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Old 11-03-2015, 07:01 AM   #1
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question: gelcoat buffer polisher

I recently purchased a 38' Marine Trader, and I think that some kind of electric buffer polisher is in my future for the gelcoat. Since I am 63 years old, I think I fall into the "lighter is better" category, but I still tend to do my own boat maintenance chores at haul-out time. What would you recommend, and is this same tool of any use when it comes to maintenance below the waterline?
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Old 11-09-2015, 03:56 PM   #2
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I recently purchased a 38' Marine Trader, and I think that some kind of electric buffer polisher is in my future for the gelcoat. Since I am 63 years old, I think I fall into the "lighter is better" category, but I still tend to do my own boat maintenance chores at haul-out time. What would you recommend, and is this same tool of any use when it comes to maintenance below the waterline?
The best tool for that job is made by Makita. It is a pure polisher, not orbital, and not cheap, but worth every penny. I use a wool type buffing pad, and DuPont Finesse It II as the polishing compound. If your Gel Coat is really oxidized, you probably will need a more aggressive polishing compound to start with.

I ran into a guy up on Stewart Island who had an older Tollycraft. The gel coat looked better than new, and he told me the boat was NOT kept in a boathouse. His secret was the Makita polisher, DuPont Finesse It II, and Collinite 885 Fleet Wax. He said he only did this once per year, and the results were amazing.
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Old 11-09-2015, 04:39 PM   #3
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Don't buy a polisher. Get a pro detailer to put a great shine on the boat and the first wax. Then wax it yourself every 4 months. Enough work for +60 yo in doing that. I know! Then in 4 or 5 years time get the pro detailer back.

If you must have a polisher, even for the wax, try a 4" one. It will give you enough aches and pains by the time you have been over the boat once. The larger ones are much better for compounding, but man is that hard work!
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Old 11-09-2015, 05:42 PM   #4
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I think that some kind of electric buffer polisher is in my future for the gelcoat.
What would you recommend, and is this same tool of any use when it comes to maintenance below the waterline?
Here's a ink to a Wax or Polish Thread that includes my (& a few others) thoughts on Rotary vs DA Polishers.

Also a link to a rating of Best DA Polishers

I did a fair amt of reading / comparing and went with the Flex 3401 which is the only DA (that I know of) that drives both rotary & oscillation (all the others are single drive and offset wts jiggle polishers)
Some have classed the Flex 3401 as producing Rotary results with the safety of a DA polisher.
The only downside is Flex units are pricey but you can find them periodically on eBay & Craigslist - I did and some between 1/3 & 1/2 of new $.
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Old 11-09-2015, 05:58 PM   #5
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My boat had never been buffed out when I got it, 14 years of sun and oxidation on it. I did my research and bought a Makita, you can lock the speed where you want it, it has a nice side handle so your hands don't get tired too fast.

I am convinced it takes two different sizes of buffer, the big buffer doesn't get into smaller spaces like under grab rails and around mounts well. I will be getting a smaller buffer this year, the Makita does a great job on large flat surfaces, like the hull. My boat is a completely different color after buffing it out, shines like new and I get a lot of compliments on the hull. The cabin still needs a bit of work to match, hand rubbing just doesn't get it!
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Old 11-09-2015, 08:19 PM   #6
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I think that some kind of electric buffer polisher is in my future for the gelcoat.
Seven years ago I bought a $29 Harbor Freight variable speed buffer, two yellow wool pads from a good paint store, and a gallon of "Perfect It' liquid compound. Did the entire boat before the gear box started making noises, then threw it away. Kept it waxed/polished and still looks new. I moved away from Carnuba waxes to Meguiar's NXT 2.0 synthetic sealer last year...expensive but easy to use and it has amazing UV protection. Be careful about buffing too often as you can eventually eat through the gelcoat. No use for a buffer on the bottom in my experience. Sanders yes, buffer no.
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Old 11-15-2015, 08:45 AM   #7
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Bingo! semi-planing has I right !.The real advantage to me with this Harbor freight buffer is, it weighs almost 1/3 of what the Makita , Dewalt do. You can swing this buffer all day long and your arms wouldn't fall off! and does just as good or better job. These boats are too big to be swinging 10lb buffers .I watch for the sale flyers.
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Old 11-15-2015, 10:22 AM   #8
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Go to www.autogeek.com and read, it will tell all you need to know
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Old 11-15-2015, 10:28 AM   #9
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HFT - Great tool guarantees! Purchase buffer and use (abuse - lol) it within 90 days. If it wears out - they take new one off shelf and replace. Two year guarantee can also be purchased for full replacement at later date. I've had good luck with HFT. Very affordable too. Years past their tools were considerably inferior to their today tools. HFT is being successful in competing with quality of other tool brands.

I know some about HFT inner workings regarding their tool manufacturers due to one of my patented tools being entertained by their HQ for inclusion in their store and web site tool line. Story and script on this is still being written. They know how to dot the i's and cross the t's.
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Old 11-15-2015, 10:39 AM   #10
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"Bingo! semi-planing has I right !.The real advantage to me with this Harbor freight buffer is, it weighs almost 1/3 of what the Makita , Dewalt do."


Deepsix - Since I often buff cars and boats over the past 25+ years I have accumulated all those wheels above - HF, Makita 722 and the Dewalt (actually called the B&D professional back then). The weight difference between the Makita and the HF unit is less than a pound and part of that weight is the extra cord length on the Makita. I am all for saving money but the action of the Makita is very much better than the HF unit and will more safely do a cars fender paint line where the HF unit is actually scary. I will always choose to take the Makita along when doing polishing on the boat as the feel and soft start action make it much easier on the arms etc. I will also pick one of the much lighter dual action polishers I have if I am only applying a light polish or wax as opposed to removing some chalk or a 'clean and polish''.
The Dewalt version is much heavier in both weight and wheel capability and comes out to do any heavy compounding but is also very good at removing polish or wax even with its heavier weight.
With only one wheel to choose it is easy to pick the Makita variable speed soft start 7227 as it has a great feel and has served me well these past 20 years or so.
This is one of the areas where I would not try and save money on a tool - either pay someone to do it professionally or give yourself the firepower you will need with a good tool.
Hope this helps
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Old 11-15-2015, 10:54 AM   #11
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Buy a Makita and you will never wear it out and won't be sorry. I bought a HF rotary a few years ago and it lasted less than one wax job before it lost its "oomph".


I use my Makita on power setting "1". That's plenty fast and won't burn anything.


I squirt the wax on the lambswool bonnet then smear a stripe of it on the boat. Then come back over the area where I smeared and buff it out until it's VERY thin. That way, after it dries, it's easy to wipe off with clean towels.


BTW, you can buy a pack of white "hand towel" size towels at Costco for pretty cheap. I have used those for years and they work great for removing dried wax and many other jobs on the boat.
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Old 11-15-2015, 07:36 PM   #12
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+1 for the Makita 7227 on large flat areas. I also have a DA polisher for small areas and ones that are not flat. Each tool has a purpose...
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Old 11-15-2015, 07:55 PM   #13
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This is the one I have been using the past 5 years or so. What I like about it is that I can hold it with one hand and it works great. This is from Griot's Garage. Note that they market to the car enthusiast but it does work great on gel coat as well.

Griot's Garage 6" Random Orbital - Griot's Garage

Shurhold sells a similar (maybe the same) product:

Worlds Best Dual Action Polisher | Shurhold
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Old 11-15-2015, 09:07 PM   #14
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With only one wheel to choose it is easy to pick the Makita variable speed soft start 7227 as it has a great feel and has served me well these past 20 years or so.
I see that some polishers have a hole in the middle of the pad, and others seem to be a hook-and-loop design. Is this all personal preference, or is one easier to find/replace/afford than the other?
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Old 11-16-2015, 12:47 PM   #15
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I have both kinds. The hole in the middle is a place to put their "pad alignment tool" (a piece of hard plastic pipe about 4" long). That makes sure the pad is properly aligned with the wheel so you don't get any wobble like you do when the pad is off center.


I like the ones with the hole because it makes attaching a new pad easey peasey
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Old 11-16-2015, 01:01 PM   #16
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"I see that some polishers have a hole in the middle of the pad, and others seem to be a hook-and-loop design. Is this all personal preference, or is one easier to find/replace/afford than the other?"

Only referring to rotary wheels no not the DA's....
GFG's answer is a good one in my experience.
But you can also change the backing pads on any of these 'wheels' not just the pads.
Some of the ones with the hole actually mount the wheel pad with a larger flanged 'nut' outside the wheel pad. The pad is 'clamped' between the backing plate and the flange nut through the hole. I typically stay away from that technique although that was all that was around when I was 'growing up'.
Now the backing wheels prefer hook and loop and some of the 'pads' that attach to the hook and loop are molded with sides that curl over the edges of the backing pads making alignment much easier.
That is what I prefer to use for quicker changes and more protection for the polishing surface
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Old 11-16-2015, 02:37 PM   #17
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At a boater's garage sale I attended recently the retiring boater showed me his electric floor polisher/waxer/washer with twin brushes on the bottom. I said I'd buy it, because I have cross-hatching all over my decks and bridge areas, and clearly those plastic brushes could reach in there better than my cockeyed efforts.

He pulled it back and said he'd better keep it. I'll get my revenge on Craigslist, or rent something for a day. The vertical areas I'll Simonize or whatever, but I'm going to find me a floor polisher with plastic brushes, I am.

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Old 11-16-2015, 08:18 PM   #18
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At a boater's garage sale I attended recently the retiring boater showed me his electric floor polisher/waxer/washer with twin brushes on the bottom. I said I'd buy it, ...]
FYI - you don't necessarily need another machine...
If you have or pick up one of these DA polishers you can get brushes for them.

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Flex Brush
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Old 11-17-2015, 12:44 AM   #19
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Some searching will show there are two different sized machines.

One uses approx. a 7" or 9" diam pad. Usually these things are 6 to 8 lbs. When using overhead they get tiring fast. They are more powerfull than the smaller units.
Makita, DeWalt, and others make numerous units. I have two but next time I am going looking for one of the smaller ones. My shoulders and arms were beat and sore. For comparison I am 67 yrs. Never used to bother me like that but this last years waxing/buffing , OUCH.



The others , smaller and around 5 lbs, use an approx 5" wheel. They don't have the power but 2 friends each have one and although overall they may be a bit slower the shoulders/arms don't get beaten up so much. Lots of accessories available also.

Best Dual Action Polisher Comparisons & Reviews

A recent review of a bunch of them
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Old 11-17-2015, 01:17 AM   #20
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I buff mine out when it's out of the water, standing in the back of my pickup and driving it around the boat so I don't have to work over my head. That takes a lot of the strain out of it. The side mounted handle and locking trigger keep my hands from getting tired, and with the right "agent" on the buff pad it only takes a pass or two for it to be pristine. The first time it was 3M rubbing compound, next pass was "finness-it", and then a hand rub of good wax and a buff with a micro fiber cloth.

The boat had't been done in 12 years when I bought it, hence the rubbing compound first buff. Really heavy oxidation, which will never happen again.
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