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Project Log:  Saturday, October 23, 2010

Two separate readers contacted me after I posted last week's log describing my efforts at removing the Treadmaster from the decks.  Both readers suggested trying one of those famed multi-tools equipped with the oscillating scraper blade.

I happened to have a less expensive version of the tool at the shop, a compromise choice I'd acquired earlier that I felt fit in better with the limited use I anticipated from the tool. I thought trying this tool was a worthy suggestion, so I equipped mine with the appropriate blade, set up an additional extension cord on deck, and got to work.

With the heat gun in one hand and the multi-tool in the other, I removed a portion of the Treadmaster from the forward end of the starboard coachroof.  The process worked, but I'd hoped for a more dramatic improvement in the ease of removal or a reduction in the time required.  Perhaps it was a bit less physical work using the oscillating tool than it'd been with the manual burn-off knife I used earlier, but frankly the tool was rather heavy and large to use one-handed for an extended period, and it still required some force to get the scraper blade beneath the mostly well-stuck Treadmaster, so it was hardly a relaxing or easy process despite the mechanism.

After a while, I decided to try one of the wood/metal cutting blades on the tool, rather than the blunt scraper attachment.  I felt this blade worked a bit better, but the one I had was duller than I'd have liked, so I replaced it with a new one from my inventory.  Unfortunately, the new blade--which I later discovered was a slightly different part number and was marked as a "wood" blade rather than a "wood/metal" blade (an error on my part in ordering, apparently)--lacked the rigidity required, bending under the pressure of moving the tool forward, so after a few useless minutes with the newer blade, I switched back to the more rigid, but dull, wood/metal blade to finish up the area.

This area required approximately 40 minutes' work, including blade changes.

Less than enthralled with the progress, and annoyed at the loud, buzz-y tool given its generally minimal positive effect on the process, I decided to try another tactic:  sand off the Treadmaster.  I needed to try it at least as a means of comparison.

Using my usual right angle DA sander equipped with 40 grit discs, I moved on to the next section of the coachroof.  The sander worked, but it took a while to sand through 1/4" of cork and whatever else is in Treadmaster, so I tried my small angle grinder equipped with an angle flap disc, a combination extremely effective at fast stock removal.  Using care, I removed most of the Treadmaster till I could see the gray adhesive beneath and no further; I finished up the sanding with the DA, removing the remaining material down to the gelcoat so as to avoid the  horrific damage that angle grinders can (and do) do to exterior surfaces.

This second area, roughly equivalent in size to the first, required about 20 minutes including a couple trips down the ladder to fetch the tools and safety equipment required.  The grinding/sanding process was a mess, of course, but it did have the benefit of removing the adhesive at the same time, and was clearly faster, it not necessarily more fun or pleasant. 

However, it's not as if I didn't have significant sanding to complete on deck anyway; after all, I'd have to sand all areas as part of the repair and surface prep required before I could repaint.  Clearly, removing the Treadmaster from this boat was going to be a chore no matter how I attacked it, so I decided that the path of least resistance--and the most efficient--would be to go with the grinder and sander.

My conclusion:  the multi-tool and heat approach might work well on a removal job where the only goal was to remove the Treadmaster, not to prepare and repaint the entire deck areas as required on my boat.  There was certainly the benefit of substantial control over the process with the electric scraper and heat that would make it ideal in such an instance.  But for me, in this situation, it was quite clear that the best way forward would be the grinding/sanding route, despite the dirtiness of the process and the not-insubstantial cost of abrasives.  But my time was worth more than abrasives.

Having made this decision, I decided not to proceed with further Treadmaster removal on this day.  Instead, I started some work in the shop designed to prepare the more-cluttered-than-I'd-like shop bay for the messy work ahead.  After all, I'd already stripped the interior of most structures and systems that needed to come out, and I'd been edging ever closer to the major surface prep job for both inside and outside the boat.  So, in and around the pleasant distraction of a shop visit from a friend, I moved what I could out of the shop, and installed some dust-shedding plastic over some of the wall shelving and other items in the shop to minimize the collection of sanding dust on all this stuff over the coming weeks.

It was just about time for the "bulk sanding" portion of the project--my term for the necessary evil of getting the major sanding and surface prep out of the way in one fell swoop.  I looked forward to beginning this always-satisfying, but dirty, process, completion of which would signal a milestone and turning point in the project.

Total Time Today:  2.25 hours

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