Let's demystify some of these boat finishes

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Dave Grason
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Let's demystify some of these boat finishes

Post by Dave Grason » Fri Oct 30, 2015 7:38 am

As a boat building community, we are all vulnerable to the misinformation that seems to permeate the marine paint industry. We often ask other forum members about bottom paints, topside paints, varnishes and so on. But the paint industry changes methodology and chemical formulas virtually every day. What was the “hot” set up just a short time ago, is now yesterday’s news and there is a new kid in town. All the paint manufacturers have so-called experts touting their products. I’ve always felt that whatever these guys say must be taken with a grain of salt because they are on SOME paint company’s payroll. Therefore, I feel (and notice that I say I FEEL only. I’m not a paint expert) that I’m going to make my best informed decision and if it’s the wrong one, I will have learned. If my choice of paints turns out to be a mistake, then I will pass that information along with no other ulterior motives. By the same token, if my decision proves to be an excellent one, then I can also pass that information along.

As a summer project, I recently repainted my car. I used BASF paint in their R-M line. This is not considered the highest quality paint that BASF makes. But it is certainly the finest paint I've ever used in my life and it was pretty darned expensive. A gallon of base, a gallon of the corresponding clear and the proper reducer knocked over $500 out of my checking account. (YIKES!! :shock:) But I feel, and there’s the phrase I FEEL again, that the man who looks at the cheapest paint available and demands the best finish available is only asking for trouble. We put so much time and effort in to our boat projects and then we cheap out on paint. It’s an irony.
Ok SO! How was this expensive paint to work with? Well, I got my money’s worth. It was an absolute DREAM to work with this stuff. It mixed well, flowed well, laid down well and it EVEN smelled good. Crazy – I know. And NO, NO, NO, we don’t roll and tip it. It does require good spray equipment. Once I sprayed the base coat, I waited approximately an hour or so and sprayed on the clear. I never knew that any paint could be top coated that quickly. I sprayed on extra coats of clear because I knew that I was going to wet sand and buff the clear. This was because I was painting in my garage. I don’t have a dedicated spray environment like a pro would have. So I knew ahead of time that I was going to get dust and kamikaze bugs in it. The color sanding process would hopefully get rid of those problems.

I started color sanding with 1500 grit, then I went to 2000 grit. Then I buffed it and it honestly now looks like a paint job that one would see at a custom car show.

I bring this up because, even though I paid a hefty price for the paint, again, I obviously got my money's worth. In the 21 years that I've owned my car, it has NEVER looked so beautiful!

Ok, I know what you’re thinking. I started out talking about marine paint and now, I’m talking about automotive paint. But stay with me here. I asked the guys at the paint store about using this paint on boats. I explained that I wanted to use it, not just on the deck but also on the bottom. The paint store guys said that their BASF R-M line was excellent for boats both above and below the waterline. I replied:

“Yeah sure! You boys just want to sell paint.”

But they gave me a list of marine dealers around the middle Tennessee area that are buying and using this paint. One was Anderson Marine which was not far away.

When I left, I took a quick side trip over to Anderson Marine and walked in to talk to the service manager. I explained why I was there and what I needed to know. He told me that they had been using BASF R-M paint on boats for a number of years. He said that it was worth the little extra money over cheaper brands because they never needed to do repairs. He said that, in the last two years, they had probably painted 70 or 80 boats – some needing crash repair; others needing full recoats – and they had not had a single return. I wanted to specifically know about trailerable boats that might spend a lot of time with the paint getting crushed between the hull and the bunks on the trailer. He said: “No problems.”

I asked about boats that stayed moored in a marina all summer or even year round. He again said that they have seen no problems with this paint above or below the waterlines of the boats that they had painted.

So, I am going to go one step farther. My Zip has not yet been painted in its final coats. I plan to use BASF R-M paint from the very bottom of the keel all the way up to the sheer. Since the boat will be finished bright on the deck, I will coat the mahogany with epoxy and then spray the BASF R-M clear coat that they recommend right on the epoxy. No varnish, no fiberglass cloth and nothing more. I will wet sand the clear and buff it like I did on my car. Finally, I will document the entire process and keep everyone apprised of any problems or successes. If I have a failure of the finish, either above or below the sheer, I will document the failure and document all efforts to correctly identify the cause of the failure.This will take some time but I really feel that we need to address some of these paint mysteries once and for all. At least, this way, I can do my little part. I figure that, if I do my part with automotive paint, someone else may do the same thing for other paint options available to boatbuilders. Soon, WE could be the go to people for solid, verifiable answers. I say this because, I don't know about you, but I always feel a little terrible when a newbie comes on here asking about paints and we really don't have the answers anymore than any other forum.

Please, everyone chime in and tell me what you think.
Isn't it amazing!! The person that never has the fortitude to pursue his own dreams, will be the first to try and discourage you from pursuing yours.

slug
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Re: Let's demystify some of these boat finishes

Post by slug » Fri Oct 30, 2015 10:52 am

Dave; As you may know already, I have been constantly promoting Dupont's two part automotive urethane paints on this forum. I have never had anyone take my information (backed up with years of personal experience on boats that I built ) seriously, or even respond. My STEEL 34 ft. sailboat was painted in 1996, has spent the last 11 seasons cruising Europe after crossing the Atlantic in 2004 and still looks incredible.
The nice thing about these paints is that they are available in any colour. Of course there are other brands also.

Doug
Last edited by slug on Fri Oct 30, 2015 10:56 am, edited 1 time in total.

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mrintense
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Re: Let's demystify some of these boat finishes

Post by mrintense » Fri Oct 30, 2015 10:53 am

Nice post Dave,

I think you covered it pretty well.

The one thing that concerns me with the RM paint is that it must be sprayed rather than rolled and tipped. I understand the desire to get the best finish possible but there will almost certainly be people here who for whatever reason, cannot use the RM paint.

So I hope we get some feedback from users about other types as well.

I personally have a spray gun, but little experience using it. My garage is not really conducive to spraying and I had always figured on rolling and tipping. On the other hand, the painted portions of my boat are a big part of the overall design and I want them to be nice in the end. so I look forward to hearing from others on other types of paint.

As for the clear coating, I was intrigued by his when I first read that Roberta was going this approach so I am definitely of an open mind about this.
Carl
a.k.a. Clipper

Crafting a classically styled Vera Cruise named "Some Other Time"

Clipper's Vera Cruise Build

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mrintense
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Re: Let's demystify some of these boat finishes

Post by mrintense » Fri Oct 30, 2015 10:55 am

Doug,

I remember reading your posts on this. At the time, I was too far away from painting to need to use the information. Now that I am getting closer, I want to consider all options. Thanks for reminding us of this.
Carl
a.k.a. Clipper

Crafting a classically styled Vera Cruise named "Some Other Time"

Clipper's Vera Cruise Build

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Re: Let's demystify some of these boat finishes

Post by gdcarpenter » Fri Oct 30, 2015 12:18 pm

I have slowly learned spraying, first with old school siphon guns and more recently with HVLP. I much prefer the HVLP, less overspray/waste, less air required, and less clean up with the disposable cup system. Intimidating at first, but like everything else with a bit of research and practice it comes to you.

I did have the VCPerformance Epoxy professionally sprayed on the bottom of my ZIP, bullet proof stuff!!! ( Nasty Chemicals)

I have sprayed all the varnish on my ZIP, and sprayed PPG primer/base coat/clear coat on an engine rebuild.

I have not studied automotive clear coats that much as the ZIP was "My first, last, and only boat build" - but wonder how much UV protection it offers, the epoxy definitely needs UV protection.
This is my first, last and only boat build.

http://www.gdzipbuild.blogspot.com

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Dave Grason
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Re: Let's demystify some of these boat finishes

Post by Dave Grason » Fri Oct 30, 2015 3:02 pm

slug wrote: I have been constantly promoting Dupont's two part automotive urethane paints on this forum. I have never had anyone take my information (backed up with years of personal experience on boats that I built ) seriously, or even respond.
YES, YES!! I know exactly what you are saying. But I don't know the reasons why folks do not respond. This really does seem to be an area where folks obsess a LOT over how they're going to paint their projects. With little to no experience, i think people tend to go with a method they are at least SOMEWHAT familiar with and that is using rollers and brushes. Hey, that's what we paint our homes with. EVERYONE'S done that. So I really think that spraying on a finish is likely very intimidating.
mrintense wrote: So I hope we get some feedback from users about other types as well.
This is ALSO what I am hoping for. It would be great if one of our forum family would step up and photo document the rolling and tipping process so that we can see just what to expect. If mistakes are made, by golly, document them for all. If we get some sort of chemical reaction to undercoat, document that too.

I'm actually hoping that we could put together some sort of "bible" for amateur boatbuilders to come a study each and every type of finish that would be a viable option for a home built boat. So this is why I will light the candle and document my spraying of my Zip.
gdcarpenter wrote: Intimidating at first, but like everything else with a bit of research and practice it comes to you.
It sure does! My car has no metallic in the paint. It's a basic solid and this is great way to start learning to spray. If someone desires a metallic/metal-flake finish, then a little more practice will be in order. For me, I used the deck lid off of an old VW and sprayed it and sprayed it and sprayed it until I was ready to try my hand at spraying my car. If I wasn't getting it right, I'd let the deck lid dry overnight and the next day, I'd sand it all down and start over. I figured that was a lot better than having to sand my entire car down and to start over.

Also, we should never sell short the process of color sanding the clear coat. This was the actual step that made the overall end result REALLY POP! This was where I got rid of all my obvious boo boos and made my project look professional.

There is one thing that I will add about the clear coat. I color sanded it within about 12 hours as I recall. As I stated in my previous post, I started with 1500 grit then went to 2000 and finished by power buffing. But a few weeks went by and one day I was out in the garage. I looked at the VW deck lid on the wall and decided that I should color sand it as well. OH NO! By this time, the clear coat had had time to REALLY set dry and cure. I had to start with 400 grit JUST to even break the surface. Warning! Clear coat, given a few weeks to cure, becomes hard as granite. ...which is actually a very good thing. Just know to get your color sanding done before your clear coat hardens fully.
Isn't it amazing!! The person that never has the fortitude to pursue his own dreams, will be the first to try and discourage you from pursuing yours.

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Re: Let's demystify some of these boat finishes

Post by weasel » Mon Jan 11, 2016 11:41 am

This is all good information for a seasoned boat builder. I just started and I hear words like epoxy, clear coat, Paint, primer, 2 part paint, varnish, undercoat, sealer, finisher, etc.

So basically you put on a sealer, then a primer, then a paint, then a varnish protective coating?

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Dave Grason
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Re: Let's demystify some of these boat finishes

Post by Dave Grason » Mon Jan 11, 2016 3:17 pm

Uh, not quite. And this is exactly what I was talking about when I started this thread. There is SO much misinformation out there because all the manufacturers are vying for your hard earned dollar. And with many, if they don't have what you want or need, they will certainly sell you something that they DO have and they will TELL you that this will work great. Maybe so, maybe no. I've been hoping that we could really get a discussion going here where folks like yourself can get solid answers to suit their particular wants/needs.

So, at least here is a starting point. Decide if you want a painted boat, a natural wood boat (called "bright") or a combination of the two. Let's start small and go from there. I may make some mistakes here so I hope that my fellow forum members will step in and correct me when/if I do that.

Let's say that you want to build a simple row boat and paint is just fine with you. It doesn't have to be fancy. Any boat you build, big or small, should always be worked to the point that the hull of the boat is covered with fiberglass cloth and then encapsulated in epoxy. When the epoxy goes on, the fiberglass cloth virtually disappears and the wood will show through. This much is a given. Next, sand the epoxy smooth (or as smooth as YOU like) then primer it with whatever paint system you want to use and then paint it. You're done. The only exception to this would be a two part (sometimes called a two-stage) system. This is when you apply a base coat that is the color you like. But it is designed to be covered with a clear coat after the color dries. So the two steps are base coat/clear coat. The base gives the color and the clear coat gives the gloss and UV protection.

Next, let's say that you want to finish your row boat bright. Same as before, you want to sand your epoxy until the smooth surface meets your own approval. Instead of painting as before, you now simply apply varnish over the wood so that the wood still shows through. The varnish will give the boat a really shiny gloss and also will provide UV protection that the epoxy does not do. You're done.

There is an alternative to the varnish if you have the equipment to spray your finish. You can go with an automotive clear coat.

Now the trick is when we start getting into the finite details of each paint or varnish system and that's why I wanted to start this thread. But at least what I've given you here is a starting point.
Isn't it amazing!! The person that never has the fortitude to pursue his own dreams, will be the first to try and discourage you from pursuing yours.

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Re: Let's demystify some of these boat finishes

Post by Dave Grason » Mon Jan 11, 2016 3:36 pm

Here are some explanations, according to my understanding, for some of the words you hear, Weasel. And don’t feel bad. There are phrases that get thrown at EVERYBODY when they are shopping for paint or varnish.

Sealer - this is not usually needed for a new boat project. It is designed to keep old finishes from bleeding through new primer and topcoat and changing the color to something that is a hybrid of the old and new color. If you are restoring an old boat or painting an old car that has an old color on it, you would want to seal all that down so that it does not come back and have any sort of negative effect on your new paint.

Primer – this is an important step because the primer promotes adhesion between your epoxy and the paint. The primer is designed to grip (or bite into) whatever it is applied over and then the paint (topcoat) only needs to look good.

Paint – is the topcoat that makes everything look finished. Of course, there is an amazing and bewildering array of manufactures, colors, systems and so forth but overall, paint is the finish color/gloss.

Varnish – As stated in my previous post, varnish provides UV protection and gloss over wood that is to be finished bright. There is no need to apply varnish over paint.

Undercoat – is another name for primer, I think.

Finisher – you got me. I don’t know what that is but I will admit that I’ve heard that word used often.

I hope this helps.
Isn't it amazing!! The person that never has the fortitude to pursue his own dreams, will be the first to try and discourage you from pursuing yours.

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Re: Let's demystify some of these boat finishes

Post by jamundsen » Mon Jan 11, 2016 5:50 pm

A finisher is the poor soul you've conned into doing all the finish work. :lol: :lol:
John Amundsen
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Re: Let's demystify some of these boat finishes

Post by gap998 » Mon Jan 11, 2016 6:02 pm

Terms may be different over there, but in the UK Undercoat & Primer are sometimes different, although there are combination products that do both, and some people will "force" one to do the other, but in automotive "Primer" is the general term.

In summary Primer, as you said, keys the material to accept the subsequent coatings and is usaully a thin translucent coat, undercoat is generally the "build" coating to provide opacity, colour compatibility or texture elimination before final finish and usually reduces the volume of top coat required.
Gary

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Re: Let's demystify some of these boat finishes

Post by weasel » Mon Jan 11, 2016 8:32 pm

I am making the Tunnel Mite wooden boat. I am planning on painting it a metalic red or blue. Providing I can find that type of paint hmmm. I've always liked the ole school metalic colors.

I thought sealer was to protect the wood against water damage before a person starts this road of finishing.

So a quick cap here :shock:
Sand the filler spots, joints, rough spots, screws, nails, etc smooth. Apply the fiberglass then sand smooth, then put on the epoxy coat & sand smooth, then a primer coat & sand smooth, (or does the primer go under the fiberglass) apply your paint, the paint should have a UV protector already in it? Or should one put on the varnish UV protective "shell" to prevent sun damage and scratches etc. Thanks a bunch People! Someday I might be able to help someone out too.

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Dave Grason
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Re: Let's demystify some of these boat finishes

Post by Dave Grason » Tue Jan 12, 2016 1:21 am

Almost.

Sand the filler spots, joints, rough spots etc. No problem there.

Applying the fiberglass is a matter of laying the fiberglass cloth on the hull and then wetting it out with epoxy. You want to completely saturate the cloth with epoxy so, you should read up on this step. Here's a link:

http://www.boatdesigns.com/How-to-Fiber ... fo/12-437/

Then, after you have the cloth and epoxy applied, you can sand that until smooth and then apply the primer.

Any marine or automotive paint will have the UV protection in it. Remember, varnish and paint are never used together.

If you want a metallic red or blue, you should be looking at automotive paint. To apply that, you'll need some spray equipment or know someone who has it and can help.
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Re: Let's demystify some of these boat finishes

Post by kens » Tue Jan 12, 2016 9:13 am

" I thought sealer was to protect the wood against water damage before a person starts this road of finishing. "

In our boatbuilding process, the epoxy encapsulation is really the sealer.
Wood sealer per se, is a household projects term.
Oak is over rated, everything about it takes extra time; then it warps, splits or checks !!! :roll:

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Re: Let's demystify some of these boat finishes

Post by tcough » Tue Jan 12, 2016 9:41 am

Thanks Dave for starting this thread and I'll be following it closely. I'll be painting the bottom of my Flyer in the next couple of months and really have no idea what paint system to use. The only decision seems to be on the color, the only input from the LOML on the project. I'll be glad to offer my thoughts as I follow along and why I choose a particular system over another.

I'm building my Flyer for a few reasons, namely: provide myself with a wood working project; give myself a fishing boat that I don't need to worry about getting bloody/scratched; demonstrate to the LOML that these boats can be built (by me); and last, but most importantly, to prepare for something larger that can be used for a week(s) long trip.

With that said, I'm not afraid to try something new, including painting. Years ago I did paint a Mr John using some exterior latex house paint and it held up for a number of years, actually lasted as long as the boat. I didn't fiberglass the boat, so it had a relatively short life-span, so keep that in mind if you think about using house paint.
Happy Boating,
Tracy

Building a 19'-9" Flats Flyer

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