Tips and Advice

This was the first time I’d done a project of this scale, and I wrote this project log primarily to document my own work and experience. I am not a professional painter by any means. However, as a first-time DIY painter I learned several important lessons over the course of this project that hopefully may be helpful to others. So here they are.

High-grade tools and materials pay for themselves. In particular, a high-end multimode power sander like the Festool RO-150 will easily pay for itself in time saved and reduced physical stress. Same for the Flexisander, sanding discs, and Abranet. Time is money, even for DIY jobs.

Change sanding discs and abrasives often. As Sonny told me, there’s a false economy when it comes to sandpaper. The frugal instinct in me wanted to get every last bit of utility out of each sanding disc and roll, especially the expensive stuff. The paper/mesh usually feels like it has plenty of life in it. But what you gain in frugality you quickly lose in sanding efficiency. If it feels like you’re working too hard or too slow, you probably are. I found that changing sanding discs and Abranet every 10-15 minutes was about right.

Practice makes perfect. This is true for lots of products including paints, epoxies, varnishes, brushes, rollers etc. I try to avoid using a new product or an untested technique for the first time on my boat. Use scrap wood or make test panels to test finishes and practice application techniques. You will learn to anticipate pitfalls, avoid mistakes, build confidence and save time. Murphy’s Law may be true, but it can also be mitigated. You will also get a sense of how much sanding and wipe down is “good enough” and how much is overkill.

Extra coats are a cheap investment with large benefits. According to the application guide Alexseal does not require sanding in between coats so long as you recoat within 24 hours. This is a big advantage over other products as it lets you apply multiple coats in day. Two coats of primer (or topcoat) may be fine, but three or even four take just a few hours longer, and will give you more to work with during subsequent sanding and repairs (i.e. reduce the likelihood that you will sand through the paint and have to recoat). You will likely end up with extra paint anyway so you might as well put it on your boat.

Take your time painting. I tended to be slow and methodical at the start of each coat of paint or primer. But as I got the hang of it and gained confidence I would speed up, roll the paint out faster, and try to cover larger areas with each load of the roller. Be aware of this tendency and try to avoid it as it will increase the likelihood of missing spots or getting thin coverage. Go slow and be conservative in how much area you try to cover with each load of the roller. Step back after each load and inspect your work from several angles to make sure you didn’t just miss any spots.

Take note of your blind spots. If you’re an inexperienced painter as I am, your painting technique will probably be inconsistent to some degree. The first couple of coats will be instructive in terms of areas you tend to miss. Take a few minutes between coats to examine your work, look for areas where your coverage was too thick, too thin or missing entirely, and see if there are any patterns. In my case I tended to miss more frequently when I was painting above my head near the deck-hull join as well as the tip of the bow. You should not try to touch up these spots! But knowing where you tend to make mistakes will teach you where to be especially careful with subsequent coats.

Use reading glasses if you wear them. Your eyes will be at approximately the same distance from the paint as a book or magazine would be, and you’ll need them to work at about the same level of detail.

Trust the paint. I stressed out during smooth sanding, especially before the final coat, because the guide coat left enough residual color that I wasn’t sure if I had sufficiently sanded it even though it felt smooth to the touch. At least for me, if it felt smooth enough, it was smooth enough. I reached a similar point of negative returns after about the fourth round of wipe down where I wasn’t sure if the surface was “clean enough.” Trust the quality of the paint. When you first roll it on it may look rippled or textured, but it will soon smooth out (and smooth out more overnight) and you’ll wonder what you were so worried about.

Bring lots of wipe down solvent and towels. You’ll go through a lot of both. I used the paper painter’s towels that come in a box and went through three to four boxes. Buy more than you think you need; both the towels and the solvent can be used for any number of other uses if you end up with surplus.