Nothing smartens up a boat like a fresh coat of paint but to get the ultimate finish it takes several things in equal measure, materials, patience and preparation. It has been said many times in the past but it is worth repeating here and that is to get the best results you have to do the correct amount of prep work. Because painting is one of the last things to be done in a boat building or boat restoration project it is tempting to just slap on a few coats of paint and hope for the best but time taken in sanding, filling and fairing will pay big dividends in terms of the look of the finished project and the ultimate durability of the completed boat.
Probably the best finish that it is possible to get is with the aid of a spray gun but this is often outside the scope of the amateur, requiring specialized application and safety equipment. Not far behind that is the finish that can be achieved with the roll and tip method and the one that I personally have had excellent results with. When undertaken with care many casual observers cannot distinguish this from a spay finish.
The photographs shown in the this feature show me painting the dinghy shown in an earlier posting but the basic principles are the same whatever boat you are painting you will just need more paint. All the major manufacturers have excellent websites with a ton of technical information and many also offer phone support and offer guidance in helping you chose the correct products. Incidentally I am using the Interlux products in this guide, I am familiar with their paint having used it for many years but any of the other major marine paint suppliers’ products are equally good.
Collect together all the materials that you need which for the dinghy consisted of
6 inch foam rollers and disposable paint trays
A couple of the best quality paint brushes on two inch and one 4 inch, badger hair is the ultimate and will last many years if treated well, do not use cheap brushes they will spoil the finish and bustles that fall out will get you mad.
Blue painter’s masking tape
120 and 240 grit abrasive paper along with a couple of the 3M 100 grit sanding sponges
Plastic mixing tubs
Disposable paint strainers
The following all from Interlux but other manufacturers have similar products
Perfection paint, amount will depend on surface area, I used Fighting Lady Yellow
Solvent wash 216
Epoxy barrier coat
Before you can apply any paint the whole boat needs to be totally smooth and the only way to do that is to get to know your sandpaper. Use a 120 grit to start then switch to 240 grit for a super smooth finish. I use a variety of electric sanders but you will still need to sand into all the corners by hand.
Mix up a batch of unthickened epoxy and roller on a coat to cover the entire surface, use a cheap brush to work epoxy into any corners that you cannot reach with the roller but be careful not to get any runs or you will have to sand these off later.
Ideally leave the surface epoxy to cure for a week before beginning the prep work proper for the paint. Sand the surface with one of the 3M sanding sponges used wet, which prevents clogging and washes off any amine blush that may have formed on the surface.
Mask off any areas that you do not want to paint with blue painters tape. Don’t try to save a buck or two by using the cheaper white tape. If left for longer than a few hours it leaves behind a sticky residue and after a day or more is often impossible to remove completely. Wipe down the boat with the solvent wash using clean rags.
Mix up the Interfill on a one to one basis and use a plastic spreader to spread a very thin layer over the boat filling all small indentation, cracks and holes. Do not leave any lumps behind, as you will have extra sanding later.
A random orbit sander is too aggressive for the sanding the surface filler so I like to use a quarter sheet orbital sander. If you don’t have one of these consider getting yourself one but if you are really on a budget or have lots of time then a piece of abrasive paper wrapped around a cork block works just as well only more slowly.
Have a good clean up with the vacuum cleaner to rid the work area of all dust damping down the floor around the boat with a sprayer. Mix up the primer in accordance with the instructions on the side of the can. Stir thoroughly then allow it to sit or ‘induct’ for 20 minutes.
Paint is best applied using the roll and tip method. Rope in a helper if you can; he or she rolls on the paint and you follow on immediately behind lightly dragging a dry paint brush over the surface to relax the orange peel effect left by the roller and smooth the surface. Do not introduce any extra paint onto the surface with the brush.
Leave the primer to harden for a couple of days then sand lightly with 240-grit paper. Dust off the surface mix up the topcoat and apply using the roller and tip method. You will need several coats so don’t put on the paint too thickly, I am sure that you have heard this before but 3 thin coats are better than one thick one. Incidentally I have found that with Perfection you do need 3 coats to cover the undercoat properly. Allow each coat to dry overnight then sand lightly with 240 grit before painting on the subsequent coat.
The finished result, which is both hard and durable with a deep rich luxurious gloss. When properly applied the boat should have a high gloss wet look. Sit back and wait for the comments of admiration on a job well done.