Here are some old photos I thought would be of interest and of use to people, so I'm reposting them here.
Heres what I bought with my Commander, some rotted teak, patched with bondo. After considering a total replacement, I decided to keep the old beat up teak and try to salvage a few more seasons out of it.
Heres the patched teak I put it in, it was fastened and epoxied after a wash-down with acetone to get the natural oil off the wood, and I put a piece of wax paper under the epoxy line to avoid setting up a stress-line. Several years later this patch still looks as good as new.
Heres what it looked like after a few coats of varnish.
Heres a sanding job for you. It seemed like it would never end. Lots of small nicks and fills to hide. The step pads were horribly eroded and simply could not be fixed. On the port side, however, I had a big split to contend with. I had to squeeze it together, put a slip sheet under it and glue, and then fix down without splitting the work. So far its held nicely, which surprises me a lot.
Heres the other side, similar conditions.
Heres a solution for the eroded step pad wood substrate, and it ended up being an improvement over the original design. Note how all water that falls on this step pad will drain out naturally. The grooves in the wood grab a deck shoe very nicely and so far these have provided great service and they look so much better than that metal strip.
Here is a shot of the aft deck area. Again, nothing like good ole work on your knees, sheesh.
Heres the result of careful finish sanding and a washdown with acetone prior to that first coat of varnish thinned fifty percent for a good soaking grab onto that oily wood. Using this technique keeps the varnish from peeling. Subsequent coats are not thinned so heavily. Final build coats arent thinned at all. Between every coat of varnish you must sand with a wood block with sandpaper wrapped around it. The object is to fill the valleys and sand off the peaks. Twelve coats were eventually applied, but with so much sanding there is only about 5 coats of true film.
The old boat is starting to get some attention now, even from the wood boat guys. This teak shines like gold in the sunlight.
During this same time I finished the helm and added new wood on each side of the helm. The existing wood panels were painted white. I found some good looking marine Philippine ribbon stripe in New England and it matched up nicely to the original mahogany.
Heres another look at the helm station under restoration.
Heres a look at the wood work, being enjoyed by a happy guest from Dallas Texas.
During the stripping and varnish work, I pulled the boat out of the slip and moved it over to our gas dock. During the cool season there werent too many people there and I could work away without interruption. Here are some shots of the boat with all the hardware off during this work. Now, several years later, Im getting ready to do this all over again, but this time it will be a light sanding and retopping. I do not intend to go down to bare wood unless there are some damaged areas that need that kind of attention.
Were located on a quiet little creek off the Cumberland, just outside West Meade, in Nashville. I can be on my boat in 15 minutes from the office or from home.
Starboard side getting the Full Monte.
Heres a general view of the boat, showing the aftermarket fly-bridge installed many years earlier by a previous owner. That bimini top, by the way, was one cheap crappy installation, and it's the one that Janet literally blew totally off the boat one day heading down a long stretch of river under full power into the wind, ha ha. It landed out behind the boat in the water. Since then we had some really nice stainless steel work and a "proper" bimini installed.
The following article was written several years ago when this work was done. Its been shared with several boating clubs, and Im posting it here in its entirety because there are still some good tips that have (now) proven themselves over a period of years.
Chris Craft Commander Teak Toe Rail Restoration
By Pau1 P1etcher
few years ago Janet and I found our 1966 38 Chris Craft Commander on the Ohio River a few miles upstream of Cincinnati. One of the design features of the large Commander is a beautiful toe rail of genuine teak. This is not just cosmetic, it is a deeply imbedded onto another layer of structural wood and through-bolted into the heavy fiberglass substrate. It serves as a good basis for hardware and railings, and it can be very attractive if finished bright. The boat was in serviceable condition, but it needed a lot of attention. Because I had been involved with numerous wood boat restorations over the years I was willing to acquire this boat below market value and then do a lot of the work myself. The teak looked generally sound, but it looked cosmetically poor. After some of the more serious electrical and engine work was done, I focused on a variety of cosmetic issues such as new headliner and refinishing of the helm and interior. I knew Id have to do a LOT of work just to get the teak in shape. Some of it was split, some was missing, and some was rotted. I didnt think Id like an oil finish after doing all of that work, and decided to finish it bright with varnish. Working on weekends, this took me a couple of months to complete. Just getting the wood in shape was a major chore. If you have good wood, the work will be limited to refinishing and the job will be much easier. Some weekends Id just apply one build coat of varnish on Saturday and another on Sunday afternoon after sanding what had gone on the previous day.
The project started in February with a heavy jacket, and finished with a T-shirt
9-weeks later after 12 coats of gleaming varnish had been applied. In order to not upset my nice neighbors at the marina, I pulled the boat over to the gas dock many weekends, weather permitting, for much of the sanding and stripping work. Most of the old varnish removal was done in cold weather when most boaters were at home. People visiting the marina saw the work in progress. One guy thought I was taking the wood down too far with the sander, because when teak is sanded it expands into mounds of sawdust. However, I was very careful only to sand where sanding was in order. At locations where new wood was spliced in, I used sanding to carefully level the two pieces.
The previous owner(s) had applied topcoats of varnish and epoxy over the years, and the wood had a dark walnut appearance. I removed all hardware and used electric sanders to remove the coatings. It would have been impossible to get the finish off with hand sanding, or with stripper alone. Once through the coatings I was very careful with electric sanders, because as all wood boaters know, electric sanders can erode wood very quickly and create dimples that are not noticed until the final high gloss coat of varnish is applied. Some of the hardware did not want to come off, and some of the fasteners twisted off or lost grip at the heads. Much of it was bolted on, rather than screwed. Some of the fasteners had to be drilled out and they were bunged with teak plugs. All bungs were dipped in waterproof glue prior to placement, and all were properly aligned with the grain. All new fasteners were stainless steel, and they were all put into oversize pilot holes through the teak to avoid splitting. Most screw fasteners were screwed through the teak and into the fiberglass substrate, and the holding power was enormous. Where necessary, I would step up to a larger size of screw in order to assure a proper grip. Where natural splits occurred in the teak, I used a hack saw blade to clean them out. I also worked it with a sharp blade and folded sandpaper to be sure everything was clean enough to accept epoxy.
I put a piece of wax paper under the split to serve as a bond breaker, and filled the split with epoxy. Clamps were used to squeeze everything tight and hold everything in place until epoxy cured. If I had not used a bond breaker between the wood and the fiberglass substrate, I would have glued the point of repair to the substrate, and this would have put stress at the glue point. I mixed wood flour with the epoxy to give it some body and to approximate the color of teak. I did not use teak flour due to its oil content. In some cases I used a special mix of teak colored transparent paint mixed with varnish, to mask the repair work. This coloration was carefully placed between coats of varnish.
In some cases the teak was rotted and needed to be replaced. Specially matched pieces were cut to size and epoxied into place on top of bond breakers. Much of this work was fastened prior to epoxy, in order to avoid stressing the glue joint. Fasteners at these locations were put into oversize holes in the teak, to allow for some degree of movement.
This system proved to be durable. After three years of use, I can see a few some small cracks in the varnish surface where the wood has moved a bit. These are touched with a mix of varnish and thinner for good penetration. Light sanding with a 220 grit, and a topcoat will get me through the season. I suspect that in a few years, Ill have to remove the railing and hardware again, but this time it will be quite easy. All Ill have to do then is to lightly sand the entire toe rail, and put on a couple good finish coats, and the teak will once again have the appearance of pure gold. No need to take a well-maintained varnish coat back down to bare wood. Its an investment in time and effort, its a lot of work, but the results are spectacular.
Teak is oily by nature, and it gets a lot more oily with age due to the fact that people insist on dumping oil on it. Teak oil does work, and it works quite well. I am a former wood boat owner, and am one of those people who think nothing looks quite as nice as brightly finished teak. After stripping off the topcoats of old varnish, epoxy, etc., I paid special attention to preparing the teak to accept varnish. One of the problems with varnished teak is peeling, and this is primarily because the oily wood was not properly prepared for varnish. The teak was washed down with a teak cleaner after most of the sanding was done. It was then washed down again with acetone. Acetone evaporates quickly. Shortly after the acetone evaporated, I applied a 50/50% first coat of varnish/thinner in order to get good penetration into the wood fiber. The acetone forced the oils deep into the wood, and allowed the thinned varnish penetrated into the wood, making a good foundation for more varnish topcoats. The second varnish coat was almost as thin, and the teak drank it up. After the initial penetration coats, I began laying on un-thinned varnish to build up the film thickness. Teak has a fairly open grain, and it takes a lot of varnish build up to fill all the little indentations in the surface. Sanding in between coats will eventually allow the finish coat to level out and look smooth. A grain filler might have helped in this regard, but I was not aware of any that would give a natural coloration, so all of my filling was done with varnish. Several coats of varnish were applied by brush for maximum "build", however, the last 6 or 8 coats were applied with a marine foam roller in order to get that glass smooth finish we antique and classic boaters love to see.
I can not stress the importance of sanding with a wood block, between coats. This MUST be done by hand. An electric sander has absolutely NO PURPOSE between coats of varnish. Careful hand-sanding is necessary to give a tooth to the substrate so each subsequent coat will bond properly. I like using the wet 150 and 220 grit sandpaper. It forms a lather of spent varnish when used, and the water quickly clears the paper for more action. The work needs to be wiped down immediately after sanding, which I did in steps. First wipe down was with a wet rag to get most of the varnish specks off. Prior to applying another coat of varnish, I would also wipe the work down with a rag lightly wetted with varnish solvent. This was done to get any additional dust off the work. Although I have 12 coats of varnish, the actual finished thickness is probably more like 6 coats due to the obligatory sanding that is required to fill all the small voids in the grain and get that glass-smooth finish. Since the finishing was done outdoors, sometimes in less than ideal conditions, I have more build coats than Id probably have applied if the boat was finished indoors. Thinner tends to dull the finish of varnish, so it is best to use it right out of the can. This works great on flat work. I used Pettit High Build for build coats, and finished the work with a couple coats of Captains Varnish, and Schooner 96, with a final two or three coats of Epifanes. Multiple coats of marine spar varnish with UV filters provides a golden glow that is unmatched on teak.
I recommend buying 4 one-quart cans of varnish rather than a one-gallon container. This keeps your varnish fresh. Always pour varnish to be used into a smaller container and dip the brush straight down into the liquid. Never strike a brush back into a can of varnish because it contaminates it with bubbles and bits of dust picked up off the surface. I always use a second can to strike the brush, and this is wasted because contaminated varnish serves no purpose in achieving a top quality finish. With a foam roller you must select a varnish that works with the temperature and humidity conditions to flash out over the small bubbles inherent with a roller. The roller can put down a very uniform finish in a quick amount of time. Thin and uniform coats of varnish will not run, but they also dont build up very quickly, and this is why the build coats were placed with a brush. You never really know when the last coat of varnish has been applied, until you see the final results after it dries. Once viewed, the decision can be made. Its been said that you always discover a new species of insect every time a can of varnish is cracked. This is true.
The finish still looks new after three years of operation. It is washed once a week with an automotive wash/wax, and water drops are always wiped off. In any kind of light, it has a golden glow that is the crowning touch for this fine boat. In sunlight is it spectacular. On the water it looks iridescent. As the boat rocks on the water it flashes bright golden color to other boaters, and it is a constant source of comments. I recommend this approach for anyone who will take the time to do it right. If youre going to do it yourself, then you can assure taking the proper measures and proper amount of time. If you are going to have the work done for you at a marina, shortcuts will most likely be taken unless you are on site to supervise the work. Teak oil can bring out the color, but it will not reflect light nearly as well, and the freshly oiled surface attracts dirt and quickly starts looking a bit dull. Because teak oil will not provide a gloss finish, it will mask flaws and look good on a piece of wood that might otherwise look poor with a highly reflective finish.
Polyurethane can also be used but Ive always been a traditionalist and prefer varnish. Polyurethane offers higher abrasion resistance, but the teak strip really doesnt get much direct wear. I know how easily varnish can be repaired, and polyurethane is tough to work with by comparison. I am also comfortable with the way thinned varnish will penetrate and grip the wood. After three years the wood still looks new, although close inspection shows a few spots here and there where water has penetrated at joints in the wood. This is to be expected, and it must be dealt with each season to avoid discoloration and eventual peeling. After three years there were no signs of peeling. For those looking for the bright finishing touch on a classic cruiser, theres nothing quite so fine as high gloss marine varnish on teak.
Edit comment: Photo added, April 2006. The photo below was taken April 1, 2006, and the teak still presents itself well SEVERAL years after it's application as described above. It is showing wear, and will soon be top coated. The process takes time, but the rewards are big. This boat is kept under cover and does not receive full sun exposure, but it does get a lot of UV exposure on the bow.
Relevant thread, are you sitting down? (Brace yourself ! Turn up your speakers, wait for the sound to kick in! Enjoy !)
edit: Photo below added
The photo below is the exact same helm station as shown in upper photos, except it has a low afternoon sun angle blasting in some golden color to enhance the image. Amazing! It really shows off the quality of the varnish work, even many years after it was done.