Wednesday, June 12, 2013

MASTering the Art of Painting

The mast is finally painted!  Woo-hoo.  Yay us!  We have been waiting for a non rainy day now for the past week or so so that we could get the very last coat of Awlgrip on the damn thing.  We had decided when we first took down the mast that we wanted to treat and paint it while we had the chance, because we didn't know when we'd pull it again.   To paint aluminum, you start by sanding down the areas of failed paint to shiny aluminum, feathering the edges as you go.  From there, you chemically wash and etch the bare aluminum with Alumiprep 33.  Some people use equal parts water and white vinegar for this step.  If you don't etch aluminum, paint won't stick to it.  You must allow the Alumiprep to stay on 3-5 minutes and rinse thoroughly with fresh water.  The key is, you can't let the Alumiprep dry at any point, so it's important to continuously apply the stuff during the 3-5 minute period.  Also, be careful not to get the stuff on you as it's an acid that will burn your skin.  We found that a spray bottle worked best for this application.  From there, before it dries, you treat the areas of bare aluminum with Alodine.  Alodine is a chemical conversion coating that prevents the aluminum from oxidizing and corroding.  Once again, it must stay wet for 2-3 minutes before rinsing with water.  Then you allow the water to dry before applying Zinc Chromate which is a highly, highly toxic chemical that works as a primer for aluminum.  Most toxic paints are apparently only "known to cause cancer in state of California..." Apparently, this stuff causes cancer worldwide as it states directly on the can..."WILL CAUSE CANCER."  Hmmm...I wonder if this stuff causes cancer.

From here, after allowing the zinc chromate to dry, it was business as usual.  545 Primer, sanding, waiting for the rain to subside, taping, wiping down with denatured alcohol, another coat of primer, sanding, more waiting for weather, taping, wiping, Awlgrip topcoat, sanding, waiting, yelling at NOAA weather forecasters, taping, wiping, and finally the last coat of topcoat.  Then.....flip mast over and repeat.  During our last coat, this #$%&* that had his boat parked next to ours decided that he wanted to wash his boat right after we painted.  When Frank came down to drive me to work, he noticed that there were these blue spots all over our brand new paint job.  When he confronted him, the guy was so rude that he didn't even apologize, merely dismissing his actions by claiming he didn't realize we had painted.  I guess seeing us out there painting for 2 hours, and seeing all the blue tape on the mast wasn't indication that we had just painted.  I mean, we were only wielding paint rollers 4 feet from his boat, painting...I couldn't really tell if he was actually that stupid or if our paint fumes had started to cause some damage.  It took me several hours to convince Frank not to break into the guy's boat in the middle of the night and take a crap in his bilge (I'm serious here).

Anyhow, since we had been set back another couple of days because we had to sand it back down, we lost our good weather window.  Grrr.  A helpful tip, aside from having a giant WET PAINT sign, is that during the painting process, have someone hold a shade over you, it is hard to see where you've missed, especially when you are painting with white.  (Note: the guys at the yard will inevitably make jokes about your wife holding an umbrella over you, so be prepared to feel like a princess.)  I can't tell you how psyched I am to be wrapping up with most of our painting projects (we still have the bottom job and boot stripe).  I have finally stopped having recurring nightmares about having to sand everyday....oh wait, that was real.

Since we finished painting yesterday, we spent today putting most of the hardware back on the mast and boom.  We still have some more hardware to install, wires to run, rigging to put back, and roller furlers to assemble, but it's starting to look like a mast again, and not just some project looming over our head.  Plus it's super shiny...

Feathered edges
Evidence that it wasn't a nightmare
The yellow stuff is the zinc chromate
Blue spots thanks to the idiot
What it should look like
Teamwork at its best
Installing the steaming light
After zinc chromate


  1. Beautiful work!

    This is one of my refit projects I'm planning. I'm looking at painting my mast a bright yellow.

    What kind of paint did you use on the final coat? It looks really good. Too bad about the idiot neighbor.

  2. Thanks Dan!

    We used Awlgrip for the topcoats, and are extremely pleased with its performance so far. We had initially wanted to paint ours a different color as well but we had so much leftover topcoat from our decks that we couldn't justify buying more. Because awlgrip is sooo thin a little goes a long way. To give you an idea, 16oz mixed and thinned would do a coat on the boom, spreaders, and one whole side of our 52' mast with quite a bit leftover (it takes 3-4 times that amount of primer for the same area)

    1. Wow! I didn't know it goes that far. It's good to know. My mast is about 35' so it probably won't take too much to finish.
      Thanks ;)

    2. Looking at Awlgrip 2000 data sheets, it says to use a sprayer. Did you guys do this or just roll/tip? Any tips on this process? Since it's been a year now, how has it been holding up?

  3. We are starting on our mast this weekend. Did you zinc chromate the entire mast or only spot cover the bare aluminum? It looks from the picture you did the entire mast. This would include the still painted sections?

    We have been following you for the past year and want to thank you for the great information and post. We just got our new to us boat last month and the mast is one of our first items to tackle. Thanks again!

    1. Hi Christopher,
      Thanks for the compliments and congratulations of your new boat. When we applied the zinc chromate we mostly just spot treated the bare aluminum but made sure that there was a descent amount of overlapping on to the old paint. The boom did get fully covered, but that was simply because there were so many failed spots in the old paint. Good luck with your project.

  4. Great, Thank You! We have 43T #111.