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.

1967 Lyman Cruisette – Emerging from Preservation

1967 lyman cruisette preservation complete

The Drake is a 26′ Lyman Cruisette – Hull # RC1086. The Snake Mountain Boatworks crew spent the winter restoring her to the condition she was in when she left the Sandusky, Ohio factory in 1967. Our bigeest challenge was completely rebuilding her deck and gunwale framing, followed by milling out and installing seamed, plank teak decks that matched the specs of her original build sheet. In this video, the Drake is emerging from her winter quarters, gleaming and eager to once again grace the waters of Lake Champlain.

1967 Lyman Cruisette – How to Repair Gunwales Gone Bad

1967 lyman cruisette gunwales gone bad

Lymans, as well as any other antique or classic wooden boats depend upon their gunwales for structural stiffness. Gunwales gone bad translate into a hull that can flex in all the wrong places, get increasingly out of true relative to the keel and ultimately become unseaworthy.

The Lyman Cruisette should have oak gunwale framing comprised of laminated courses. This boat’s framework had been “restored” using chunks of softwood a varying lengths and widths that were pieced in, sometimes not even fastened to anything. We are replacing them completely.

1967 Lyman Cruisette has Landed

1967 lyman cruisette on dollies

Removing the 26′ Lyman Cruisette from its trailer and lowering it onto boat dollies gives us easier access to the boat as we begin installing the new plywood, followed by seamed teak plank decks. It will also give us better access to the boat below its waterline, where we must remove all existing paint and treat the surfaces with Smith’s Penetrating Epoxy Sealer and then apply Lyman tan bottom paint.