next step was to add some body filler to the low spots and rough sand the high spots down until everything was level. I couldn't get it perfect with the body filler alone (small pieces would chip off and create small holes) so I smoothed it out as best I could then brushed on a thin layer of resin. then fine sanded the resin into a nice smooth paintable surface. then sprayed on some primer. I bought a special paint made for appliances ("Thomas' liquid stainless steel").
it came out "ok" but it didn't match anything else on my car, I thought I would like the look but I didn't. so I sanded it all down again, primed it again, and repainted it... this time with black spray paint. I didn't want a flat black, but i also didn't want it very glossy either. i compromised by using a gloss black w/lacquer. normally lacquer would make it shine even more, but i applied it between coats of gloss black (while the black was still wet). this created a nice semi-gloss black finish (it shines, but not enough to see your reflection in it )
overall I'm quite pleased with the way this came out. (in this pic the new bezel is not flush with the dash. so it looks like it doesn't fit right, but it actually fits perfect. I'll add a better pic later when everything is finished.
now onto the info/hazard buttons...