Paint Stripper

My Favorite Stripper

This weekend I finally started working on stripping the coachroof paint.  Back at the beginning of Spring, I scraped off the top layer of paint.  It seriously took me only a couple of hours because the paint was such shit.  It was so bad I could no longer hose off the boat without hosing off the dock and any neighboring boats because the paint was flaking so badly it looked like it had snowed.  This boat has about four or five layers of paint on it.  The top layer was dingy white color with a gray primer.  Below those are two or three stronger layers of tan, lighter tan and darker tan.

A year or more ago Rich, using a heat gun and scraper, started scraping off all layers of paint and non-skid at the back of the coachroof where the mainsail and staysail winches are located.  I continued this effort with little effect.  I cleared about 12 square inches in an hour.  The original paint and non-skid are really tough.  Those Taiwanese probably used some super industrial and toxic paint that was banned in the U.S. before it was even invented.  Anyway, I told Rich if he wanted the coachroof scraped down to bare gelcoat, he was more than welcome to have at it.  Actually what I did was convince him that we could paint over the old paint and non-skid and it would look just fine.

Bubbling paint using TotalStrip

So Rich did a solvent test on the three remaining layers of paint and the top layer appears to be a one-part paint.  We’re planning to use a two-part paint so we have to remove the one-part paint before we can do that.  I’ve been procrastinating this project because I’m tired of scraping (see previous scraping endeavors here, here, and here).  Then a couple of weeks ago Rich sent me a link to Jamestown Distributors for their TotalBoat TotalStrip paint stripper.  I originally didn’t want to use a chemical stripper because my experience with them is that strippers are smelly and messy; plus I didn’t want chemicals running into to the slough (obviously.)  There were no reviews of it and I couldn’t find anything about it on a web search.  But because I’m so done with scraping I said buy it and I’ll try it.

Using TotalStrip paint stripper

TotalStrip is supposedly non-toxic (though the ingredients sound pretty nasty), it’s thick like a gel and will stick to vertical surfaces, works on paint, varnish, and other coatings, and can be used on fiberglass, gelcoat, wood, metal, stone, etc.  And it doesn’t need to be neutralized; it cleans up with water.  I decided to do a test patch on the forward port side of the coachroof.  I slathered on a thick coat with a putty knife and let it sit.  It really is thick and did’t run at all and it has almost no odor.  The directions say the longer it sits the more layers of paint that will be removed.  After an hour the paint had bubbled and the gel looked to be drying out (it was a warm day).  I scraped off the old paint and it came up like butter.  I tried using a wire brush to scrub the paint that was left and it did lift some of it up, but the brush was gummed up pretty quickly.

Using TotalBoat Stripper

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Using TotalStrip paint stripper

Layers of paint removed

I continued with a thinner layer of the stripper gel on the area forward of the staysail track and I put another layer on the port side test patch as well.  After another hour, the test patch looked even better.  The other, larger area looked good, but I’ll need to do another coat.  I found that two thinner layers with scraping in between works better than one thicker layer.

Final layers of paint removed

Overall, I’m really happy with the results.  I think this stripper is going to save me hours of tedious scraping.  I like the gel consistency of it and that it has no smell.  I really hope it’s non-toxic because Suki found her way onto the area I was working on and I had to wash her little feet in the sink, twice!  It’s a little pricey at $63.99/gallon (plus $4.99 hazmat handling fee).  I used an entire gallon on just the area forward of the staysail stay.  I ordered another two gallons and I’m pretty sure that will cover the rest of the coachroof at least once, but hopefully twice.  My only regret is that I didn’t try this stuff on the teak.

Other Summer Projects

Teak Oil Sealer

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As a side note (and so you don’t think I just sit around all day watching Rich do all the work), I put two maintenance coats of teak oil and sealer on all the teak and I finished the teak in the cockpit.  In June Rich and I put on the initial coat of Starbrite Teak Oil Sealer.  We contemplated doing a second coat, but ran out of steam (give us a break, it was hot out).  The single coat has lasted great through this summer, except where we step on the toe rail to get in and out of the boat.  I cleaned that area and touched it up with oil and sealer in early August – easy peasy.  Now with an El Niño winter coming, I thought it would be a good idea to get a couple more coats on the teak before the rain (hopefully – we’re in a drought you know) starts.  I think it looks even better with more coats.  The teak has a satin finish and water beads right off.

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Teak Handrails

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We also pulled the teak handrails out of the shed.  I sanded and cleaned them in May and they’ve been sitting in the shed since then.  I was already putting the teak oil sealer on everything else so I thought I would put at least one coat on the handrails.  Plus, since Rich has the headliner down in the back part of the boat to install the sea hood, I thought this would be a good opportunity for him to start drilling the holes for the handrails.  We seriously considered junking the handrails and replacing them with stainless steel, but I’m really glad we saved them.  Plus we saved a bundle of money by refurbishing them.

Bronze Cowl Vents

Oh, and I also started polishing the dorade cowl vents and I used a sealer on one of them to see if it prevents oxidation.  So far the one cowl vent I polished and sealed is still looking bright and shiny.  Usually, the bronze will immediately start to oxidize and a week later looks dull.  My only quandary now is do I like the bronze so shiny or does it look better with a little patina.  The sealer I’m using can be used to keep the bronze shiny or to keep a nice patina.  I’m leaning toward the patina at the moment which means the one cowl vent I sealed will have to be stripped and allowed to oxidize before sealing it again.  Supposedly the sealer comes right off with acetone so it shouldn’t be too big of a job.  The jury is still out on this one.

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