Saturday, October 11, 2014

How To Polish Deck Hatch Lenses (or how to save a couple of thousand dollars)

Our Bomar deck hatches had seen better days. Despite using hatch covers, 30 years of sun and salt water had done their damage. One of the danged nabbit seagulls managed to hit an uncovered hatch lens with its caustic poop and even though it was on the lens for a brief time before being washed off, it did a number on the Lexan lens. Makes you wonder what they eat. The aluminum frames were in an okay condition but were starting to show signs of degradation.

Since Mark's goal is to not only improve the functionality of Ceol Mor but to also have her looking "like a million dollar yacht" we had a choice to make. Replace the hatches- at over $1,000 a pop. We have 3 large hatches and two smaller ones. Over $4,000 to replace. Next please. Replace the lenses at a couple of hundred bucks a piece for our large hatches. Refurbish them ourselves and hope they seal as well as the original lenses. We are on the downhill side of a massive refit. I no longer am willing to "hope" for anything. Since we want to only have her LOOKING like a million dollar yacht and lack the funds to actually MAKE her a million dollar yacht, we thought the best plan of action was to try to refurbish them ourselves since they were structurally sound, just ugly.

Before. Yuck.
After removing the deck hatches, we sent the frames off to be re-anodized. The quote was $175.00 in total for 4 hatch frames (the bottom frames only). While they are off being bead blasted and re-anodized, it was time to see if we could save the lenses. We could and we did. Here's how we did it.

Equipment needed- Wet Sandpaper in 320, 600 and 1000 grit
                                 A water source.
                                 Makita Variable Speed Electronic Sander
                               PRESTA Ultra Cutting Creme                              
                                Presta- Chroma Ultra Polish
                                 A cutting/buffing pad
                                 A polishing pad

The first step was to wet sand with the 320 grit wet sand paper to remove crazing and scratches. Don't get too aggressive and take your time making sure you have a constant flow of water. You want to remove the scratches, not add new ones.

Once you are happy, repeat the process of wet sanding with the 600. Then again with the 1000 grit. Just take your time and keep the surface wetted. Mark had a hose, with a sprinkler nozzle, to rinse down the work-piece and remove sanding residue throughout the wet sanding.

Once you have wet sanded thoroughly, it's time for power tools. We really like the Makita as it is pretty much a work horse and has been pressed into service regularly and it just keeps keeping on.

We applied the cutting creme directly to the lens, working in small areas. Some folks swear by applying it to the pad itself- many ways to skin a cat I suppose. Having priced out replacement lenses, we thought it best to go slowly and carefully working on a small area at a time. Regardless, this is one time when the brand of products matters. The Presta products really are all that, so if you are going to take the time to do this, take the extra time to source the Presta products. Remember to let the polisher do the work for you and don't apply too much pressure. Slow and steady matters here.

Once you have thoroughly worked the cutting creme, gently clean the lens with water and a non abrasive cloth. Now comes the fun part. Change your pad to a clean polishing pad and once again, working carefully in small sections, begin to polish using the Chroma Ultra Polish. Mark went over each lens a few times to get the level of polish he was happy with. And that's it.

This was probably one of the most satisfying projects. The outlay in materials was not great and while it did take a bit of time, it actually was very straight forward and easy and what a pay off. The difference in the lenses is remarkable. I can't wait to get the frames back and have them reassembled and mounted on the deck. I am going to be able to see clouds with CLARITY! Yippee!
After- HUGE improvement and this is before we cleaned the inside of the lens. Once we cleaned it, wow.


  1. Bookmarked. You rock! I'm concerned that we might have too much crazing for this to work, but it's probably worth a try since the hatches do not leak. If it's not leaking, don't mess with it.

  2. Now you can keep it clean with OFF the can of mosquito repellent will take the fog glare off. Use a soft cloth, spray directly on the cloth, wipe lens in circular motion, wipe off excess with clean soft cloth and you are done! :-D

  3. I don't know anything about boats, but I'm thinking you'll have better light for pictures! :-)