Facebook friends will know this post is coming as I have posted a few “pre-pics”.
Lets start by saying that this was a job I have wanted to do for a very long time. I absolutely hated the woodwork on our boat as it was LONG past its expiry date. Everything was original stain and varnish from the factory 14 years ago. Of those 14 years, our boat has spent 8 in the southern Caribbean. Although the factory finish was fantastic, only unobtainium could have stood up to those conditions.
Now maybe you are thinking “Ya, its peeling in places, faded in others! A quick sand and refinish she will be right, mate!”. Unfortunately NO, things weren’t just peeling or faded. They were WAY beyond that. We are talking chunks of woodwork actually missing due to delamination and neglect. Doors that had swelled and shrunk so many times that hinge screws fell out all the time (I was constantly filling holes with epoxy). Almost none of the doors would actually close without binding any longer. If I had to come up with a way to describe them, I would say this:
“They looked like someone placed them in a giant oven and baked them at 150F for days. They removed them and put them into a giant sauna where they were left for weeks”..
I’m not kidding they were that bad. However, this only applied to the actual doors. The woodwork that was attached to the boat had faired MUCH better. I’m pretty sure this is because that was real chunks of wood, not veneered plywood. It was all the veneer on the various items that faired so poorly.
So as you can imagine I have been putting this job off for a very long time. I knew I only had 2 options. I could pay a proper woodworking shop to make all new doors. Then I would have to sand all the attached woodwork, stain both the new doors and attached interior woodwork(so it all matched). Then finally varnish everything with 8 coats (Caribbean sun is a bitch). I’m sure it would look fantastic, but my low end estimate on the hours required for that job were about 200 man hours. Not to mention that a “proper woodworking shop” does not come cheap.
Our second option was to use my epoxy, fiberglass, fairing skills to rebuild the old doors. Then cover all that “bodywork” in high quality marine paint in a colour that would match. After some discussion and contemplation over beers, we decided this would be the road we ran down. Not only was it less work, but we already had %90 of the materials aboard the boat so the initial outlaid expense would be less. However we still expected this job to take about 100 man hours to complete (we did it in 96).
With the decision made, we sailed down to St. Lucia as they have a Sherwin Williams right in Rodney Bay. I have had amazing experiences with Sherwin Williams marine and industrial coatings. I knew that they would be able to suggest a suitable paint that would stand up to the rigors of life on a boat. You know you have good paint, when the can has a warning about extended exposure possibly causing brain damage. None of this new fangled “low VOC, water based, coloured Elmers glue”. Nope, old school oil based super paint. (ya, do the research.. Most of the new low VOC paints are just plain old Elmers glue with some coloring. Hey, the fat kid ate it every day and didn’t die).
First a disclaimer…. We did our best take pictures, but with such a daunting job we forgot many of the “before” pics. Once all our boat jobs are complete I will do another video walkthrough of the boat so people can compare the before and after!
Now on to the pictures!
It all starts with the paint and primer. Sherwin Williams suggested All Surface Enamel Oil Primer for all surfaces (with an 80 grit sanding). Then, they suggested top coating with Aklyd Industrial Enamel.
Now let me tell you.. These paints are truly industrial products. If you Google them you will find people using them in the some of the most demanding environments (like curbs at gas stations). These paints are made to take a metric shitton of abuse and just laugh (imagine tires rubbing against them for years while they bake in the sun). HOWEVER.. The mammy VOC police can pack it up and go home. These products STINK, especially the primer. The main ingredient in the primer is a Xylene and it smells like 100 open permeant markers (you know the ones in the 80s that had “that smell”). You really can’t imagine how much it smells.
Alright, lets start with a mild “before and after” picture. This is our dish cupboard just above the sink. The picture really doesn’t show how bad it looked. That trim piece to the right (on the edge) was bleached white almost 1/2 way up!
Haven’t removed the tape yet, but it looks brand new.. Damn better than brand new!
Alright.. You thought I was bullshitting.. Nope, lets get serious about the shit I was actually dealing with. This door delaminated to the point that a giant chunk caught on the jamb and tore out. On top of that, the Cubans couldn’t get it to close so they took a grinder to the bottom and ground the veneer completely off. Sigh, time to roll up the sleeves.
Another angle showing the damage!
First, we need to fix all the delamination issues. It was at this point that I absolutely fell in love with my industrial syringes. Gently prying the veneer back and injecting epoxy, then taping everything tight and letting it kick. Once set, they were bonded stronger than original.
Sigh the big hole. I couldn’t just use thickened epoxy as the wood was now so thin you could put your finger through it. I got the grinder out and “dished” the edges of the rip. Then I laid 3 layers of standard fiberglass (you can see 2 pieces cut in the last picture). Here you can see the fiberglass “kicking”. I have also begun to fill the Cuban stupidity.
Time for the bodywork… I used mostly Talc to thicken the Epoxy, but added a small amount of glass bubbles for strength. Smear, wait to kick, sand and repeat.
Well hell, only me, myself and I would ever know where that rip was (and now you, because of the red arrow).
Sigh.. None of our doors would actually close anymore. I decided to grind both the doors and the jams. Here Quincy is trying to hold the vacuum to get most of the dust. It was a valiant effort, but futile. We slept in sawdusty beds for days.
No this is not the same door as above. This is a different door where the veneer had pretty much disintigrated at the bottom edge. Epoxy and talc “body filler” to the rescue. Every door needed a similar treatment. Some more than others.
(The epoxy and talc filer is an old trick used on wooden boats. The talc not only makes a fantastic workable filler, but it gives the epoxy similar properties to the base wood. This keeps the expansion and contraction properties close to one another)
The engine is firing on all cylinders now and the doors are lining up in the cockpit. Triage and cycling begins. Doors are repaired and moved to a waiting location while other doors are fixed. With limited space, this was a nighmare.
Some are repaired and primed, others are still working their way through the system.
Ok ok I know what you are thinking.. Its a tough life painting some doors in paradise under a fort from the 1600s. True.. It was made more enjoyable by that primer. It made me so high that my lips actually went numb (good stuff). I’m not kidding!
Yes, there are still 5 of us trying to live aboard while all this is happening. As you an imagine, there was SHIT EVERYWHERE!
Yay, paint is actually going down. Surprisingly, the paint didn’t stink nears as bad as we thought. It smelled like “paint thinner” and the smell faded quickly (unlike the primer).
All the cabins get turned upside down as the painting proceeds.
It looked a garden of doors had sprouted in our cockpit. Imagine, all this wet paint with 3 kids still living on the boat! Ya, there may have been some yelling!
One of the first “dry” spots that we get to see the finished product. Mmmm sexy!
I really wished I had a before picture of both this handhold and the 3 trim pieces to the left. I don’t even know how to describe them. The varnish was completely disintegrated and the wood had turned black!
(The astute among you might notice the spot on the wall where we missed washing off the sawdust. No worries it was a preliminary cleaning and we came back and cleaned EVERYTHING again!)
Oh.. Time for round 2.. Cockpit garden again.
(pretty sure that guy behind us quickly regretted anchoring so close!)
The finished product in Daph’s room. Yes, I can hear you OCD people.. I could not get all the adhesive off and just painted over it. 14 years had turned that shit into concrete that my 80 grit sandpaper could not remove. Don’t stress a mirror will be hung on that door (again with double sided tape) and completely hide those spots.
Competed door on our “small pantry”
Our completed cabin. The sheets have been removed for washing. YAY the cleanup has begun.
(That closet door had major reconstructive surgery as well. I think it turned out pretty well.)