Can you buff out light scratches?

I was just wondering if you can buff out light scratches in the deck of a fiberglass kayak or do you have to go through the more intensive process of gel coat repair?

Alternatively, is there any way to easily fill medium scratches on the bottom of the boat from beach landings…again, without having to do the intensive gel coat repair process?

I don’t suppose…

– Last Updated: May-02-10 9:36 PM EST –

you're looking at that Viking that's been tempting me? (The seller mentioned light scratches and possible buffing. I think she's being hyper critical in trying to be honest.)

Nope…a used boat that is being sold locally…Actually…on top of the above questions, I am wondering how difficult it is to paint the seam line? The color combination is really bad, and I could easily make it acceptable if I just painted the seam line black.

Don’t bother
Light scratches come from use.

Go put some holes in your boat.

Just tape it off sand lightly and spray it with a rattle can.

Yes, you can buff out light scratches…

– Last Updated: May-03-10 10:39 AM EST –

...and depending on the boat in question, sometimes much more. Check out my "Gelcoat Repair & Restoration" album on Webshots for hull repair and restoration of a seriously scratched deck on an Anas Acuta (on page 2).

Note that VCP boats have thick gelcoat that permits (relatively) aggressive sanding. Most boats have much thinner gelcoat, but you can probably still sand lightly with 600/800 grit and finer if necessary without thinning it too much. However, I only recommend sanding if you can't buff out the scratch with a combination of rubbing compound and polishing compound.

IMO, spot scratch repairs on a hull are a waste of time and you're best off just to paddle the boat until it's worn enough to require repairing a decent sized area. You'll probably spend much less time repairing a good-sized section of the keel (for example) than you would if you repaired every single scratch as it occurred. Paddle more, repair less! ;-)

The bottom scratches
If the bottom is white, you’re in luck.

My brother years back bought a used Pintail and the bottom looked it was seal launched every day for 5 years. We just squeegeed on some Marine Tex white epoxy and filled all the scratches and gouges and wet sanded it out smooth. it was a fairly easy process and is still perfect today. Marine Tex is just thick filing epoxy sold at boating stores and it comes in white and grey.

Brushing gelcoat
I’ve had good results repairing gelcoat scratches by using a fine artist’s brush to spread the gelcoat on a prepped surface (Bryan has plenty of info about prepping on his website).

After I’ve applied the gelcoat, I dip the tip of the brush in either acetone or MEK, just enough to feather out the edges and smooth the surface of the applied gelcoat. You have to work fast and delicately, and be very careful to use just enough thinner; too much and the gelcoat breaks down after it cures. It takes a little practice and trial & error to get it right.

I mix up the color-matched gelcoat without the hardener (it will keep indefinitely in an airtight container - I use empty prescription bottles), and then mix the hardener into very small batches to apply. As I’ve gotten better I find I have to do very little sanding before polishing.

It holds up pretty well, too.

3M Finesse-It II
Though mostly I ignore gel coat scratches, when I decide to buff out scratches on the decks of my boats I use 3M Finesse-It II. I’ve used it on my Valley and NDK boats and been very pleased with the results.

just use the damn thing
and redo the bottom of the hull when you start to wear through the last layer of glass.