Downside of Decals

By: Frank Lanier

QuestionI have a 2000 Sportscraft. The manufacturer name decals were damaged, so I removed them. Now I have a shadow of the name where the decal protected the fiberglass underneath. Short of repainting the hull, how can I remove this shadow?

AnswerAs you mentioned, the ghost shadow you see is actually “virgin” gelcoat that shows what your hull looked like when new. The problem is not so much removing the shadow as it is bringing the rest of the hull (which is probably faded due to sun exposure) back to an acceptable match.

Achieving uniform color and shine will likely involve compounding (or wet sanding) and waxing.

The rule when renewing gelcoat is to always start with the least-abrasive option and go from there. I’ve found that even mild abrasive can work wonders on gelcoat if you spend the time to work on it.

If the shadowing isn’t too bad, start with a mild rubbing compound to see if you can blend the areas in so they aren’t as noticeable. Products such as BoatLIFE Fiberglass Rubbing Compound, 3M Imperial Compound and Finisher, or FLITZ polish applied with a low-speed (about 1600 rpm) sander/buffer and a cotton or wool bonnet (depending on what the product calls for) followed by a good wax job can produce impressive results.

If compounding alone isn’t enough, you may have to wet-sand the hull, then follow up with polishing and waxing. You can try working on just the shadow areas (plus 6 inches or so) to see if that’s sufficient, but don’t be surprised if you have to do the entire hull. While each job will have its own specific requirements, here are some general guidelines for wet sanding:

  • Wet-sand the hull with 1500-grit wet sand paper. Use a sanding block and always keep the hull and sandpaper wet. If the gelcoat is heavily oxidized, you may want to start with a slightly coarser grit (e.g., 1200, 1000) then re-sand with 1500 grit.
  • Rinse the hull, then wet-sand with 1800-grit paper.
  • Buff.
  • Polish.
  • Wax.

Finally, if the above seems like too much work, you always have the option of simply installing slightly larger stickers over the shadow areas left by the old ones!


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