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Pass the Argon, Please

Having already done some touch-up painting on board the Betty Jane II, I was planning on doing a bit more using the same paint I’d started with, Interlux Perfection, a nifty, two-part polyurethane product that produces an especially hard, glossy, gelcoat-like finish. But as I prepared to mix my second mini-batch, I discovered that although Part A was healthy, Part B had turned into resinous glop in well under a week’s time.

Accusatory questions obtruded. Had I failed to put the lid on the can tightly enough the first time around? Had I inadvertently contaminated Part B while mixing the first batch? And hey, was it possible to buy a new can of Part B only? Or would I have to buy a whole new two-part kit.

The answers came via some Internet research and a few phone calls. Generally speaking, it seems, the components of most polyurethane paints are allergic to oxygen and/or moisture. So, once you go through whatever mixing/using regime is appropriate for any given small project and re-seal the cans, chemical reactions are probably going to occur due to the oxygen and moisture that remain trapped inside. And sadly enough, most companies, Interlux included, don’t sell Part B or activator separately.

So another question logically arises. How the heck does your average, small-project boat guy economically deal with a two-part paint like Perfection, where the curing agent (if stored for an appreciable amount of time) can go belly up and require the purchase of a whole new, two-part kit?

Just spray for a couple seconds, seal the lid of the can and guess what? You’re done!

Just spray for a couple seconds, seal the lid of the can and guess what? You’re done!

Ever hear of argon? It’s an inert, odorless, colorless, tasteless gas that Ironwood Designs of San Luis Obispo, California conveniently packages in a spray can labelled Bloxygen and sells for about $12 per can.

Argon is wholly benign, by the way, and actually constitutes a small part of our atmosphere. But it has a special characteristic that makes it a boon to anyone who regularly deals with two-part marine paints—it’s heavier than air and therefore displaces both moisture and oxygen.

You simply spray the gas into a given container (whether there’s a base material or a curing agent inside) while holding the container’s lid slightly open just prior to closing. Once you re-seal the lid, the gas is trapped inside, settles down upon the component underneath and protects it.

I can personally attest to Bloxygen’s effectiveness—it’s currently keeping my latest and greatest Perfection kit (both Part A and Part B) ready and rarin’ to go.

Bloxygen is available from hardware and full-service paint stores, from marine suppliers like Jamestown Distributors and from Amazon. It works just as nicely for varnishes, one-part paints and epoxy resins as it does for two-part polys. As you’d expect, it eliminates thickening and skinning-over during long storage periods.