Outside Sanded, Polished, Buffed, and Painted
The outside upper-sides, splash rail, and stern were sanded, polished, and buffed. The bottom and lower-sides were painted close to the factory original dark red color. Time period correct decals were also applied.
I started on the outside by diving right into polishing after watching a video on how to polish and buff Airstream trailers. Don't be fooled by this video like I was... polishing and buffing is not as easy as it appears to be in the video. This was my first time polishing and buffing aluminum... it indeed is a learned skill. I learned that if you try to polish and buff without sanding the aluminum surface first, you will just end up with lots of shiny scratches.
Sanding the outside of the hull was a little easier than sanding the inside as the outside hull curves are convex shaped as opposed to concave shaped on the inside. But none-the-less, just as it went on the inside, the sanding was time-consuming, tedious, and I went thought a lot of sandpaper. The entire outside hull (sides, stern, and bottom) were sanded evenly beginning at 80 grit and progressing to 100, 120, and 180 grit. Again, I began at 80 grit to remove as many of the existing surface scratches and imperfections as I could without removing too much aluminum. Then I progressed up through the grits removing the scratch marks from the previous grit used. From the paint line up I sanded 220, 320, 400 and 500 grit... a lot of sanding. Remember, not to get carried away, deep scratches and gouges are there for good. If you try to sand them out you will thin out the aluminum too much. Just aim to get all the surface scratches removed.
After completing the tedious job of sanding, I tried again to polish and buff... quite an improvement compared to my first attempt. I purchased an Airstream polishing and buffing kit from Jestco Products. With this kit I was able to achieve a fairly nice mirror finish. But again, polishing and buffing was not as easy as it appears to be in the video. The video was very helpful and informative but I found the job to be a noisy, dirty, and frustrating process. My first mistake was was polishing outside in 40-50 degree weather (you really ought to do this outside because the polisher will sling compound and grime all over). I later learned the metal ought to be at least 65 degree's. Due to the metal being too cold, I experienced a lot of instances of the compound caking and smearing up, as careful as I was not to overload the wheel with too much compound. I also learned that you can't press too hard or you may get hazing. Black flecks on the surface means not enough compound is on the wheel and smearing means there's too much (or the metal surface is too cold).
To begin, you start with polishing using a cutting compound. The kit comes with a "grey bar" compound for cutting. I polished above the paint line along the sides and stern, as well as polishing the spray rail. Then you thoroughly wipe it all down with mineral spirits. You need to be very thorough to remove all remnants of the grey bar compound before moving on to buffing.
You finish by buffing with the "red bar" compound, called "jewelers rouge". When completed you again thoroughly wipe it all down with mineral spirits. Take note that the compounds (grey bar and red bar) need to be applied to separate wheels.
Here a couple of resources to learn more about polishing and buffing metal
- An Introduction to Buffing and Polishing by Caswell
- Buff Wheel & Buffing Compounds Selection Chart by Eastwood
- Buffing and Metal Finishing by Eastwood
- Buffing the Right Way by Eastwood
- Custom Metal Polishing by Bright Works
Finally it was time for paint. After establishing the paint line with a laser level, I masked it off and re-sanded the areas just below the paint line with 180 grit paper removing any overlapped areas that got polished and buffed. I was ready for paint. The surface to be painted was thoroughly wiped down with lacquer thinner to remove dirt, and compound remnants.
Inspired by the beautiful metal and paint work my friends at Wyman Boathouse & Restoration do, I initially intended to apply an automotive quality paint job. But when it came time to procure the paint, I changed my mind and went with a marine paint. I concluded that marine paint was more appropriate after all, and would be more easily maintained by the boat owner, as the boat is going to be far more susceptible to scratches than an automobile. I used Epifanes Yacht Finish products. The top coat was a two-part polyurethane marine paint over an epoxy primer. It was sprayed on. The color I choose was Claret Red.
After browsing the Crestliner-Retro Boat Restorations website I was left with the impression that the 1969 Chevy Corvette Monza Red color is the closest paint code to match original Larson paint. In comparing Monza Red to Epifanes Claret Red, my eyes tell me its a close enough match. But after spraying it on the boat, the color looks a lot darker than the sample... I was a little disappointed how dark the paint color came out after all the effort I made to match the original color, but it looks good none-the-less.
If I was to polish and buff another aluminum boat, I don't think I would go with the kit that I originally bought from Jestco. With all the frustration I felt in the process of polishing and buffing the boat, I did some additional reading up on polishing and buffing metal to figure out where I was going wrong and I now have a better understanding of how to polish and buff than before purchasing the kit. If I understand correctly what I read, I don't think the compounds in the kit are really appropriate for aluminum. Instead of the grey bar, I would replace it with Tripoli compound (brown bar) which is for softer metal like aluminum. And in place of jewelers rouge (red bar) compound, I would use white rouge (white bar). Additionally I would use a spiral sewn wheel for cutting with Tripoli, instead of a loose cotton wheel. Also, I didn't need to use the smaller wheels that came with the kit.
And last, I ordered a pair of 1953 Larsen-Crestliner decals from Dixie at Old Outboard Decals. They were $30. You can see some of the decals she has available at the Crestliner-Retro Boat Restoration website.