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What are holograms?

If you have every walked along the pier at a marina, i'm sure you will have seen boats with squiggly lines all over the gelcoat. These are holograms (or buffer trails). Holograms are not visible in all conditions, however with the right light and viewing angle, holograms may be seen and will truly spoil even the most beautiful boat.

Holograms on boat gelcoat
Holograms on the flybridge of a Riviera

What causes holograms?

Holograms are caused by rotary polishers and poor polishing practices. Typically, rotary polishers equipped with a lambs wool pad and cutting compound, are used during the 1st step of the polishing process, called the compounding or "cutting" step. This step removes oxidation and restores luster to your boats gelcoat. The wool pad and cutting compound is an aggressive combination that is highly effective in removing oxidation however leaves behind very fine scratches on the surface of the gelcoat (holograms) that need to be refined during the polishing step.

Unfortunately, many people will stop after the compounding step and simply add wax for protection. Yes your boat will be shiny however as soon as the sun comes out and you catch a glimpse of your boat from the right angle, you will be very unhappy with the results.

polishing holograms on a boat
There are no shortcuts to polishing your boat!

How to avoid Holograms

To avoid holograms, you MUST follow your compounding or "cutting" step with a 2nd polishing step to refine the scratches from the first step and increase the lustre of your gelcoat.

In our opinion, the polishing step should NOT be done with a rotary polisher. Can it be done with a rotary polisher? Yes it can, however, there are several factors that will influence the outcome. Things such as pad and polish choice, machine speed, how fast you move the tool across the work surface, the angle of the pad on the work surface and more. To understand and execute all of these to achieve a hologram free finish takes years of practice.

We strongly recommend that the polishing step be done with a dual action (DA) polisher. Our personal preference is the Makita PO6000C forced rotation DA polisher with a Lake Country purple foamed wool pad and a fine finishing polish. This isn't a blog about how to polish so we won't go into extensive detail, however a dual action polisher is a fool proof way for anyone to get hologram free results each and every time.

Makita PC6000C polisher with Lake Country purple foamed wool pad
A DA polisher spins and oscillates providing a hologram free finish

One step products

There are many one step products on the market that will polish and protect your boat in a single step. Whilst these are great time savers, we would strongly advise that they only be used with a DA polisher to avoid introducing holograms from a rotary polisher. If your gelcoat is heavily oxidised (very dull or minimal lustre) these products will not remove all oxidation. The oxidation may be masked by the waxes, siloxanes or teflon in the product, resulting in the oxidation returning much quicker.

heavy gelcoat oxidation
Heavy oxidation with no lustre requires compounding with a rotary polisher and polishing with a DA polisher.

Unfortunately, there are no shortcuts to gelcoat restoration. It is a multi step process that takes time but when done right, can leave your boat looking like it just came out of the mould.


Disclaimer: The information contained in these blogs is for general purposes only. Boat owners should do their own research and obtain professional advice specific to their requirements. Under no circumstances will Gold Coast Boat Detailing be liable for any damages.



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