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Free Range Human, Sailor, Writer, Artist, Videographer  

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

A Refit That Continues to Begin - Compounding Oxidation, Polishing,Waxing Yikes Whatta Job!

A Florida Summer Sun Shade
If you live in Florida long enough you begin to realize that summer is not your friend.

A recent touch of fall air dropped the temperature below 80 by midnight.  A sure sign summer has turned tail at last.   We are happy to see it go, along with the incessant rain and drowning humidity, not to mention the blast furnace hot air valiantly described as a sea breeze.

A Dirty Green SV HideAway Sleeps on her Trailer in the Drive

A Lovely color- Green, Don't ya think?  
She knows it’s not proper for a lady of her upbringing to spend her days fending off water from the sky instead of from below and she is upset about it.  Sure her masters have done their best to keep her clean and dry, but they’re are slowly losing the battle of the green.  Thus the first task will be a deep cleaning topsides down of the gel coat.

Boat Soap Exists to Sell More Boat Soap

It doesn’t clean well, and you get to use it often for barely satisfactory results at least in green conditions- Such a deal!  After a few rounds of cleaning with official boat soap, the capt was ready for a different solution      There are, of course, all sorts of dual purpose commercial hull cleaners that serve to clean your hull and your wallet with one smallish bottle of secret sauce.

Bleach and Dawn Liquid Detergent

SV HideAway Hull Cleaning
The almighty Internet seems to prefer a combination of about one cup of bleach to a gallon of water with a heavy squirt of liquid dish detergent. It to effectively removes real dirt, green things and wax. Not that HideAway suffers much from wax build  up.  She’s a sailboat, not a wax boat, according to the capt.. 

The theory is the bleach nails the green/black stuff while the dish detergent removes waxy stuff and an arm-powering a good stiff cleaning brush handles the rest.  When used vigorously the process builds strong muscles.  Think of it as conditioning for the main event.

The Main Event: The buffer and the buff

The next phase involves a power buffer equipped with an expensive buff that uses equally impressive chemistry.  The wizards of the net agree marine grade products are necessary for compounding, polishing and waxing gel coat but are less clear about the power buffer.  My buffer budget, however, is.   

Nearly all of the buffer info on line seems to be written by pros touting pro grade equipment.  The industry standards are, in no recognizable order, the Milwaukee #5540, the Makita #9227C, and the Dewalt #DW849.

The question is whether a big bucks pro grade buffer is really necessary for what will likely be a one time effort.   (The HideAway is not expected to let the capt slide into oxidation after sparkling in the sun)

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The Most Desirable Traits of the Pro Buffers

This is tough, demanding work that makes a strong buffer mandatory for even the casual week end buffer. Many rotary buffers feature variable speed no load motors with thumb control speed settings.  I first thought thumb control ridiculous.  After a few minutes of use I would not be without it. The “no load” motor means the motor won’t slow down under the hard work of the job even if you do.  Ounces count.  Don't buy a heavy buffer
Low end speed recommendations seem to agree at 600rpm and the high at 3k.  The pro models have “soft start” mechanisms so you don’t start up splattering compound over the known universe or burn a hole in your boat.  The lower end models do not.  

Drill Master 7" Variable speed 10 amp Beast
However, if you start at the low speed and roll it up with your thumb you create a poor man’s soft start, as it were.   If your buffer has a trigger lock; NEVER use it.  If fhe buffer grabs an errant line or electrical cord at speed, and that is likely, it could break your bones and do other things you’ll regret.  
The less expensive models should come with ear protection.  Either class requires safety glasses. 

The reversible “D” handle on some of the rotary buffers is a good idea given the contortions necessary to compound a sailboat hull.  I cannot imagine using a standard T handle found on some models.  10 amp motors are the rage with good reason.  

My Drillmaster costs around $40.00 vs up to $300+ for the pro version. The question becomes; Will it last the job? (I'll leave you to ponder why a rotary buffer is named after a drill)

 My orbital buffer used for the car and truck has .50 amp motor; thus is best used to remove wax haze.  No way can it help compound.
Corded Drill and Auto Buffer
 My 3/8” corded electric drill sporting a buffing pad is no better for large areas, but may play a role, with special attachments, on smaller areas of the deck.  Don’t waste your battery powered drill on any part of this job.

Like it or not; the rotary buffer or the beast as it is known in these parts, is the tool of choice for compounding.

The Quest for The State of Shine
Make no mistake, you’ll want the best quality toos,  compound, polish and wax you can afford to make this task less of something to be endured.   The considerable cost and risk demand it.  Besides, it is foolish to use lessor quality materials unless you’re really into a more pain and suffering than the average small boat trailer-sailor. 

The beginning of the finish
Some pros demand that you stay away from products containing silicone or essential oils on the basis that both create a faux finish that won’t last.   Others assert marine carnauba wax will make you shine while others believe you’re dull to use it. 

 One proclaims the process is not to gain a mirror finish but a finish that protects the gel coat from UV rays, Green Stuff and Spilt Stuff. 

 Several sources denounced the all in one products, while others advocated a “why buff it twice?” philosophy.

You’ll read a lot about 3M Rubbing Compound, Finesse it II and marine wax vs the Collinite Fleet Wax 885 and others including Starbrite and Meguiar’s marine products.  I’ve always been partial to 3M, but the others are well known brands with good reputations. 

The Reality

I messed about in West Marine a good long while but could not find the 3M rubbing compound then settled for 3MMarine Restorer and Wax, a good product, though not ideally suited for my needs.  I read a review extolling the virtues of Collinite Fleet wax 885 but picked up a bottle of Collinite 925 wax by mistake.
I returned the Collinite wax because of separation anxity issues. The wax had separated in the bottle forming a hard disc at the top of the bottle that never mixed well creating a spotty finish when used. It had the consistency water.  The Collinite 925 has rave reviews and I am sure it is a quality product within the limitations of chemical separation issues.  

 I picked up some 3M Finesse it II that successfully removed the restorer wax and allows a consistant shiny finish.  I should have found a source for the straight rubbing compound and saved myself time, expense and over the counter pain medications.

Water, Wax and Micro Fibers 

For a Shining Good Time

 Warnings abound concerning burning the gel coat with the heat generated by the buffer and the compound, not to mention the real risk of gouging the gel coat to the glass if the buffer jumps or wobbles as it is wont to do. 

One sage compared rubbing compound to coarse liquid sand paper.  A spray bottle of water helps lubricate and extend the buffing opportunity while keeping heat under control.  

Think of polishing compounds as fine finish sand paper and the wax as the final protection.  I kept the hull wet with a water spray bottle with both the compounding and polish stages.  I polished with 3M Finesse it II with good results then followed up with several layers of a marine grade carnauba wax.  

The wax was hand applied then buffed with a small car buffer using the water to “spit shine” then  micro fiber rags to get the final gloss. Micro Fiber cloths are perfect for perfecting the shine.  They are easy to use, cheap and do a better job than terry cloth for fine finishing.

Work in small areas no bigger than 2 foot square.  It is much easier to work in small areas than large.  Use as little of the compound/wax as you dare.  Remember it is easier to add more product than to remove the excess.  

How Long The Shine

Shine Duration is a slippery deck in that the shortest failure time for the more debated products is about three months while the very best finishes may last only nine.   Not encouraging news for the average sailor.  Based on the time and effort expended to finish one quarter of the hull I suspect the process has a lot in common with washing a giraffe’s neck.   My hope is that the wax will keep green stuff in check or at least make the boat easier to keep clean.                                                                                                              
A little rain does not stop the project

At This Point: A Quarter of Half Finished

 If your hair, or whats left of it, is gray, and like the HideAway, your pocket yacht now seems several football fields LOD, perhaps it may be time to hire out the initial compounding, polish and wax to someone who has the tools, knowledge and skills to do a professional job.  Then a few months later you can do the relatively easy stuff – Refinish and wax.

As With All Projects on the HideAway

 I do not claim to be an expert at any of them. I’m just an average sailor trying to handle various projects without injuring the boat, myself or the sailing kitty.   You are just as likely to learn the wrong way to handle any given project as you are to find the best way.  Be thou warned!  And for your sake don’t make the same mistakes I sometimes  achieve!  

Video to follow