Smooth Sailing for Liquid Finisher

With new technology, a boat yard improves production efficiency and enhances finish quality.


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For nearly 30 years, boat owners in the Cleveland area have turned to Parker Marine in Sheffield, Ohio, for skill and craftsmanship in boat refurbishment and repair. The company provides a wide range of services, including upgrades to hull structure, electrical work, plumbing, engine and transmission repair, and sailboat rigging.

Some of the most time-consuming work comes in the form of bodywork and finishing.

“Painting and refinishing is a tedious process that can take weeks to complete if it’s not done well,” owner of Parker Marine, Dick Parker says. “There are intervals of sanding, spraying and re-sanding with different grains in order to get the finish perfect. It can get very labor intensive.”

Always looking for a better way to do things, Parker turned to his contacts at Nordson Corporation, Industrial Coating Systems in nearby Amherst, Ohio, for a different painting solution, since the manufacturer has been a pioneer in the spraying of waterborne and solvent-based paints with its spraying technology.

Nordson recommended its line of manual liquid spray guns, the Trilogy non-electrostatic guns. The guns incorporated the company’s latest in design technology, offering enhanced spray quality, the durability to withstand harsh manufacturing environments and ease of handling and maintenance. In addition, the guns are available in several configurations to accommodate jobs of all types and sizes.

Boat Builders

Parker Marine dates back to the early 1970s when Dick and his brother, Tim, raced 14-foot sailboats that seemed as though they were in constant need of rebuilding and repairs. Eventually, the brothers figured they could build a better boat. They begged and borrowed and soon found themselves in the boat building business in 1975 with Parker Brothers Fiberglass.

Since neither had boat building experience—and even less business experience—they both learned quickly. Unfortunately, the biggest lesson turned out to be that the business was a bad idea, and after several years, they sold all tooling and equipment and went their separate ways.

Several years passed before Dick and his wife, Debbie, thought out a new approach. Parker Bros. Fiberglass was back in business in 1978, starting out with minimal capital investment and overhead, specializing in fiberglass repair and refinishing. Eventually, Parker Bros. Fiberglass had a shop full of Corvettes and damaged boats, and it was quickly earning a reputation for craftsmanship and finish work.

The shop was turning out fairing jobs on Star Class one design boats, Lightnings and J-24 keels that were winning competitions around the country. Collision repair work, storm damage, grounding repairs, touch-up work and overall refinish work also kept the shop full.

In 1987, Parker Bros. Fiberglass moved to a new location on the Black River in Sheffield Village. With access to the river, which flows to Lake Erie via the Harbor of Lorain, customers with boats up to 60 feet in length could now make it to the facility for repairs or refinishing work. 

As the next decade went by, the reputation built by the boat repair and refinishing shop had grown to an international level. Olympic class yachtsman and Americas Cup skippers from around the world were shipping their boats to the Ohio shop to be prepped for upcoming racing events. The scope of repair work being completed on both sail and power boats continued to grow.

In 1998, Parker Bros. Fiberglass became Parker Marine Inc. (PMI) to more accurately reflect the services performed. Rebuilding and repair projects were now involving electrical, plumbing, mechanical, as well as electronic and air conditioning systems. The company’s attention to detail, craftsmanship and professionalism implemented throughout the past two decades continued to be the basis for which the company strived.

In 2008, the company marked its 30th anniversary, and it was celebrated by making the biggest move yet. The family-owned business purchased a five-acre site directly west of where it had been doing business for the past two decades, adding to the two-acre marina facility on the Black River directly across the street. A 10,000-square-foot warehouse facility on the new site underwent an extreme makeover, with extensive renovation and structural changes to become the new PMI Boat Shop.

Superior Finish in Less Time

Dick Parker acquired two Trilogy spray guns for his company, the first being a gravity-fed gun that he uses for touch-up jobs, which are extremely common at his 30,000-square-foot facility.

Nordson says the Trilogy gravity-fed gun is ideal for smaller jobs, saying it is easy to handle and maneuver because of its optimum center of gravity and swiveling air connection. The gun is designed to simplify maintenance and its cost-to-performance ratio supports everyday repairs. 

“This has become our go-to gun for a variety of projects,” Parker says. “We use it almost daily because it is perfect for touch-up work, easy to use and provides a great finish.”

In addition to the gravity-fed gun, Parker also uses the pressure-fed gun on a very specific gelcoat repair job for a 42-foot sport yacht that suffered severe body damage. The yacht had several scrapes and holes down the starboard side, resulting from being banged around by docks that were ripped from their moors during a 2014 storm.

“This boat was beautifully rich in color,” Parker says. “The finish was dark blue and iridescent purple. Dark colors are a true challenge; flaws in the finish show up pretty clearly on dark exteriors, far more so than on lighter color exteriors.”

“This was a newer boat and my customer expected us to get it right, so the pressure was on,” he says. “We noticed a difference right away in using the Trilogy spray gun. The painting quality was far superior to our old spray gun and it had a much better feel than our old gun had. The spray pattern was noticeably improved, allowing the gelcoat to lay on the substrate very smoothly.”

The gelcoat was fed from a pressure pot to the Trilogy spray gun, making it easier to cover the large area without having to stop spraying and mixing additional material. This ensured a consistent color, which contributed to a consistent, smooth finish.

According to Nordson, the Trilogy gun provides excellent atomization and is available with an extensive range of nozzles, allowing Parker to experiment with many choices to get the finish just right. In addition, the Trilogy gun is equipped with separate fan patterns and atomizing air adjustment knobs, providing a superior level of versatility in spray options.

Designed for easy operation, the gun uses low trigger force to reduce arm fatigue, making the operator’s job easier. Nordson claims its lightweight design and balanced center of gravity further enhance ergonomic handling and comfort. In addition, the company says the gun incorporates an externally adjustable packing cartridge and complete paint needle removal from the rear of the gun for easy maintenance and cleaning.

Although the job took nearly 100 hours to complete, Parker estimates that the Trilogy gun cut the project time by one-third, as it reduced orange peel and the associated sanding time considerably.
“The customer was ecstatic,” he says. “The boat looked absolutely stunning when we were finished.” 

For more information on Nordson, visit nordson.com/liquid.



Originally published in the January 2017 issue.