Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Fill'er up

This post originally appeared on Windborne in Puget Sound

So, you have a beautiful, bright-finished teak and holly sole. And your brother-in-law brought along his favorite piece of heavy steel 3" angle iron when he came aboard to spend the night (not telling you of course). And he dropped it when getting his jammies out of his duffel.

Now you have a big ugly gouge marring your beautiful sole.  What to do? 

I can tell you that it is possible to fill such a gouge with varnish - our Previous Owner had a TV fall onto the sole - came off of the mount in a seaway.  Not a flat screen... remember those big heavy things with the big cathode ray tube?  Yeah, one of those.  It made a gouge about 1" x 1" and perhaps 1/4" deep.  I did manage to fill it in with varnish - a little at a time.  If you put in too much, it will skin over and not cure.  It took weeks and weeks, all the while with an upside down margerine tub taped over it to keep us from stepping on the work in progress.

I now have a better way.

Use 5-minute epoxy.  It fills the gouge without shrinking, and it cures in, well, 5 minutes. 

Here is an example from the sole in our forward cabin, which I am preparing to refresh.  The example is of a bung that chipped out when the sole was installed 36 years ago.  It has been varnished over many times, but there is still a hole there:

5-minute epoxy applied
After the epoxy cures, it will need to be sanded flush.  To do this without sanding thru the adjacent areas, first tape around the epoxy:

Tape (and a sticky note, lower right)
Now you'll be able to sand it flush to the floor, minus the thickness of the tape.  I used 150 grit open coat aluminum oxide paper from Norton.

Only use light pressure on the sand paper.  If you press hard, the paper will conform to the contour of the bump you are sanding - you don't want this.  Instead, you want the paper to cut the high spots, and eventually the entire bump.  If you find that you need to press hard to make the sand paper cut, then it is dull - it is time for a fresh surface or a fresh sheet.

When you have the repair down as far as you can get with the tape in place, remove the tape (it will probably be partly sanded thru), and carefully take the repair down the last couple of mills until it is flush.  Then remove the 150 grit scratches with 220 grit paper.

Ready for varnish

Your brother-in-law been here?
Here's a big gouge that was also in the area being refinished.  Sadly, I didn't have the foresight to document the process using this one.  It too is now ready for varnish.

I imagine that the correct way to handle the big gouges would be to dutch in a small piece of teak.  I may give that a try in the future.


  1. I used to do a little woodworking and recall (though never tried) reading about "steaming" the compressed wood to get it back to a "nearer normal" thickness, then refinishing from there. Basically dampening the compressed area, maybe steaming with an iron (being careful, of course) to raise the wood. Might even be able to use a heat gun or hair dryer to do the heating.

  2. Steaming might work for smaller dents, but these were monsters. The one in the main cabin that the TV caused was nearly 1/2" deep. For smaller dents, that is a non-destructive approach that I should try... a zero-cost experiment!



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