The time has finally come. I can put it off no longer. I’ve done every other ghastly project and this is the only one left. I started scraping the old varnish off the exterior teak. I’ve dreaded this chore since we first saw the boat and I’ve avoided this task like the plague. Clean the oily bilge? Yep, I’ll get right on that. Clean the previous owner’s hair (gag) out of the shower strainer? Done. Scrape the old varnish off the teak? Umm, well…I think there’s got to be something else I needed to do first…
Weeks ago Rich scraped a “test” patch at the front of the cabin top. “See,” he said. “It comes off pretty easy.” And he was right…mostly. The heat gun softens the thick, goopy varnish (which we think is Cetol) and it does scrape off. The hard part is not gouging the wood and contorting my body into a pretzel to get under the teak overhangs and getting the varnish out of all the grain and not burning myself with the heat gun. So for the past two weekends and an hour or so after work I have heated, scraped, picked, contorted and cussed (more photos here.)
It’s clear that this teak has been neglected. The sad news is that some of our teak is well past its prime. The Cetol was so thick in some places that I’ve found several holes and many missing wood plugs. I’m not sure if the teak is thick enough to set the screws a little deeper so they can be covered with plugs. There are already many gouges that I’m pretty sure cannot be fixed to look right. The sadder news is that whoever slathered on the last coat or three of Cetol had no idea what they were doing. This crap is everywhere; on the side of the toerail, on the gelcoat, on the metal windows, all over the door hinges. Basically on anything that was in close proximity to the teak (and I use the term “close” loosely.)
So after what will be weeks of scraping, I then have to sand and sand and sand and…well you get the idea. Rich will have to do some magic with teak scraps and wood putty I think. Then we’ll use oxalic acid which is supposed to brighten the teak to its original color. Then…I don’t’ know what.
I’ve researched the “best” method for finishing teak. Rich wants to epoxy everything. I put the kibosh on that. It’s great until it fails in a few years, then it’s scrape, scrape, scrape…sand, sand, sand for two weeks. I’ve heard Honey Teak is supposed to be good. Practical Sailor did a review of it about 12 years ago and it was the top contender. More recently Practical Sailor tested Interlux Perfection Plus and it scored the highest so far. It lasted two years in Florida. That’s saying something. One option we’re looking into is removing some teak. The dorade boxes, for example. We’re actually going to keep the teak boxes, but Rich is going to paint Awlgrip over them so they should never need to be refinished. The teak trim along the bottom of the cabin top is in bad enough shape that we’re considering removing it. Rich will have to fabricate a transition trim piece so that where the other trim ends it will look relatively normal. We’ll see. At the rate I’m going it will be a couple of months before we need to worry about that.