John has worked last week and through late yesterday to wet sand our 1946 Brightside Chris-Craft U22’s topsides and transom from raw, fully-cured varnished surface to one that is as flat as glass.
Once he’s finished wet sanding the decks, covering boards, seating elements and dash, it will be time to buff everything using three Presta buffing products, at which point she will be blindingly glossy.
We buff with:
Presta Ultra Cutting Crème
Presta Ultra Cutt Light (PST-133-401)
Presta Ultra Polish (Chroma 1500)
• Wet sand using 3M wet/dry paper on a hard rubber sanding block and making successive passes with 600, 800, 1000 and 1200 grits
• Wet sand using Mirka sponge-backed discs and making successive passes with 1500, 2000, 3000 and 5000 grit using one of our pneumatic palm random orbit sanders. (He adds a half-inch-thick soft backing pad for 3000 and 5000.)
John insists on changing the water at least three times during each pass, which keeps the surface clean and minimizes scratching. We will be back once he’s reached buffing time.
Finally, her newly rebuilt power plant is sitting on her engine mounts. Because, much early in this preservation project, we removed a twist and hog from her hull, and then replaced the keel and keelson, aligning everything perfectly was not a challenge we were eager to tackle.
However a combination of relocating the engine wedges ever so slightly and reaming the prop bore a bit aligned everything nicely. The engine couplers mate perfectly through 360 degrees, and the prop shaft runs freely in its stuffing box and the strut.
We will be making some final adjustments, pack the stuffing box and tighten everything down. Installing the rudder and related steering components is next.
Inspecting the wiring “harness,” by contrast, informed us that the guy who assaulted her in so many ways also created a huge fire hazard. The wiring is a patched-together rat’s nest of short lengths of wire that are strung together with horrific butt connectors. The single wraps of black electrician’s tape he/she used to hide the bare wires everywhere made us shudder.
Much of the wire was hanging loosely from bilge stringers and elsewhere, with much of it laying in the bilge.
The cherry on top was the absence of proper termination. Our electrical genius simply stripped and wrapped bare wire around terminals. My goodness!
Suffice it to say that RJ has spent much of yesterday afternoon and all of today building an entirely new harness using proper gauges of cloth-wrapped marine wire.
We will begin installing ceiling planks tomorrow, with a goal of having everything in place by week’s end.
I know it is cliché to say so, but really, really, the light at the end of the tunnel is shining more brightly with each passing day!
We are so close to blasting through the varnished! milestone that I can almost taste it.
While I escaped Vermont’s frigid “spring” for a week, John and RJ applied coats 14 to 16, John sanded all surfaces flat by hand using 400 followed by 600 grit, and they then applied coats 17-19. John must sand everything flat one more time before the 20th coat of Interlux Perfection Two Part Varnish is applied.
She will then sit for two weeks so the varnish can cure before John and RJ begin buffing her to an absolutely mirror-quality brilliance.
John and RJ also finished the “body work” on and bleaching the ceiling planks. They have been stained with Interlux Interstain Wood Filler Stain and sealed with three coats of CPES.
John did a quick hand sanding after four coats of Pettit EasyPoxy Hi-Build Varnish were applied, and that is where things stood when I escaped. My return found the ceiling planks with glistening with coats four more coats of varnish. John spent the first part of this week sanding them flat using 400 grit wet/dry paper and our pneumatic random orbit palm sander.
We can begin installing the ceilings once two to three more coats have been applied.
Then, with the varnishing milestone fading into our wake, it will be time to begin assembly. Yes!
We have now passed the ten-coat milestone of our varnishing schedule, so it is time to sand the hull flat once again. (We roll and tip Interlux Perfection Two Part Varnish at each step using a three-inch yellow foam roller and a Wooster M5204-3 Tipping Brush.)
Our goal is an absolutely flat surface that is devoid of dust and any sort of imperfection.
In response to the several requests I have received, here is our varnishing schedule from the first coat through buffing.
Coats 1-3 then sand hull lightly with P220 followed by P400, taking particular care not to cut through the varnish to bare wood
Coats 4-7 then sand hull to a snow field with P220 followed by P400
Coats 8-10 then sand hull to a snow field with P220 followed by P400
Coats 11-13 then sand hull flat with P220 followed by P400 to a snow field
Coats 14-16 then sand hull flat with P220 followed by P400 to a snow field
Coats 17-20 then sand hull flat with P400 followed by P600 to a snow field
Once we have rolled and tipped the twentieth coat onto the hull, we examine surfaces for any remaining pits and sand to a snow field with P600.
Roll and tip coats 21 & 22, and let the varnish cure for at least two weeks, after which we wet sand with P1500, P2500 and P2500 and buff the surface absolutely flat to a glossy sheen that gives us the finish we seek.
Thank you for the several requests that we record how we install the splash rails on the 1946 Chris-Craft Brightside U22.
Since we must avoid screws punching through into the hull’s interior at all costs, we carefully recorded the length of each fastener as we removed them over a year ago now. That record guides RJ and John as they select and lay out the fasteners to be used in the order they will be sunk through the rails and into the hull planks, battens and frames.
Note in the clip that the rails are varnished. Indeed, we varnish all freed components as we varnish the hull. Therefore, all of them have had seven coats applied at this point. The rails will be sanded flat sometime next week before coat number eight is applied.
We bed the rails in generous beds of 3M5200. Why? Rotted splash rails, the planks behind them, and sadly, in several instances, the hull framing within have also been rotted. Sealing the rails with CPES and bedding them in 5200 guarantees that our U22 will not ever suffer this fate again. (We had to fabricate the rails anew because they had begun rotting. Happily the planks behind them were OK.)
Yes, yes. I know that those rails are all but permanently installed. However, Practical Sailor magazine has recently run tests of adhesion breaker materials that worked well freeing up joints that had been joined with 5200
This update on our conservation process at it applies to the 1946 Chris-Craft Brightside U22 is a close sequel to our last update. In that clip John was sanding the decks, covering boards, dash and seat frames by hand using 220 grit and a rubber sanding block.
He continued and completed that stage and is now focused on the topsides and transom. He sanded the transom as he did the decks, by hand using a rubber block and 220 grit, but then followed with sanding it by hand using 400 grit on his block.
Given the compound curves on the topsides however, he is using one of our Festool random orbit sanders and a very soft sanding pad behind the first 220 grit and subsequently the 400 grit.
As you can see in the clip, the topsides started out far from flat. However, after brushing and tipping seven generous coats of Interlux Perfection Plus Two-Part Varnish onto them, John has lots of varnish to work with, so is being a bit more aggressive than was the case when he sanded – then by hand – between coats three and four.
We will wipe all surfaces down with acetone and install the splash rails ahead of applying coats eight to ten, at which time she will be sanded again.
Varnish! With seven coats of Interlux Perfection Plus Two-Part Varnish having been applied, combined with hand block sanding after four coats, our 1946 Chris-Craft Brightside U22 is finally showing her elegance.
A glossy result is all about flat. Cheap mirrors reflect a wavy image. Expensive mirrors return an exact copy of what is before them. Why? Cheap mirrors are silvered to “good enough.” Expensive mirrors are silvered to absolute flat, which delivers an absolutely accurate reflection.
Flat and declivities, pits if you will, are antonyms, one cannot exist is the presence of the other. Varnishing involves building film thickness, but also requires exceedingly controlled hand sanding periodically as it builds. Why?
As Danenberg recommends, the sanding you did ahead of staining your hull stopped with 120 grit. (We stop at 80 grit.) The surface feels so silky smooth, but it is not. Reach for a strong magnifying glass and be prepared for a shock. Viewed in cross-section, the surface is literally a sea of hills and valleys.
Yes, you used filler stain and absolutely scrubbed it only across the grain, which does fill some of the valleys.
Even then, if viewing the surface at high magnification were possible, your “silky smooth” would conjure images of a moonscape.
When applied, varnish begins filling those valleys – pits in boat talk, but it also adds a film of equal thickness to the peaks. No matter how many coats you apply, unless and until you sand off the mountain tops, you will never achieve other than a cheap mirror reflection.
Be careful what you wish for, however. That sanding must be controlled so that it attacks the peaks without invading the valleys. Otherwise you never build film thickness uniformly across the surface. So sand, yes, but not so much that you are at risk of denuding peaks of all their varnish.
We use 220 grit paper mounting on a hard rubber sanding block after the third and seventh coats. John has begun sanding the entire hull, to which we have now applied seven coats, using 220 grit. He and RJ will then apply three more coats, at which time we will sand again, but now using 320 grit.
We will sand with 500 grit once the following three coats are applied, and then 600 grit after coat sixteen and 900 grit between coats nineteen and twenty.
The relative amounts of shinny declivities and absolutely flat surface area shrinks exponentially as we continue sanding periodically with ever-finer grits. Once coat twenty is applied, we will allow the varnish to cure for up to a month – two weeks with Perfection, before we begin buffing the surface, which morphs it into a gloss that appears miles deep and distortion free. Just like an expensive mirror’s silvered surface, it will finally be super flat and therefore super glossy.
Getting the seams filled with Sikaflex 295 UV is materially transforming the 1946 Chris-Craft Brightside U22 in almost magical ways. That seemingly unending field of mahogany, especially on the foredeck, now is beginning to jump out and proclaim, “Look at me!”
But doing it correctly is incredibly tedious and time consuming for John. Masking the planks between the seams gobbles attention resources. The tape’s edges must run precisely along each seam’s edges if we are to achieve razor-edged results.
John uses 1-inch painter’s tape for this purpose. It is much more forgiving and much easier to manipulate than wider tape would be. Doing so, however, requires that additional tape be applied so that all but each seam is masked.
We also use masking paper to protect the toe rails from any splatter, either of the Sikaflex or the Interlux Brushing Liquid 333 that John uses to lubricate his spatula so that it glides along the Sikaflex surface rather than pulling it out of the seam.
We strive for a concave profile, which reduces the chances of going through when we sand between the 20 – 24 coats of Interlux Perfection Plus Two-Part Varnish.
We use Perfection on decks, covering boards and interior helm seat frames for two reasons. When cured it is hard as nails, which means it withstands abrasion and scratches quite well. And Perfection is crystal clear, which allows us to apply it over the seams without discoloring the Sikaflex, as it adds UV protection to the Sikaflex itself.
Staining the 1946 Chris-Craft Brightside U22 is a daunting task, one that we divided into two parts. The morning was devoted to staining the decks, covering boards and helm seating framing. The topsides and transom were attacked after lunch.
We used our standard Chris-Craft formula, equal parts of 0042 brown mahogany and 0573 Chris-Craft red mahogany Interlux Interstain Wood Filler Stain. The entire task consumed three pints of each stain, or six total.
RJ applied the stain, with John and I following behind. Interlux’s and the literature’s guidance notwithstanding, we no longer wait until the stain has flashed – turned a uniform dull color. In our experience, and especially with such a large surface area being stained, allowing all or most of the thinner to flash off, creates an unwinnable race against the stain becoming so dry that removing all residue and achieving a uniform color throughout the boat is nearly impossible.
Rather, RJ applies, followed almost immediately by John and me. The first scrubber works the wet stain into the wood, doing very little actual cleaning in the process. The second scrubber follows, repeatedly changing the cheesecloth pads and making a first pass at cleaning. Then the first guy follows the second with a goal of releasing all of the residue without actually scrubbing the filler stain out of the wood grain’s valleys.
We use only circular and cross-grain strokes while executing this process.
You be the judge, but we feel that we get a much more uniform final product using our method, and we need not go through the misery of scrubbing drying varnish, which can leave dark, almost burnished patches of stain in its wake.
Check out the next clip to see why the three of us were beat by day’s end.