Saturday, May 22, 2010

A sweet non slip solution for your boat

Bright, glossy varnish on a boat’s deck when wet is an accident waiting to happen, so I needed a non-slip solution for the Goat, which has had it's final coat of varnish applied to the topsides.

By the way, I’ve used Norglass Weatherfast Marine Varnish, which has an excellent reputation amongst boaties here in Australia as a superior yacht varnish to most imported brands. I chose it not because of a flashy container, but because the Norglass people formulate their products to withstand Australia’s far higher summertime UV radiation levels compared to those experienced in Europe. It goes on beautifully too, looks fantastic and dries hard.

It’s been many, many years since I last applied a non slip surface coating to a boat. In the 60’s & 70’s, there were no commercial products for paints, so we improvised. Sugar, salt, sand and mum’s net curtains were the go back then. Nowadays, there are all sorts of additives which are mixed with paints, such as non slip glass and plastic pearls, and then there are some that are made from fine, cryogenically ground rubber. To be honest, I don’t think any of these new products are any better than refined sugar crystals.

The beauty of sugar, especially if you are applying it to a varnished surface, is that they become translucent and virtually disappear so that you still see the lovely wood grain.

Now, if you’re going to be parking your backside on the bottom of your boat, you don’t want to use ordinary sugar. Ordinary sugar will quickly wear through your shorts. In fact, even if you won’t be sitting on the surface you’re treating, ordinary household sugar is capable of removing skin better than 40 grit sandpaper. No, what you want is CASTER SUGAR. The grains of caster sugar are a lot smaller and when mixed with varnish, make an excellent non-slip surface, that will not remove skin from your knees, or any other body parts for that matter.

Once you have applied the final coat of varnish or paint and it has dried, you are ready to apply your non-slip surface. For a nice even application, the idea is to mix the caster sugar into the varnish. (No, the sugar will not dissolve!). Some people use a sieve to apply the grains, but this is not only messy, it’s also much more difficult to get a nice even spread of grains. You will achieve a far better job if you mix the caster sugar into the paint or varnish.

After masking off the area, mix enough caster sugar into your varnish, paint or polyurethane, so that when you brush or roll the mixture onto a test piece of timber, there is some separation of the grains. They should not be tightly packed at all, and you should see small spaces around each grain. This is the optimum amount you want to add. (As a guide, start with a teaspoon per 50ml of paint or varnish, and adjust if necessary)

You can apply the mixture by brush, but those little white foam rollers are best, and make for a very even coating that is also very quick to apply. Do not apply too thickly. It’s better to apply only sparingly. Once applied and you’re happy, remove the masking tape. That’s it, you’re done!

Because the caster sugar becomes so translucent, it is very difficult to see against a gloss varnish finish.

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