For those of us who have fiberglass yaks understand how beautiful they can be when they are shiny and new. Keeping them that way, can be a bit of a strain, especially if you really want to paddle frequently. I personally will have minor scratches which will appear wherever I have attached my back up paddles, Camelback, or other items I frequently place on my deck. Mainly this happens near my backup paddle, as I take them out of my paddle britches. Every once in a while, I will have to do a little maintenance and give that yak some TLC.
Today, I will show you a step-by-step process for getting rid of those minor scratches and making your yak better than before. There will be a few items one will have to obtain in order to make this happen, and I will suggest a few other items which speed up the process.
Step 1: Wash your kayak with either a dedicated marine soap, or car wash soap. Using a microfiber towel and a little elbow grease will really ensure you get it fully clean. Rinse with lean water, and let it air dry. A shaded place and a fairly warm day is ideal for this kind of work.
Step 2: After the yak is dry, assemble your items and ensure you have plenty on hand, as you may go through your fair share. Water will be your friend as you go through this nerve-wracking process. This process involves using sand paper on the fiberglass. But, not the traditional type of sandpaper one would use on wood products. This is wet-dry sand paper, and it is normally found near the automotive section, near the filler compounds and body work
.Depending on the depth of the scratch a variation of grit may have to be used. For scratches which have depth – and can be felt when one runs their fingernail across the scratch. It should feel much like feeling the edge of a dime I would consider this a minor scratch, and use the 400 or 600 grit paper. If it feels like an edge of a quarter, use 100 or 200 grit paper. For cracks and deeper gouges, this article will be of little use – as this is a more involved process. I had used the 400 grit for this project.
Word to the wise, work on small areas when sanding, only do an area of about one-foot square before moving on to the next area. I learned this mistake a few years ago and it took me a long time to complete the task at hand.
Step 3: Spray down the sandpaper with copious amounts of water, and/or spray the area you are going to work on. Begin to use small circles on the scratched area, and continue to spray.
When you do this correctly, the color of the fiberglass will ‘bleed’ – THIS IS NORMAL. Don’t panic!!! Just keep spraying some water on the area to get rid of the fine particles, and also give the sandpaper a good spritz from time to time, and rotate the area of paper you are using.
Step 4: Once you have roughed up the area with sand paper, the area will look hazy and dull. Rinse the area with water thoroughly. This will look very similar to the picture below.
Step 5: Grab an application cloth, or one can use the applicator which comes with most wax containers. I have two choices in which I may use, a rubbing compound, or a polishing compound. The Rubbing compound has more grit than the polishing compound. If one decides to use both on this project, use the rubbing then the polishing. Since there are micro fragments of fiberglass and other particles of material being removed with these two products, unsure you have a dedicated application cloth for each item.
Step 6: Once you have decided to use one compound over the other ( I went for the polishing one in this case). Apply this compound much like one would polish the car. I always think of that scene in which Mr. Miyagi states, “Wax on, wax off”. One may see a bit of the color bleed through onto the cloth during this process. It does a ‘soft sanding’ on the fiberglass.
Step 7: There might be a slight sheen to the area after this has been dried off – but you aren’t completed just yet. Time for application of wax (car wax works just fine). Same application process as the previous method – just be certain you are using a clean application cloth.
Step 8: So, it is pretty shiny after the application of the wax and the use of a towel. But why not up the game a bit more and put a real gloss on the deck? For the final process, I break out the electric buffer/polisher and a pad (once again use one specific for the wax). I may apply a fine layer of wax over the entire kayak a few times and then buff it out once I have completely done with the smaller areas.
Step 9: Stand back and enjoy the work which was completed. I usually have to do this process a few times a year, but really don’t mind. It gives me a closer perspective of problem areas, and I tend to check the deck lines and cords, and tighten up screws if needed. One thing which will make this process easier (which is clearly not what I did) is to remove the deck lines and cords – or replace them during this time. Otherwise, one will have to constantly move the lines and cords out of the way from the wax and the electric buffer.
This section of area took nearly 30 minutes to completely make look fairly new again. The time to complete a whole yak is a case by case situation – but shouldn’t take more than 3 hours when done correctly. There is nothing like paddling around with a show stopper finish on your kayak, and making heads turn. Have pride in your yak and make it last for years to come.
For the Padder Within…