Posted by: glennandert | 28-June-2008

The full make-over for ‘Learjet’, part two

This is part two of the story about painting lady ‘Learjet’. Part one is here.

Let’s go to work …

Sand off all the paint from the topsides, until you get a good solid substrate to hold the new paint. In this case, most of the paint came off.

Now we need to sand it “fair”. This is about surface shape – no funny dips and the like that will catch your eye when the high gloss paint is on. “Smooth” is different concept, which is about texture — in fact, this step is done with 80-grit sandpaper, which is quite coarse.

Sanding it fair is rather tricky. Paint and “bog” sand differently, because one is harder [“bog” is the Kiwi word for “fairing compound”, which an epoxy based material used as “filler”]. So going at it with an orbital sander or something like that will actually make it less fair.

So, here is how we do it.

Those funny zebra stripes are the “glide coat”. Basically you just let somebody tag your boat! Next is “long boarding”. This is how you sand it fair, removing existing dips (by sanding off the highs), without introducing any new dips.

Long Boarding

The man on the right is holding the “long board”. It has a long piece of 80 grit sandpaper attached.  Next a pair of men grab that board and go for it, like this

Two men can go at it in the blazing heat and humidity for about 15 minutes, and then they need a rest under the tree. So we have 3 teams of two men each. And this goes on for days and days. The resulting surface is the very opposite of smooth and glossy – that dull surface makes it very difficult to see whether the surface is in fact fair. It takes an artist’s eye to be able to “see” it at this stage (you don’t want to be noticing these glaring defects after $1000s of dollars of topcoat have been put on!)

Afters a couple days of work doing this, we discover that the remaining paint on the front third of the boat is simply not going to be a good substrate. It wants to come off in chips in some places. Eeeks. So now we spend days with hand scrapers scraping off all the remaining old paint on the front third of the boat.

Then we had a big rain for a few days. And then some good heat. And then … many more days of long boarding. There was almost a week of effort into long boarding by the time we finish. And then … the fairing on the front third of the boat is holding tiny little water drops. Could paint over it. But that would risk a paint failure later. So the fairing has to come off too! More than a week’s worth of work stripping paint and long boarding is down the tubes, and the wallet is screaming in pain.

A day or so with a grinder and sanders and all the fairing is all off. The remaining fairing and the hull are looking very very good. So now we get to start over. This is like building the boat from scratch. The entire hull has to be covered with fairing compound and faired! The fairing compound is a mix of epoxy resin and microballoons, and a rather yummy looking chocolate color. You can’t just put new compound in some places and try to long board it fair, because the old material is very very hard compared to the new fairing compound, and you’ll just end up with dips. So you have to cover the entire boat with gobs and gobs of fairing compound, and then long board it until it is fair, and keep long boarding until the original surface starts to just show. By that point, you’ve removed about 90% of the fairing compound you just put on! Why?, because you want the thinnest possible fairing layer both for weight reasons and because thin is more durable than thick. And here is the result

Sanded Microballoons

You can see areas where the material below the chocolate is starting to show through. That’s good. Don’t worry about those dark chocolate areas. This is a morning photo and the dew on deck is still draining down the sides.

But … we are not done. While the surface is now fair, there are a few zillion small divits, all of which have to be filled before painting. Now we use a different filler, which is softer than the previous filler, dries quickly, and is great for this part of the job. The whole boat has to filled this way. And this is the result, before sanding, again…. [Don’t worry about that hole at the bow, that’s the drain hole for the locker that contains the roller furler.]

Unsanded Interfill

Now we “short board” to sand that filler fair. Short boards are a one-man job. You don’t need a long board because the filler to be removed is soft compared to the microballoon mixture below, so you sand just enough to bring the surface flat again. Here is the army short boarding, for days on end, like this

Short Boarding

Alas, I don’t have a good photo of what this looks like at this point. But it’s basically a dull chocolate hull with funny looking green chicken pox all over the place!

We’ll take a break here…. Stay tune for the next edition.



  1. […] The full make-over for ‘Learjet’, part three This is the last of three parts of the story about painting lady ‘Learjet’. Part two is here. […]

  2. Wow – what a story – the boat looks great.
    I am not sure I could handle all the issues and problems associated with the paint job – I lack the patience.

  3. I would love to hear what the original 2 week quote ended up at after another 8 weeks. Be glad you can own a lear jet as I bet it wasn’t anywhere near what was on the original numbers, or where there any. I would also asume brain passed the extra 7.5% on to the marina and they paid the inland revenue for the extra charges.

    • Hey Bruce, regarding the 6 week project overrun, boat projects are always ‘interesting’.

      In my case, there was no way for Willie to know when he estimated the job that we would have to deal with old fairing compound that had failed. He could have simply not mentioned that there were problems, finished the paint job, and I would have left happy, and then been unhappy years down the track when the underlying problem caused the new paint to fail early.

      So, to Willie’s credit, he was careful, observant, keen to do a great job, and brought the issue to my attention.

      Renegotiating the price at that point is also not easy. The owner (me) is pretty much over a barrel – it’s not like I could go shopping for another contractor now that the boat is all torn apart and has no paint! And a big initial price tag is now even bigger. And the contractor (Willie & Brian) doesn’t want to take it in the shorts either. In my case, I had asked for an ‘accurate’ quote, not one that was fully inflated to take into account every possible contingency.

      The re-negotiation had its moments of excitement and wallet pain 🙂 but we worked it out.

      At the end of the day, I give Willie a ton of credit for sticking in out, putting his heart into it and doing a beautiful job.

      As you will see in part three of the story, at the end I created a special graphic combining elements of Baobab’s logo and the signatures of every guy on the crew and put it on the transom of ‘Learjet’. I was, and still am, proud of the work they did. And that graphic is a testament to that fact.

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