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!

1967 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 Bleach

1957 lyman runabout how to bleach

We have released the 1957 23’ Lyman Runabout’s aft seating, both of the jump seats that John designed and fabricated, and all but the three floor panels beneath the helm station.

Joe D’Avignon, our latest crew member addition, who is also RJ’s brother-in-law, brings years of custom designing cabinets and architectural components, trim and moldings for a firm that executed all tasks using hand tools. Nary a C & C Machine was ever in the shop.

Asked why he wanted to work and grow preserving antique and classic wooden boats, Joe replied, “Unlike windows, doors moldings and the like, where it’s mostly a production process once I designed the piece, with these wooden boats, no two challenges are alike. There are no plans to be reached for, and damn few straight lines. Working at Snake Mountain Boatworks involves everything I love doing in wood without the drudgery of repetition day after day. I can grow here in ways that are just not possible in precision woodworking situations.”

Joe disassembled and sanded all surfaces with 80 grit in a straight line Festool Detail Linear Sander. Each piece in each of the jump seats is unique. Nothing is interchangeable, so Joe’s first question was, “How can do you keep everything straight through the sanding, bleaching, staining and varnishing process?”

A combination of painter’s tape and Sharpies?

Joe, “There must be a better, more permanent but invisible way to do this.

Demonstrating how quickly Joe is becoming an asset for Snake Mountain Boatworks, he found a set of HimaPro wood/metal number and letter stamps on a shelf. Armed with these he proceeded to stamp each piece into the end grain after he sanded it. Voila! Amazon offers this boxed set of stamps. We, as well as folks working on this Lyman in the future will appreciate and benefit from this innovation.

Bleaching with Dalys Wood Finishes A&B Bleach begins this morning. Yes, Dalys is available from Amazon, but we source ours from the company, where you will also find a wealth of useful information.

Among the company’s most critically useful recommendations is, always start from the bottom up, lest you create a sea of white stalactites running down your hullsides and transom that are virtually impossible to erase.

RJ engaged some final helm station component fitting this morning. Next comes releasing the entirety of the new helm station seating and lockers, and then all of the ceilings for final sanding, bleaching, staining, sealing with CPES and varnishing. Welcome aboard Joe!

1957 Lyman Runabout Endless Staining Begins

1957 lyman runabout staining

We’ve just blasted through a major milestone in our 1957 23’ Lyman Runabout preservation! ALL parts destined for her cockpit have been stripped, fabricated where needed, test-installed, sanded and bleached.

If you watch one of her recent videos again, you might conclude, as others have, that there were very few parts involved.

And I’ve received multiple emails suggesting we were just exaggerating what was involved in creating and fabricating a pair of jump seats and entirely reconceived helm station seating and lockers.

Well, all I can tell you is that RJ, Joe and I were shocked this morning after we had laid all these parts out in preparation for launching into staining them on Monday. Who would have thought!? Staining is next and, as is detailed in the clip, we will use Wood Kote Jel’d stain for this task. (Available from Super F Paint and elsewhere).

From Wood Kote:

Basic Use
Jel’d Stain is formulated for interior wood surfaces such as casework, doors, trim, paneling and cabinets. It matches the corresponding colors of Jel’d Stain 550 & 250 and Liquid Stain 550 & 250. Jel’d Stain may be applied to bare or bleached wood. It is compatible with a variety of other Wood Kote products. Please refer to the Wood Kote Schedule of Product Compatibility and Recommended Dry Times. Jel’d Stain DOES NOT comply with the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) emission requirements for Architectural and Industrial Maintenance coatings (effective 13Sep99).


  • Matches Jel’d Stain 550 & 250 and Liquid Stain 550 & 250
  • Easy to apply
  • Fast-drying
  • 2-3 times more coverage than liquid stains
  • No stirring required

One application of Jel’d Stain will cover approximately 1250-1500 sq. ft./gal (30,6-36,8 m2/L).

Composition & Properties
Jel’d Stain is a fast-drying semitransparent pigment wood stain. It is intended for application without thinning. If thinning is desired, PolySolvent (mineral spirits) should be used or, if regulations require a VOC-exempt thinner, use AceThin (acetone).

Depending upon the boat you own or are preserving, contacting Mike Mayer, Lake Oswego Boat Company ([email protected]) will likely satisfy all of your staining needs. Working with Wood Kote, Mike offers roster of Jel’d stains that match original stains for Pre- and Post-WWII Chris-Crafts, Gar Wood, and many more.

If you are after superior quality and consistent stain, and preserving your vessel as correctly as is possible, Mike is your go-to source. Yes, you can mix stain colors yourself and maybe even save a dollar or ten, but you will also suffer the consequences.

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.

1957 Lyman Runabout Post Stripping Update

1957 lyman runabout hull stripping

RJ and I have been challenging our shoulders, first dry-scraping all the loose bottom paint off our 1957 23’ Lyman runabout hull, and then finishing our trek down to bare wood with Jamestown Distributors’ Circa 1850 Heavy Body Paint and Varnish Remover; and yes, so much more scraping. Hours and hours, and gallons and gallons of stripper later, we have, well this video.

I swear someone applied “another couple of coats of antifoul” annually, whether the bottom needed it or not, and, after a point.

What it really needed was what we have just done. Clean it to bare wood; address any fastener, rot or other issues exposed in the process; sand it thoroughly with 80 grit; seal it with Clear Penetrating Epoxy Sealer; and fair the strake/nail edges with 3M Premium Marine Filler.

Now it is time for the Interlux 2000E Two Part Barrier Coat – five coats, followed by Sandusky Paint Company (SANPACO) Copper Bronze Antifouling Paint – at least three coats.

Happily, lying beneath all this “protection” is a hull that remains well-fastened, has zero rot, and that only needs relatively minor repairs. Most of those repairs will be focused on the stem, knee and gripe, with a scant bit of refastening of the garboards where someone once attempted to do so and failed miserably. (Refastening is just not well served by driving new, larger wood screws into old smaller holes. Plugging and then drilling new pilot holes is the only route to a screw that has bitten into and will hold a strake or garboard, or any other hull component in place.

Tomorrow, after we have refastened where necessary, we will begin applying Clear Penetrating Epoxy Sealer – three coats, which adds up to gallons on a hull of this scale. Fairing will follow.

Bottom primer and paint are not too far away!

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.