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Sunday, February 28, 2016

Gelcoat Removal Tests

Knowing that the gelcoat non-skid must be removed, we have tested various tools and techniques for removal. Here is a summary of what we have learned.

Angle Grinder

This is the first obvious choice. If you deal with fiberglass/resin construction and repairs, you will likely need to grind the stuff, and already have one. Your typical angle grinder with a 5 inch pad and 36 grit (or coarser) stickit dics can cut into the stuff fairly well. However, when taken to the gelcoat nonskid, expect...

  • apply fairly significant pressure to get the abrasive to "bite". 
  • a 36 grit disc will be toast (needs changing) after about 2-3 square feet.

In the end, it would take quite a long time as you burn through a large box of abrasive discs. And, your arms will want to drop out of their sockets after just a few square feet due to the pressue you must apply.

Power Planer

Yes like woodworkers use. Should work, right? I mean we are 'planing' off the non skid, just as one planes off bumps on a wood surface? Well, no. These planers are for removing thin strips. We are talking nearly an eighth inch of gelcoat to remove. Taking a planer to this stuff does work, but the tool is hard to control and you need to make your 'pass' just right to take on the next one. Of course, the gelcoat trashes the carbide planer blades almost instantly.

Gel Plane This is a tool often used to peel gelcoat and fiberglass from hulls, below the waterline, to repair blisters. We did not specifically try this on the deck, but have used this to peel the bottom of our small boat that suffered a case of 'small pox'. This tool should remove the nonskid with no problem. However, locating the tool is an issue. New units cost nearly $3000USD. Used ones appear on eBay VERY rarely and fetch $1500USD or more. If your local boat yard has one to borrow, or knows someone that could do it for an hourly rate, it is worth a try.

We have found another tool that works well. Next post will be a full report...

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