1937 Lyman Cruisette – How-to Strip Varnish & Stain

1967 lyman cruisette how-to stain varnish

Stripping paint and varnish from antique and classic wood hulls must be the least rewarding element of their preservation. It’s all about getting it off.

That it is a cliché’ is immaterial. Preparation is 95%+ of great wood boat preservation. Cleaning the wood completely, until all traces of penetrating stain or surface coatings have vanished, is the cornerstone of thorough and complete preparation.

And, what with grain typically running in multiple directions, great care must be taken that the scrubbing involved here does not raise a forest of cross-grain scratches in the process. While we do sometimes reach for the heat gun when stripping paint, chemical stripping is our go-to method, especially when stripping bottom paint. The chemical stripper encapsulates any lead that might be released by the stripper, where there is danger in using a heat gun that exceeds 1,100 degrees Fahrenheit, the temperature at which lead vaporizes.

Stripping varnish with a heat gun has advantages, not the least of which is that the waste flakes off in a dry state, which obviates the need for taping areas off lest dribs and drops of chemical stripper fall on them. But, as is evident in the clop, and RJ’s implicit expressed disdain for heat, it is both slower and potentially more damaging to wood, especially those portions of the hull that will be finished bright.

Burning the wood or dissolving the glue in plywood strakes of a lapstrake hull is the major risk when going the heat gun rout. Indeed, the blackened mahogany tells us that someone must have stripped our 1937 20’ Lyman Runabout’s hull sides with heat. What we found beneath the many, many layers of black paint and primer is a veritable sea of blackened leopard spots.

Fortunately, Eagle’s strakes will be painted. Even more fortunately, the same person did not strip the decks, covering boards, windshield and coamings, for sanding through the singed areas would require major thinning of the planks.

We are standardized on three BAHCO-Sandvik ergonomic scrapers and the wide variety of BAHCO carbide blades. Both are available from JamestownDistributors.com and Amazon.com.

  • BAHCO-Sandvik 650 Premium Ergonomic Carbide Scraper, 1”, 2” and 2.5” – a one-handed scraper
  • BAHCO-Sandvik 650 Premium Ergonomic Carbide Scraper, 1”, 2”, 2.5” – a “big dog” two-handed scraper with a knob just behind the blade.
  • BAHCO-Sandvik Premium Ergonomic Carbide Scraper, 1” – a small detail scraper
  • BAHCO Heavy Duty 2-Inch Replacement Scraper Blade #442
  • BAHCO 449 L-inch Triple-Edge Triangle Scraper Blade

While we do occasionally give competing brands a chance to outperform it, nothing we’ve tried holds a candle to Jamestown Distributors’ Circa 1850 Heavy Body Paint and Varnish Remover. Period., at least during our nine months of winter when cold temperatures, snow and ice make stripping hulls outdoors with one of the spray-on strippers at best impractical.

Finally, after trying a dozen or so brands, we have settled on New Star Foodservice 54460 Extra Large Stainless Steel Sponges Scrubbers sold by Amazon.com. (https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00…)

RJ takes you through the steps needed to arrive at you clean wood goal.

  • Strip the surface material – varnish or paint – using the chemical stripper of your choice.
  • The Chemical Rout
    • Apply the stripper three times, allowing about 20 minutes working time between each of the coats.
    • Scrape with the wood grain using the two-hand scraper and long strokes.
    • Apply another coat of scraper. Let it work for five minutes or so and repeat the long-stroke, two-handed scraping.
  • Apply the stripper again, wait a minute or so, reach for the stainless-steel sponge scrubber and scrub the surface briskly with the grain until the wood is dry.

Avoiding produce long, deep scratches that result if excessive down pressure is applied. While we continue using the same sponge for job after job after job, reaching for a new one, which will be less aggressive on the wood, might be a good “first-time-through” strategy.

Congratulations! You have reached the clean-wood goal and are ready to bleach!

1937 Lyman Cruisette – Rot Unveiled When Varnish Stripped

1967 lyman cruisette rot under varnish

We truly believed we’d found any and all rot existing on Eagle’s hull, but forgot a major reality. Some sort of stained paste filler and varnish, which is what was used on parts of the foredeck and elsewhere on her hull, can hide all manner of deterioration.

In the Eagle’s case it hid rotted foredeck planks on both port and starboard along the seam between the covering boards and deck planks.

We now face releasing the coamings and dashboard if we wish to address these issues, and the required plank replacement properly.

This rot strengthens our resolve that the deck, coaming, windshield and covering boards be stripped to bare wood.

Additionally, as I strip the foredeck using a DeWalt LCD heat gun (https://www.amazon.com/DEWALT-D26960-…), Sandvik Ergonomic scraper and BAHCO blade (https://www.jamestowndistributors.com…) . I have been exposing more of that paste filler under what appears to be precious few coats of varnish.

As I will amplify in our next update, just releasing varnish, whether chemically or using a heat gun, is only the first step in cleaning the wood. As is clear in the clip, scraping away the varnish leaves a residual-stain-mottled surface behind.

All of that stain must be scrubbed and bled out of the wood using Circa 1850 Heavy Bodied Paint & Varnish Remover (https://www.jamestowndistributors.com…), stainless steel pot scrubbers and lots of elbow grease. How clean is clean? You will know when you get there.

I will go into these last topics in greater depth later today.

1954 Penn Yan Captivator Aristocrat Post Stripping Findings

1954 penn yan captivator stripped hull

Yesterday we stripped her transom, flipped her, released her splash rails and stripped her bottom. Happily the splash rails are in excellent condition. They only want to be stripped, have some minor “bodywork” executed and refinished.

Today we released the keel and began releasing the keelson and the transom framing.

While the keel is in excellent shape, both in terms of being straight and sound, it has been off the boat at least once and sealant was given short shrift when it was last installed. As a result there is some rot, not so much that it cannot be repaired, on the garboards where they lie beneath the keel and the keelson.

Her owner informs me that the keel was not released by the shop that worked on her in 2007-08, but the myriad of plugged mounting holes tell us that it was released sometime prior to that work being done.

The paucity of sealant means that water will find its way into the bilge.

It will also sit in the bilge. That there is not more rot is testimony to the care given her by her current owner.

The rot we did find beneath the keel is far forward, and at the joint between the keel and the lower portion of the stem. That curved section runs from its joint with the keel up to the splash rails.

Once we have the keelson and garboards out of the hull, everything, garboards, keelson and keel, will be cleaned to absolutely bare wood. Once the components have been sealed and receive three coats of Clear Penetrating Epoxy Sealer, they will be set aside.

Next comes the most fun. The failed transom, which we must replace, must be released from the hull. That it is secured with many, many copper nails, and not wood screws, makes this task particularly challenging, but doable using a FEIN MultiMaster and the thinnest, narrowest blade we have. (That they are copper, and therefore quite soft, should translate into the MultiMaster zipping right through the nails leaving a clean surface behind.

1957 Lyman Runabout: How to Fabricate and Install Ceilings

1957 lyman runabout how to fabricate ceilings

Ceilings – hull-side mahogany planking – and helm seating with a center pass-through and storage lockers fixed to the aft side of the forward seatbacks were available options on the 1957 23-foot Lyman Runabouts.

Her original owners opted for the stripped-down configuration, no ceilings and basic seating. The latter included a wide, solid seatback centered in the helm station with two short hinged wings at each end.

Her owners are opting for the upgrades, including a pair of lockers, complete with silhouetted anchors in the doors. Even better, once finished, our optional seating configuration will include a flat floor from stern to firewall, and a small step-up to each helm station seat.

We will fabricate and install the ceilings and mock-up the seating and lockers while her owners are on the east coast. Presenting our concept to them in person helps us reach a joint decision, which must translate into a superior results for all.

1957 Lyman Runabout Bleach & Stain Part II

1957 lyman runabout bleach stain

Here is Part II of the crew blasting through the bleach-stain milestones as we apply Wood Kote Products Jel’d Wood Stain on our 1957 23-foot Old Style Lyman Runabout.

Part I’s narrative focused on the how, why and advantages of jel’d over filler stain in these applications. Yes, it is far easier to apply and delivers an incredibly uniform color. It, goes an incredibly long way; we used about 12 ounces to stain everything we stained today. But it is not a filler stain, which translates into a surface that retains most of its cross-sectional declivities – hills and valleys – post staining, especially compared to a filler stain, which is designed, well, to fill these selfsame valleys.

Bottom line even following three full coats of Clear Penetrating Epoxy Sealer, filling these valleys and thereby achieving the truly flat surface we thirst for requires at least 3-5 additional coats of varnish.

We are not ready to jettison our Interlux Interstain Wood Filler Stain yet, but the ease with which we achieved an absolutely uniform color across all these surfaces makes it truly difficult to hide the Wood Kote in a deep corner of a dark cabinet!

1957 Lyman Runabout: Bleach & Stain Part I

1957 lyman runabout bleach stain

Our 1957 23-foot Lyman Runabout conservation project blasted through two milestones today. We bleached her decks covering boards, toe rails, king planks and helm station bulkhead earlier this week. Today we stained all of the same surfaces and components.

We have long standardized on Interlux Interstain Wood Filler Stain, but have recently been seeing dramatic and superior results using Wood Kote Products Inc.’s Jel’d stains – dark and red mahogany mixed in equal proportions for our Lyman products, and a bit more red relative to dark mahogany for Chris-Craft.

Jel’d stain is not a filler stain and it is not meant to be applied and let sit until it flashes. Instead, it is applied in a circular motion using a terrycloth or old T-shirt rag and then wiped – not scrubbed – off immediately with strokes that follow the grain.

The uniformity of the result is dramatic and easily attained compared to the sweat and blood required to achieve a similar result with a filler stain.

One of the advantages of jel’d over filler stain is that those nasty, light “Oops!!” events we all experience when sanding too aggressively after the first few coats of varnish are easily repaired with a rag and a bit of the jel’d stain. That offending light spot or area disappears, at least in our experience with it thus far.

Part II follows John and RJ as they stain the balance of these surfaces.

1940 Lyman Yacht Tender: How to Dry Scrape Bottom Paint

1940 lyman yacht tender dry scraping bottom paint

After being urged to give it a try by a local friend and fellow woody conservator, I am using two Bahco/Sandvik scrapers, a two-handed “ergo” model with a 2.5” scraping blade and a Triangle Scraper 625 with a triangle blade.

The two-handed scraper is excellent for cleaning strake surfaces, mostly down to bare wood, and also for making the initial passes along strake edges and the seams between strakes.

I use the triangle scraper for detail work on the strake faces, but especially for cleaning strake edges.

This boat is cypress throughout, and the wood seemed to really soak up the Circa 1850 wood stripper as I removed paint and mostly varnish from the topside strakes and the transom. It also appeared to discolor the wood, which forced me to make a second series of passes using a stainless steel scrubber “sponge” and my Sandvik scrapers.

I tested using chemical stripping on a small area below the waterline, only to have running streams of liquefied copper bronze and red antifouling paint threatening to stain the above-waterline strakes, which will be finished bright.

Reaching for the scrapers is clearly the answer here. The paint being removed remains dray, becomes powdery as it releases and is easily vacuumed.

I am sold on this method for removing bottom paint, at least until it disappoints on some future project.

1946 Chris Craft U22 – Bleached “Albino”

1946 chris craft u22 bleached albino

John and RJ trekked between home and the shop periodically into the evening last night, keeping the U22 wet with the two-part Daly’s Wood Bleach we are using, particularly in areas that resisted the bleach.

The result this morning is an albino mahogany U22.

The bleach raises the grain, which is a singular plus for applying the Interlux Interstain in a couple of days.

Once the hull has reached 12-15 percent as measured by our moisture meter, we will lightly hand sand the feathers raised by the bleach, clean the surface with tack clothes and stain using the Danenberg two brown to one red mahogany stain.

CPES will follow. Sikaflex will fill the deck seams, and then, finally, we can begin varnishing the hull.

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1946 Chris Craft U22 – Bleaching Time!

1946 chris craft u22 bleaching

The bleaching milestone is about to disappear into our wake!

Starting very, very early this morning, John and I began bathing the 1946 U22’s entire exterior and interior surfaces with Daly’s Two-Part Wood Bleach. RJ joined us soon thereafter. (Daly’s is good, but nothing can match Clean Strip Two-Part Wood Bleach for bleaching mahogany! Unfortunately, Clean Strip is no longer available. Word is that it had to do with running afoul of hazmat shipping regulations.)

The key is keeping the wood wet for an extended period of time, and not applying one coat and calling it good. The wood must be kept wet, at least 8-12 hours in our experience, and this boat feels like it doubled in size as we raced around with our pails of bleach and 3-inch foam brushes. (We use foamies rather than chip brushes. Doing so helps guard against applying excessive liquid, especially to vertical surfaces, and thereby allowing rivulets of bleach run down and leave blonde streaks behind.

For the same reason, after applying a first coat to the decks, covering boards and cockpit components, we attach the topsides and transom from the waterline up. That way there is no chance that rivulets of bleach runs down and onto dry wood, which almost certainly will leave a blonde streak behind.

Because the first coat absorbs very quickly, we also apply bleach in tandem, working around the hull until all surfaces have been thoroughly wetted. Then the three of us work different areas, applying bleach until the surface glistens and stays that way.

That the U22 offers seemingly endless surface is evidenced by the fact that, as this clip closes we have applied 1.5 two-gallon kits.

We now leave her alone for several hours, before we will apply more bleach if the process seems to be losing momentum.

She will be a super rare albino U22 by morning!

1946 Chris Craft U22: How to bleed all of the residual stain out of mahogany planking

1946 chris craft u22 mahogany planking stain removal

The 1046 bright U22 is finally looking, well, a bit bright. Her port topsides are now bereft of varnish and stain. I have taken a first pass at marking all of the dings and related physical graffiti with blue painter’s tape. (I erred on the clip by referencing what we are looking at as the starboard topsides.

Just when I have the sides sorted out while she is flipped, we will return her to right-side-up!)

Once John and RJ finish their inspections, it will be time for John to correct each and every ding, scratch and split, most of which he will accomplish with what I characterize as “feathery” Dutchman because they are. The smaller issues will be addressed using a mahogany-stained filler we make up with mahogany sanding dust and mahogany Sikaflex.

Serendipity visited us today. Just as I finished slathering Circa 1850 onto a section of planks, the cell rang and I was away from the work for several minutes. Upon returning to scrubbing, I noticed that allowing the stain to work, even if unintended, improved the scrubbing effect materially. If you watch the clip again, notice how much cleaner relative to the aft section the hull is amidships forward.

Lesson: Be patient. Give the stripper a few minutes to draw the stain out of the wood, and your efforts will return larger dividends in less time.

Why not wait longer? I did some informal testing as I continued. Since a very thin film of stripper is applied at this stage, I discovered that it began drying after three minutes or so, and that those dry areas resisted my efforts quite well. Two or three minutes seems to be the point at which diminishing returns to waiting set in.

We purchased several cases of 12 stainless steel sponge scrubbers from Amason.com Prime – today’s price is $13.45. Here is the link: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00…

Next comes cleaning the starboard planks.