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Old 09-05-2012, 04:40 PM   #1
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PNW boaters...varnish, Cetol or oil?

Looking to reduce the amount of maintenance on our exterior teak. We're not undercover and our boat is exposed to the elements 24/7.
At present, all exterior teak has a minimum of eight coats of varnish after being sealed with penetrating epoxy. Even after all that I'm constantly fighting with water intrusion and subsequent lifting around joints and screw holes. Will I fare any better with teak oil or Sikkens Cetol?
BTW, I already tried Bristol Finish on our previous boat and wasn't all that impressed.
Thanks - Boyd.
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Old 09-05-2012, 05:21 PM   #2
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I'm going to assume that you will receive as many opinions as you will responses to this one. :-)

FWIW, we are moored in Tacoma, and spent the better part of August coating all of our exterior teak (including swimstep and rub-rails) with Cetol, so that's obviously our vote.

We have no experience with any other finish -- some of the other types look fantastic, but we are familiar with the application (and limitations) of Cetol, and like it.
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Old 09-05-2012, 06:01 PM   #3
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The best results I have had with bright work.

West system epoxy using the speacial hardner then UV protected using spar varnish. From my experience it realy is the sun that sucks the life outa the finish.

That being said I can no longer purchase oil based paints in Canada so Spar varnish is out.

I am now using the west system as before but using a clear coat to cover from industrial paints and plastics hear in Richmond. So far so good.

But I expect to do regular maintenance on the finish. Fix and repair not only my bangs but where water will penetrate through joints and fasteners.

The old fishboat is wood and can sport lots of it. I try to keep as much of the wood clear so I can see what is actualy going on under the "paint". So its not realy for the look but to aid in maintaining the old girl. Paint over epoxy lasts for decades, but can hide issues.

Places where the finish just will not stay or has issues all the time usualy means there are problems under in the structure.

Any way YMMV.
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Old 09-05-2012, 07:08 PM   #4
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We switched to Bristol about 12 years ago after finding it vastly superior to everything else on the market in terms of longevity in this climate. It takes awhile to master the application technique but after experiencing the success we've been having all these years we would not think of using anything else today.

On raw wood we apply a couple of coats of CPES first and then apply the first coat of Bristol while the second coat of CPES is still tacky. We do the same thing when we are painting new or raw wood.
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Old 09-05-2012, 07:52 PM   #5
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Everybody's looking for a miracle .... and expecting it too. Most think if they keep trying different stuff the miracle will come along. They listen to guys like Marin and others that think they've found the miracle but if you look at Marin's boat a good part of it you can't even see because he's afraid to expose it to the sun and weather.
Nothing sticks to teak because of the oil in the wood and moisture eventually gets under it and it's game over.
A point to the OP is that you've used epoxy and probably almost nothing will penetrate the wood again. I think you are now better off w the high tech stuff but epoxy may be a good base for oil based finishes too. If you use oil bases stuff let us know.
To me the holy grail of brightwork may be in the ease that what you use comes off. Sanding a bit and flowing on a new topcoat is easy and almost fun. The dreaded activity is removing the old finish. I used a torch and scraper in the old days and that worked quite well but one couldn't help burning the wood a bit so varnishing had mixed results.
I think the closest thing to a perfect finish is using a quality product and taking care of it like cleaning and waxing ect. Then put on a coat or 2 in the spring after light sanding and when that is not satisfactory strip and refinish. I think what you use is not as important as how you use it and maintain it. So most of us may already have the perfect finish but just need to pay more attention to all the details connected to it.
I have a fairly new concept that may increase the performance of oil based finishes and that is to apply very heavy coats of carefully selected oils and thinners like turpentine and pine tar mixed w kerosene (aids penetration) over a period of time. With a strong enough base of penetrated oil paint or varnish may work much better. The heavy oil may also greatly decrease the ability of moisture getting under the topcoat.
No miracle to be sure but perhaps petter performance. I think better performance is all we can realistically expect.
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Old 09-05-2012, 08:20 PM   #6
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Thanks for the replies all. As I mentioned in my original post, most of my issues are with moisture intrusion in screw holes and scarf joints on the handrails. The brightwork was sealed, varnished, wet-sanded and buffed to mirror finish last year; most of it still looks quite good, except of course in the areas I've mentioned. I'm really starting to wonder if this old GB may be the wrong boat for me at this point in my life, she seems to want a lot more attention than I can offer. It's starting to feel a lot like painting a bridge...you just get finished and it's time to do the job all over again.
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Old 09-05-2012, 09:09 PM   #7
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My solution was to have no exterior wood. It's all in the interior.

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Old 09-05-2012, 09:39 PM   #8
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"My solution was to have no exterior wood. It's all in the interior."
I'd have to agree; if we're to keep this boat I think I'll be replacing whatever I can with either plastics or stainless without going so far as to destroy the overall character of the boat.
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Old 09-05-2012, 10:06 PM   #9
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if you look at Marin's boat a good part of it you can't even see because he's afraid to expose it to the sun and weather.
Nothing sticks to teak because of the oil in the wood and moisture eventually gets under it and it's game over.
This "nothing sticks to teak because it's too oily" is a myth. Teak's simply not that oily. The oil that's in it is why a lot of us use CPES on the wood first, before applying the finish. The CPES seals the wood and gives an epoxy surface for the finish to grip. Applying the first coat of finish while the last coat of CPES is still tacky in essence glues the first coat of finish to the wood and nothing can get under it, period.

We don't use the covers because we're afraid of the Bristol failing. We have pieces of wood we put on the boat like antenna mounts, etc. that got ten coats of Bristol 10 or 12 years ago and have never been touched since and the finish is fine even with being totally exposed to the weather 24/7/365 .

We use the covers because all the factory bedding under the exterior trim on this 39 year old boat has long since hardened and crumbled. This allows moisture to get behind the wood and THAT starts lifting the finish. Right now we simply don't have the time to do the proper thing which is remove all the trim including hand, cap, and grab rails, and all the trim strips, strip them completely, refinish them, and reinstall them with new bedding.

I did find the time to do this over the winter with the two grab rails on the forward cabin top. Three coats of CPES and 10 coats of Bristol, the first applied over the curing CPES. They look like rails on a museum quality Gar Wood.. I just reinstalled them with new bedding and based on our experience with the pieces of exterior teak that don't have the failed bedding problem I don't expect to have to touch these grab rails again for at least six or seven years with no covers on them.

The covers help minimize the finish lifting as a result of the old, failed bedding. This slows the deterioration until the day comes we have the time--- and the weather cooperates--- to do the refinish and rebedding job properly.
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Old 09-05-2012, 10:18 PM   #10
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I'm really starting to wonder if this old GB may be the wrong boat for me at this point in my life, she seems to want a lot more attention than I can offer. It's starting to feel a lot like painting a bridge...you just get finished and it's time to do the job all over again.
If you don't like working with wood-- which I do-- and you don't keep the boat in a boathouse, which we don't because we use it as a weekend cabin year round whether we go out or not and who wants to stay on a boat in a boathouse-- then a GB, particularly an older one, is the wrong boat to have. You can reduce the work by painting the teak, which lowers its resale value considerably, or you can let it weather and go gray, at which point the trim will start to roughen and crevice, which also lowers the resale value.
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Old 09-06-2012, 01:07 AM   #11
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I did find the time to do this over the winter with the two grab rails on the forward cabin top. Three coats of CPES and 10 coats of Bristol, the first applied over the curing CPES.
How did you accomplish that? Per your reports, it is continually raining in the PNW. I thought such tasks should be done when conditions are dry. Do you periodically return your boat to its San Francisco home for painting/varnishing work? (Wink)

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Old 09-06-2012, 01:52 AM   #12
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I use Pratt and Lambert Vitralite Spar

Varnishhttp://www.prattandlambert.com/product-selector/homeowner/stains_clears/vitralite_exterior_uva_spar_varnish

I have had great success with it. Looks awesome, wears well. My boat is outdoors, but even after 8-10 months the finish looks great. There is about 8-10 coats currently. Every 8 months or so, I give a sand with 400 grit and apply 1-2 coats. I had a bit of water intrusion on some joints last winter. I peeled out sikaflex, prepped surface, varnished into the joint, re-sealed and haven't had an issue since. Proper prep prevents many future issues (I hope). I did have take a heat gun to a few spots, but have built those areas back up....it adds character!

I can't get Pratt and Lambert product in Canada, so I buy from Seattle and pick-up in Sumas and bring into Canada. It seems to work great and I am happy with it, so don't want to mess with a good thing.
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Old 09-06-2012, 01:55 AM   #13
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How did you accomplish that? Per your reports, it is continually raining in the PNW. I thought such tasks should be done when conditions are dry. Do you periodically return your boat to its San Francisco home for painting/varnishing work? (Wink)
I removed them from the boat and took them home. Next will be the grab rails on the aft cabin which we'll do the same way.
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Old 09-06-2012, 08:27 AM   #14
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I thought such tasks should be done when conditions are dry. Do you periodically return your boat to its San Francisco home for painting/varnishing work? (Wink)
Are there any dry days in San Fran?
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Old 09-06-2012, 09:17 AM   #15
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I'm still stripping the varnish with heat gun and scraper and considering what to do for refinishing. I agree, I'm not seeing any miracles solutions here. The idea of painting keeps coming back to me. If I get the color right will the difference be noticeable from 30 feet away?

It's a cheap, old boat. Left out in the elements and subject to physical as well as environmental abuse. It's not a piece of fine furniture.
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Old 09-06-2012, 09:59 AM   #16
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I have no real experience with exterior teak, so I must ask this question.

What is so wrong with straight teak oil, or linseed oil?

You can apply it with a rag very quickly.

It cannot lift since it does not form a film.

It naturally darkens the wood to a nice satin finish.

This is going to sound stupid I know but many of us have cedar decks at home and we don't think twice about using an oil finish on them. What makes a boat so much different?
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Old 09-06-2012, 11:59 AM   #17
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The Eagle has more teak deck and trim than most boats and is out in the weather year around. The best is to cover/protect the bright work as much as possible, which the pilot house and stern canvas really help. However, that still leaves the front deck and the rest of the trim. The front teak deck is sealed with several coats of Daily Sea Fin which is very thin as is soaks into the teak the tiny calking and fasteners. In the winter a blue trap is over the top which keeps 90% of the winter weather off the teak deck.

Being the Eagle is sway/whale back and deck/roof crowned, the water run to the center of the boat, so there are areas that have a larger volume of rain water. The long teak rub rail the goes all the way around the boat is the biggest problem. The seams I have ground out/down and filled with West system Epoxy with mixture of #4 and #7 additive which is sort of tan in color, then a fiber glass cloth matt, and multi coats of varnish over. For the last two years the failure has be caused by the caulking failing which allows water/moisture under. I use 5200, but in areas it has failed.


I have tried most of the finishes, and have keep come back to varnish as it gives the best clear/gloss finish. I really like the Interlux one part polyurethane, but they stop making it. So for the last two years I been using Pettit 2015 Flagship Varnish with very good results. This last winter there were 3 places it failed which was on the rub rail which was not to much of a surprise.

75% of the exposed bright work has lasted for many years as they have 6+ coats and a new re coat every year. I let dry until the next day, and lightly sand between each coat, as the applying multi coats does not seem to hold up. So the teak decks and trim are a yearly maintenance item, since we live on the boat, I find it easy and relaxing.
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Old 09-06-2012, 12:57 PM   #18
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Phil Fill wrote "come back to varnish as it gives the best clear/gloss finish."
I'm about at that same place Phil.

Marin,
I was sorta joking about hiding part of your boat and you were available as an example to make my point. You care about your boat Marin and I respect that.

ksanders,
I have been doing that (using linseed oil) for about 3 years now. You don't want to do that unless having sticky surfaces is OK w you. Even then one needs to coat every 2 or 3 months in Alaska to keep up w it. All the teak oil products in a can have created build for me and thus are unacceptable. But in Alaska l found linseed oil to be an acceptable compromise. One's wood is protected but there is now light and dark spots like summerwood and hartwood. But most objectionable is the stickyness. I can sit on my cap rail (except right after application) and my pants sorta stick to the rail a bit but pull away clean. A certain amount of dirt will adhere to the oiled surfaces too but very little here in Alaska. If I spent more time and often rubbed down the surfaces w turpentine to get the excess off it would look and feel much better but don't know if that would leave an acceptable finish. It's just a big experiment for me as I've never seen anything written on how to properly finish exterior wood on a boat w oil. As you can see from my pics most guys here are too yachty to find oil acceptable. But some ???? I'll share my home grown formula w anyone.
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Old 09-06-2012, 01:43 PM   #19
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Lurker-- I've seen boats with the exterior trim painted a teak color and you are correct, from a short distance away you can't tell the difference. In fact close up it can look very nice. If you elect to do this and you strip the wood back to raw I suggest you first paint it with CPES or even one coat of varnish before applying the primer and paint. The CPES or varnish will prevent the primer/paint from getting down into the grain. So if the next owner or you wants to return the exterior wood to a bright finish they will not have to sand away good wood to get down past the paint in the grain.

KSanders--- while an oil finish on exterior teak looks very nice when it's applied, it attracts and holds dirt and dust which can work its way down into the grain and gradually darken the wood.. It also weathers out of the wood fairly fast at which point the wood will start turning gray. The only "cure" for that is to sand the gray cells off. So you have to keep applying oil on a fairly frequent basis depending on your climate.

This is the reason we use the rail and trim covers that bug Eric so much. Since we don't have time to do the finish properly right now the covers help prevent the wood where the finish is failing from goin gray, which eventually leads to black.
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Old 09-06-2012, 02:57 PM   #20
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Marin do you see any gray on my cap rail?

As to the dirt one can actually "wash" it off w thinner or turpentine since the oils don't cure hard. But yes one does need to oil frequently.

What is this CPES stuff. I assume it's 2 part. What viscosity is it during application? What would result if you were to keep applying the CPES? Would it appear like varnish w enough coats? How would one remove it. I suppose it would need UV protection.

Marin, the covering your rails ect reminds me of the times I'd buy a car in the 50s for $25. I'd take it home and take off the old seat covers and there would be beautiful mowhair (SP?) upholstery that had only seen a few hours of daylight in it's whole life. There I would be w an old junker car that looked like I'd just put new seats in it. I can see how you may be motivated to keep up your resale value but I'd want to enjoy look'in at that beautiful wood.
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