Actual Gadgets and Kinks

by Sherwood Heggen

We are going to cover a lot of territory this trip. It has come time to exercise the essence of this article Gadgets and Kinks and actually cover some actual gadgets and kinks.

It is a somewhat odd title for a column for discussing how to restore boats rather than destroy them. To explain the title’s meaning, we know a gadget is a mechanical device. In this context of boat restoration, gadgets is a meaningful word. But what does kinks have to do with anything. Kinks is defined in the dictionary under informal usage as “a queer idea; odd notion; eccentricity; whim”. Well, now we know where the term “kinky” comes from, but it is only brushing any association with boat restoration. Are we using kinky ways to restore boats? Come back! Stupid joke. Consider that it means different idea or clever idea. OK. Let’s get into some useful gadgets and kinks!
There is an abundance of information out there regarding restoration of old boats and a number of knowledgeable people who are willing to share what they know. The material gathered here can’t be credited to any one person and there are many variations of how each gadget and kink can be accomplished. The Internet, boating magazines, restoration videos, and workshops can be the source for most any restorer to gather gadgets and kinks. The G&K’s will be given in category and are certainly going to cover sorted items.

Smith and Company’s Clear Penetrating Epoxy Sealer is the hottest product for restoration of a boat today. This product, referred to as CPES, is a thinner than water two part epoxy that seals in and/or restores the resins in wood. When new wood is installed, use this Clear Penetrating Epoxy Sealer (CPES) to seal end grain and screw holes to limit the migration of water into the wood fibers. Restricting water from entering this most easily accessible area stabilizes the wood and discourages rot from starting. CPES remains flexible unlike some coating epoxies which cure on the surface and are prone to cracking under stress, allowing water to enter and subsequently encourage rot. On old wood, it will soak in and replenish lost resins to give the wood body again. There are limitations here. Wood so rotted that it is like balsa wood can’t be saved. Dig that out and treat the more solid wood below that with CPES. Then use their filler to build the area back up. This idea would best used for painted or hidden areas. Don Danenberg, a professional restorer who writes for Classic Boating magazine swears by this stuff. Check out his articles and ask for an information packet from Smith & Co. You will like it.

Mechanical Problems
You say your rear transmission seal is leaking and making a mess of the bilge with icky oil? Two things could be wrong. The seal is gone and/or the shaft coupling coming through that seal is worn. Using a wheel puller, remove the shaft coupling . Remove the six bolts that hold the end cover that houses the seal. Replace the seal and inspect the seal bearing surface on the shaft coupling. If worn, there will be a slight but noticeable furrow where the seal has worn away the metal. The answer to the problem is a Speedi Sleeve along with a new seal. This is a thin stainless steel sleeve that fits tightly around the worn area and provides a smooth, even surface to allow the seal to do its job. Moderately heat the sleeve with a torch or heat gun to expand it and press it into place with the tool provided. Put all the parts back where you found them and your problem should be fixed. Be especially careful that you do not fold over the seal as you put the shaft coupling through the seal during re-assembly. You will know that you have when you find that it still leaks. Take it out and do it right this time. Speedi Sleeves are available at auto parts stores and the seals are available at bearing supply shops.

Getting the stain out of the wood has always been a chore. It is heard that most wood stains will wash out with a 50/50 mix of denatured alcohol and lacquer thinner applied to the wood. Keep the wood wet with the mixture for about 15 minutes an then scrub out the stain with a brass brush and wiping up with paper towels. Be sure to provide for plenty of ventilation when using this process.

Replacing windshields
Over the years, your runabout may have lost its original windshield and you need to replace it. If you can get a paper pattern from an authentic boat, you have a good start. If no pattern is available, you can create your own.
Using pictures and drawings from the Mariners’ Museum, draw, the shape on a piece of cardboard. With the windshield brackets in screwed in place, rough-cut the cardboard template to length and place it in the bracket slots and tape it in place. With the cardboard resting on the deck in a spot or two, it is time to draw the bottom curve that would match the deck. Remember that the rubber gasket on the bottom edge of the windshield will hold the glass away from the deck by about a quarter of an inch so consider that in your overall height of the finished windshield.

At this time, take a felt tip pen and set the point on the backside of the cardboard template where the biggest gap exists between the cardboard the deck. Draw a line parallel to the deck from bracket to bracket. Remove the template and cut the template on the line. Put the cardboard template back in place and draw the shape for the top of the windshield.

When you are reasonably sure you have it pretty close, remove it from the brackets and cut it to shape. Remember this is a rough template. Next, take a suitably sized piece of 3/16″ plywood (scraps from the plywood inner bottom) and transfer the pattern to the plywood. It is better that you fair out the lines with a batten and ships curve to get that nice flowing line and curve. This is what you will give to the glass company as a true template to cut the glass. Your finished glass will be as accurate as the template you provide. If you feel the cardboard template is accurate, trace it onto the plywood and cut it out. Cut to the line with your saw and the finish the edge with a sanding block. Sight down the top and bottom edges to be sure that you have made a fair line (no dips or humps). Place the plywood template in the brackets for a final fit. Install the rubber gasket on the bottom of the windshield and in the bracket slots. If you are satisfied that it fits and looks like the original should, switch the template to the other side. Don’t be surprised if it doesn’t fit just right like it did on the first side. If it doesn’t, it is time to make another template for that other side. Once you are satisfied that you have a good template(s), mark them port/starboard accordingly and head on down to the glass company to have new windshields cut from 3/16″ tempered glass.

Here is one more kink: Filling screw holes
Let’s say you are replacing a plank. You always want to fill the screw holes to assured the new plank will be screwed to solid material. The wrong way to do it is to plug the holes with hardwood dowels which equates to screwing into end grain. The better way is to fill the hole with a putty mixture made of epoxy and microfibers or colloidal silica. Once cured, sand the surface flush and a solid screw hold exists.

It would be good to hear from the many out there who have their own useful gadgets and kinks that they would like to share. You can do that by e-mailing me at or call me at 612/432-4345. Everyone would like to hear from you. We are all in this together.