The safety rails need to be installed before a surveyor will sign off on the boat being ready to splash. We sanded and laid three heavy coats of West System epoxy with the 207 Special Clear hardener on the original mahogany rails back in August 2013, and they’ve been sitting ever since. Now that the safety rail hardware has been rechromed, I’ll install all the pieces in their old locations on the safety rail and use them as a guide for where to install the stanchion bases. Then I’ll remove the stanchion tops and bases, and we’ll put the final coats of Imron MS1 clearcoat on the mahogany toe rail and safety rail. But before I do the final installation, the stainless safety rail tubing needs to be sanded and polished. It’s not the most exciting work, but the results are visually apparent pretty quickly.
This stanchion has been sitting in a 5-gallon bucket full of other stanchions that easily came apart from their chromed bronze bases when we disassembled the boat way back in 2008 (YIKES!).
I like this sander so far. It’s lightweight and fits well in my hands. The locking tabs are robust, and the pad can be used with stick-it or plain-backed paper.
The other two stanchions in the pic above did not separate easily from their bronze bases. While the rest of the stanchions were in a bucket under the boat, these sat in my garage, where I applied penetrating oil to them over the last year. When I finally got around to applying heat to them and separating them from their bronze bases, I got a bit of a surprise. One foot away from where they were sitting was a closed gallon jug of muriatic acid that I’ve used to clean heat exchangers. The side of the stainless that was facing the jug of acid had clearly been attacked by acid vapor. There’s extensive pitting and surface rust, but only on that side. I have no idea how acid vapors escaped the sealed plastic jug, but that’s clearly what happened. It’s going to take a lot more than a light sand and polish to clean these up.
The stanchion at the top with all of the surface rust actually cleans up pretty easily. That center one, though, has pretty deep pitting.
I assume that at some point, somebody put a pipe wrench on this one and gouged it. I hit it with a buffing wheel on my modified Makita polisher, and it shines up pretty well. But the gouges don’t look good, even shined up. It’ll take some pretty course sandpaper to remove that.
After sanding down specific rough spots, I sanded the entire surface of each tube using 400 grit wet or dry. After clamping the paper to the pad, I dip the paper in a shallow pan of water and roll the tube back and forth while rotating the sander to use the entire surface of the paper. It doesn’t look especially coordinated in the video below, but the hand I’d normally use to steady the tube was occupied holding the camera. I was at the 1,000 grit stage in the video, but the motion is the same for all of the grits.
There are still some pits visible, but I spent an hour just on this one and removed quite a bit of material. Once it’s polished, I think it’ll look fine.
It took a solid six hours to get these three stanchions ready for the polisher. Fortunately, none of the rest of the stanchions have the severe pitting and rust problem, so depending on how badly the gouges are I’ve got the sanding process down to about one hour per tube. I’ve also got two much longer, curved tubes that serve as the bow safety rail, so they will take more time. Fortunately, they only have surface stains, so I can start with 400 grit there. Unfortunately, my modified Makita polisher doesn’t work well with tubes. For that, I need to use my bench grinder/polisher in my garage, which I’ll be doing over the next several weeks in my spare time.