With less than a month to go, I finally finished a project that began in February – refinishing Cirila’s exterior teak. Admittedly, June – September was spent in the pool rather than “on the teak” because Texas summers are oppressive. Not even the egrets like being outdoors; its much worse for us mammals.
Sadly, I took the prior 3 years off from doing proper maintenance on our “brightwork”, making this a much bigger job than it needed to be.
Boaters generally despise exterior teak because it’s maintenance intense. But when taken care of, it sure is pretty. Some boats just deserve to be dressed up in teak. Grand Banks’ and Hans Christians come to mind. So do Kadey Krogen 42’s.
Cirila’s teak is abundant. Above you can see teak hand and cap rails on the foredeck, and an “eyebrow”, handholds, doors, and name-plates on the pilothouse. Moving aft, there’s a cap rail, window frames, double doors, and another eyebrow trimming the upper deck. I’d hate to buy all that teak today!
The process is straight forward, but with a lot of steps.
- Repair – There were two spots that needed an epoxy injection to address some rot. I drilled various access holes in the rotted areas and rebuilt them from the inside out by injecting marine epoxy into the wood, then repaired and faired the wood surface using the equivalent of JB Weld for wood. I also took this chance to rebed some screws in the cap rail, and repair some old screw holes.
- Strip – The old “varnish” was peeling off in numerous places. Once I began removing this, I made an early decision to just strip all the old off and get back down to bare wood. I stripped 95% of all of it using an industrial hot air gun, 2 different scrapers, and wood chisel. Stripping old “Honey Teak” , which is a two-part urethane enamel, is not for the weary or fainthearted. This was, without doubt, the worst part of the job.
- Prepare – The exposed wood then needs to be cleaned, sanded, and prepped for the finish. I used teak cleaner everywhere, and teak brightener to remove the “gray” in places where the old finish had completely pealed away, leaving the exposed teak to weather. These steps keep you from oversanding and turning that expensive teak to dust. I used either a palm sander or my Fein Multitool, first using 120 grit, followed by 220 grit. They say not to go much finer or the coating won’t adhere as well. Sanding was followed by another cleaning with water, a wipe down with tack cloth, then a final wipedown with
denatured alcohol, which opens the grains.
- Coating – I use a product called “Honey Teak” Signature Finish, made by Fabula Inc., of Stuart, FL. Honey Teak is a two-step, catalyzed acrylic urethane enamel coating. Fabula says that no varnish, teak oil or polyurethane coating can match the benefits or the performance of Honey Teak. An article in Practical Sailor from July 15, 2001 rates Honey Teak as having the best staying power among 8 coatings tested. The thing I like about it compared to standard varnish, is that it can be applied wet-on-wet – waiting about 3 hours between coats. Instead of 8-10 coats of varnish and each coat drying overnight, I put on 3 coats of tinted HoneyTeak, then 3 coats of the clear top coat – usually 2 coats in a day. When it dried well overnight, I’d resand with 400 grit, wipe down with tack cloth, then lay down another couple coats. The last step was very light buffing with a very fine scotch bright pad to remove some of the gloss and leave a more “satin” like appearance.
The total cost for all the Honey Teak, flow fluid thinner, catalyst, brushes, rags, paint cups, sandpaper, etc came in at about $700. Though I was not keeping close track, I’d estimate that it took me about 150 hours to complete. When finally complete, I ceremoneously retired 3 tee shirts and 2 pair of shorts. From here out, I’ll do a light sanding and lay down 1-2 maintenance coats each year, because I do not want to go through that again!