Here are some of the products that I use every year to help maintain my varnished Vertue yacht. By the way, I have no commercial interest in any of these products, I just thought it may be a helpful list for other fellow boat owners..
Number One – Owatrol Oil
This wonder product is sold as both a rust treatment and a paint conditioner. As a rust treatment it has the advantage of penetrating deep into nooks and crannies and converts the rust into a surface ready to paint with primer.
As I don’t have any non ferrous metal on Sumara, I buy Owatrol for its other feature – a paint conditioner. By adding Owatrol to any oil based paint or varnish*, it will retard the drying time and, on the first coat, it will increase the penetration into the timber. The advantage of slowing the drying time of paint or varnish is that it will allow brush marks to fall out and it will help to prevent lapmarks. On large surfaces, such as topsides, especially in difficult conditions like a gentle breeze or direct sunshine, it is particularly helpful.
For the first coat I use a mix of one part of the recommended varnish or paint thinner, two parts Owatrol Oil and three parts varnish. Opinions about the mix for the first coat vary widely, but this works for me. On top coats I add Owatrol only when needed. If the varnish flows out nicely without a conditioner then that’s fine. However if your brush sticks or drags and you are getting lap marks as you progress, then the addition of 5 to 10% of Owatrol Oil will ensure the varnish flows out and you get that wonderful mirror finish.
*one which requires White Spirit to clean the brushes.
Number Two – Festool Vacuum Cleaner
Or to be more precise the Festool CTL SYS Mobile Dust Extractor 240V. Hands up, I am a big Festool fan but there are other makes of sanding equipment such as Mirka which others rave about.
Festool tools are all supplied in a Systainer Case. The boxes all clip together. This vacuum cleaner is the same size as a standard Systainer box so it integrates perfectly with the system. I am a huge fan of using decent extraction systems when sanding. It is good for your health, after all you may as well live so you can go sailing when the hard work is over. It is also good for everybody else’s health like your neighbours in the boat yard, and it is also good for the quality of the work and the longevity of the abrasives that you are using.
I do have a stonking big Festool vacuum cleaner too, but try carrying that up a ladder into the cockpit and you will quickly realise the benefits of a compact unit like this. Just plug the cleaner into the 240 v mains and then you can plug your sander into the cleaner. The cleaner starts when you start sanding and finishes, cleverly, a few seconds afterwards to clean out the hoses.
Not cheap but worth every penny.
Number Three – Isopropyl Alcohol
This is sometimes called Rubbing Alcohol or IPA, but don’t muddle it up with the IPA you get down the pub, that won’t work!
Whatever you call it, it is my go-to cleaning solution for removing the last traces* of dust from the substrate prior to the application of the fresh varnish or paint. After vacuuming, some people wipe down their surfaces with White Spirits, but Isopropyl flashes off much more quickly and so avoids the risk of solvent entrapment. Isopropyl Alcohol also mixes with any traces of moisture that may be present and helps drive it out. However, IPA isn’t so good to remove stubborn grease or oil from paint in the bilges. In this situation White Spirits may be preferable, or better still, Awlgrip T0340 Cleaner. Be warned, if you do decide to wipe down bare timber with White Spirits, ensure you allow ample time for it to fully evaporate. That could take a day or two, whereas IPA evaporates almost immediately. If any White Spirit is left in the timber the first coat of paint or varnish will not properly bond.
If you need some IPA for small jobs, the spray version from Ambersil may be more convenient.
*I remove the very final traces of dust with a gentle wipe with a Tack Rag.
Number Four – Brantho Kurox 3 in 1 Paint
Brantho Kurrox 3 in 1 paint is a primer, undercoat and topcoat all in one. I use it for touching up dings to engine paint and chips to the enamel on my Baby Blake and Aerogen. As the paint is recommended for painting road gritters I reckon it must be a good tough choice for my little repair jobs. By the way, if your engine is a red Beta then the colour you need is RAL3002.
Here is a cut and paste from their website:
“For more than 10 years Brantho-Korrux ‘3 in 1’ and other Branth’s Special Coatings have been applied to protect and identify navigational buoys, lighthouses, beacons, ocean data collection buoys and many other marine structures.
For example road-gritters, sea containers, high tension towers, lorry chassis’s, building equipment,
bridges, cranes, vessels, boats, cladding (both coated
or bare), railway stations, platform structures, fences,
gates, production halls, pipelines, storage tanks,
gutters, cooling equipment, and many other objects.”
Pretty amazing stuff!
Number Five – A brush Spinner
I think these gizmos are the bees knees for cleaning brushes (and rollers). I use two rinses of white spirit, then brush cleaner and finally soapy water. I spin the brush between each process. It leaves the brush almost totally dry. I then wrap them in some old paper and secure with masking tape. The brushes are always ready for the next task and never shed dried paint dust into the work. The spinner saves on solvents too. If you buy one and it doesn’t spin very easily, smear the spiral with some lanolin and it will whizz away.
Here is a video of it in action
Sadly my dog doesn’t like it, but you can’t win them all.
Number Six – Hammerite Special Metals Primer
I was sceptical about this product. I am not a fan of the normal Hammerite paints so why should a water-based product work, especially as I was going to try it on my propellor?
A couple of years ago I painted my prop with an expensive special underwater two-part epoxy paint and it totally failed after just a few months. It just flaked off. So I had little to lose by trying out this water based product that people have been raving about. It was a complete success, at the end of the season, despite all the antifouling wearing off, the Hammerite Special Metals Primer remained completely intact. I was gobsmacked!
…and, as a bonus, you just wash your brushes in water!
Number Seven – Puggy Gloves
I rarely wear gloves and when I do I generally find them horribly restrictive. However, these PU Coated Puggy Gloves (other makes available) are cheap and very comfortable. I now always use them for hand sanding. Before discovering these gloves, I would just use my bare hands but eventually you will find your fingertips start bleeding! These gloves protect your fingers from abrasion and also increase your grip on the sand paper so those really awkward fiddly corners can be properly prepared. After a few hours of hard graft the gloves will begin to wear through, but they can be relegated for other uses.
Number Eight – A Hop-Up and a Piece of Old Carpet
OK, that’s two things but they fulfill one purpose. They say:
“The quality of the work is directly proportional to the comfort of the worker”
So the Hop Up is a nice little seat that you can sit on to have your coffee, you can stand on it to avoid stretching up, or put your paint pots on it to avoid reaching down to the ground every time to load your brush. It is so versatile and it just folds up to fit in the boot of a car.
Whilst on the subject of comfort, some scraps of carpet come in use too. Lying down on your back on cold concrete or gravel, is not my idea of comfort. However, lying on a nice double layer of carpet is quite a different thing. You just need to be careful you don’t dose off while scraping off those barnacles.
A little carpet square at the base of your ladder will help avoid trapsing grit up onto the boat. Another square at the top will provide a final boot clean.
Number Nine – Tesa Yellow Masking Tape
Well they call it – Professional 4334 Precision Mask – but we all call it Yellow Masking Tape.
There is something really weird about this Tesa Yellow Masking Tape. It is really weirdly good. It has just enough tack to mask awkward fiddly fittings but not too much tack that would make it hard to remove. It can be left in place for months and it still comes off clean. They seem to have combined the ideal tensile strength to match the adhesion. Because the tape is low stretch it is also perfect for long straight lines, for instance two tone applications. Nice crisp edges too.
I have always used 25 mm wide tape but I have just noticed the image that I nicked from someones website is 30 mm wide. Now I realise there are lots of different widths – oh what fun!
Number Ten – Artificial Bristle Brushes
I ditched using my real bristle brushes many years ago. My go-to brushes nowadays are the Purdy Pro Extra Monarchs. Sometimes artificial bristle brushes are a little too soft to manipulate heavy varnish but this brush has just the right stiffness. I am sure there are other makes which are equally as good but my Purdy brushes are well over ten years old and still look as good as new. I can’t remember any hairs coming out, the bristles hold their shape, the ferrules don’t rust and varnish doesn’t flake off the handles – because they aren’t varnished (why do they varnish brush handles?). One of the biggest advantages of artificial bristle brushes is that they clean more easily. Real bristle always seems to hold some paint residue which then forms microscopic dust particles in the varnish. These brushes clean up quickly, especially in a brush spinner!
A 3″ brush is about £30.00 so they are not cheap but I feel so sorry for those people tricked into buying the utter dross on sale by the tills in some of the big sheds. They don’t stand a chance of getting even a half reasonable result.
I could go on but I think ten is enough for now. Enjoy your fitting out.