It was time to switch from the West System epoxy + fairing to gelcoat, and after watching my share of YouTube videos and reading reviews, I felt it was time to experiment. Let's just briefly say nothing went very well, and here is why:
1. Gelcoat consists of numerous chemical compounds, and no sooner did I open a can than the fumes got to me in the way of a headache. I certainly did not see a single person wearing a respirator rated OV for organic vapor in any videos, nor did this come up in any literature I read. So, here is my WARNING: USE A RESPIRATOR RATED FOR OV - ORGANIC VAPORS - WHILE WORKING WITH GELCOAT.
Got it? Gelcoat contains styrene, which kind of has an intense plastic odor - because that is what it is.
I had the hole section I'd cut out to use for color matching and was stupid enough to set this up in my kitchen. I believed I had good results with approximately three drops of yellow to one teaspoon of clear gel paste. It is important to note that trying to tint white gelcoat to get a bright color will not work. You will only get a pastel, like the light yellow in my sample. I did not add MEKP to my color samples since there was no need to make them cure. I covered the samples with acetate and stuck them outside, then aired out the apartment. Then bought OV cartridges for my North respirator.
|Color Matched Yellow on the Right|
Chipping out loose old gelcoat was accomplished with a flat razor blade and an angled razor blade. When it stops chipping, you're done. I hand sanded, beveling the old edges prior to adding in new gelcoat.
2: Another NOTE about things going wrong: Evercoat makes West Marine products, but apparently not the instructions on the different label. It is very easy to follow the Evercoat instructions and very confusing to follow the West Marine instructions. After consulting with three different West Marine techs, it was finally divined that FINISH GELCOAT means waxed, which is not an ideal first coat for just about anything. The wax will rise to the surface and seal the gelcoat, which requires an airtight seal to cure, which does not explain why Evercoat would tell anyone to use wax paper to seal the gelcoat. But, I did it just the same, with regrets.
|Wax Paper Wrinkle Indentations in Yellow Gelcoat - Ugly|
3: More things going wrong: Following the YouTube instructions of a well known marine repair person (who does not wear a respirator and who shall go unnamed), I used a cheap chip paint brush for my white gelcoat and a small plastic putty knife and squeegee for the yellow. My first surprise was how green the yellow gel looked once I added the MEKP. I went into slop mode and filled all the voids hastily then covered them with wax paper, as the Evercoat instructions suggest. I knew right away this was a bad idea. I had to sand down the high spots and wet sand out all of the stuck wax paper. Not fun. Yellow-tinted epoxy with fairing would have been a better alternative, but you don't know until you fail at some other option. Since I need to get the craft race ready, the final moving touches will be saved for later in the season. Suffice it to say after about 4 hours of sanding I got her looking alright again.
|Brushed Gelcoat Holding Brush Marks - UGLY!|
I also found out how hard it is to sand gelcoat down. I used 100 grit and gradually went up to wet sanding with 400. A chore I would have gladly skipped. But as Biggie Smalls says, "If you don't know, now you know!"
|Goodbye Brush Marks - and an Hour of my Life!|
It was time to make a big decision: mix white gelcoat with acetone and run it through my sprayer, untested on a 90 degree day? Or go with something safer. The disputes carry on about whether gelcoat bonds to epoxy and its UV resistance. I had discovered Krylon Fusion at a local hardware store and online found it came in different colors. This was the paint I used as a temporary surface when I took the canoe out for a test paddle a couple of weekends back. I had thought it would be easy to wipe off with acetone as the repairs progressed, but it proved very difficult to remove. After reading numerous reviews and finding out it is weather resistant - end engineered to bond to epoxy, I decided to go this route with Fusion paint for plastic. And here she is, a little cosmetically uneven, but race ready.
|The GhostHope - Race Ready|
Remember that hole in the bow? Looks like this now.
There is some minor fairing to tackle at this point, but it is now time to paddle and retire the sanding skills for a few weeks. See you on the water.