FoilingNim0s

Carbon fibre mast maintenance

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I’ve just bought myself an a class catamaran. It’s my first boat so I‘ve not got much experience doing maintenance. I was talking to a friend who told me that a protective layer needs to be applied on the mast to protect it from UV rays. I was wondering what it is I need to apply and secondly what the process is. If anyone has any videos or links  that would be much appreciated 

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Paint it white.    Clear coat with "UV" inhibitors is like drinking sunscreen.....  you really need the protection on the outside.   If you have to have it clear and like a crazy hot surface then go ahead and paint it with Awlclear, Alexseal Clear, etc.

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Cheap option is Krlyon...better option is the 2k products from 66autocolor.com and the like...best is Awlgrip. Another good option is a 3M 2080 vinyl wrap, its often easier to find a local installer than someone to spray awlgrip.

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On 6/14/2020 at 4:08 AM, FoilingNim0s said:

I’ve just bought myself an a class catamaran. It’s my first boat so I‘ve not got much experience doing maintenance. I was talking to a friend who told me that a protective layer needs to be applied on the mast to protect it from UV rays. I was wondering what it is I need to apply and secondly what the process is. If anyone has any videos or links  that would be much appreciated 

I was struggling with this question and spent more time than I care to admit searching the Internet for guidance.  Here’s a summary of the many differing pieces of advice I’ve found on the Internet.  Some of it is obvious, but I’ve never found all of the information in one spot.  I’m posting it here to share and to gain any feedback from this group that could increase my understanding and, possibly, help others. I welcome additions, corrections, clarifications.  As you’ll see some of it is contradictory or of questionable merit.  Do with it what you will.  I'd love to hear more convincing information and support for or discrediting of what's written below.

What I’ve read is that the carbon fiber itself has relatively good resistance to UV, however the epoxy resin surrounding it does breakdown due to exposure to UV.  I didn’t find anything definitive regarding how quickly, but anecdotes suggest it’s rather slow and can be measured over years rather than weeks or months.

This is heavy on conjecture, but I’ve read it in multiple places.  Manufacturers of the carbon fiber products tend to clear coat it because it’s cool to see carbon fiber and because the clear coat is supposedly lighter weight than any of the epoxy paints that would otherwise be used to cover it.  I can’t speak to the accuracy of this one, but it is one of a few arguments made by people who believe that clear coat is suboptimal from a UV protection and durability perspective.

Some clear coats have UV inhibitors in them.  Some do not.  Sample clear coats with UV inhibitors include Awlgrip, Interlux Perfection Plus, Duratec Sunshield, and a variety of lower cost options geared towards cars.

People claim that opaque paints offer significantly more UV protection.  Sample opaque paints include Awlgrip, Interlux Perfection Plus, and a variety of lower cost options geared towards cars like Duplicolor, Rust-Oleum and many others.

People claim that clear coats tend to break down over a 2-5 year period.  People claim that opaque paints like Awlgrip and Interlux Perfection tend to last 10 years or more.

Lighter colored opaque paints are better at revealing the various dings and scratches that occur and make it easier to touch up. Lighter colored paints like white or silver keep the mast cooler and could reduce stress between the epoxy and carbon fiber in the mast as well as the coating because they are likely to be impacted differently by elevated temperatures.

Whether heat is an issue or not is an area of debate. Here’s some of what I’ve read.  People have stated that most quality carbon fiber products are baked at 250 degrees F or higher.  Some people believe that this means that all is fine because a clear coated black carbon mast heated by the sun will never approach this temperature.  Other people are more cautious and invoke the stress argument about different materials noted above. Considering that there are carbon fiber hoods over high performance engines in cars, it’s hard to fully buy into, but I have no idea if anything unique is done for those parts.  People suggest that raised masts are significantly cooler than a mast laid on the ground due the cooling effect of the breeze.

Painting a mast an opaque black would block the UV, but subject it to similar heat issues as clear coat without whatever “cool” is associated with the weave look.  Again, I can’t speak to whether this is an issue.

Even more anecdotes suggest that masts in tropical and other high sun areas tend to be painted white for protection and heat concerns. There’s no actual data to support this.  Just hearsay from the all knowing Internet.

The tops of spreaders may require extra protection (e.g. an extra coat or an opaque paint) as they are always facing up towards the sun. This is supported by viewing my spreaders, but I have no scientific evidence beyond appearance and the notion that the tops are never struck by anything, but have weathered much worse than the base of the mast where the blocks on the jib clew regularly bang away at the mast.

The above said, I’ve never heard / read about a carbon fiber mast breaking due to UV damage or heat related issues.  Maybe others have.

Regarding paint / coating, the general consensus of Internet opinions and conjecture is:

- Clear coats tend to require recoating more frequently.  Some do it annually, others do it as required and suggest 2-6 year intervals

- Epoxy paints last 10 years or more.

- Lighter colored paints reflect more heat and allow you to see where dings and scratches are making it easier touch up.

- 2 part epoxy paints last much longer and are stronger than 1 part. Again, there’s little science behind durations and strength, but there’s also little debate that 2 part is stronger and lasts longer.  Commentary suggests that 2 part will last 10+ years vs. 2-4 for 1 part.

- Thinner is required to help the paint or clear coat spread.  Ratios vary by product, but, in general, greater thinning is required for spraying the paint vs. brushing.

- Drying time is greatly influenced by heat and humidity.  A few products I looked at include drying time by temperature and some do not recommend usage below 50 or 55 degrees F

- Spraying epoxy paint is highly toxic and requires full protection including a suit and respirator. Not just a simple mask.  If you plan to spray, look into the proper procedures as there are some serious warnings about the health impact

- Brushing epoxy paint is less toxic and possibly safe to do without special equipment. I’d love to get more information on this and will prior to painting anything.

- Some products are easier to apply via roller/brush than others.  Anecdotally, Interlux Perfection is easier to brush than Awlgrip.  I have no facts to substantiate this other than claims made by posters on the Internet.

- People suggest between 1 and 4 coats with most saying 2-3 coats is sufficient.  Some of the products suggest a thickness per coating to obtain the UV and other protection.  So you would coat as many times as required to reach that thickness

Preparation steps tend to have less debate.  The general consensus is to remove the existing coating and/or rough up the existing coating prior to painting or coating.  The steps are:

- Remove/rough up existing coating without damaging the carbon fiber.

- 320 grit sandpaper is recommended the most, but you can go higher and lower based on your situation

- A flexible razor is recommended if the coating is flaking off

- Do not sand or scrape away the carbon

- Clean it thoroughly.  Recommendations range from water to water and soap to degreaser

- Remove any remaining dust

- Unless you’re painting a brand new mast, it does not seem that any primer is required.

- Interlux’s guidance for putting Perfection Plus clear coat over an existing mast was simply: sand, clean, and apply the clear coat

Having compiled the above list of conjecture, I think the questions boil down to:

Clear coat or paint?  Arguments for paint seem logical and there isn’t a significant cost differential.  Also, if the anecdotal evidence is true, you won’t have to paint again for many years. That said, I’m not convinced that simply clear coating it would have any negative impacts.

Professional or do-it-yourself?  Cost vs. quality of output as well as safety.  A professional should have appropriate safety equipment, space, and tools to do a better job than I would.

Brush vs. spray?  Based on what I’ve read, it would cost a good amount of money to buy or rent the equipment and personal protection to spray it would to buy a few brushes.  If I could afford to pay someone for the work, I would opt for spraying since I would assume that finish would be much smoother.

Color?  Practicality vs. coolness. Based on the opinions above, it seems like white or silver paint would be best.

Brand?  I’ve read in a few places that Interlux Perfection is easier to apply with a brush.  I can’t substantiate that, but a few people have made that comment. Other brands may be fine, but just less Internet-wisdom supporting them. I haven’t found any brand that documents UV resistance in any measurable way.  Anecdotes suggest Awlgrip, Interlux Perfection, and Duratec Sunshield are very good.  Perfection plus gets more nods for being easier to spread with a brush, people using the other brands may just be less inclined to post on the Internet.

2 part vs. 1 part?  I don’t think I found a single post suggesting that 1 part was better for anything other than ease of use.  Durability for 2-part appears to be 5+ times better so that seems like the better option.

Any scientific or anecdotal additions or amendments to the above would be appreciated.

 

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Whoa

Me thinks this guy does Cochran reviews for scientific journals. There’s a bit of meta analysis going on there.

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2 cents, on an a class dont waste a single brain cell worrying about it. It might be a UV problem for your great great grandkids but definitely not you. 

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Just paint it a solid color and move on.   One comment on the excellent literature review published above.   It is very likely made with a thermoset resin, probably a 250°F cure epoxy.  Once it cures it's pretty much done.  I'll go out on a limb here and say the mast will never see temperatures approaching that original cure temp.  And if it does that mast tube itself is probably the least of your concerns.

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One (important) point, most 2-part marine paints are urethanes, not epoxies. There are epoxy (2-part) paints, generally used as undercoats (under 2-part urethanes, etc) or as interior(bilge) paints. Urethanes are tougher than epoxies, andUV stable, epoxies are more brittle and not UV stable.

(My mast has an epoxy paint undercoat and Awlgrip topcoat.)

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13 hours ago, PurpleOnion said:

  I didn’t find anything definitive regarding how quickly, but anecdotes suggest it’s rather slow and can be measured over years rather than weeks or months.

Gougeon Bros. did some tests on UV aging of epoxy solid cubes. The cubes did well but the top layer deteriorated badly over a year or two. Epoxy in a CF laminate is pretty thin so if left unprotected, I'd say the top layer of the laminate would be quite compromised in a year or 2. Now if is a mast for 40' boat that is dozens of layers thick, no worry. If it's 3 or 4 layers thick....

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When I got my A-cat I cut to the chase and emailed Fiber Foam about leaving the mast up and how to take care of it. They answered right back and said don't worry about it, leave it up uncovered. Over time there may be some surface degradation but there will be no structural harm. Went sailing.

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On 6/15/2020 at 1:24 AM, Team Subterfuge said:

 

Which mast is it?  The Selden or Forte?  The Selden has a lot of clear on it and you need to be careful sanding.  The outer layer of carbon is smooth so don't cut into it much, the mast is soft enough and can't afford to loose carbon.  The Selden was not stiff enough above the hounds, and I broke a couple tips.

Forte is a great mast, and did not have as much clear coat.  Again being wound it has fibers proud so don't cut into those sanding.  Much better mast construction, and matches the boat perfectly, very tough rig.  I still own the prototype rig and it is going strong, with huge abuse.

Agree with SoloSailor, paint it white.

Enjoy the boat and if you have any questions, happy to help.  Still have the next model prototype in my shop, been sitting for 12 years.  It is a skiff not a sport boat.  Fun time developing the boat after my kayak business.

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On 6/29/2020 at 9:09 AM, Kincora said:

Which mast is it?  The Selden or Forte?  The Selden has a lot of clear on it and you need to be careful sanding.  The outer layer of carbon is smooth so don't cut into it much, the mast is soft enough and can't afford to loose carbon.  The Selden was not stiff enough above the hounds, and I broke a couple tips.

Forte is a great mast, and did not have as much clear coat.  Again being wound it has fibers proud so don't cut into those sanding.  Much better mast construction, and matches the boat perfectly, very tough rig.  I still own the prototype rig and it is going strong, with huge abuse.

Agree with SoloSailor, paint it white.

Enjoy the boat and if you have any questions, happy to help.  Still have the next model prototype in my shop, been sitting for 12 years.  It is a skiff not a sport boat.  Fun time developing the boat after my kayak business.

The OP's rig is either a Fiberfoam or a Hall, or fairly unlikely a Saarberg. Forte and Selden don't make A-Cat rigs, and basically all the modern masts are Fiberfoam.

In terms of the "best" options, you can believe me, or you can believe fiberfoam, a great company based in a relatively low UV part of the world (Austria). My background is 10+ years designing aerospace composite structures. Have you ever seen a clear coated carbon certified aircraft, or even large unmanned aircraft? If you have, I'd love a picture, because everyone I've ever seen is painted Imron White (Awlgrip is basically Imron btw, not compatible systems but very similar). Yes, the base composite in our A-Cat rigs is a pre-preg laminate that is heat cured at 250 °C and as such the heat deflection temperature (HDT, point at which the epoxy starts to soften) is in the 180 °F range. In the backing hot Florida sun a black rig can get to 140-150 °F quite easily, which is above the HDT of West Systems (120 °F, and why repaired masts should basically always be painted, and repairs completed with Pro-Set or MGS 285 resin systems which have HDT's approaching Pre-preg resins). I know of one unpainted Fiberfoam tapered mast that warped slightly from being out in the sun in Florida. Temps approaching the HDT can result in softened laminates and masts have been broken simply sitting on the beach with too much diamond and downhaul tension on (though not in a while, the newer rigs are a bit beefier due to foiling loads). My point is, if you care about your rig, use the data from the aero industry and paint it Awlgrip white or apply 3M 2080 vinyl white to the mast, which is probably the best option for a DIY job.

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Hey Sam, I read your post and wondered about the difference in solar incidence between Austria and Florida, so I looked it up.  Austria is in the same general latitude as New Foundland - Goose Bay, to be more precise!  Who knew?

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We brush painted ours with black topsides paint after the original clear was flaking off about ten years ago. You can’t tell it is painted not clearcoated unless you’re standing at the shrouds. 

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I find it funny that wrapping it in vinyl is an accepted option, as that's what I did to my carbon spin pole in lieu of an overpriced Awlgrip job.

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On 6/27/2020 at 9:48 AM, PurpleOnion said:

I was struggling with this question and spent more time than I care to admit searching the Internet for guidance.  Here’s a summary of the many differing pieces of advice I’ve found on the Internet.  Some of it is obvious, but I’ve never found all of the information in one spot.  I’m posting it here to share and to gain any feedback from this group that could increase my understanding and, possibly, help others. I welcome additions, corrections, clarifications.  As you’ll see some of it is contradictory or of questionable merit.  Do with it what you will.  I'd love to hear more convincing information and support for or discrediting of what's written below.

What I’ve read is that the carbon fiber itself has relatively good resistance to UV, however the epoxy resin surrounding it does breakdown due to exposure to UV.  I didn’t find anything definitive regarding how quickly, but anecdotes suggest it’s rather slow and can be measured over years rather than weeks or months.

This is heavy on conjecture, but I’ve read it in multiple places.  Manufacturers of the carbon fiber products tend to clear coat it because it’s cool to see carbon fiber and because the clear coat is supposedly lighter weight than any of the epoxy paints that would otherwise be used to cover it.  I can’t speak to the accuracy of this one, but it is one of a few arguments made by people who believe that clear coat is suboptimal from a UV protection and durability perspective.

Some clear coats have UV inhibitors in them.  Some do not.  Sample clear coats with UV inhibitors include Awlgrip, Interlux Perfection Plus, Duratec Sunshield, and a variety of lower cost options geared towards cars.

People claim that opaque paints offer significantly more UV protection.  Sample opaque paints include Awlgrip, Interlux Perfection Plus, and a variety of lower cost options geared towards cars like Duplicolor, Rust-Oleum and many others.

People claim that clear coats tend to break down over a 2-5 year period.  People claim that opaque paints like Awlgrip and Interlux Perfection tend to last 10 years or more.

Lighter colored opaque paints are better at revealing the various dings and scratches that occur and make it easier to touch up. Lighter colored paints like white or silver keep the mast cooler and could reduce stress between the epoxy and carbon fiber in the mast as well as the coating because they are likely to be impacted differently by elevated temperatures.

Whether heat is an issue or not is an area of debate. Here’s some of what I’ve read.  People have stated that most quality carbon fiber products are baked at 250 degrees F or higher.  Some people believe that this means that all is fine because a clear coated black carbon mast heated by the sun will never approach this temperature.  Other people are more cautious and invoke the stress argument about different materials noted above. Considering that there are carbon fiber hoods over high performance engines in cars, it’s hard to fully buy into, but I have no idea if anything unique is done for those parts.  People suggest that raised masts are significantly cooler than a mast laid on the ground due the cooling effect of the breeze.

Painting a mast an opaque black would block the UV, but subject it to similar heat issues as clear coat without whatever “cool” is associated with the weave look.  Again, I can’t speak to whether this is an issue.

Even more anecdotes suggest that masts in tropical and other high sun areas tend to be painted white for protection and heat concerns. There’s no actual data to support this.  Just hearsay from the all knowing Internet.

The tops of spreaders may require extra protection (e.g. an extra coat or an opaque paint) as they are always facing up towards the sun. This is supported by viewing my spreaders, but I have no scientific evidence beyond appearance and the notion that the tops are never struck by anything, but have weathered much worse than the base of the mast where the blocks on the jib clew regularly bang away at the mast.

The above said, I’ve never heard / read about a carbon fiber mast breaking due to UV damage or heat related issues.  Maybe others have.

Regarding paint / coating, the general consensus of Internet opinions and conjecture is:

- Clear coats tend to require recoating more frequently.  Some do it annually, others do it as required and suggest 2-6 year intervals

- Epoxy paints last 10 years or more.

- Lighter colored paints reflect more heat and allow you to see where dings and scratches are making it easier touch up.

- 2 part epoxy paints last much longer and are stronger than 1 part. Again, there’s little science behind durations and strength, but there’s also little debate that 2 part is stronger and lasts longer.  Commentary suggests that 2 part will last 10+ years vs. 2-4 for 1 part.

- Thinner is required to help the paint or clear coat spread.  Ratios vary by product, but, in general, greater thinning is required for spraying the paint vs. brushing.

- Drying time is greatly influenced by heat and humidity.  A few products I looked at include drying time by temperature and some do not recommend usage below 50 or 55 degrees F

- Spraying epoxy paint is highly toxic and requires full protection including a suit and respirator. Not just a simple mask.  If you plan to spray, look into the proper procedures as there are some serious warnings about the health impact

- Brushing epoxy paint is less toxic and possibly safe to do without special equipment. I’d love to get more information on this and will prior to painting anything.

- Some products are easier to apply via roller/brush than others.  Anecdotally, Interlux Perfection is easier to brush than Awlgrip.  I have no facts to substantiate this other than claims made by posters on the Internet.

- People suggest between 1 and 4 coats with most saying 2-3 coats is sufficient.  Some of the products suggest a thickness per coating to obtain the UV and other protection.  So you would coat as many times as required to reach that thickness

Preparation steps tend to have less debate.  The general consensus is to remove the existing coating and/or rough up the existing coating prior to painting or coating.  The steps are:

- Remove/rough up existing coating without damaging the carbon fiber.

- 320 grit sandpaper is recommended the most, but you can go higher and lower based on your situation

- A flexible razor is recommended if the coating is flaking off

- Do not sand or scrape away the carbon

- Clean it thoroughly.  Recommendations range from water to water and soap to degreaser

- Remove any remaining dust

- Unless you’re painting a brand new mast, it does not seem that any primer is required.

- Interlux’s guidance for putting Perfection Plus clear coat over an existing mast was simply: sand, clean, and apply the clear coat

Having compiled the above list of conjecture, I think the questions boil down to:

Clear coat or paint?  Arguments for paint seem logical and there isn’t a significant cost differential.  Also, if the anecdotal evidence is true, you won’t have to paint again for many years. That said, I’m not convinced that simply clear coating it would have any negative impacts.

Professional or do-it-yourself?  Cost vs. quality of output as well as safety.  A professional should have appropriate safety equipment, space, and tools to do a better job than I would.

Brush vs. spray?  Based on what I’ve read, it would cost a good amount of money to buy or rent the equipment and personal protection to spray it would to buy a few brushes.  If I could afford to pay someone for the work, I would opt for spraying since I would assume that finish would be much smoother.

Color?  Practicality vs. coolness. Based on the opinions above, it seems like white or silver paint would be best.

Brand?  I’ve read in a few places that Interlux Perfection is easier to apply with a brush.  I can’t substantiate that, but a few people have made that comment. Other brands may be fine, but just less Internet-wisdom supporting them. I haven’t found any brand that documents UV resistance in any measurable way.  Anecdotes suggest Awlgrip, Interlux Perfection, and Duratec Sunshield are very good.  Perfection plus gets more nods for being easier to spread with a brush, people using the other brands may just be less inclined to post on the Internet.

2 part vs. 1 part?  I don’t think I found a single post suggesting that 1 part was better for anything other than ease of use.  Durability for 2-part appears to be 5+ times better so that seems like the better option.

Any scientific or anecdotal additions or amendments to the above would be appreciated.

 

Someone pin this....

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On 7/3/2020 at 9:44 AM, mookiesurfs said:

Hey Sam, I read your post and wondered about the difference in solar incidence between Austria and Florida, so I looked it up.  Austria is in the same general latitude as New Foundland - Goose Bay, to be more precise!  Who knew?

 

Europe in general is much farther North than people on the other side of the pond realize...

New-York is at the latitude of ...  Madrid !

Who knew?!

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18 hours ago, Laurent said:

 

Europe in general is much farther North than people on the other side of the pond realize...

New-York is at the latitude of ...  Madrid !

Who knew?!

Ok, so here’s something that puzzles me, but not so much so that I’ve looked it up: With New York and Madrid at similar latitudes, the northerly flow of the warm Gulf Stream should moderate New York’s climate towards warmer, and the cold arctic waters coming down on the east side of the Atlantic should chill the Iberian peninsula. Yet, in my small sunburnt brain, I assume NY to be chillier than Madrid. Is this incorrect? If it IS correct, what factors conspire to make Madrid warmer?

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