The Cabin Sole

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Fall 2001 - I pulled the cabin sole to fix the mast step area, but once it's out of the boat I might as well put a new finish on it. It looked dirty, and I thought a good scrubbing and light sanding would prep it up nicely. Wrong. I scrubbed it, but the dirt didn't come off. You guessed it... at some point the finish had worn off and dirt had been ground into the wood, then someone (probably a boat broker) had just wiped it down and put varnish on top of it.

So now it's a project!

Step One was to seal the entire underside of the sole with Penetrating Epoxy. It soaked up about a 1/2 gallon.

In the picture above you can see a real heart breaker. The veneer in the galley was delaminated, in the center and along the edges, probably due to something wet sitting on it for a long time and working through the finish.
When I washed it, it lifted and rippled.

Option #1: Replace it. Well, that would mean replacing the whole sole, as I would like the interior to match. I don't like the look of the new "teak and holly" soles that are made these days, and besides, after measuring and checking prices it was clear I'd spend $600 just on material, not to mention the time. Another option would be to build a new sole out of marine plywood, and top it with a Teak Parquet from Maritime Wood Products.
This was tempting, but I would still spend months building it, and I really like the classic teak and holly look.

Option #2: Repair it. I figured that I could epoxy the veneer back down using a really thin penetrating epoxy.
It was worth a try!

I took a razor blade and scored through the bubbled up veneer, along with the grain. Then I lifted it up gently, and inserted a syringe full of penetrating epoxy. The delaminated part was about two feet long, so about six slots did the trick. The penetrating epoxy flowed under very well and didn't raise the veneer.

I also injected it under the delaminated edges.

Finally, I set a board on top of the delaminated part, and put a lot of weight on it. Along the edges, I put a block of wood over it and clamped down hard with wood clamps. Note that there's wax paper between the weight and the sole, so that nothing gets inadvertently epoxied together. Then it sat for a week and cured.

The results? Mixed. -- Along the edges, it worked perfectly. In the center, I didn't have it pressed down hard enough, and it didn't bond well.
(Bottom Line: -- I f___d up.)
If I were going to do it again, I'd use a narrower board to focus the weight directly on the areas where I cut the slots, and would lay two by fours perpendicular over it with serious clamps on either end to press down really, really hard.
Apparently they make special 'laminating clamps' to do this right, but I didn't know at the time.
What's done is done.

The week gave me time to come up with a really cool Plan B. But in the meantime
it's on to the refinishing part.

Before refinishing, I have some repairs and additions to do. I'm not going to put that huge, ugly table back in the boat. It's just too darn big, it's always in the way, and I have a better idea. The old table was supported by a huge corroded post that was bolted to the sole, so I took that little piece and routed out the area, and inserted a block of new teak. This piece will become another access hatch into the forward hull area, and now I have storage under the sole forward.

Speaking of access under the sole -- I discovered a couple of areas that were nice little storage places but that were inaccessible with the sole in. So I made an access hatch way forward, (and another right by the door into the main salon.)

You can get special jig saw bits that have the teeth reversed for cutting through veneer. It works really well, and avoids chipping bits of veneer off of the top.

The holes were lined with 3/8" teak trim,
epoxied into place.

There wasn't any way to pull the sole out of the boat without cutting it into sections. I'm not sure I made the cuts at the best places, but they are where they are and now I have to make them fit back together.
I used my router to make a 3/8" deep clean slot, and fit a small teak strip.

I'll epoxy it to one side, and it will just fit over the other piece when installed, so the sole can come back out again someday if needed.

The edges of some pieces were delaminated and scarred, so I also routed them down and added teak trim there.

Sanding down the sole was very tricky. It's veneer, and there was dirt ground into the wood that wouldn't come out. I messed up a couple of small places.

There's this perverse part of me that says
"Hmm, I'll bet if I sand there just one more swipe
I'll screw it up. -- -- Yup, I was right!"

Hey, I'm not doing this because I'm an expert -- I'm doing it because I can't afford to pay somebody
$75 bucks an hour to make the same mistakes!

After a while I got pretty good at noting the color change between old finish and wood. In addition, if you watch really close the "holly" strips will give you warning that you're pushing too far. Small little streaks will begin to show up, and when that happens it's time to STOP, even if there's still
a stain in the wood.

The worst part was the section by the galley when you first enter the salon. Some stains just wouldn't come out, and I'm going to live with it.

Since the veneer is now too thin to ever refinish again, I'm going to seal it and put a finish on that will last as long as
the rest of the boat.

Interlux makes a Two Part Polyurethane finish that's as tough as topsides paint. The first coat always looks ugly, but by the fourth coat it was thick and bulletproof.

Note: It CANNOT be applied over a single part finish. The solvents will lift the underlying finish. (Raw Wood or Epoxy.)

A dust free area is essential for a good finish. Turning the garage/woodshop into a finishing area was a challenge.

The final result still had some dust specs, but I think that it will be okay after I walk around on it for a while.

I brushed on the first two coats, the first coat thinned out and taking two days to cure, the second coat thick. Then a quick sanding, and "Roll and Tip"
on the third coat.

Then I sanded really well with 220 grit paper, washed with Interlux 2333 solvent, and rolled and tipped the final coat.

I finally learned that the $5 "Easy Living" bristle brushes from Sears/Craftsman/OSH are better than the $9 bristle brushes from Purdy. They really hold on to their bristles well, much better than Purdy brushes,
and are just as soft.

Now to the Galley area.

I decided to cover it with Treadmaster. They make a "Smooth Pattern" Treadmaster that's nonskid but smoother than the kind you put on your deck. (The regular stuff would be impossible to keep clean in a galley, with all those nooks and crannies...)

After cutting it to fit, I trowelled really thick epoxy onto the sole.

I grabbed whatever I could for weight, and used blocks of wood to hold down the edges so they won't curl up while the epoxy cures. (Hmmm, there has to be a kitchen sink in this garage somewhere....)

The "Teak" color looks pretty good here. It's important to clean all the epoxy off the material where it will show. In this case, I'm going to let it set on the edges, and take it off later with a Handy Dremel Tool. The edges don't show, and it will be safer than trying to wipe it off and accidentally smearing epoxy onto the TreadMaster.

I sure hope this was a good idea, because this stuff is never coming off.

Here it is installed in the galley. I might as well admit that I was afraid that I was doing something that I'd regret... but this only took about 5 minutes to really grow on me. It feels great underfoot, dropped things won't break (as easily) and it's a nice smooth, non skid surface that's impervious to oil and most chemicals. It also helps to visually separate the galley from the rest of the boat.

Time will tell as to how it holds up in a galley. Treadmaster is intended for exterior use... so we know it can handle the weather and 24x7 UV exposure and Diesel Fuel. But how does it handle a bowl of spaghetti?

Here's something most Landfall 38 owners might not know. There's a great storage stash right next to the galley as you enter the main salon. I added a hatch to get to it.
Maybe I'll put something useful in here.
(Note - I didn't refinish the aft cabin, as I have a plan...)
There's another little spot up by the V-Berth. Big enough to store some emergency equipment and stuff I want to have nearby but don't expect to use.

There we go. Not exactly a dance hall, but the finish could handle it. I might go back next summer and scuff it up and put another coat on. My garage wasn't exactly a dust free environment.

The mast step is a bit higher, and that area is going to require some careful adjustment. It'll happen at the right time.

Note that I cut the left hand side of the sole (see the teak strip that hides the cut?)

I have some plans in progress for the area to add storage and a U Shaped Galley, and the aft section of the sole there is going to become immovable some day. I still want to be able to take the rest of the sole up if it has to be done. Thus the break.

One other item of note: After putting it all back together, I had some creaks. This was due to the fact that I'd cut the sole up into a bunch of sections -- and perhaps I wasn't persnickety enough about putting everything back
just exactly perfect.
(Hey, I was in the middle of rebuilding my RIG!)

So I took some 1/4" neoprene strips
(from McMaster-Carr) and slipped them between the sole and the underlying stringers and/or aluminum beams whereever it creaked.
That solved the problem.

Update 2004: After two and a half years, some thoughts.

Sanding the sole: The spots where I sanded through the veneer really bother me. I should have lived with the stains.