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Touring Motor Gliders Association (TMGA)
Eric Greenwell

Preserving the Phoenix finish

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Eric Greenwell

The "Deciding on my next airplane purchase" thread was suffering severe subject drift, so I'm continuing the "finish" part of it here from Thermalseeker's post at:

http://www.touringmotorgliders.org/forum/showthread.php/1905-Deciding-on-my-next-airplane-purchase?p=2742#post2742

John's approach (block sanding) is more effort than I can muster, so I'll do what I've done for all my sailplanes: keep it covered, wax at least once year, and avoid temperatures below 0 deg F.

"Covered" is achieved with a hangar (which has additional advantages, of course!) when it's home, and with wing and tail covers while it's traveling. My wife and I made the covers from the Tyvek used for RV covers: the wing/tail set is light (5 lbs) and compact; it's easy to use them; and the materials cost $150. Russ Owens made a similar set for his Phoenix.

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Waxing 1 - I don't know what the best wax is. I used to use WX Block and Seal, but eventually tired of the two coat process. Now I'll use something like Meguiar's Premium Cleaner/Wax that's intended for fiberglass vehicles (boats, cars, etc) and is much quicker and easier to use. It seems to leave my sailplane shiny and slippery (to the touch) at least as long as the WX Block and Seal did, so I think it will be fine on the Phoenix.

Waxing 2 - I found Nu Finish Car Polish (liquid) makes it very easy to remove the oil stains from the belly, even after 75 hours of engine time. I'm guessing it will be even easier next time, now that the belly is really waxed well! Mequiar's Cleaner/Wax didn't apply nearly as easily, and did not do as good a job.

Avoiding temperatures below 0 deg F is easy, as the only time I've encountered them is during winter wave flights, where sometimes I'll leave the wave lift to avoid the lower temperatures at higher altitudes. That might be 15,000 feet instead of the usual 18,000 foot limit, not much of a handicap in the 500'-2000' elevation areas I normally fly in the winter.

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Edited by Eric Greenwell

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Thermalseeker

We will do Wx Block or a good carnuba wax depending on what the owner wants. I use carnuba paste wax on my airplanes twice a year, but they are both urethane finish. I would favor using Wx Block on gel coat because there are some ingredients in it that are specifically for preserving gel coat finishes. One thing you never, ever want to use is any product containing silicon. Once silicon is on the surface it's very difficult to remove. This becomes very important if you ever need a cosmetic or structural repair that requires painting. Silicon will cause both gel coat and urethane to reject when applied over a contaminated surface. There are some products formulated to remove silicon, but they don't work all that well. Even sanding doesn't always remove all of it. It's one of the worst things we have to deal with. It's best to avoid using products with silicon altogether.

I would not use an orbiting buffer on a gel coat or urethane finish unless you want swirl marks. The buffers we use buff end-on. So, no swirl marks ever. You do have to be very careful with this type buffer. Pay attention to the direction of rotation. You always want the pads going away from an edge, not towards it. The reason for using a buffer is to melt the wax. You get a much shinier finish with a buffer than you'll ever get by hand. IMG_0513.JPG-- IMG_0512.JPG--

This type buffer is built up from a 7" variable speed side grinder. We've used name brands like Milwaukee or DeWalt, but we've found the cheapo ones from Harbor Freight work just as well and are a little lighter to work with. I install a threaded collar to the shaft. (available at any hardware store) This lengthens the shaft by about 3" so we can put about 5" worth of buffing pads on it. I like 9" unsewn flannel. I make a big washer for both sides of the buffs out of some .025" aluminum sheet using a 3" hole saw, then open up the center hole so it will just fit over the threads on the shaft. A short bolt threaded into the other end of the collar with another washer holds the pads in place. We source buffs and cleaning wax from these guys: http://www.sattexcorp.com/page.asp?navid=27 They also have an excellent polish for plexiglass and a hard, blue cleaning wax we use for removing oxidation. FWIW, most of the time I can sand and buff out most scratches in plexiglass, just like gel coat or urethane.

I built up a small buffer for doing canopies and tight spots. It works great! It's made from a 4" grinder and uses 6" pads, same process as the big buffer:

Little_buffer_on_fairing.JPG--

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Jim Lee

Great post on waxing John, thanks. I wax my Phoenix twice a year with the 2 part Wx Block because it has a good reputation among glider pilots. But I love the LoPresti Speed Coat. It goes on smooth and easy, the finish is super smooth and bugs come off very easy. Only negative is the price, $60. But nothing is too good for my Phoenix!

Just beware, don't use Turtle Wax unless you want to slow your plane down.

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Jamey Jacobs

I’m doing my annual polishing of my Phoenix with 2 part Wx Block and noticed the under-side of the wings still seem pretty smooth -slightly smoother than the top. Any opinions on whether to use part 1 on all surfaces every year or less frequently on those not as exposed to sun and dirt (e.g. bottom of wings and bottom of tail boom) and just protect them with part 2.  That would sure save a lot of time and effort!

Polishing usually sparks lots of opinions, which are respected and appreciated.

 

Thanks and good flying,

Jamey

Phoenix sn18, N40HB

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Jim Lee

Very good topic to resurrect Eric!

Note that polish is not a wax, and actually removes the top surface of paint or gel coat, and also removes the wax.  It is like a very fine sandpaper.  So anytime you use a polish, be sure to follow up with a protective layer of wax.  I don't think that the type of wax used is critical.  Having a solid layer of wax is critical!

I agree, keep it covered, keep it in a hangar.  Also, keep it dry.  This is the second most critical aspect after protection from the UV of the sun.  With our sailplanes that carry water ballast, we are finding that leaving the wings wet inside can result in a horrible deformation sometimes called a spar bump.  BTW, the Phoenix will never see a spar bump because the spars are bonded to the inside plies of fiberglass of the foam sandwich construction.

The best thing we can do for our sailplane wings is to clean bugs and dirt off of the leading edges after each flight WITH WAX!  If you clean the plane with water, you will remove some of the wax.  Removing the wax on the leading edge is the primary cause of leading edge crazing of the gel coat.  So don't use water or a cleaner to take the bugs off, use wax!

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