Vintage Boat Preservation 101: Some Guidance

Sealing every bit of bare wood on your hull is critical to achieving high standards of craftsmanship and a work product that returns years of trouble-free enjoyment. CPES – Smith’s – no other brand – Clear Penetrating Seal ALL bare or stained wood – all the framing beneath the decks and interior of transom, and everywhere else on the hull – must be cleaned, sealed with three coats of Smith’s Clear Penetrating Epoxy Sealer (CPES). Smith’s is head-and-shoulders the best sealer on the market.

Seal wood to be varnished after it is stained with one coat of varnish diluted 50:50 with an appropriate thinner. Scuff-sand the surface with a medium Scotch-Brite pad.
Seal bare wood that will be painted after it has been stripped, cleaned and sanded using Smith’s Clear Penetrating Epoxy Sealer.

Apply two coats of SANPACO bilge paint to all visible interior surfaces – frames, interior plank surfaces, and, yes, to the undersides of the new deck planks, which we paint individually ahead of installation. SANPACO offers multiple bilge paint options that relate to the make of your boat.

Install deck planking using #6 x 1” silicon bronze, flat head, Frearson wood screws. The best choice is to bed the planks in mahogany Sikaflex 291LOT that you “frost” the top surfaces of the framing with. You want a thin glaze, maybe 5/16” thick, and will require something like a dozen tubes.

Oh, the individual deck planks are composed of about 5”-wide boards into which you rout seam channels on both edges and down the middle.

We cut our countersinks 3/8” and then fill the countersinks with mahogany bungs, taking great care to align each bung’s end grain with that around the countersink.

I recommend using Mike Mayer’s (Lake Oswego Boat Company) Jel’d stain in place of a filler stain because it is so  user friendly, and delivers such a uniform result. Mike offers custom-mixed Jel’d stains that match original stains precisely for a series of pre- and post-WWII boats. Visit for more information and to order.

I recommend Pettit Flagship varnish because it builds quickly and sands super flat.

We have learned over time that rolling and tipping and building up to 20+ coats with sanding periodically during the build delivers a deep, mirror-like finish.

Then, after painting the seams that have been filled with mahogany Sikaflex 291 LOT with Interlux Striping Enamel, we switch to Pettit Captain’s Ultra Clear.

Captains is clear so it will not discolor the brilliant white seams. It also will not contaminate variations like blonde king planks or toe rails.

We roll-and-tip varnish, building up to 20+ coats with sanding periodically during the build. There is much more information in our Varnish to Die For – Buffing & Polishing videos.

You will get lots of guidance from the videos posted to our Web site’s other “How To” pages.