Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Zero Cost Experiment

Every now and then, life presents you with an opportunity disguised as a problem. The best of these opportunities give you the chance to experiment, with essentially no cost for failure. This is one of them.

When we purchased Eolian, the four opening ports in the aft end had been replaced with Beckson "Rain Drain" ports. They looked pretty good, and far, far better than the original 20-year old ports still in the forward half of the boat (I replaced those in the first 6 months of ownership, also with Rain Drains). But they were showing some age.

And now after an additional 12 years, the molded Lexan opening parts had aged in the sun, as Lexan is wont to do: they had turned cloudy and were taking on a yellowish-brownish tint. In fact, from the inside all four looked like they had been purposely frosted for privacy, except for that yellowish/brownish tint... that part was just plain ugly.

Using a piece of logic that I seem to frequently employ, I decided that they were so bad that replacement was in order. Therefore I had nothing to lose by having a go at polishing them myself - a zero cost experiment! I love those!

Being male, my first idea always involves power tools. So I pulled off one of the Lexan molded windows and took it to my shop, where I applied it to a buffing wheel loaded with rouge. The results were mixed. The buffing wheel put too much energy into too small an area, causing local heating, which caused local surface crazing, if I was not very, very careful. Because of this it was difficult to get an even polish on the surface.

OK, so I was forced to fall back to manual methods. Next, I tried using Meguiar's products - these are specifically designed for polishing plastics. I had read that Lexan was not amenable to hand polishing, but once again, I had nothing to lose. So I started with the #17 cleaning compound (this is actually a polishing compound, containing a very fine abrasive) and a soft rag. The effect was nothing short of stunning. In less than a minute of polishing, all the discoloration and almost all of the frosting was gone! Then I applied the polish (which is an abrasive-free wax), and it got even better! The aft head port in this picture is closed - you are here looking thru what used to look like a frosted privacy window!

I spent perhaps an hour total, and totally changed the appearance of the aft cabin and head.

I must confess that not all my "zero cost experiments" turn out well, but this one succeeded beyond my wildest expectations. If you don't have these two Meguiar's products, you should. Go out and get some. I can't recommend them enough!


Mike said...

Thanks for the tip!


bob said...

Thanks Mike -

I have one more experiment to try on those windows. Apparently there is another Meguiar's product called PlastX that is supposed to be kind of a precursor to the use of #17. But I haven't found it in a store locally yet.


SV Estrellita 5.10b said...

Now if you just had a magic fix for crazing (is that what the surface cracks are called?).

bob said...

Yes, when the plastic develops the myriad of very fine surface cracks - often only visible when the sun is at an angle to the surface, it is said to be "crazed". The wax seems to help (fills them, perhaps?).

Perhaps the PlastX will do the job. I think it is a little more aggressive than the #17, so it might actually grind down the surface past the depth of the crazing.

But if I had to rate the distance we have come versus perfection, I'd say that we have gotten 80% of the way there. We're talking about fine tuning here.

Drew Frye said...

I did the very same thing on the ports to my PDQ last weekend using 3M products (what I had). It made a HUGE difference, leaving me to wonder why I didn't do it before.

No I'm not going to wax the outside of the boat on sheer principle, but I have always been a believer in waxing Lexan windows.

But, it's no real cure or preventative for crazing, unfortunatly, based upon my long expereince with my Stiletto 27 ($1800 per custom hatch).

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