Yesterday I decided that today would be a great day to polish the stainless on the port side of the deck. Isn’t it funny how tomorrow always seems a great day to do big jobs that you don’t particularly enjoy? So being a conscientious and hard-working sort I of course decided the galley was a mess and I’d better start on that first. I’ve been slowly letting everything that I’m not quite sure where it goes collect in great drifts on my small counters. Since we’re (STILL) at the dock everything has just stayed there, making it harder and harder to a.) find anything and b.) do anything, which considerably impeded getting meals ready. But I’m a stalwart sort and continued to push things aside rather than address the real problem. Until I had a bigger issue, like polishing the stainless.
I was merciless. First I put away anything that isn’t used frequently for preparing meals. Then I cleaned every surface. I even ordered a larger cutting board to replace the small one that has to held in place with a rubber pad that seems to need cleaning more often than the board itself. I justified the expense by the savings in cleaning time and the security of having a cutting board that doesn’t move around – it will go all the way across the counter. The Cutting Board Company sells the commercial Richlite ones that you can safely cut on and put hot pans down on. So I’m pleased to report that the galley looks great and the stainless is still, well, stained. So that’s done so time to start the polishing.
Except, you know those hatch trim pieces in the main salon are just awful. The teak oil put on by the previous owner was now streaked, I’m guessing by condensing water dripping down, and in several spots the sun had dried the teak trim to a powdery white. After thinking about it for the last few weeks I had decided to strip them down using the cute little palm sander Jon recently gifted me, and then it seemed wise to varnish them rather than oil them.
Why varnish when the rest of the boat is a rubbed oil finish? Rubbed oil is great for interior surfaces away from excessive water and sun. For areas with lots of water and sun, varnish is always going to look better longer. So I’m going to varnish the hatch trim.
Prep for Varnishing
First job is removing the old snaps. I assume these held on some kind of insect netting or sun protection, but the snaps are green with age and several are missing and I didn’t inherit the covers anyway. So I pull out the trusty screwdriver and they are gone.
Aside for female readers: Jon does most of the building and maintenance for the boat as he used to be a boat builder and has actual skills, not just theoretical opinions, like me. I have my wood finishing tools, and my sewing tools, and of course my galley tools, but to promote marital bliss I also have my own basic mechanical tools that are repeats of his basic tools. Mine all fit in a small bag and include such things as screwdrivers, pliers, basic electrical tools, hammer, etc. This avoids me from having to ask him where his tools are (his seem to move about the boat in a seasonal migration that I have not figured out and he seems to have only a tenuous understanding of), as well as avoids him telling me a much better way to do whatever I’m planning to do. All in all we’re happier this way. And yes, I’m being grossly unfair in my description of him and his tool habits, but it does seem that way…
Next is sanding all the old finish off. I started with 80 grit on my palm sander and went to town. In the rounded corners I had to use sandpaper and my (rounded) thumb, but the sander did everything else. I finished up with 120 grit.
The third step is taping. I don’t want to get varnish on the strips that hold the ceiling up – these will remain a rubbed oil finish. I also don’t want to get varnish on the fiberglass hatch walls. Blue tape to the rescue.
So now I’m ready to start varnishing. Except that while sanding I discovered lots of holes and several places where the scarfing was lifting and separating (bras are supposed to do this, not wood trim). I had sanded as well as I could but decided some wood filler would help. I filled the holes and gaps with “teak” colored wood filler. It went on really light colored but I thought “it will darken as it dries”. It didn’t. Then I thought “it will darken under the varnish”. It didn’t. Damn. Red cedar may have been a better match than “teak”, but I wasn’t going back to the store.
Luckily I had not varnished the second one so I got the sander out again and removed as much of the filler as possible, until it was only a pale line at the scarfs and a pale circle at the holes. Not perfect, but good enough.
I won’t go into detail here on how to varnish, but follow the how-to-varnish link if you’re interested in my article on that. But briefly the first couple of coats are heavily cut with mineral spirits so that the finish really soaks into the wood. Since there is so little varnish in the mix these coats can be re-coated in four hours or so – full varnish coats require a full 24 hours cure for best results, even 48 hours when you get beyond 8 or 10 coats. These hatch trim pieces will probably only get 5 coats because they are easy to get to and I can easily add another coat each year or so. For the spruce mast on a previous boat I put on 14 coats hoping I’d never have to do that job again. But for this job, no problem, 5 coats will be fine.
In this case I will wait the four hours and then try to sand off most of the finish so I can remove most of the wood filler. Then re-varnish! But they’re already looking prettier so I’m content.
Tomorrow looks like a GREAT day to polish the stainless!