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Old 09-01-2007, 15:33   #1
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Tips For A Great Buff / Wax (Long)

Hi All,

Even though I just joined these forums I thought I'd pass on my secrets for keeping my hull looking like new without the use of "miracle coatings" other than regular "real carnuba" waxes.

You'll need a few items first. A good Buffer not one of the cheapies. I use a Makita model 9227C with a thumb dial for speed control and the difference between it and my old Craftsman is like night and day! Second you will need two or three grades of the 3M wool superbuff pads. A heavy (left side of pic) for compounding, a medium (middle pad) for the polishing stage and a fine (the yellow looking pad) for the glazing stage. I sometimes use a 3M professional grade foam pad for the polish/glaze stage as well. It's very important to match the aggressiveness of the pad to the phase of the buffing. Very important!!



Contrary to popular belief there is no such thing as a one step solution for wet sanding/buffing/compounding, polishing and waxing a fiberglass hull. The saying "you get what you pay for" is true and a $10.00 bottle of "one step" cleaner wax does not cut it if you want your boat looking Bristol condition like it jsut rolled out of the Hinckley barn. Unless you're pinched by time and are satisfied with a half baked job, and most boat owners will be, you can stop reading here.....

To do it right you must first remove all the oxidation either by wet sanding, starting with 400 or 600 grit and working up to 1200 or 1500. Wet sanding should always be done by hand unless you're a seasoned body shop professional. If the oxidation is minimal a good heavy duty rubbing compound, such as 3M heavy duty, and a compounding grade wool pad as seen in the picture above can be the starting point. After the compounding phase is complete you move to a lighter weight wool pad and a true polish, not a compound or a wax but a polish like 3M's Finesse It. The polising phase is perhaps the most important because it gives that deep wet look to the hull even before you wax it. Skipping the polishing phase & using a compound only will leave very small, barely visible, scratches in the gel coat that will absorb more UV light, due to more exposed surface area, and thus oxidize the hull more rapidly. This is why you must polish the hull as the second phase or third phase depending on your level of oxidation. So phase 1 is wet sand (if needed), phase 2 compound, phase three polish.

Contrary to popular beleif you should not be dependant on the wax for the shine of your hull. The wax is a protectant only and a final sealer. Unfortunately most people actually skip the polishing step thinking compounding is polishing. It's NOT! Once my hull is polished I do a fourth phase called glazing step & then two coats about three days apart of Colinite Fleet Wax. Wax takes a while to fully harden and this is why I do it two days apart. Most often one coat will sufice but for a really long lasting finish two coats is best ( I do three at the waterline).

The glazing step would be considered over kill by many but this is the step where you literally make the hull surface like glass by using products like Meguiars #9 Swirl Remover or #7 Show Car Glaze. I find Meguiars "professional line" in the tan bottles far better than their marine line in the blue bottles. Just because something says marine it may just be an over priced cheap automotive product in a marine bottle. If you were to rate products on a scale of grit wet sanding would be a 10 or most aggressive, compounding with a heavy duty compound would be a 7, Finesse It a 4.5-5, #9 or Show Car Glaze a 2-3 & wax a Zero. So you can see why you can't just jump from Finesse It to a wax or compound to a wax. It still has a lot of grit in it and will leave swirl marks to absorb UV rays.

Don't be fooled by the "easy application liquid waxes" I've yet to find one that lasts and I've tried them all! Trust me I did this for a living when I was younger and no one wants to wax a mega yacht every three months! I used to detail "shiny boats" (mega yachts) and found Colinite to be the longest lasting and hardest of the Carnuba's. One way to test if your wax will pass the test of time is to watch your waterline. If it becomes yellow the wax is dead & gone! With Colinite I can get 8 full months without any yellowing at the waterline. No other wax has even come close except for a product called Tre-Wax.

When buffing/waxing a boat, out of the water, a good trick is to cover the bottom paint with at least 2" blue tape so you don't "buff and wax the paint". It's important to tape neatly so you get wax as close to the bottom paint as you can without actually getting it on the paint. I usually do a 3/4 inch width tape followed by a 2 inch width giving me plenty of tape to save my buffing pads. Fouling of your aplication pad with bottom paint is the end of that pad until you can wash it in a commercial washing machine! Don't do it! To keep "sling", what happens when you use a rotary buffer, and it throws white dots of compound up onto your deck, off the decks, I bring old card board boxes to the boat yard. Lay them on the deck directly above the area you're working protruding about 12" over the edge of the deck and the cardboard will catch any "sling" on the way up.

Buffing & waxing a boat the right way takes time and is a committment. I plan on about 22 hours each spring and I'm only doing a three step polish/glaze/wax at this point (glaze is an ultrafine polish like Meguire's #9 or Show Car Glaze). Once you get caught up it's only a two or three step but the first season may take 40+ hours if your hull is heavily oxidized. I know most sailors will never spend the time but it pays off big time.

After selling five boats the longest time on the market was three weeks! The last boat I sold was a Catalina 36. It sold in three weeks at the highest price for its vintage on Yachtworld!

OK Some more tips.

Tips for keeping it clean:

1) With two coats of a paste Carnuba on the hull I only wash the boat with IMAR boat wash. This stuff is great and it's safe for washing Strataglass dodger windows. The reason I use it is because it's the only product I've found that cleans but does not break down the wax. I'm still beading after 7 months. Do NOT use a soap with a built in wax or one that's a heavy detergent. You can order IMAR products from Defender or directly from the IMAR web site although Defender is cheaper. Using this and a very soft car wash brush on a stick works well and does not ruin your wax.

Tips for "yellow" looking hulls:

2) Before waxing/buffing: If your hull is old and dirty buy a cheap rain suit, duck tape, rubber gloves and some ON/OFF (basically acid). Duck tape around your wrists so you don't get acid on you while reaching over head to wash the boat. Wait until a nice rainy day and wash the entire hull with ON/OFF. Buy a roll of plastic and rip it with a razor knife into 12 inch wide lengths. Tape this to the water line with 3M green tape (seems to work) at the top but let it hang on the bottom as a drip edge skirt. You do this so the ON/OFF does not eat the copper bottom paint and can drip on the ground vs. the bottom. Wash and rinse quickly a small area at a time and do this perferably before you before you bottom paint just in case. On/Off is basically FSR without the gel. However you can wash much faster with ON/OFF than you can with FSR. The ON/OFF will bring back the white of the hull by removing the metals or tannins (that rusty orange discoloration you get) that attach to the gel coat from the ocean. Maine has lots of metals in the water and ON/OFF is an acid that will eat it. You'll be amazed at the difference in the color of your hull. This is a good palce to start before waxing if your boat is older than a few years. Be carefull not to get On/Off or FSR on aluminum rub rails, cleats etc. because it will pit them. You could also use FSR but it will take a full day to do it right vs. 1/2 hour for the skirt set up and 1/2 hour washing..

Tips for applying the wax:

3) Do I apply the wax by hand? Yes! DO NOT appy or remove the wax phase with the buffer! I use the 4 inch round MegGuire's foam applicators you can buy at an auto parts store and a spray/mist bottle of water, like you use for ironing. The spray bottle is the secret trick for applying a true carnuba wax. Simply mist the hull and liberlally apply the wax. Wait for it to dry and buff by hand with a Micro Fiber rag. Do not use terry cloth! Once you use a Micro Fiber detailing cloth for waxing you'll wonder how you ever survived without one! The spray of water some how helps it attach and buff out to a harder, shinier easier to wipe off finish. It's sort of like when you get your shoes polished and the guy hits them with a mist bottle and then buffs the shine up. I don't think this trick works with the polymer/carnuba blends like the 3M paste but it's like gold with the Colinite carnuba as well as Tre-Wax. Another trick is not to wax a large area! Do a three foot wide swath from toe rail to waterline marking where your are waxing at the toe rail with a piece of blue tape. Also leave a little residue on the leading edge so you'll know exactly where to start. You'll wipe this leading edge when finished with the next swath leaving another leading edge to go off of.

I have tried using my buffer to remove the wax but I the friction heat is bad for it and it does not shine as well or l;ast as long. Buffing it off by hand gives it a harder shell because it's cooler and does not re-melt the curing wax. Have plenty of fresh Micro Fiber rags for the wipe off! On my 31 footer I use only four Micro's where it used to take about a dozen terry cloth rags. I buy my Micro Fiber rags at Sam's Club or Wal*Mart. Try and find the best quality Micro*Fiber you can it WILL make a difference. Sometimes the quality of the Sam's Club Micro's is poor so I go to Wally World. You want the ones that sell individually or three to a pack not the 12 to a pack rags as the quality is bad on the big multi packs! I think you get 3 for between 6 to 8 dollars.Most all auto parts stores also sell Micro Fiber detailing rags!

Tips for decks:

4) I buff the smooth and the non skid. I use Colinite there as well and it does not seem to make my decks slipery like a teflon or polymer wax does. You could also tape off the non skid and buff the white only letting the non skid flatten out. I did this on one boat and it looked great!

I hope this info helps and is usefull to some. If you do it be prepared to commit the time and increase the value of your boat as well!!!! Trust me it pays back. I've never sold any boat I've owned for less than I paid for it including the fact that I pay a 10% commission...

The picture does not do it justice but look at the reflection in the gelcoat and the detail in the reflection. Less distortion in the reflection shows a very good polish/glaze with virtually no swirl marks...

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Old 09-01-2007, 16:57   #2
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Acoustic:

Being a former megayacht employee, I was very critical of your process for obtaining shine. In fact, if you were going to suggest using any wax other than Collinite, I was going to pop in and say, "His wax stinks... use Collinite."

The process you outline is great. I really like the fact that you drove home the all important point:

Often at marinas people have asked me how I was able to restore a "like new" shine on 20 year old gel coat. They are always looking for the "secret" or the product. Other than Collinite (which also makes a great oxidation removal product also), there isn't a secret. I tell them
the only way is spending a week or more working very hard. They never like that answer and always want the "easy way." There is NO easy way to do this properly.

While Acoustic's process seems long and difficult, it will keep your boat looking its best for years to come. It also makes cleanings in between waxings a snap. In the long run, you save more time and have a better looking boat.

As a footnote, Collinite Fleetwax is to be buffed off while still wet. Don't let it dry or it won't be as shiny. I do just a tad worse job than Acoustic. I use my buffer to do the last step of Collinite, then go over it again immediately by hand to get the last bits and funk/dust left after using the buffer. It helps you work faster and achieves what I consider to be the same amount of shine.

My 2 cents.
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Old 09-01-2007, 17:22   #3
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In the past, I too have done the rubbing compound, finesse it & wax routine, with very good results. I have posted more than once here my routine for dealing with teak .. west system & epifanes. My new (30 year old) boat has completely oxidized gel coat & failing varnish......................... think I'll strip the old varnish & let it go silver ... the oxidized gel coat is just fine ..... life is too short!
Bob
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Old 09-01-2007, 17:29   #4
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Shawn you really should try...

The micro fiber rags they are simply amazing and far easier to use than a machine buffer. The wax just magically sticks to the micro fiber and it leaves a beautiful shine. The problem with using rotary buffer to remove the wax is that the heat created by the buffers speed re-melts the wax and it transfers to the buffer pad leaving a very thin protection layer. Using microfiber by hand keeps the surface cool and does not re-melt the curing wax.

You are right on the money when saying not to let the wax dry completely before removing the residue. I let it haze over then remove it...
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Old 09-01-2007, 17:31   #5
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Yes but all I have for maintenance...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Wahoo Sails
In the past, I too have done the rubbing compound, finesse it & wax routine, with very good results. I have posted more than once here my routine for dealing with teak .. west system & epifanes. My new (30 year old) boat has completely oxidized gel coat & failing varnish......................... think I'll strip the old varnish & let it go silver ... the oxidized gel coat is just fine ..... life is too short!
Bob



Is my hull and deck so I don't mind the 20 hours once a year. My boat has no exterior teak because I agree life is to short...
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Old 09-01-2007, 17:45   #6
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I have told this story on the forum before, but I believe it's worth repeating. With my first boat "Eva Luna" I was determined to make her one fine little yacht, I spared no attention to detail, and feared no finanicial investment ... in short, this boat was gonna shine. At the same time I knew a Capt'n Gordon, who had an Islander with no varnish and oxidized gel coat, he kept telling me "Bob ... it's just a boat". I figured he just didn't understand .. I mean, look at his boat? He doesn't understand or appreciate the importance of making an old boat into a fine little yacht. Slooooowly it dawned on me. Gordon's boat had come from Alaska, been to Mexico, Cuba & all through out the Bahamas .... when I finally sold Eva Luna .. she had not left the Marina.
Night Wind is scheduled to head to the Abacos in April. There simply won't be the 20 hours available ... and she's a fine little yacht just as she is. To those that can and do make your boat's shine & twinkle, I say kudos .... as for me? Gordon? I finally understand.
Bob
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Old 09-01-2007, 17:54   #7
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I agree with both points. It would be better to hand-buff, but at 45' and 13'8" beam, that is my one shortcut. I think I'll try your method of pure hand buffing next year though. Why not? I'll see if it lasts any longer.

Also, Bob makes a good point as well. A balance between maintenance and having the time to take her out for a spin is an important component.

Good thread.
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Old 09-01-2007, 18:12   #8
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No one quite appreciates the amount of time and effort that goes into keeping a boat looking like a million bucks, especially the idiot who bangs into the side, or scrapes the back steps with the dinghy.

But hey, they do look great when done right, but we'll save that sort of treatment for when we respray and put her up for sale.

This time i'll be going for a 70% finish on the paint as like Cap'n Gordon and Bob, i'll be using her and possibly abusing her at times, and in reallity she'll probably cop a scrape getting her to the water, and a lot of the local's in PNG and Asia have no respect for a shiny paint job.

Neither do the water nazi's in QLD.

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Old 10-01-2007, 07:44   #9
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Wahoo Sails,

I tend to agree with you. We cleaned and waxed the boat and painted the bottom while it was on the hard this fall. We were only in the work yard less than a week and there were a few other chores. My waxing was not the best but one week later it was all covered with salt. The topsides will not get a proper cleaning for the next six months . I might clean some rust marks off (it's amazing the rust that can come from stainless fittings) with oxalic acid and a bit of fresh water and that'll be the extent of it. If it rains the decks will get a good fresh water rinse. It's a boat and I'm out cruising.
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Old 10-01-2007, 10:13   #10
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Sean, you've just got to think outside of the box. You may have seen ads on TV or direct mail for all kinds of trade schools? Be a graphic artist, computer tech, a/c tech, etc. and change your life?

A lot of those trade schools are really federal grant machines. They get the students a federal student loan to pay the tuition, then the rest doesn't matter....they've collected their money whether the students learn anything and get placed in jobs, or not. Every once in a while you read about prosecutions from that racket. Which is not to say there aren't legitimate trade schools, just that there is a racket.

So...With 90 linear feet of hull, You can probably handle 18 students per session. That's right, you too can learn the promising new career of Marine Hull Maintenance! Learn how to wash, how to wax, how to apply and remove bottom paint and make that hull shine! Class size is limited and federal student loans are available for your tuition. Best of all, you get this 80-piece washing, waxing, compounding, rubbing and buffing kit including three power tools, buckets, and sponge all yours to keep upon graduation!

See, if you do it the right way? You can probably net ten or twelve grand every time you get your hull waxed. Limited franchise opportunities available in your area, now.<G>

"Wax on, wax off."
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Old 10-01-2007, 10:35   #11
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Hellosailor - THAT is a classic! The scary part? I think it would work!
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Old 10-01-2007, 14:58   #12
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I'm in do....

I'm in do we need any Venture Capital to get this school going??? Professor of buffing sounds like a lofty title....
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Old 11-01-2007, 15:29   #13
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Okay, now I'm depressed! I was looking for the easy way out!

I own a fiberglass hull that is 5 years old. It is not badly oxidized, in fact, it is in very good shape. Is there anything I can do to keep it in relatively good looking condition without the procedure detailed above? I know I won't have a mirror finish. But truth be known, I am pretty lazy and would rather cruise than spend the week in port polishing.

Any suggestions for me?
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Old 11-01-2007, 15:37   #14
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If you just want to keep it as good as it is...just clean it and wax it. There's no need to compound and polish (both taking off some gelcoat with abrasives) just clean it and apply new wax to keep it protected.
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Old 30-04-2008, 06:16   #15
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Best looking boat in the marina

"Gordon's boat had come from Alaska, been to Mexico, Cuba & all through out the Bahamas .... when I finally sold Eva Luna .. she had not left the Marina."


I searched this thread to find what wax would give the best protection. I have had several boat owners tell me that I have "the best looking boat in the marina". I read the above thread and realized " it's always in the marina"!!!
Thanks for the wake-up call guys.
I think I will go sailing this weekend and keep the buffer in the dock box. See you on the Bay.

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