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How Do You Buff and Polish a Painted W/C Canoe?

Glenn MacGrady

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After I bought my Rollin Thurlow reproduction Morris canoe, I had an email exchange with him about its history. Rollin ended one email by saying, "You can buff and polish the hull just like on a car. The old paint should shine up quite nice."

I never asked him what product he would recommend to buff, polish and shine up the paint, maybe because I didn't want to confess that I haven't buffed or polished a car in 50 years. I now confess.

What product(s) would you w/c canoe owners, or you car polishing experts, recommend? I would like to polish and buff up the paint, which is Epifanes yacht enamel.

Morris Burr Pond.jpg
 
Don't use any wax or anything with silicone in it. It could cause trouble down the line if you ever want to paint it.
 
I would do this by hand (no buffer) if you don’t have experience. It is easy to burn the paint and put swirls in it without the correct equipment/technique. I would not use a marine wax. They are made for gel coats and can be abrasive. Carnauba wax and a simple paste wax would be a good choice in my opinion. I have had good results with Meguiar products.

I know you use a trailer, but the hull will be more slick to handle when wet.

Bob
 
Don't use any wax or anything with silicone in it. It could cause trouble down the line if you ever want to paint it.

I already need to paint it. The paint doesn't react to rocks like my fiberglass covered Old Towns, which just scratch like a composite canoe. The paint is flaking off down to the filled canvas, and I'm already considering duct tape or painting touch-up next spring. So, if I paint, I won't wax first. No silicone, thanks.

I would do this by hand (no buffer) if you don’t have experience.

I have nothing to buff with other than my hands. No power buffer of any kind, so this encourages me not to spend cheap Scot's money to buy one. Maybe I could just put the canoe on top of my car and take it through the car wash. That could make an interesting video.

I would not use a marine wax. They are made for gel coats and can be abrasive.

I would not have thought of that, and would probably have thought the exact opposite. Thanks, Bob.
 
The paint is flaking off down to the filled canvas

This sounds like you need a new coat of paint. A small scratch or oxidization can easily be removed with any good polishing material available from most marine suppliers. The picture below shows the one I have been using recently. Good luck,

Benson



IMG_5019.jpg
 
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Bummer about the paint job Glenn, I wouldn't have expected it. I had that happen on my 80+ year old OT Guide. It happened after I sanded and repainted it for some reason. I'm sure that canvas was on there for a long time as it had been painted two different colors in the past and needs new canvas I think.

Benson, how can Glenn be sure that the new paint won't pop off if it's applied over the old paint?
 
how can Glenn be sure that the new paint won't pop off if it's applied over the old paint?

Any addition of new paint always runs a risk of not bonding well with the old paint. Flaking issues between the old paint and filler usually require replacing the canvas. This is one reason why most of us simply ignore finish issues as long as possible.

Benson
 
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The paint is flaking off down to the filled canvas

This sounds like you need a new coat of paint.

Flaking issues between the old paint and filler usually require replacing the canvas.

I didn't mean to imply that my paint is just randomly flaking off. It's that where I hit and scraped across an underwater rock, the impact and abrasion didn't just scratch/gouge a line through the paint, as it would on fiberglass or carbon, but some of the paint flaked off along the margins of the scratch/gouge, exposing a couple of small patches of filler. I've had gel coat on a composite canoe suffer similar damage from impacts—scratching plus some flaking.

I don't have any experience painting filled canvas, but I have a hard time believing the canvas could be bad. The boat is only 15 years old, has been stored in a custom Bag Lady canoe cover inside a building for its entire life, and, as far as I can judge, had never been paddled or only very lightly paddled before I bought it in August. I managed to scratch the bottom somewhat, even using great care, in the first eight day trips, most of which are purely light cosmetic scratches.

I'd take a picture of what I call the flaking, but the canoe is bundled up in its cover in the garage for the winter.

My plan is probably just to use some brown tape over the small flaked area for next season and then try touching up any damaged areas at the end of the season with matching Epifanes paint, which is quite expensive. Meanwhile, I'll also try shining up the paint next spring, too.
 
The bonds between gelcoat, resin, and fiberglass cloth or vinyl, ABS substrate, and foam core in modern plastic canoes are relatively strong when compared to the weaker bonds which often exist between paint, filler, and canvas in traditional canoes. These bonding issues can become obvious as the inevitable scrapes and abrasions of normal use build up over time.

Adhesive tape can be a good temporary solution in an emergency but should be avoided when possible. The residual tape and gum can introduce a whole new assortment of bonding issues.

Additional coats of paint are usually the best solution but it can also be a challenge to get new paint to bond well with old paint and filler. Many working canoes have shellac on the bottom because adding a new coat of shellac can be quicker and easier than whole new coat of paint. There are few perfect solutions,

Benson
 
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Glenn – I will throw in my 2 cents, with inflation and the fact I have never worked on a wooden boat, it might not be worth anything to you.

Again, first off I have Never worked on or owned a wooden canoe. But I have polished miles worth of glass boats; Amazing how you can bring resins back to a factory showroom look and probably another subconscious reason I have never owned a wooden canoe. But why I chime in here is I have been working with wood for over 20 years and have also polished my share. Most recently I have been making (large 4/quarter) Slab tables. Now I have coated these tables with just about everything from polyurethane, lacquer, paint’s, and epoxy pour, even wrapped one in 6-ounce woven cloth for a large outdoor table.

The one Polish I have come to love on all things coating wood is Meguiar’s polish.

As for application – Polishing something by hand is painful. By hand about halfway thru you will ask yourself why and start telling yourself how you really didn’t mind those scratches. Who needs a shiny boat? After all that labor, you might find yourself wet footing it up to your thighs, hoping not to get another scratch lol. All the boats and wood I have polished are with a buffer. Using a buffer is the way to go if you want to get the potential out of any polish. Granted you can do a pretty good job by hand and it will look great. But you can’t beat the speed and look of using a buffer. (I’ve even gone over freshly hand-polished things with a dry buffer pad to get remarkable results)

Sooooo, using the buffer…… The first problem with a buffer is finding one! 99% of all buffers on the market are buffers for automobiles. The problem with automobile buffers is they are too fast (to many RPMs) which causes heat. You need a variable speed-controlled buffer that you can turn the speed way down. Most buffers on the market boast about how many RPMs they can do 2500 3500… and the ones that are variable speed, don’t have settings that can go low (slow) enough to be used on anything other than metal. For some reason all these companies that make buffers only think about buffing cars and metal. So finding a buffer that goes slow enough to not build up any heat is kind of a challenge. You want the pad to spin slightly faster than you could move it by hand until you get the hang of it. (Worked for a boat yard that used variable speed angle grinders that went slow enough.) For a pad, you want thick wooly pads. They can be microfiber or whatever you choose, just not the thin pads – again due to heat. Granted the thick pads are a pain to clean out but they will transfer any heat buildup. Try to work in cool/shady conditions, working in sections and feeling the surface behind the pad as you go. No downward pressure on the pad. And be prepared to get messy.

Buffing won't do anything for your chips of paint, but if you want to clean up the scratches and have her shine like no tomorrow – Meguiar’s is the stuff. Puts a mirror/glass shine on all my tables.


20221215_163337.jpg
 
I may have given the wrong impression of the state of the paint my canoe's bottom and what I want to do. The bottom paint is still quite pristine with just a few cosmetic scuffs and shallow scratches on the paint. However, there is one deeper gouge where I scraped to a halt on a submerged rock. This impact caused the paint to flake off a small spot the size of a penny and to flake slightly along the gouge line. The filler and canvas are undamaged.

My shining and buffing question did not initially relate to this gouge and paint chip. I will ultimately repair that with a touch-up of paint. All I want to do in the meantime with the 99.9% of the rest of the paint is to shine it up. I'm not even concerned about trying to polish off the few very light cosmetic scratches on the bottom. That will just remove paint.

I suppose for shining up the paint, Meguiar's (without silicone) is getting good recommendations.

As for a variable speed polisher, how does the following one look? It says it polishes from 0-2,800 RPMs and sands from 0-8,300 RPMs.


Maybe I could also use it to aggressively polish the UV oxidation off my gelcoated composite canoes, a job that is definitely an ordeal to do by hand, and doesn't work that well. I've tried. Flood Penetrol works better, if only temporarily for a few months, and takes only 10 minutes per hull to apply and wipe off.
 
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