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From a Bare Hull:  Hull Paint (Topcoat)

After weeks of hull preparation, the time had come to apply the final topcoats.  With another boat in the shop also ready for final paint, there was no sense putting the job off any longer:  while painting two boats in short succession was a lot of work, it did mean that I only had to clean and prepare the shop once, which was a big job in itself.

On the day of application, I began by briefly cleaning up the decks, and then covered the decks in plastic to prevent overspray from the hull paint.  First, I taped along the edge of the deck; the exact location wasn't that important since I planned to cover the area with a wooden toerail later.  Then, I laid out a sheet of plastic, trimmed it to fit, and taped it securely in place.

Next, I moved on to clean the shop once more.  There was a surprising amount of fine dust left over from sanding the hull primer, and cleaning took the bulk of the morning.  When I had the shop clean and as dust-free as it would ever be, I washed down the hull with Alexseal surface cleaner, carefully removing all traces of dust and contamination.  Using two cloths (and changing them frequently), one flooded in solvent and the other to quickly wipe the area clean, I put this miserable task behind me in short order.  Finally, I tacked off the hull, using a light touch with a tack rag.

Just before beginning to spray, I wet down the entire floor of the shop, to hold down any remaining dust and the naturally-occurring dust from the concrete.  Then, I prepared to spray.

Immediately, I noticed a problem with my gun.  After last week's experiences with gun clogs, I had pretty much broken down and cleaned the entire gun, so needless to say I was pretty surprised when I test-sprayed using only reducer in the gun (a step I now took each time I used the gun, to make sure it was working properly before filling it with paint).  I got virtually no product out of the tip.  Again, I broke down the gun, but found no obvious clogs.  After 30 minutes of this, I was at a loss and took the extraordinary (for me) step of calling a tech support "hotline" at my gun manufacturer to see what they thought could be the problem.  They were extremely helpful and pointed me to one of two small fittings on the gun that I had not removed, as I truly had no idea that they might be the problem.  Back out at the shop, I disassembled the small fitting on the gun body where the bleeder hose connected, and sure enough:  it was plugged solid with old paint.  I cleaned this out and the gun worked fine.

With that annoyance out of the way (but at least now I knew the inner workings of the spray gun better than ever), I mixed up my paint.  After much consideration, I elected to use snow white paint for the hull, a classic and traditional look, rather than a dark color, which tended to be my favorite.  I chose white for its universal appeal, classic looks, and clean appearance--all of which befitted the boat's mission.  Plus, with the boat being prepared for eventual sale, white was unlikely to turn off any prospective buyers, while dark colors tend to be either loved or reviled, depending on the person.

I had set up a full sheet of plywood covered with plastic as a test bed for painting, and experimented with the paint mix and gun material controls until I was happy with the result.  Then, I sprayed the first of three coats on the hull.  The first coat was relatively light, to apply a good base and allow for a "stickier" surface to apply heavier coats of paint later, hopefully without runs.  Despite this, the first coat looked excellent and leveled beautifully.  I was thrilled, and took a short break before applying the second coat; each topcoat could be sprayed in rapid succession, with 20-60 minutes between coats.

I was less pleased with my second coat: I didn't have the paint mix quite right, and there was more orange peel than I would have liked.  I went ahead with a third coat, which came out quite nicely.  With that, the painting was done; each coat took about 30 minutes (or less) to apply, punctuated with 15-30 minute breaks between coats.

I left the painted boat alone overnight and through the next day while the paint cured.  Since the boat had been essentially white when covered with primer, the transformation with the final coats was not extremely significant from a distance, but the clean white and high gloss of the Alexseal paint made the boat look great.  Since I didn't know exactly where my waterline was going to end up, I sprayed the white (and the primers before) well below the original boat's waterline plane, to ensure plenty of coverage wherever the waterline ended up being.  Later, I planned a test launch to see exactly how the boat floated, after which I could paint striping and antifouling.  That would come a bit later on.


With more painting planned in the shop, I covered the entire boat in plastic (loosely draped and secured) to protect against overspray.  Late in the week, with all painting complete, I removed all the plastic and tape, revealing the entire boat.  (As seen in some of the above photos...)

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