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To a Bare Hull:  Exterior

June 22, 2003

As a trial run, I decided to start sanding part of the hull.  I was sick of working inside the boat, and thought I'd do something else for a change.  To begin, I set up some staging along one side of the hull, positioned to give me a good working height on the entire height of the topsides.

staging1-61903=o.jpg (93001 bytes)     staging2-61903-o.jpg (95097 bytes)

Not knowing how the paint would sand, I began at the starboard bow with my trusty Porter Cable 5" random orbit DA sander equipped with an 80 grit disc.  Although the 80 grit worked, it soon became apparent that it was too slow, and I had difficulty breaking through the outer layers of blue paint easily.

1stpassstbbow-o.jpg (76722 bytes)
I switched to 40 grit paper,  tentatively because I didn't want to create a mess.  However, even the 40 grit took a long time to get through the outer layers of blue paint that were on the hull--it's tough stuff, whatever it is.  Beneath the blue paint I found a layer of white material--at first I thought it was paint (and it still could be), but the more I sanded, the more I thought it was some sort of all-over fairing filler.  Beneath the white layer was the original blue gelcoat.

Not wanting to scar the soft gelcoat too badly with the 40 grit paper, I only used the coarser paper to break through the paint and into the white layer.  Once I had a section of about   6 linear feet sanded in this manner, I decided to try some 80 grit to remove the rest of the material down to bare gelcoat.   This worked fairly well.  As I sanded away the white stuff, a series of gouges and half moons (all filled with white) appeared.  It seems that an overzealous person in the past butchered the hull with an angle grinder, which damage someone then had to fill with this white fairing material.  To their credit, they seemed to do a pretty good job fairing, as I hadn't noticed any of these gouges beneath the blue paint.

butcher1-o.jpg (55428 bytes)     butcher2-o.jpg (59878 bytes)     gouges-61903-o.jpg (49464 bytes)

Sanding this 6'-8' area from gunwale to waterline took me between an hour and an hour-and-a-half.  I would have continued, but it began to rain, so I had to put the electric tools away.

July 22, 2003
Click on the outlined small photos for a full size image.

It was mere coincidence that I happened to next attack hull grinding exactly a month after my first day.  On this day, I decided to plunge ahead with stripping the bottom paint--one of the nastiest jobs around, and one that I deemed to be far easier to handle with the boat outside then closed up in a barn.  A finer, more powdery dust has not been created, I think, than that coming off a grinder against old-fashioned bottom paint.  Yuck.  I didn't have any Tyvek suits, and I'm not much of one to wear them anyway (particularly in summer heat), so I put on my work shorts and shirt and installed new cartridges in my trusty 3M full facepiece respirator.  This thing is a Godsend.

metabo.jpg (33096 bytes)I began work with no expectations for how far I might get.  It was just a good day for the job, and I figured I'd get done whatever I could.  I had a new tool in the arsenal this time:  a borrowed Metabo paint stripping tool, which features a flush disc onto which are installed a pair of tiny, sharp blades.  When the heavy disc spins at high RPMs, the small blades take off a nice even layer.  A few minutes' testing revealed that the tool worked fairly well on loose, flaking paint with substantial thickness; the blades like to have a distinct edge to grip onto.  The test also revealed that the thing was much too heavy for its size; I never determined what made the blasted thing so heavy.  Nonetheless, it worked quite well and, with a Shopvac attached to the dust collection port, remained as dustless as possible--which is to say, pretty dusty.  But better than without!

With the long, flat, heavy base, the tool is best on flat surfaces.  Therefore, it would be best at stripping barges.  Still, there are enough relatively flat surfaces on a boat hull to enable the tool to work effectively.  On my Triton, I found I could effectively use the tool from the waterline down to the garboard, where the curvature became too extreme.  Other than the high weight of the tool, it worked very well on this area, and it didn't take long at all to strip nearly all the paint off the bottom from the bow to the stern, and down to the garboard.  I dug the tool in too much in one area and shortly thereafter noticed that one blade was broken--D'OH!  Fortunately, I found that there was a "spare" blade mounted on the tool--a vertically-oriented blade that I did not need for my current job.  Using a silly star-wrench that came with the kit, I replaced the broken blade.

Immediately, the tool seemed to work better.  However, in a few areas, I had some minor trouble with the tool gouging a bit too far into the hull and gelcoat--this seemed to be more of a technique issue than a problem with the tool, however, and I soon got over it.  I tried to adjust the depth of the cut a bit shallower, but amazingly the adjustment required a different size and type tool (an Allen wrench) than the star wrench included with the kit for removing the blades (why, oh why, do tool manufacturers insist on perpetuating this ridiculous habit?), and I didn't happen to have one of the right size around (figures).

bowstripped-o.jpg (139641 bytes)Ignoring the depth, I pressed on, and found that a slight adjustment of my technique made all the difference.  The tool made incredibly short work of the dry, flaking paint.  Before long, I had done as much on one side as I could, so I continued with the other side.  Now that I had the hang of the tool, the second side of the hull went even more quickly, and soon I was done.  The stripping tool removed most of the paint from the hull, but left a very thin layer right against the gelcoat--a layer that proved to be very easy to sand off with a grinder.

After cleaning myself up a bit--the dust and grit was thick on my arms and clothing--I decided that, since I was all covered in red dust anyway, I might as well pull out my big 8" grinder and see what sort of damage I could do to the remaining paint on the bottom.  At first, though, I thought I'd be off the hook, as I couldn't find any discs to go with the grinder.  I wasn't altogether unhappy with this, but then I found three 40-grit discs in the bottom of my sanding box.  Sighing inwardly, I realized that I simply had to sand until my three discs were spent.

stbbottomsanded-o.jpg (58702 bytes)It's funny how things seem to work.  Now, if I'd had a big box of sanding discs, I probably would have ended up losing a dozen from bad spin-offs, tears, or other problems, and the paint would have gummed them up at a horrific rate.  Instead, since I had only three, I was slack-jawed in amazement (or maybe it was a copper dust-induced stupor)  to find that I could remove nearly all the remaining paint from one side of the hull using only one disc.  I concentrated on the lower portions first--those that the stripper hadn't been able to touch.

portbottomstripped-o.jpg (69826 bytes) When those areas were close to bare (I refrained from sanding too deeply with the big grinder, lest I do unnecessary damage to the gelcoat), I lightly ran the grinder over the stripped areas above, removing much of that thin layer of remaining paint.  Then, with a new disc installed, I attacked the other side.  Finally, with the third--and last--disc, I worked on the ballast keel and false keel deadwood and the complicated and curvaceous stern area above the rudder.  I tore the disc on a sharp edge somewhere and was forced to call it quits, since the tool was badly unbalanced with the asymmetrical disc.  

I had a heart-stopping moment of excitement as I neared the stern while grinding the starboard side.  The large full facepiece respirator tends to block my peripheral vision, and as I stood up after kneeling to sand near the bottom of the keel, my shoulder hit the aft jackstand.  It tipped over!  Quickly, I grabbed the chain connecting it to the other jackstand which, fortunately, was on the downhill side (and therefore supporting more weight, I think).  Nothing happened, but for a terrifying moment I was sure the boat might tip.  As fast as I could, I replaced the starboard jackstand, all the while holding the chain just in case the stbstripped-o.jpg (122070 bytes) other one (I keep wanting to call it the "leeward" one and have to stop myself from typing it) decided to pull away.  Apparently, the stern area of the boat is so light, relative to the lead bulb on which the boat is actually resting well forward, that the stands have less downward pressure on them than usual, making them a bit more prone to tipping.

The red paint remaining, as can be seen in the photos, is but a thin layer, perhaps a single coat or less, and will sand off easily with my small, more manageable, 5" DA sander later.  The smaller tool will also allow better control to smooth the bottom more appropriately for a fair surface.

fksanded-o.jpg (54169 bytes)     hullkeeljoint-o.jpg (80169 bytes)

July 23, 2003

The next day, I began sanding the bottom again with my smaller sander and 40 grit paper, to remove the last traces of old bottom paint and to begin the overall smoothing process.  I sanded nearly the entire starboard side of the boat, starting at the top of the boottop (removing it) and all the way to the centerline.  The random orbit action of the sander left the surface smoother and more fair than that left behind by the large circular grinder--though still harshly scratched from the coarse paper.  

Underneath the boat, and wearing my full facepiece respirator and hearing protection, I was in my own world.  I happened to look up just before I would have finished sanding the entire side, only to notice that we were in the midst of a downpour!  With rainwater beginning to run down the hull, soak the ground, and fall through the open through hull fittings above where I was working, I decided it was less important to finish the sanding of the starboard side rather than risk electrocution when my uninsulated metal-body sander got inevitably wet, so I was forced to pack up the tools and run quickly for shelter.  The heavy rain shower lasted only a short while, but by the time it ended the ground was saturated with standing water, and, as I had been too filthy from sanding dust to do anything else, I had already taken a shower to clean up, and didn't want to begin sanding again.  I decided it would be OK to finish the small remaining area on another day, when I sanded the port side.

missedarea-o.jpg (39833 bytes)     stbstern-o.jpg (64338 bytes)

stsbow-o.jpg (74340 bytes)

July 24, 2003

I finished the bottom stripping/sanding on the starboard side, and then worked to complete the 40-grit sanding on the port side as well.  I had a new shipment of sandpaper from good ol' McMaster-Carr, so I used the big grinder to finish removing the bulk of the paint from the port side of the keel as well.  It felt great to have the nasty bottom stripping over with.  In comparison, sanding the hull paint will be almost pleasant.

port72603-o.jpg (70770 bytes)     stb72603-o.jpg (54702 bytes)

sternview72603-o.jpg (116870 bytes)




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