Thursday, 3 January 2013

Boat Renovation – Sanding, Sanding and Sanding

Got myself a Vespa for visiting the boatyard -- almost a 100 miles to the gallon of petrol so it helps keep the costs down. Essential tools are kept in a wooden wines box that  I varnished and gave a hinged lid to. Vintage wine box for a vintage scooter, to visit a vintage boat!

So, many of the wooden bits of the boat are at home, and sanding seems to be the name of the game. There are two kinds of wood on and in the boat, solid wood for such things as the tiller and companion way steps, and marine ply. The solid wood is Iroko, a kind of Teak substitute which sands to a rather pleasant orange colour, and turns a beautiful honey colour under the oil/varnish I have used so far (International Paints – Woodskin).

The ply however, is a different matter. It seems to have had several treatments over the years and sanding it isn’t a pleasant job. The sandpaper seems to clog very quickly when it hits a layer of some dark plastic kind of substance (maybe it is a polyurethane type varnish applied several years ago). Either way, I seem to hit it once the top layer of a rather brittle varnish has been cleared away and then, once through it, there seems to be another layer of something more traditional at the wood surface). So, sanding is unpleasant tedious and boring, but I can’s see a way of avoiding it. Than goodness for the I-pad and a large collection of BB King and Buddy Guy tunes!

The worst, I guess, is that the end result of marine ply sanding is not particularly encouraging. The ply doesn’t seem to be Teak or Iroko faced – or if it is, it certainly doesn’t have the same quality of colour that the solid wood has. It’s much paler, more like ash or maybe chestnut. I’m not sure what to do with the interior wood, varnish, paint, stain, go for some kind of limed effect? I’ll worry about that later. The exterior wood (that which I don’t replace) will get an initial coat of Woodskin and then I can worry about the aesthetics later.

On a brighter note however, one of the pleasant things I have discovered about this old boat – and I suspect she shares this will many other GRP boats of the 1960’s and 1970’s, is that she was built during a period of technological change and in some ways the ‘intermediate technology’ applied is very useful to a restorer. Sorry if this sounds a bit obscure, what I mean is that the 1960’s was the period when GRP began to be used for small craft, it was new technology, not fully understood and therefore the boat hull and shell are very strong and heavy – overbuilt and solid. That much I understood and expected BUT having built the hull and shell, much of the rest of the boat was put together using more traditional methods. There are few moulded-in parts. All the furniture and bulkheads are built with proper woodworking joints and are screwed into place with brass screws therefore they are relatively easy to disassemble, remove and renovate.

Now where was I? – oh yes sanding, sanding and sanding.