View Full Version : The Boat Test Spot

Mike Phillips
02-03-2017, 06:37 AM
The Boat Test Spot

Normally on a car you test to see what the minimum aggressive and/or abrasive method can be to get the desired results while leaving the most paint on the car. The key to the test spot for car paint is the last portion of the previous sentence and this is the portion that everyone leaves out when explaining the how and why of doing a test spot.

For an extremely oxidized boat, the reason I do a test spot is to dial-in and prove my system before buffing out the entire boat or teaching a class on how to detail a boat. Unlike cars that have VERY THIN clearcoat top layers, boat have comparatively very thick outer layers called gel-coat. Gel-coat is kind of like single stage paint. Single stage paint is paint resin with pigment added to give it color. Gel-coat is polyester resin with pigment added to give it color.

Like single stage paint, gel-coat is porous, at least a lot more porous than clearcoat paints which are more akin to a sheet of plastic over the basecoat. Because they are more porous, gel-coats like single stage car paint oxidize easily and quickly. And the oxidation can go deep into the gel-coat if a boat is neglected for years. Thus to remove the surface oxidation and the deep oxidation and because the gel-coat is thicker than car paint, you can more safely compound or wet sand the gel-coat to remove the surface oxidation and the deep oxidation.

I tell people all the time the MOST important factor when it comes to detailing cars is the abrasive technology. I know from years of experience, poor abrasive technology will only scratch the paint while it's abrading it. Thus it will remove the initial defects but leave behind it's own defects. And because car paint is thin, this is a really BAD approach to working on car paint. Great abrasive technology will remove defects without leaving any of its own defects. That's what you want and it has nothing to do with your technique or in other words, how great you are at buffing.

In the boat detailing world the same thing applies. You can use great abrasive technology and get great results or you can use poor abrasive technology and get a scratched-up, hologramed mess. To my knowledge, I'm the only guy that's ever writing an article (http://www.autogeekonline.net/forum/marine-31-boat-detailing-classes/79440-holograms-gel-coat-boats-mike-phillips.html) on the topic of holograms in the boat detailing world and it all has to do with 2 things.

1: Boat owners are not educated enough to understand quality work with quality products costs money.

2: Boat detailers don't know how to educate the customer to get a fair price for quality work.

The results is an industry that buffs out gel-coat boats and scratches the heck out of them leaving them in worse condition than when they started. At my class - I teach guys how to do it right the first time and it starts with using quality products including high quality abrasive technology and just as important... working smarter instead of harder.

At all my car and boat detailing classes I bring in projects that NEED work. And to this point I always document the current condition of all our projects here at Autogeek with great before pictures to take the wind out of the sails of the naysayers. For the boat detailing classes, I pick dark colored gel-coat boats in HORRIBLE condition because it is they type of boat detailing project that imparts the most head knowledge and practical hands-on skills and experience to the people that attend these classes. And that leads me to the boat for this weekend's class, a severely neglected, dark green gel-coat 25' Bluewater Center Console.

Before the class starts, I ensure the gel-coat CAN be restored by doing a Boat Test Spot. There's a million ways to skin a cat and at least a few hundred ways to restore a neglected boat, here's how I restored this section on this boat and tomorrow the class will duplicate this process to restore the entire boat. The thing about the below process is this is the process for show boat results. A person can certainly do a lot less and get less improvement. I like to show the most a person can do and then explain and teach them along the way where they can stop if getting maximum results is not important to them but simply doing a "good" job will suffice. Each person that attends these classes will have all the knowledge and skills they need to do it all but can then pick and choose how many steps they want to do to any boat to match their services to their customer or if it's their own boat to match their work to their requirements for satisfaction for knowing the job is done right.


Machine sanded - FLEX XFE7
Compounded - FLEX PE14
Polished - FLEX 3401
Polished - RUPES BigFoot 21 Mark II
Chemically stripped
Ceramic Coating

Here's the results from my Boat Test Spot





This class starts sharp at 7:30am tomorrow morning. For those attending... get a good night's sleep... you'll need it. These are standing on your feet hands-on classes. These are not sitting in a chair while some guy drones on and on and on talking and talking and talking.


02-03-2017, 07:21 AM
I'm normally not a guy interested in polishing boats.

However I was contacted by a client that need my services. We set up time and location to meet.

The first task was to dial in a process with product only before giving price. After several spots I was convinced this needed to be sanded. I was able to make it shine but deep cloudy oxidation still was present. I told the owner it needs to be sanded. He came down to the dock and I showed him the difference and he was floored.

So I slapped on a sanding disk and fired away. Now the boat is glistening like a mirror and it will stay that way with little maintenance.

Boat clients pay very well if you educate them on a true correction process and most of all they can see your ability to perform the job a's a pro.

If I can't do the job correctly and the compensation is not met I will simply be polite and say no thanks.


Mike Phillips
02-03-2017, 07:44 AM
Thank you for chiming in Jeff, your years of experience count when you comment.

Now the boat is glistening like a mirror and it will stay that way with little maintenance.

And the bold portion above is the key. I get asked about how long the results for correction will last to gel-coat boats and the answer is the same answer for how long will a car stay swirl free after its de-swirled.

It depends on how it's maintained.

Boats by their very nature are normally used in the harshest of environments, they are in the water and exposed to both sun and more water in the form or rain. This exposure is worse if the water they are used in is not fresh water like a spring-fed lake but salt water like the ocean or ocean tributaries.

The hard work is the restoration work. The easy work is the maintenance work and it can be as simple as washing the boat each time it is removed from the water and then hitting the hull and top cap with a one-step cleaner/wax. If the boat is coated then simple washing and the use of some type of coating booster.

The owner of a boat that hires a boat detailer has two options.

1: Do the maintenance themselves.

2: Hire the detailer to do it for them and get on a regular maintenance schedule.