I can’t draw a stick person to save my life," Major said. "She wanted me make something that would keep her oxygen hose off the floor in her house. Up until then, I had never .designed or created a product before. Not wanting to let my grandmother down, I set out to do whatever I could. I spent a month or two working on these designs but couldn’t make it happen.”

Sometimes frustration can lead to things like inspiration and innovation.

“What I did learn was invaluable because I began seeing everything through a new set of lenses," Major said. "Everything I saw I wanted to redesign to see if I could make it better.

"That’s when I began thinking about a better sanding block at work. I bought all the blocks I could track down for collision or restoration, but I wasn’t happy with anything I found. I started making versions of my own and testing different materials. This went on for a few months and I started to notice how well these blocks worked.”

Major sold his beloved classic 1965 Lincoln to start his company and bring his invention to life.

Major knew he had something unique, but wasn’t sure about the next step.

“I was afraid to bring my designs to a company and lose control of it. So, I did some research and learned how to retain this invention as my own.

"One of the most difficult parts of this process was teaching myself the patent process and how to effectively write patents," he said. "I then needed to move forward with finding a manufacturer who would work with an individual not attached to a large company, which is not easy. I spoke with more than 50 manufacturers before I could find a good fit.

"Once I found a manufacturer, we began working together to bring my very rough designs to 3D renderings and injection molded prototypes. This took months of testing different variations that finally led us to the combination we have today.”

To get the seed money for Fast Blocks, Major sold his beloved 1965 Lincoln, a car he worked on for more than eight years, he said.

“I worked with one manufacturer for more than a year, and then the COVID hit, and the deal disappeared," Major said. "It was sink or swim time, so I .started swimming. I haven’t used any outside money on Fast Blocks and haven’t gotten any investors, which is exactly the way I want it.”

Major’s goal with Fast Blocks isn’t just sanding blocks, but also to help decrease the effort painters and technicians have to put in to get a quality repair.

“We want techs to make more money and save their shops money," Major said. "If we can decrease the difficulty in repairing a vehicle, we can train new techs faster. In a time when body shop techs are few and far between, anything we can do to make any part of the process easier and more efficient is worth doing.”

Major’s Fast Blocks are becoming more and more popular as word gets out there. He also wants people to know his product comes with a powerful message.

“I want to be able to use Fast Blocks to reshape the overall perception about tradesmen and what we do," Major said. "In my case, painting cars was a stepping stone that led to an opportunity I wouldn’t have found otherwise. In the end, it all comes down to things like passion and dedication. I am still that high schooler who watched 'Power Block' on Spike TV, and I hope my story inspires others to do the same.”

Ed Attanasio

Ed Attanasio is an automotive journalist and Autobody News columnist based in San Francisco.

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