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Buffing out a boat deck


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I'm thinking of buffing out my Explorer's deck. The obvious thing seems to take off the deck lines and shock cords and have at it with a buffing compound, but I'm wondering if anyone's got any tips or links to pass on. What's a good way to do this? Thanks in advance 

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I refurbished the deck of my 20-year old North Shore Fuego last summer.  I started with the lightest buffing compound, but it didn't go down as deep as I wanted.  I switched to a heavy duty compound - still not enough.  As a last resort, I ended up sanding the deck with 600-grit, then switched back to the heavy duty, then light duty compound.  If your deck is white be careful with colored compounding paste, as it will fill in deep scratches with the color and it will be hard to remove it.  I used an orbital sander (about $30) with a foam pad to apply the compound and a wool pad to buff it off.  The recommended variable speed sander was too expensive (over $200), so I used a cheaper orbital sander and used very little pressure so I wouldn't "burn" the gelcoat.  I was not able to remove all the scratches, but most of the scuff marks were removed (my deck is red, so the deep scratches are still noticeable).  After all the work, the deck looks much better and the red color is back (it had faded a lot).  I also did the white hull, but did not sand that, only used compound.  When all was done, I waxed hull and deck with Meguiar's Flagship Marine Wax. After waxing, I noticed that the scum from some of the waters I paddle in, wipes off the hull easily and does not need scrubbing or chemicals to remove it. Before waxing, the deep scratches would become discolored from scummy water and the only way I could get them clean was with muriatic acid.  You can try buffing by hand it you don't want to use power tools.  It will just take more energy and take longer.  You will not get deep scratches out by sanding and compounding.  If you are trying to bring back a faded gelcoat, buffing and waxing should be all you need (no sanding). Start will the lightest buffing compound, and it that works to your satisfaction, you can finish up with a good wax.

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Here's a tutorial showing how I restored my red Anas Acuta: http://briannystrom.com/?page_id=115

The deck was really rough in some areas, so I had to be quite aggressive with sanding it. This will only work on boats with thick gelcoat, such as VCP and NDK. However, the extra fine sanding (600 grit +) and buffing process will work with most boats. Sanding through to 1500 grit produces a basic level of gloss, which is brought to full depth by buffing with the compounds. It removes very little extra material and the final finish is better than if you try to buff after 400 or 600 grit sanding. It's actually faster too, since you're not trying to remove significant scratches through buffing.

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  • 1 month later...

You can apply a decent amount of pressure with an orbital sander. You don't have to worry about "burning" as you do with rotary sanders. 3M compounds are what we use on motorcycles at the shop. There's 4 steps in professional applications.

1. Heavy compound

2. Swirl remover

3. Polish

4. Wax

Good auto detail shops actually offer a Teflon clearcoat process that lasts 10X longer than wax.

As for the scratches, fill them in with gelcoat before you start compounding. Color matching is another subject, but at least you add strength before you begin subtracting. The old NDK Explorer hull has undergone 7 major repairs and 4 or 5 shades of white gelcoat on the hull. 

Have at it, and good luck.


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