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Paint, Varnish & Canvas
Don Scraping Varnish
~ Don Scraping Varnish ~
The Brightwork
Our Tub of Teak
Not a day goes by when someone wandering down the dock stops to mention what a beautiful vessel we have, and then notes how happy they are that they don't have all that woodwork to care for. Well, all I've got to say to them is (tongue between lips) PPPHHHZZZTTT!!! We do have a ton of teak on deck, and most all of it was in terrible shape. So I did some investigation, and a plan of action was implemented. Time to bring back the brightwork!
Diana Standing By
~ Diana Standing By ~

We started by stripping the old varnish off with a heat gun. Weeks passed and the stripping continued. I kept waiting for our harbor master to come and tell me he was going to raise our rates to cover the electric bill. But after several bags full of varnish peelings, and the obligatory minor personal injuries, we were on to step two – sanding.

With a hefty investment in the sandpaper industry, we were beginning to think that bare wood didn’t look so bad. Alas, I had my heart set on a nice shinny finish and the grayer the teak got in the sun, the more adamant I got about how enjoyable it was to work with wood. I moved on to step three – sealing the wood with teak oil.

Bow Sprit Boards Before
~ Bow Sprit Boards Before ~
Bow Sprit Boards After
~ Bow Sprit Boards After ~

There was another skipper on our dock who was also wooding his boat down for a new finish, and we commiserated, shared techniques, and patted each other on the back in our little successes. It was nice to have the competition and the moral support.

The amount of teak on a Hans Christian is incredible. It all adds to the beauty and function of the vessel, as well as the amount of time it takes to maintain it. A lot of people will steer clear of boats that require this level of maintenance, but we have grown to love the work, as well as the final results. We roll our eyes at the "I can have the teak refinished in a couple of weeks" comments of the inexperienced.

If done right from bare wood up, the finish will only require a recoat every four to six months. But to do it right takes months and months and months. You are at the mercy of the weather, and other issues that demand attention. It takes a minimum of 3 coats of sealing oil, a wet sand, and 10 coats of premium varnish (we use Schooners®) with drying times expanding to 48 hours between coats.

Factor in sanding and dust clean-up between layers, the need to limit the coverage area to keep a wet edge, drying times before evening dew, dry-off times from morning dew, and well – you do the math.

Old Varnish
~ Old Varnish ~
Ready for a New Coat
~ Ready for a New Coat ~
Refit: 23 Aug 2016
Sadly, the strong Florida sun was too much for the 12 coats of varnish, and far too soon we were seeing cracks and spots. Additionally, areas were worn through from rope abrasion and just plain old use. The original varnish job took several months to complete, and it appeared we'd have to turn around and start right back at the beginning if we wanted to keep everything looking ship-shape.

We wanted to spend our time sailing instead. So we eventually opted to strip all the new varnish off of the most used, uncovered areas and go with Semco®, an oil that could be rubbed on with a rag. This worked well at keeping the wood smooth and blond, and together we could completely cover the bare teak in a day.

Freshly Oiled Teak
~ Freshly Oiled Teak ~

The areas that we did choose to leave varnished were recovered in Cetol®. From our experience in these latitudes, this product stood up much better to the UVs, and their new, Natural color didn't alter the color of the teak as drastically as the original product did.

I still covet a good varnish product because our Han Christian sure looked Bristol when her wood shined. But we still get lots of positive comments about her beauty, and especially how fine her teak looks.

We aim to do a re-coat of the oil every three to six months, but the one valuable lesson I've learned in working with all this teak is that it can always be brought back to its beautiful self, no matter how much it gets ignored. So if we're in cruising mode rather than project mode, I don't sweat the grey brightwork so much.

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