Best Rust/Painting Strategy

Not happy with the way our coatings and deck work have been working out. We use this process on deck, bulkheads, and overheads on our weather decks. Our process goes like this:

-Needle gun
-Buffing/ feathering
-Interprime 198
-Interthane 665 or 990

What does everyone else use and how long do you expect your coatings to last?

Have you tried yelling and screaming at your deckhands to do better work?



In today’s day and age, every mate is a deckhand. At least, until you are bitter and old enough to join the group of “crows” that inevitable gather and talk shit every day, yet never consider themselves lazy.

I see that in the shipyard the paint guy uses a paint thickness meter. Never tried myself but something you might consider.

Aside from that some people claim that the needle gun get overused. For light rust they say better to use the wire wheel to avoid pitting the steel worse. I don’t have an opinion about this but possibly the ABs prefer the needle gun as it can be less effort.

Some mates resist painting over rust but sometimes it’s a better move. If things start looking bad PSC and others will not like it but they will find other stuff wrong that will keep you busy and you’ll never get caught up.

Keep the “highlights” touched up. The fresh painted bright reds (fire stations) and yellows (first step on ladders) on deck standing out draw the eye away from the shit job in the corners.

It helps if the crew takes pride in the work.

1 Like


Yeah, the real question is how long I gotta keep this rust bucket looking good before I get a captain’s spot?


“One coat for dust,

Two coats for rust”

1 Like

I’d make sure they are mixing the paint properly first. Then I’d make sure they are using enrust properly.

Those jugs sit in a paint locker for a long time sometimes. Do they actually shake the jug up and get the solution mixed up properly? Do they actually put it on rust? Do they wait the allotted time prior to top coat?

1 Like

The voodoo of rust on steel has always baffled me.

With time, I’ve learned that structural steel from the mill has a protective coat of “mill bloom”, that somewhat gray sheen (distinct from the primer added later) which is a variety of iron oxide formed under the anaerobic heat and pressure of the milling process, and which has an inherent, if slight, rust resistance. To this the steel mill immediately adds a spray of primer (hence the spec “milled and primed” when ordering steel, as opposed to “black” steel).

When rust does develop, we react by deep prepping, meaning we strip away both the mill bloom and factory primer, which were the two greatest barriers against rust formation. We can’t replicate the anaerobic conditions that the mill-bloom was created under, and manual forms of prepping and painting require time, which means the bright steel we’ve exposed in prepping immediately begins rusting from contact with salt air.

Therefore, the time between exposing the steel and applying the first coat of rust preventive solution (RPS), or primer, is of importance. Prepping the steel one day and applying RPS or primer the next day guarantees that rust will have begun in the steel again.

If there is a choice, prepping and priming only as much steel as can be completely done in a day, and then painting ASAP, and only moving onto the next “patch" later, is the best way to avoid the problem.

But rarely is this an option. It adds to the total time of the project, and seems to go against the tide of what most sailors think is “Painting”. Everyone wants to see as much paint brushed on each day as possible, not an anal-retentive few square feet. They want to see a lot of finished product, and if it only lasts a few months, well, that’s life at sea.

For RPS (I never call them “primers”) I use Lifeguard (tannic acid base, I believe), having tried several others, though not all of them. I never use Corroseal (chromic acid), which I have found reacts to some International Paint products.

For small areas, I use grinder/ wire wheel, etc. to remove big scale, then apply the RPS. When it is dry, I remove the rest of the rust with flapper brush, on the theory that the dried solution will remain in the microscopic crevices where the flapper can’t get to. Then I immediately cover the bright “flapped” steel with primer, on the theory that primer makes a better bond with steel than RPS.


Thats why i hate two part paint. Using one part is better so you don’t have to micro manage people on the proper storage, mixing and induction techniques. Some folks just don’t give a fuck.

1 Like

Agreed. Any of the multi-part coatings are a huge headache for a merchant crew with limited time and resources. They belong in shipyards only, IMO. Chasing guys constantly reminding them of mixing ratios, pot times, etc. is a huge pain in the ass.

1 Like

Those movies where someone gets chased up onto the roof, and the only escape is to leap across to the next building? That’s what using two-part paint is like. Don’t try it if you don’t think it’s going to work.

But if it works out you’ve got a good head start.


By the way, along with the many boats I supervise is a Korean War vintage U.S. Army “T-boat”. I am amazed that her hull steel is in such good shape. I asked a ship surveyor how this could be after 67 years. Two words, he said: Lead paint.

In those areas where the original lead paint hasn’t been disturbed, and just covered with new paint, the steel is in amazingly good shape. For the most part, only where dents have been repaired, or steel work done for this and that, has rust appeared.

There is a caveat here, however. The 80+ T-boats built for Korea were never used, the war ending before they were shipped overseas. They then spent 20 years in dry storage ashore, before being sold off. This aging process might have been as good for the paint as it is for whiskey.

I am not a fan of endrust. its a water based product and I think its a waist of money. I did a experiment with endrust and without using it I saw no difference after a few months. All paint systems have prep guidelines most call for blasting and I understand we can’t always do that. Follow the guidelines (usually called technical data sheets or TDS) prep is very important and pay attention to re-coat times which are often called paint window. You want your layers to bond together if the window closes you will just have one layer on top of another. Carboline makes a 2 part product called rust bond it is specifically designed for improperly prepped surfaces and works great.

Back in my Tidewater days when things would get slow the office started caring about the vessels appearance we would just paint over everything the get them off of our back then come back and rework the bad spots. Luckily I sail union now and am not allowed to touch a paintbrush.

One company I worked for put a riding crew on a ship on its delivery from the yard. They were properly trained and used two pot paints with a large capacity sprayers with pole guns. Within a week the weather decks and upper works were properly coated and it probably paid for itself over the life of the ship.

1 Like

We use
Pressure Washer
Needle gun if necessary
Wipe with thinner
2 coats 300
2 coats 201 or 990 depending on surface.
Water rinse prior to top coat.

We use 198 and 665 but only on interior spaces. One part doesn’t last on weather decks in my experience.

True that…but on smaller vessels where you have down time, and painting is a big part of the busy work…bring it on!

Hell yeah, layers of paint over rust, paint over rust, layers and layers. I remember the memos. ‘I hate rust on tdw boats. Nobody is above painting, not the capt or the chief engineer. Everyone paints!’

There is only one good way to paint a tugboat.

Haul it out, blast to bright metal, immediately apply dimetcoat (only under conditions of proper temp and humidity). If you couldn’t do that, then you must re-blast. Once you have properly dimetcoated surfaces, apply a very good two part mix epoxy paint system under conditions of proper humidity and temp.

Needless to say, badly wasted steel must be cropped out and replaced.

Most of this correct paint job will last at least 10 years. That saves a lot of money. Some of it will last 20 years. Other spots will only last as long as it takes to chafe or burn off the paint. Touch those up as best you can.

If you can paint alongside the dock in good weather, you can accomplish something. However, it’s usually cheaper and you’ll get a better job if you send the crew home and hire painters.

Having the crew paint underway on a small vessel is a waste of money. If I have to do that, I’m going to a poor job because that’s what the cheapskate owner wants. The owner thinks he is saving money and keeping his boats looking good by painting them several times a year. In reality, he is just wasting paint and expensive steel.

I have had some success with preventing immediate paint failure on wasted steel by applying West System epoxy resin. If it’s badly wasted you can smooth it with a second coat of resin filled with micro balloons or micro fiber. Cheap On part top cost paint will not stick to epoxy very well. Of course you are transitioning from a steel boat to a composite steel/epoxy boat.

I have not tried a soda blaster myself, but I recently saw one used to do a very impressive job of blasting in an engine room. Clean up is with vinegar and water.

Soda blasting might be a good option for blasting areas to be properly painted on deck. I’d like to try it.


I’ve done a lot of work in shipyard and with riding gangs. It’s important that the crew gives a damn but the most critical person is the paint foreman. Knowledge is key. There are seriously guys with a 2-year degree in paint application and the work they do pays for the expense over time.

As far as motivating the crew, again a good foreman is key but… I’ve found that paint is like baseball: boring as hell until you really know how it’s played and there is some competition at play.

1 Like