Thursday, February 20, 2014

Saga of the Stickers

Ibi, as she was meant to be.
In their infinite wisdom (definitely tongue-in-cheek), the Tax Commission of Oklahoma decided to eliminate boat registration for canoes, kayaks, and other paddleboats. I’m in favor of this, but the problems this creates wouldn’t exist if the ill-advised registration program had not been initiated in the first place. Always looking to wring out that last buck, the registration was really little more than a means of identifying people they could subject to a hefty excise tax for bringing boats into the state. Apparently finding the titling and registration program didn’t pay for itself, even with the excise tax, they scrapped the program. Oh, by the way. Getting rid of the titling and registration program doesn’t mean you get your accompanying excise tax back. With a sparkle in my eye, I made a point of asking, but of course already knew the answer.

As with most things in life, there’s good news and bad news in this. The good news is that one no longer must renew the registration in the middle of the summer (June 30), which never made sense to me anyhow. Why would they have registration renewal in the busiest part of the boating year? It’s part of that infinite wisdom thing again. It always seemed that logic would dictate doing administrative chores in the off-season when the boats were sitting idle. Trying to go on vacation or taking a long trip with your boat when you need to arrange getting registration renewal sent to you while 1,500 miles from home was always a real pain, but that, thank heavens, is no longer a problem.

The bad news is we now have those registration stickers and renewal stickers plastered all over our watercraft. Getting them off is labor intensive, can damage the hull, and can be dangerous, but can usually be accomplished in a day. There are a few precautions to watch for.

The best way to get the stickers off is by heating them. As the stickers age, they become more brittle, so removing them cold means pulling them off one little millimeter sliver at a time, and that takes forever. By heating, the adhesive is softened, and the stickers yield much more easily. The best method of heating is with a heat gun, but the risk is blistering the plastic or gel coat. The way around this is to hold the heat gun 6-inches away from the hull. Getting closer with the heat source greatly increases the risk of doing damage. Run the gun for no more than 5-seconds, remove it, and feel the hull. When it reaches the point where you can’t comfortably keep your hand there, the sticker is ready to come off. Don’t try to scrape the sticker off, as you will inescapably damage the surface. Just run a razor or sharp knife under the edge of the sticker, get an edge raised, and pull it slowly and evenly.

Now that the stickers are gone, you are still left with a horrible adhesive mess. I usually use acetone, but it was recommended I give Goof-Off a try, since it is supposed to be the ultimate adhesive remover. It is mostly xylene, and the health warnings that come with it are enough to give anyone pause. The user is warned to try a test spot to make sure it doesn’t melt the surface. It is okay on most fiberglass material, but I would be concerned about polyethylene or thermoformed hulls. One experience indicated that it was used on a car’s side-view mirror, and the mirror was melted. Another warning cautioned against using it around the plastic parts of a camera. The warnings include inhaling, skin absorption, ingestion, fire, the risk of storing it anywhere temperatures can exceed 120-degees, which also means anywhere the sun can reach, using it around children, and so on. Another warning cautioned about “defatting” tissue under the skin. I immediately thought of pouring it on a sponge and rubbing it all over my gut and butt, but leaned more toward caution. I decided the use of gloves was called for, and of course it melted the fingers off the rubber gloves. Finally, I went back to acetone and continued the job with my old stand-by. Another negative vote is the cost. A miniscule 4.5-ounce can was $5.

Another note is that neither product actually dissolves the adhesive. The glue is softened to an unmanageable goop that travels and smears over incredibly large areas. Using a rag quickly spoils the whole rag and smears it even more. The solution is to cut the rag into something like 4-inch squares. Get as much as you can on one piece, dispose of it, and repeat with a fresh scrap.

Finally, I decided to try Interlux #202 Fiberglass Solvent Wash. When building fiberglass boats, the inside of the mold is treated with a mold-release agent (wax) before the laminates are laid, so the hull can be broken loose from the mold for removal. Before applying bottom paint, the hull has to be liberally washed down with 202, or the bottom paint will not adhere. This does dissolve the glue very briefly before it reverts to goop, but the 202 does a much better job of controlling the removal of the glue and clean-up. It cut glue removal time to at least a third of that using either Goof Off or acetone. The added benefit of the 202 is that what is left over can be used in other jobs for oil and grease removal or clean-up, and for cleaning paint brushes. Like the other two chemicals, it is flammable and must be used with huge amounts of ventilation. 

UPDATE: I received a comment from Dan Perry on Facebook saying that he used peanut butter.  Since I was done with my job, I asked him for more details.  After removing vinyl lettering from his work truck, he spread Jiff Smooth over the remaining adhesive with a bondo squeegee about like he would spread it on a sandwich.  After letting it sit for about 30 minutes, he wiped it all off, and the PB had removed about 95% of the adhesive.   Thanks, Dan.

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