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How to Paint a Dinghy Name

January 26, 2015

While we were waiting for the weather to break (or at least bend) enough that we could move Eurisko to the work yard and prepare her for adventuring again, we spent some time dressing up our Fatty Knees, Eureka. She's 13 years old with a lot of miles under her and has survived three boys, so we think she deserves some attention. We removed the rubrail and all the hardware in anticipation of sanding, repairing, priming, and painting, but before we sanded the name off the transom, we formulated a plan for painting it back on.


The new name printed in the correct size

Yes, I know you can buy vinyl letters for boat and dinghy names, but the cost, while reasonable for a 34-footer, seems an outrageous expense for an 8-footer. It's a dinghy, for crying out loud. So we decided to forgo the expense and paint the name ourselves. That decision needs to be made BEFORE you sand the old name off the transom, if there is a name on her already and if you want to replace it with the same size and style name, which we did. Here is a step-by-step of how we repainted Eureka's name.


Scribble with pencil over the outline of each letter.

Choose a point that will not be sanded off to measure from. We measured from the top of the transom down so that we can replace the name in almost the same location. (We raised it a half inch since her name drags in the water if she's carrying a big load.)


The pattern is ready to use.

Measure a letter in the current name. We measured the capital E since it was the first and the largest.

BEFORE you sand off the original name, create and print a full-sized replacement. I prefer to work in MS Word for its ease. Use the scale on the side, play with the font size until the letter you measured is the same as the one on the dinghy. Change the style so that only the outline is shown. Print.


Measure twice.

Tape the multiple pieces of paper together close enough that the letter spacing is consistent. Cut the top of the paper (or whichever side you measured from to find the exact location) to make it easier to measure to. Take your new paper name to the dinghy to verify that the size, font, and letter spacing is how you want it to look.

Now you can sand off the old name, prepare the surface as necessary, prime, and paint as normal.


Align the pattern according to measurements you took previously.

When the paint has cured and you are ready to apply the name, rub the side of a pencil point along the back of the printed name, just where the outline is. It isn't necessary to cover the entire name with graphite.

Tape the paper name in the correct position on the transom, according to the measurements you took before.


Use a straight edge where you can.

Carefully trace the name with a pencil, pushing harder than you might think you need to. Use a straight edge for the straight parts of letters. You are transferring the graphite that you rubbed on the back of the paper onto the fresh paint on the transom.


Press hard enough to transfer the graphite.

Lift each corner carefully to confirm that you pushed hard enough for it to transfer everywhere. When you are sure the outline of the name is complete, remove the paper. You now have an outline to be filled in with paint.


She's ready for paint.

Find a stick two to three feet long. Secure rubber bands and towels or any other material that will not mar your new paint but will not slip across it to one end of the stick. This is for your painting arm to rest on to steady your hand.

Paint with long, flowing strokes. Don't jab at it. If you are left-handed, paint from right to left--vice versa for right-handers--to keep your hand out of the fresh paint.


Use a stick to steady your hand.

Use the 10-foot rule (We change it to the 50-foot rule for Eurisko): if it looks good from ten feet, it's good enough. It's a dinghy and it's not going to be the last time she gets paint, so don't sweat it too much.

When the paint has cured, you can wash off any pencil smudges left on your new paint job.


Eureka!

We could use this same method for Eurisko's name, but vinyl lettering doesn't increase in price proportionally with the size, but the time to do it yourself does. A $40 name for her is not as outrageous as a $30 name for Eureka would be, considering the increase in labor involved for Eurisko's name, so we'll probably buy her new name. IF we decide to paint the hull, that is. We may just decide to go sailing instead. At least the dinghy will be pretty.

It's hard to believe we have lived on land for a year. MONDAY we'll share the lessons this sailing couple learned from a temporary return to dirt.

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