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  1. #1
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    Polishing gelcoat makes it go dull - what am I doing wrong?

    Polishing gelcoat makes it go dull - what am I doing wrong?




    I'm fairly new to polishing boats and hit upon a curios problem. I'm hoping that some of your experience might throw some light onto what I'm doing wrong.

    I've been using a Makita rotary with a heavy wool pad and Presta Super Cut Compound and parts of the boat have come up beautiful. In fact, it looks like it doesn't need any further work but I'm aware that you'd probably see swirl marks under certain light, so I thought it would be best to finish off with some light polishing.

    For this I've used a Makita DA (Orbital) with a Lake Country soft green and blue polishing pads and Presta Ultra Polish. This is where the problem starts...

    instead of increasing the depth of shine, it's doing the complete opposite, in some areas, it has made the gelcoat completely dull so there was no reflection at all and giving a frosted appearance.

    In order to remedy this I've got the Rotary and compound out again, even so, that hasn't brought it back up to where it was originally.

    I first noticed it when the Oribital was in "forced rotation" mode and I thought that perhaps I'd scorched the gelcoat so I repaired what I'd done then tried it in "Free spinning" mode but it did the same thing, though not quite so bad so there could be a clue there.

    It hasn't happened on all areas, some parts are fantastic, no swirl marks and mirror like finish, so I'm pretty confused about what's causing it. I've stopped using the Oribtal now until I can figure out what's going on.


    These are the things I'm thinking...
    • am I using too much polish and everything got clogged, but why would that make the gelcoat unreflective and frosted looking? Also the foam pads were fresh on and I'd only been using them for a few minutes.
    • is the dual action orbital speed too high/low? I used around 3000 OPM.
    • I'm in South Florida, so I've even questioned whether the humidity was causing problems. I've noticed that when it's humid, it can be quite hard to polish off residual polish with a microfibre cloth.
    • I don't think the pads were too hard since they're good pads and designed for light polishing (blue/green Lake Country flat pads).
    • was I putting too much pressure on the orbital in forced rotation mode and it burned/damaged the gelcoat, so I switched to free spinning and it did the same thing, but not quite so bad.


    If someone would be kind enough to share the benefit of their experience, I'd very much appreciate it. I'd like to put that Orbital to good use.




  2. #2
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    Re: Polishing gelcoat makes it go dull - what am I doing wrong?

    I would try a blue finishing wool pad at 1400 on your rotary with Presta Ultra Polish. Do a test spot and see what happens.

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  4. #3
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    Re: Polishing gelcoat makes it go dull - what am I doing wrong?

    Thank you Dano, perhaps I was going a bit fast with the Orbital. I had the impression that Orbitals were more forgiving than a Rotary. I'll look into the blue finishing wool pads, but I'm really interested in knowing what may have caused the Orbital to make the gelcoat go dull as I know these devices have a lot of potential and would like to use it. Thanks again

  5. #4
    Director of Training Mike Phillips's Avatar
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    Re: Polishing gelcoat makes it go dull - what am I doing wrong?

    Quote Originally Posted by Totts View Post

    I'm fairly new to polishing boats and hit upon a curios problem. I'm hoping that some of your experience might throw some light onto what I'm doing wrong.

    I've been using a Makita rotary with a heavy wool pad and Presta Super Cut Compound and parts of the boat have come up beautiful. In fact, it looks like it doesn't need any further work but I'm aware that you'd probably see swirl marks under certain light,
    Correct.

    Rotary polishers inflict holograms swirls. I think I'm the ONLY guy on Planet Earth that has an article on this topic.

    Holograms in gel-coat boats by Mike Phillips

    But... I'm not a YouTube Influencer so take anything I say or write with a grain of cyber salt.




    Quote Originally Posted by Totts View Post

    so I thought it would be best to finish off with some light polishing. For this I've used a Makita DA (Orbital) with a Lake Country soft green and blue polishing pads and Presta Ultra Polish.

    This is where the problem starts... instead of increasing the depth of shine, it's doing the complete opposite, in some areas, it has made the gelcoat completely dull so there was no reflection at all and giving a frosted appearance.


    You thought right but what you thought doesn't work. For some reasons, gel-coat does not like soft foam pads for polishing/abrading work. It dulls the gel-coat. I stated this somewhere in my book on boat detailing. I also stated that I didn't know WHY gel-coat reacts this way and went on to state the I've never met ANYONE that could explain why gel-coat acts this way. So it's a mystery.

    Paperback book - How To Detail Boats With Marine 31 by Mike Phillips






    What I use and teach in my boat detailing classes is for the polishing step - use the RUPES coarse blue foam pads. Here's my article on these pads from 2014 - 6 years ago.

    Mind Blowing - Rupes Blue Foam Cutting Pad and Zephir Gloss Coarse Gel Compound






    This one should fit your polisher. It will take more than one pad to polish your boat but I would just get one to test first. Another problem might be the Presta polish.

    Rupes 150 mm (6 inch) Blue Coarse Foam Pad


    I've never used Presta products but when I met and worked with a very FAMOUS TV star, all the cars at his famous shop were swirled out with holograms. The ONLY tool he owned was an old Black & Decker rotary buffer with a wool pad on it. The only products I saw in his shop were Presta. And every car they had buffed out looked like crap. So I would not blame Presta for the swirled-out cars I would first blame the wool pad on the rotary buffer. But - I've never used Presta products so I don't know first-hand if they use GREAT abrasive technology or CRAP for abrasive technology. I would have to test them to know.


    Abrasive Technology - THE most important factor when it comes to polishing paint



    Mike Phillips
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  7. #5
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    Re: Polishing gelcoat makes it go dull - what am I doing wrong?

    Excellent reply Mike, thank you very much.

    I went back to the boat yesterday armed with a hard, yellow, Lake Country foam pad, (it's their cutting version). I tried it in various places and near to where I experienced dulling/frosting with the soft polishing pads and I can confirm that I encountered no problems at all, so I think you've hit the nail firmly on the head!

    I also did a pass over the part which was damaged with the soft pad and it markedly improved it. I think in order to fully remedy it, I'd probably need to wet sand.

    I thought this was going to be one of those problems where it was going to re-occur and haunt me, so I'm very pleased to have an answer, however, I'd really like to know why it happens. As you said,


    "I've never met ANYONE that could explain why gel-coat acts this way. So it's a mystery"!


    In addition, the dulling was so bad (zero on a gloss meter bad) and not easily remedied, that I'd have thought this problem would be common knowledge. I've spent quite some time reviewing pads online and it hasn't come up at all.

    If you have gems like this in your book, then I'd like to own a copy, however I can't find where to buy it. I even saw one link where it said it was discontinued! Is it still available please?

    I'm also going to buy one of the blue Rupes pads to try, but now how 5 redundant Lake Country pads!

    Thanks again for taking the time Mike, it's much appreciated.

  8. #6
    Senior Member 57Rambler's Avatar
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    Re: Polishing gelcoat makes it go dull - what am I doing wrong?

    Quote Originally Posted by Mike Phillips View Post
    For some reasons, gel-coat does not like soft foam pads for polishing/abrading work. It dulls the gel-coat.
    Here's my theory.

    Gel coat is very hard, but it is also very porous, esp. as it ages. If you use a soft foam pad that is not very aggressive, you mainly end up just smearing your polish/compound in to the pores of the gel coat rather than the intended effect of removing a thin outer layer of the gel coat (to expose less damaged material underneath). That polish/compound trapped in the pores of the gel coat thus creates the dull appearance.

    I'll send you my bill ...

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  10. #7
    Director of Training Mike Phillips's Avatar
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    Re: Polishing gelcoat makes it go dull - what am I doing wrong?

    Quote Originally Posted by 57Rambler View Post

    Here's my theory.

    Gel coat is very hard, but it is also very porous, esp. as it ages.

    If you use a soft foam pad that is not very aggressive, you mainly end up just smearing your polish/compound in to the pores of the gel coat rather than the intended effect of removing a thin outer layer of the gel coat (to expose less damaged material underneath).

    That polish/compound trapped in the pores of the gel coat thus creates the dull appearance.

    I think that's a good theory and as good as any I've read, but I've buffed out a lot of gel-coat using a lot of different pads and while I think that could be the reason in some instances, I still stick by my theory that gel-coat i.e. pigmented polyester resin, polishes up to a harder more clear shine using a hard, sharp foam pad on an orbital polisher versus a soft foam pad.

    Of course there are exceptions, I've never seen an issue with soft foam pads on gel-coat that already has a clear, hard shine for applying a non-cleaning wax or sealant. It only seems to be a factor when "abrading" by machine during the finishing step.

    One other factor that I never see anyone talk about.


    Mike Phillips
    Director of Training Autogeek & Marine 31
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  11. #8
    Director of Training Mike Phillips's Avatar
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    Re: Polishing gelcoat makes it go dull - what am I doing wrong?

    Quote Originally Posted by Totts View Post
    .

    If you have gems like this in your book, then I'd like to own a copy, however I can't find where to buy it.

    I even saw one link where it said it was discontinued!

    Is it still available please?

    Interesting? Usually when we're out of a product it's listed as,

    Out of stock


    I know we ran out of the first edition, but since the original publishing, more products, tools and pads have been introduced, so it, like all of my books,


    1 The Complete Guide to a Show Car Shine
    2 The RUPES BigFoot Paint Polishing System
    3 How to use the FLEX XC 3401 VRG
    4 How to Detail Boats with Marine 31




    They all need to be updated.


    Mike Phillips
    Director of Training Autogeek & Marine 31
    IDA Board Member - Certified Detailer - Skills Validated Detailer - IDA Recognized Trainer
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  12. #9
    Director of Training Mike Phillips's Avatar
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    Re: Polishing gelcoat makes it go dull - what am I doing wrong?

    Quote Originally Posted by Totts View Post

    Excellent reply Mike, thank you very much.
    My work on this forum is just an extension of Autogeek's Customer Care. Most people think customer are is calling the 1-800 number, but this is just a version of it. The difference between a phone call and this forum is my content I create has the potential to endure forever and be read by tens of thousands of people.



    Quote Originally Posted by Totts View Post

    I went back to the boat yesterday armed with a hard, yellow, Lake Country foam pad, (it's their cutting version). I tried it in various places and near to where I experienced dulling/frosting with the soft polishing pads and I can confirm that I encountered no problems at all, so I think you've hit the nail firmly on the head!

    The Lake Country yellow foam is an aggressive foam BUT nothing I've seen to date comes as close as the RUPES coarse blue foam formula. The next closest thing would be the Griot's Garage white foam cutting pads.





    Quote Originally Posted by Totts View Post

    I'm also going to buy one of the blue Rupes pads to try, but now how 5 redundant Lake Country pads!

    Thanks again for taking the time Mike, it's much appreciated.
    Contact me via e-mail when you place your order and I'll have Customer Care include a sample of the Captain's Compound. Test this against what you're using and let us know what you think.


    Mike Phillips
    Director of Training Autogeek & Marine 31
    IDA Board Member - Certified Detailer - Skills Validated Detailer - IDA Recognized Trainer
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  13. #10
    Senior Member Markymapo's Avatar
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    Re: Polishing gelcoat makes it go dull - what am I doing wrong?

    Just ordered 10 Rupes coarse blue pads to get boat ready for spring (as soon as the ice comes off the lake, which this year is very thin, some parts in the middle didn’t freeze thick). Read “How to Detail Boats listed above many times over. Great book.
    2018 CaymanS, 2016 BMW M4
    2015 Lexus IS 350
    2016 Ford F150

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