Refinishing Teak

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Well-known member
Sep 17, 2006
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Charlottesville, VA
Hey gang.....I'm getting a lot of mixed signals on the appropriate finish for the teak wood I'm refinishing.......I am putting varnish on all the wood inside the pilothouse (that's not the question - decision made already - can't (won't turn back)......Outside there are 4 grabrails, the door and door frame......That's the question......Varnish or teak oil?

Also, the door has a panel in it that I refer to as veneer (ouch - where's my spellchecker - gag) ....Well, it's delaminated and I know not how to replace the thing.....Do I use a router and rout off the inside bead, put in a new panel and fasten it to the door in the same fashion as a picture hanging on the wall?
Thanks in advance
Good news! We can do our door panels together :) !

My teak method isn't for everyone, as all told ... I've ~40 pieces of brightwork on the ol' Miss Teak :shock: ! And you ain't seen nothing yet, 2 major projects in the planning ... yup, all teak.

Teak Finishing on Exterior wood:
To me it really depends on "how often" do you want to refinish the wood? I don't want to ever have to again, less putting on a periodic top coat of varnish. So here's what I did ...

1) Clean and sand: I did not use any chemical cleaner, nothing but acetone and sandpaper, always with the grain and wetsand to clean if you need to remove any dirt. Always, always, always use a sanding block on teak. The pieces are best done if you can completely remove the piece ... but I understand this is impractical if not impossible with the door frame.

2) Wash: Solvent wash with acetone and wipe with paper towels. Do this twice, or more, on pieces showing lots of oil in the wood.

3) Base Finish: I use 3 very light coats of Sikkens Cetol Marine Light", not the regular Cetol which has waaaaaaaaay too much orange tint. Each coat is dried (read the can, no more than 2 weeks between coats) and then lightly buffed with the grain using a fine scotchbrite pad and blocker backing.

4) Epoxy Finish: I use 3 thin coats of Raka epoxy with a foam brush, see . It is an awesome epoxy, uses a simple 2 to 1 mix (no pumps) and is 1/3rd to 1/2 the cost of West Systems. Each coat is dried 2 days and lightly buffed with the grain using a fine scotchbrite pad and blocker backing. I even drill out fastener holes 1/16" over the bolt diameter and fill with epoxy. Re-drill for the clearance drill before the varnish coats.

5) Varnish Topcoat: I am using 3 coats of clear poly-based marine varnish, called Goldspar by Interlux. Also using a foam brush and I can tell you where to buy these really cheap, i.e., <0> $1.40 each :shock: ! Each coat is also dried 2 days and VERY lightly buffed with the grain using a fine scotchbrite pad and blocker backing.

Reasoning: The intent of this "system" is to totally encapsulate the teak in the epoxy. The Cetol merely gives it a 12-coat traditional varnish golden hue, but allows the grain to show through. The varnish protects the epoxy as it has no UV inhibitors in it. If/when I see the varnish topcoat crack or start to peel, I will immediately lightly buff with a scotch pad and apply a varnish coat, or 2, or 3, without removing the piece of wood. I expect to get 3-4 seasons, maybe more, out of each piece before they may even need a varnish topcoat re-do ... because with the method below, I got 2 seasons out of them.

This summer I was at a fuel dock in Newburyport, MA and a visitor to the area commented that he loved the gloss and look of my brightwork ... and it turns out he works for Hinckley Yachts :D !

SIMPLER Teak Finishing on Exterior wood:

1) Clean and sand: As per above.
2) Wash: As per above.
3) Base Finish: As per above.

4) Varnish Topcoat: Use 3 coats of Sikkens' Cetol Marine Gloss overcoat "varnish" made to gloss finish over Cetol, biffed between coats as per above.

Keep an eye on this ... as you never want the wood finish to crack. If you see gray, that means water has gotten into the wood, which it can do from the backside, so that's why I always try to do the entire piece. You can "spot repair" any areas if you catch it before the gray goes too deep. Just lightly sand with blocker, wash, apply Cetol to tint, then topcoat.

Door Panel: I intend to cut mine out by using a Zip Tool to cut out the bead, then I will finish with a sharp chisel as needed. I am looking into replacement panels right now, so we can work on this together. I am considering a laminate of 2.25" wide pieces of teak with 1/4" black stripe between them, running vertical up the door.

To replace it, I will add a nice new bead of mahogany (1/3rd the price of teak) on the outside edge to form the lip, install the new panel, and then install a new bead on the inside of the door. This way ... the best side (bead) should be the outside one.

More on this later ... as this project won't start until January.

Whew ...
My new 2300 has no teak at all, which I am VERY happy about, but in my experience, Cetol is the only way to go for exterior (and perhaps interior) teak finishing.

Our launches at the yacht club use Cetol on all wood, including benches that take a ton of abuse. Easy to refresh compared to varnish. Softer finish, so won't crack as easily.

If you want to spend your time fishing and not wood finishing, go Cetol!
I took a different approach to finishing my teak, so this post is not to take issue with anyone elses method, it is simply another way to refinish our wood trim.

I removed all of the teak trim from inside the pilothouse two winters ago, and took it home to work on it...
Got on the net to find the proper methods to use, and then got out the Starbright refinishing kit that GW204 gave me last season, that I had not used yet. ;)

The first step was to use ScotchBrite pads and the Starbright cleaner to clean off 9 years of funky grunge, flush with lots of water, and allow the parts to dry for a week.

Next step was to sand each piece with 150 grit, then 220 grit, and finally 320 grit until each piece was as smooth as a babys bottom. With the sanding complete, everything was cleaned with a scotchbrite sponge and more Starbright cleaner, then allowed to dry for another week.

Next weekend, the Starbright lightener was applied to each piece with a terrycloth pad and allowed to sit for 10 minutes. The lightener was rinsed, and re-applied a second time. After drying, this is what the trim pieces looked like before oiling.


Here are the parts after the first 3 coats of teak oil...


This is what it looked like after about a dozen coats, and before the excess oil was rubbed in with a terry cloth staining pad.


The oil was applied in thin coats with a sash brush, allowed to soak in for 10 to 15 minutes, the excess rubbed in with the terry cloth pad, and the whole process repeated again.

This was continued until the wood would no longer accept the oil, and the surface remained 'wet' after 15 minutes, which took about two dozen coats.

After the excess oil was wiped from the parts, the parts were allowed to sit in the garage overnight.
In the morning, the parts were rubbed out with terry towels and placed in the basement to 'season' and wait for warmer weather to allow re-installation.

The wood in this project was refinished almost 2 seasons ago, and if you look at the bottom left corner of the following photo taken this past weekend, you can see that it appears that my teak oil finish is holding up pretty well. :)


Just another method... :wink:
Thanks to all three of you for the prompt, well articulated replies.....What a bunch of "food for thought" :D

DaleH.....I intend to have my door panel replaced well before January....What it will not have is teak though....Looked into getting veneer sheets and the two sides would run around $80 for the sheets then you must get the base plywood and Gorilla Glue the teak to both sides....All a real pain.....Not too sure what I'll end up doing.....I tend to formulate strategy as I proceed - sort of imprompteau.
I have a full teak door on my Parker 2520. I recently cleaned with the standard Teak cleaner,then brightened it, then oiled it with about 4-5 coats of quality Teak Oil.

Since all this teak is not exposed to the sun and the elements, it will hold up for a long time, certainly at least a year.

I really like the look of oiled teak.
Hey gang...Thanks again for all the great replys.....I'm well on my way now.....Will do the interior with varnish (3 coats) and will do all that is exposed with oil....The panel will be replaced with mahogany veneer....Also cut out the door's window as it was badly scratched with years of abuse.....Not sure where to find the gray tented plexiglass but shouldn't be too tough.....I'll keep all of you posted on progress.....As I've remove I'd guess 8 coats of varnish from the door, I'd swear it's oak rather than teak now! Maybe it'll show it's true colors once I start sanding!
I have a peice of mohagany that is going under my windlass. Do you think either method will work with the mohagany?
jdbic":1h6rqxqu said:
I have a peice of mohagany that is going under my windlass. Do you think either method will work with the mohagany?
Sure will! Sometimes I use mahogany in place of teak as the equivalent stock in teak will cost me 3-4X what it would be for the better grade(s) of mahogany (3-4 to pick from), i.e., Carribean is the stongest.

African mahogany has a better grain or figure. Philippine mahogany is not really mahogany at all ... but a lesser wood that is not as strong, durable, or beautiful when finished.
For all those wishing for new teak door panels, i will make a run of them for FREE!!! i will need the measurements and/or i really prefer an old panel....

I will upon receipt of panel go to JA lumber inporters(THEY HAVE EVERY WOOD ON PLANET) and get a quote for materials.......

then i will post ......all i want is the cost of material and glue and SOME one gotta teach me to tuna fish out of Montauk I'll pay my share of gas....

If you really want to make a new door i will make it for a small fee and ship it loose , u can glue,drill and dowel/plug it ....

Let me know sooon as my boat goes in next week and as soon as the stripers show up with the fluke im done
ReelyNauti":2vgcq1ls said:
For all those wishing for new teak door panels, i will make a run of them for FREE!!! i will need the measurements and/or i really prefer an old panel....

I will upon receipt of panel go to JA lumber inporters(THEY HAVE EVERY WOOD ON PLANET) and get a quote for materials.......

then i will post ......all i want is the cost of material and glue and SOME one gotta teach me to tuna fish out of Montauk I'll pay my share of gas....

If you really want to make a new door i will make it for a small fee and ship it loose , u can glue,drill and dowel/plug it ....
Wow! Thank you! That's quite an offer.

I'd send you my old panel ... but I won't get it out in 1-piece :shock: ! (It's really nothing but an epoxy 'shell' right now, that looks like teak. It's amazing how an old door, held horizontally, with epoxy poured on it, covered by wax paper and release agent ... with suitable woodblock (weighted) makes it really look like a teak paneled door :) ,once cured that is :D !

As to tuna fishin' ... not near Montawk (Boston version) and still a wanna-bee ... ;)
ok if its all but gone ill need a drawing

overall height to the 1/16
overall width to the 1/16
thickness dead on

a sketch of the dimensions of stile and rail .........

My exotic lumber distributor stocks plenty of teak......but b4 u start on this call and get a quote from
Parker for a door and post list price ......, i can knock out at least 2 or 3 for the cost of 1 in all likeness......due to the fact that teak is stocked in dimensional and i only pay for the board foot
I use a speciality coating called the "ADMIRALTY" its a 2 part commercial system its can be applied in thick coats its amazing and strong .....ill find out where u can get it ....i buy it through ABOFFS commercial division.
This might be the most individual choice we could have talked about, because everybody has his own aesthetic about what teak should look like. So here goes my two cents...
I prefer oiled teak inside and varnished teak on the exterior. My 25 MVSC dates from 1991, so you know there's plenty of opportunity for me to work on wood...

To oil the interior teak I first remove each piece. When I bought the boat the I found that the original owner hadn't touched the teak at all... ever. It was weathered and dirty, so I cleaned it well with teak cleaner and let it dry. The following steps are:

1. Use a foam brush and apply a coat of teak oil; wait until it soaks in.
2. Apply another coat, wait until it soaks in and has lost some of the greasy feel.
3. Same as 1 & 2.
4. Apply another coat, wait a few minutes then wet sand it in with 400 grit wet/dry paper, going WITH the grain, and turning or replacing the sandpaper so you are always maintaining a decent grit. Soon you'll be sanding a kind of slurry of oil and sawdust. When this starts pulling at the paper, stop sanding. Using a soft, clean rag buff the paste you've created in to the wood with a circular motion -- make sure you don't rub it out of the grain. Let it sit for an hour or so.
5. Apply another coat of oil and let it soak in for a half hour.
6. Repeat step 4.
5. Repeat step 5.
7. Repeat step 4, but use 600 grit wet/dry sandpaper instead of 400.
8. Repeat step 5.
9.Repeat step 7.
10. Reinstall the trim, crack a cold tin and be amazed at how smooth and beautiful your teak looks now. A couple of times a season and over the winter (if possible) rub a single coat of oil in with extra fine BRONZE wool, not STEEL (unless you like lots of rust spots in your teak...), and buff off.

For my exterior teak, which was also in horrible shape, I remove everything except the door frame (which seems impossible to budge anyway) and sanded it smooth using 180, 220, 360 and finally 400. When I could drag a fingernail across the grain without it catching I was satisfied. Then I wet sanded one coat of teak oil in to the wood to seal it and buffed it very carefully. I use Interlux #96 Schooner and plan to do at least 8-10 coats. I sand lightly with 220, and after the first 5 coats I switch to 360. I wipe the sanding residue off each piece with a damp (not wet) rag, then use a tack cloth as I varnish, wiping lightly just ahead of my brush (I use foam brushes). Before each season I'll sand and refinish with a couple of coats -- more if need be.

Teak is a lot of work, but if you like the look of gorgeous teak, it's worth it. And when you have an experience like Dale's when a Hinckley guy complements you on your brightwork, that's just icing on the cake. Or should I say varnish on the teak?

There is a fantastic book (which is how I taught myself to care for brightwork) called Brightwork: The Art of Finishing Wood, by Rebecca J. Wittman. I highly recommend it.

Good luck!
Replace with Starboard. wipe starboard down with cloth and Windex periodically :lol:

seriously, though, all of the above sound like good ideas. its hard to really go wrong though, i did mine a few years back with absolutely NO idea how to and it came out looking pretty good. so as long as you put a little elbow grease into it, you should be good to go.
blood sweat n tears,

I do some commercial restoration that y i suggested the "ADmirialty coating"
system apply one coat of varnish/poly apply one coat of coating dry n sand then second coat ...the finish will be 1/8" if done correctly and is very tough....just look at the tables i finish in any commercial restaurant like applebees or bar top tabled, it can take 360 of heat uv and tough..!!!!

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