Thursday 19 March 2009

Painting Narrowboats - Planning

Painting Narrowboats
Confessions of a DIY'er - Planning
19th March 2009

Part two of seven

Now you have decided on your preferred approach to the task (professional or DIY) its time to select a colour scheme. There are no rights and wrongs when it comes to colour, its all a matter of personal choice.

Once you have chosen your colour scheme the boat becomes very much "yours" and will inevitably say something about you. It's a bit like personalising your new home when you decorate rooms. Until it is repainted you can blame it on the last owners, but you never feel that you truly possess the house till you have stamped an indelible mark on it. Its the same with your boat, but because its a big step its worth taking your time.

I would suggest that you make a point of looking at other boats, comparing the colours they have used, how they work together and the sort of finish that has been achieved. It is very hard to remember exactly what you see, so I would recommend that you carry a small digital camera with you, snapping off some photos when a boat catches your eye. Then, in the peace of your own home, you can work out exactly what you like about the boat and gradually build up a plan of what you want.

Whilst you can use any colour you like, I would offe
r a word of caution. You may need to sell your boat in the future and in the same way that you probably wouldn't buy a wacky Laurence Llwellyn Bowyn "romantic" style house, prospective purchasers may well be put off by very individualistic styles. I would suggest that vivid geometric designs or zebra stripes have limited appeal - but I might be wrong. A nod towards the traditional seems easier to sell.

But its not just the colour - layout also plays a big part. You are not working with a blank canvas, as all boats are different and offer varying opportu
nities / limitations. Take a good look look at the layout of your hull and work out what balance would look good. Probably the best way to achieve this is to measure the boat very accurately and then to draw it out on graph paper. Don't use one page because it wont give enough detail, so stick two or even three sheets together and map it all out, including windows, vents, fenders and other "furniture". Don't worry if the curved bits are not exactly right - its the overall sense of balance you are looking for - not a work of art. Next, mark out the proposed panels, lines, wording and decals and colour them in with crayons, finally standing back to see how it all works together. Better still, set it aside and sleep on it, returning to it with fresh eyes in the morning. Is this how you want your pride and joy to look?

Oh, a thought. Its quite likely that the positions of the windows are not identical on both sides of the boat. They may look alike, but when you measure then there not! This variation can make a big difference if you are planning to apply sign wr
iting to any panels you create.

An investment in planning before you lift the phone
, buy the paint of break open the first pack of sandpaper will really pay dividends.

So what of Wand'ring Bark? Well, having looked and looked we (actually Belle) decided on a bold and lively red with green cabin sides approach. This is a pretty traditional configuration which looks vibrant and eye catching, hopefully adding something to the overall canal landscape. Having looked closely at the layout it was apparent that the traditional stern cabin approach would be difficult to achieve, but a slight variation using a small "engine room" panel between the two rear windows created a good overall balance.

But which red and which green? We tried the International paint range on the cratch and gangplank as a sort of tester zone and found them to be far to acidic and bright for out taste, so we looked up Rapidpaint of Digbeth (Birmingham) and sought expert advice. They mix all their paints in house and mainly serve the automotive refinishing market, so they know a thing or two about colour matching. They can mix over 2000 colours, but they also sell a range of stock narrow boat paint, which is particularly high in pigmentation and resin quality. This, we were told, will resist fade, abrasion and because the pigment is so dense, most scratches would polish out.

Our final selection was Ferrari Red for the main colour with Union Green for the side panels and detailing in Cream. Because the colours are made as a suite they all work in the same tonal range, which is techno speak for "they go together well". They also supply non slip paint made from the exact same resins and pigment, but with 30% being polymer granules which absorb the pigment and the paint therefore never scraches off. We took a litre of the red non slip for the front and rear cockpit floors, plus the walkways down the gunnels. We also later went back and bought some loose granules so we could paint the engine and gas locker hatches in a contrasting non slip green.

So we had a plan and we had the paint. All we needed was the weather to get the job done... but it was the summer of 2007. More of that another time.

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