Wooden Boat Restoration Ideas

or How to Drive the Next Restorer Nuts

by Sherwood Heggen

All does not go as planned. In the previous Gadgets and Kinks, I stated the subject would be making and installing new bottom planks. The subject project is not yet under way, so consequently, text and supporting pictures haven’t been taken. Time management skills have not allowed us to make more than 24 hours in a day. So, we improvise and go a different route for the time being. In a future Gadgets and Kinks, the article regarding making and installing new bottom planks will be published. This time we have a whole “boat load” of great boat restoration ideas that amateur and professional restorers can use to make it really difficult for the next restorer. Let’s review some of those clever ideas to maximize their aggravation level.

1. Use a lot of silicon rubber (color optional)
Use every opportunity to use silicon rubber. Put a liberal amount of it in the screw holes before installing deck hardware and then coat all of the screw heads with it to keep water from penetrating under the varnish. This also makes the screws really difficult to remove and will keep vandals from stealing the hardware when the boat is in storage behind the garage. And for sure, you want to apply a liberal bead of silicon rubber on the inside of the cutwater at the screw line to keep the water out. Use it as a windshield gasket in the slot between the glass and windshield brackets. It will really protect the glass from damage plus it will keep it firmly in place. Smear it on the instrument terminal screws before installing the wiring and nut. No lock washers are necessary with the use silicon rubber. Then, after the wire and terminal nut is secured, apply a liberal coat of silicon rubber on the wire at the terminal to act as strain relief.

2. Tighten screws with all of your strength
You don’t want the hardware on your boat to fall off, so put it on as tight as possible. Really crank down on those cutwater and rubrail screws. Deck hardware should be pulled down hard enough to dent the wood. You will know the screws are tight enough when you feel the screw give a little which means the holding power has met its limit. Stop right there. Further tightening will only loosen the screw. If you do go too far and the screw becomes loose, plug the hole with a bunch of toothpicks and epoxy and drill a new hole for the screw. With this method, you can really crank down on the screw. In the event the screw snaps off, simply put in another one at an angle to miss the first one that was obviously too weak for the job. Remember to smear silicon rubber over the heads when the screws are firmly in place.

3. Deck seams
Improve on those narrow little deck stripes by making them wider so they can be seen better from a distance. If the deck seam has a crack that needs filling, you know how to fix that – cram the crack full of silicon rubber. In fact, if the seam looks like it needs replacing, dig it out with a chisel and replace the whole seam with silicon rubber. Use white so you don’t have to paint it. An option here is to use bathtub caulk.

A great money saving tip is to use the less expensive tan colored masking tape we have used for years to mask off the stripe before painting it. Sure, the paint bleeds under the edge of the less expensive tape, but if you stand back to look at it, you won’t notice it. To really save money and time, just use a narrow brush to paint on the stripes. A steady hand is important here, but again, if you stand way back to look at the end result, it won’t look too bad.

4. Be creative with the boot stripe
The boat should look fast even when standing still. A good way to create this illusion is have the boot stripe go from the waterline at the stern (boater’s term for back end of the boat) to the chine/stem junction at the front of the boat. This angles the boot stripe up to create that rearing back look that makes the boat look so fast while boot stripes that are parallel to the water line make the boat look like such a sissy. Do your best to make this change. Again, save money. Use the general purpose tan masking tape. Have you ever priced that supposedly superior 3M Fine Line masking tape those high buck restoration shops use? Wow! Use the tan stuff. It works pretty good at a tenth of the cost.

5. Mask off all hardware before sanding and varnishing.
It takes a lot of time to remove and install hardware, so simply use the inexpensive masking tape and mask off the hardware. Apply the tape as best you can to the very edge of the hardware to keep the varnish off of it. This works fairly well. Be sure to remove the tape soon after you put on that last dust free coat of varnish to lessen your chances of leaving torn edge fragments of tape in the varnish. If there is tearing at the edge, leave it there as to not mar the varnish. The tape color should blend into the varnish. If you stand back, it will look OK. Using the more expensive blue painter’s tape is not a good idea here as it will leave a noticeable blue remnant at the hardware/varnished deck junction if the tape tears.

6. Use what screws and bolts you have
Screws and bolts hold things in place. It is understandable that replacing screws that are damaged or missing can be a frustrating and expensive situation. Hardware stores sell screws if you don’t have a source for those expensive stainless steel ones, or the really hard to find chromed brass screws. Steel screws stay nice looking for quite a while and are an inexpensive alternative. To better endure the elements, use galvanized screws. Oval head screws, especially the large expensive ones, can be substituted with galvanized carriage bolts. Just remember to drill out the hole in the hardware to fit the square thing under the head of the carriage bolt so it fits flush to the hardware. Appearance could be important to some people, you know, judges at boat shows and other so called critics.
If a deck hardware screw has lost its grip, replace it with a bigger one. Ignore what was said earlier about appearance if this is the best alternative to getting this boat in the water fast. Use what screws you have – slots, Phillips, Frearson, oval or flat head. It really doesn’t matter. Diversity is the thing now days. Different screws can all work together to hold things in place. And remember to stand back some to admire your pride and joy. One place it really doesn’t matter what screw is used is under the plug thingies in the deck. Do you have some extra oval heads lying around? Use ‘em! Who is going to care what is under there anyway as long as it holds everything secure?

7. Windshield replacement
Replacing cracked flat windshield glass can be very expensive. Glass shops don’t work for free and the glass is likely to break again. The best route to go here is to use Plexiglas. Go to the hardware store and pick out a sheet that will fit for the replacement. Use your own saber saw and be proud of the fact that you made a replacement windshield yourself at a
fraction of the cost. Maybe if the windshield on the other side breaks some day, you can make a matched set. Certainly, I hope you all took the above information as really bad advise, but it is surprising how many “restorers” practice the exact ideas described. Do not follow the above advise. On the serious side, I have been thinking some of the neat discoveries and ideas that come when working on boats. None of them are totally earth shaking, but they do provide convenience, save time and/or money, and might make the finished restoration look better than
expected. Here goes.

Eliminating varnish runs and sags
When applying varnish, the idea is to get a full smooth coat. Every effort is made to lay it on with no sags or runs, but guess what? They happen. Sanding them out is a real effort to bring it flush to the surrounding varnish surface. The varnish stays soft and gummy in the sag for quite a while and loads up the paper. Preventing runs and sags is better than trying to resolve them. But, by the time you recognize one has begun, the varnish has already started to set up unless you thin the varnish with 5 -10 per cent Interlux 333 Brushing thinner. It lengthens the time the varnish holds a wet edge and brushing out a run or sag can be done even 10 – 15 minutes later in slower drying conditions. If a run or sag does escape your attention, it can be easily sanded out but with a little help from denatured alcohol and 400 grit sandpaper the next day. Wet a paper towel with the alcohol and rub it over the run. Immediately sand the run with the sandpaper on a hard rubber sanding block. Take it easy when you sand because the alcohol causes the varnish to temporarily change allowing rapid removal. When the alcohol flashes off and the run still isn’t all gone, wipe alcohol over it again and carefully sand. Soon the run will be gone from gentle sanding and you can go on to the next coat of varnish. Be more careful on the next coat.

Eliminating dust in the varnish coat
How do you eliminate dust in the varnish coat? Getting it all out in the environment most of us have to varnish is very difficult, but you can attack it head on in the preparation of the hull before
varnishing. The dust hides where it can, particularly in the hardware holes, the underside edges of the cockpit, hatch opening, seam between the topsides and the deck, topside deck seams, and other similar locations. Now, if you were to trap the dust so that it can’t be drawn out by the varnishing brush, that would eliminate that dust from being spread around on the surface. Try this. Clean the boat very carefully with the tools you have, i.e., tooth brush, air pressure, vacuum, washing with water, denatured alcohol, etc. Then, where ever there is a screw hole, vent hole, or crack that could conceivably hold dust, apply a coat of thinned varnish to that isolated area with a small brush. Say there is a screw hole that you just can’t get any cleaner. Apply a little bit of varnish to the screw hole. For vent holes in the deck apply a coat of varnish to the inside edge of the hole. If there is any excess varnish it is on the surface, wipe it off with your finger leaving only a film. Do this a couple of hours or so prior to applying the actual varnish. This seals in whatever dust still exists in that area and allows the sealer varnish to dry somewhat. Prior to the actual varnishing effort, go over the whole boat a couple of times with a tack cloth while not wearing a shirt or tee shirt. It is amazing how much dust there is in clothing. Most of the battle of dust control is in the preparation. Getting a dust free varnish job can be the most frustrating task in boat restoration. Good luck with this!
I hope the above information and ideas help you with your restoration project. The whole idea of Gadgets and Kinks is to help make your restoration effort go better. If the subject doesn’t cover your need for an answer, feel free to call or write. You can reach me at 715-294-2415 or at Heggensj@Centurytel.net. I look forward to hearing from you. In the meantime, don’t destroy it; restore it!