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How to Paint Smooth Curves

This cool little trick works on all sorts of paint tasks where masking or varnishing tape must be applied on a curve.

I don’t know if you happen to be as crazy as I am about boats, but hey, I regularly lie awake at night fantasizing about my latest and greatest boat projects. And lately, what’s been occupying my wakeful, nocturnal moments is the nifty way I’ve found to handle a minor job that, if a fair amount of repetition is involved over a broad area, can turn itself into a time-consuming major-leaguer.

The minor job? Masking off a curve—or a bunch of curves—prior to applying a layer of paint atop another layer of a different color.

Most experts will suggest abjuring -masking tape for such a task and going with narrower, more pliable fine-line or auto-motive-style pin-striping tape, via a manual method that typically involves the thumb of one hand squeezing the tape down, the index finger of the other maintaining the curved directionality and tension of the tape that’s still on the roll, and a good deal of time and concentration.

Does this work? Absolutely, although both dexterity and practice are required to guarantee a good-looking, bleed-free job. But is there a better, speedier way?

Well ... let’s say somewhere on your boat you need to apply grit-laden tan paint to a rectangular section of nonslip atop a white deck. Of course, the sides of the rectangle are easy to mask off with plain ol’ masking tape. And the ends as well. But how about the corners, which need to be uniformly curved or radiused in order to create a salty, finished look?

I say skip the fine-line and, instead, stick with the masking tape, laying a piece diagonally across each corner of the rectangle as shown above. Then, using a curved object like a tube of caulk as a guide (or the curve of the underlying nonslip if it’s pre-existing and discernible through the tape), cut the necessary curve in the diagonally positioned tape with an X-Acto knife, making sure to maintain a light touch that’ll leave the gel coat underneath unscathed. Finish off in seconds by merely removing the piece of tape you’ve just excised.

A tube of caulk can make an excellent curve.

A tube of caulk can make an excellent curve.

Certainly, this cool little trick will not produce the crispness called for when pin-striping an automobile or a boat, but it’ll work well enough on all sorts of other onboard chores where masking or varnishing tape must be temporarily applied either inside or outside a curve or curves. And what’s more, it’s super-easy, reasonably accurate and, perhaps most importantly, fast.


For more tips like this, visit our Passagemaker Pro Tip of the Week page, sponsored by Vetus-Maxwell. CLICK HERE

Capt. Bill Pike is deputy editor of our sister publication Power & Motoryacht magazine.