Replace Stanchion Bases

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Back to Home or s/v Stella Blue home or Deck Stuff or Projects

October 2004--

The stanchion bases have been on my list
since I bought the boat, and
it's time to fix them.

The originals were cast aluminum, and half of them
were cracked. I spent some time (three years) considering options. Exact replacements are available, but if the originals failed why would I want an exact replacement? Also, I don't see a lot of value
in the design. To me, it looks like a serious accident will trash my toe rail in addition to cracking gelcoat on the deck. I'd rather the stanchion bases be rock solid,
and in the event of a bad accident
have the stanchion bend.

After some shopping for bases, I went with Svendsen's.
They make them down the street from my boat,
and they're heavy duty.

Normally they don't have bails, but Svendsen's welded 5/16" thick bails on for me. All the pre-made ones (with bails) that I found had a five degree camber, and I want them straight.
(After taking this pic, I realized that this one has one bails that don't match. The rest of them are perfect.)

Because of my teak toe rails, I really need places
along the toe rails to tie things or snap a block.
You can never have too many padeyes!

However, it's possible that I'll need some original bases
for the pulpit and stern rails, either because there isn't room on deck for the bigger Stainless base, or because of the way the railings are formed, which don't fit the new bases.

An air powered
right angle die grinder
with a bronze brush
really cleaned them up fast.

Then I primed with
two part Petit Metal Primer.

In 2003, another Landfall 38 owner had all of his stanchion bases cast in Bronze, and he cast some for me as well. I didn't get enough for the entire boat, just enough for the pulpit and stern rail.

Wherever possible, I'm going to use the Svendsen's bases. Having the bases tied into the toe rail really makes it tough to do brightwork, and I'm lazy. So as long as I'm getting into it,
I'm going to try and make maintenance easier.

The bases came from the foundry in a nasty state. Thankfully, the guy who had them cast for me spent some time in the shop milling the holes! (Thanks, Rich!)

I'm really going to catch it for taking the Pyrex measuring cups from the kitchen to measure the 4:1 mix ratio.

Sticking them on a dowel
made the painting easier.
The primer smells deadly,
so turn on the
ventilation fans!

It forms a very nice thin
self etching prime coat.
In the pic to the right,
the three closest have
yet to be primed.

Then I painted the living heck out of them
with the same Interlux Brightsides
I use for all my deck pads
and other deck items.

After this much work,
I almost hope I need them.
Shucks, this is just Plan B...

If Stainless gets too hot
and isn't cooled immediately,
the chromium atoms in the alloy will settle out
and leave the metal brittle and prone to rust.
(Or so I've been told.)

It won't hurt my backing plates if they rust on the edges,
but what the heck, it's an opportunity
for an experiment that won't hurt anything.

I'm making new backing plates from 1/8" thick
304 Stainless plate from McMaster-Carr.
Most will be 6x6, but I'm going to have
a couple that are 4x6 and a couple that are 3x6,
due to constraints in the underside of the deck.

I cut the steel with a metal cutting blade,
which got pretty hot. To protect the non-rusting characteristics of the metal, I kept a bucket of cold water near, to douse the hot steel.

A super sharp chisel
helped scrape the bungs flush
and clean up the wood.

I scraped the area clean using the backside of the chisel,

then dry sanded and wet sanded the area. When the area was still wet, I washed it well with serious Oxalic acid putty to try bleaching out
the stained area where the old base was attached.

It didn't do much good,
and I don't think the stains can be erased. The wood had
black caulk against it for 23 years, and the stain is deep.

Inside, the big challenge is the deck-hull joint
and the deck transition from core to non-core.

At the top of this picture, you can see how the cored area of the deck is much thicker. Also, the deck-hull joint on this boat is a sandwich, with the exterior rub rail in between the deck and hull, packed in a serious quantity of butyl and bolted every six inches.

I stuffed a neoprene foam strip
on the interior side of the joint,
to keep epoxy putty from getting
in there when building the backing support.
I want to be able to work on the deck hull joint if necessary (no need at this time) and don't want to accidentally get epoxy putty in that area.

To the right is a piece of 1/4" fiberglass from McMaster-Carr. Each stanchion base is backed with one of these, which is the same size as the stainless steel backing plate. In this case, it's a 4" by 6" piece.

I'm using a super thick putty
of West System epoxy and colloidal silica
to glue it to the bottom of the deck.

This fiberglass will provide
a solid structure for the
backing plate to rest against.

Here's a rather ugly picture on the starboard side, with a 6x6 plate glued on.

The air space between the green fiberglass and the noncored deck will be filled with super thick epoxy putty.

I was afraid to put a huge glob of putty there at this point, because it might get too hot.

The plan is to fill the space with putty through the bolt holes from the top, then fill from the edges.

November 2004 --

The new bases are set back about 3/4" from the
toe rail, to avoid accidentally drilling a bolt hole through the deck/hull flange. Also, this will leave a wide enough channel so that water can run easily
along the toe rail to the deck drains.
It also leaves room to work on the brightwork.

The small holes are through solid laminate,
the big holes are in core.
The balsa is reamed out and the deck filled with epoxy.

In some places, the larger holes were right on the edge of the cored area, and the balsa wasn't a full 1/2" thick. So I used my Handy Dremel Tool to cut a hex key down, and removed the core that way.

A super big syringe worked great to inject super thick putty of West System epoxy and colloidal silica into the smaller holes, filling the space between the deck
and the underlying fiberglass plate.
This was just to fill the center, and the areas directly under the holes. I'm doing it in stages, so that the epoxy doesn't have too much mass and kick off hot.

The edges will be filled in from underneath,
once the center has set.

The areas in core were filled with a thinner mix, to ensure that the core around the holes was well saturated.

Running the engine after filling holes with thin epoxy will make the boat vibrate and help shake bubbles out.

The old stanchions came off very easily.

Because the new bases will not tie into the toe rail,
I overdrilled and packed the old bolt hole
with epoxy putty and set a new bung in permanently.
Note that if I were setting a bung in place that might ever need to be removed (like the ones on top)
I would just use a dab of varnish.
However, these bungs are just filling a hole,
not hiding hardware, so epoxy is better.

The deck holes were just plugged with epoxy for the time being, so that I can wash the boat.

A bit of flexible hose on the end of a syringe really helps to get epoxy up into tight places. (Actually, that's the external sheath from some 16 gauge Ancor wire. Whatever's handy!)

Here's that ugly picture again. Note that the neoprene foam did a good job of keeping the epoxy out of the deck/hull joint.

Here's the same picture with the backing plate, after the stanchion base is installed.

This should be strong enough to let me lash a fender board to the stanchions and brace jerry cans of fuel / water against the structure without worry, even if the boat's at anchor and starts rocking violently.

It's ugly,
but I think it's beautiful.

Here's a little trick for removing deck hardware in tight places.

If you tie a string to the vice grips,
they're a lot easier to retrieve when
they fall into the bottom of the boat.

Gee, why didn't I think of this years ago!

In for a penny,
in for a pound.
The stern rail bases were cracked as well.
The bronze replacements are ready, but a local welder came by and can make some changes to the rail, reusing almost all of the existing stainless.

That will make a redesign quite affordable.
With new stern rails,
I can use new bases.

The bases in the back corner were incredibly difficult
to remove. I was barely able to snap a pair of vice grips on the nut, and lost a great deal of skin stretching to reach. There was absolutely no way I'd be able to reach back
to get the nuts on the new bolts.

So I gave up on the steel backing plate for that corner,
and used fender washers against the fiberglass plate.
After bolting the new base down against the plate,
I used an epoxy putty stick to cement the nuts
and fender washers to the fiberglass plate.
Now the nuts are permanently attached,
in perfect alignment with the holes in the base.

Then I lined the plate up on the deck
exactly above where it needed to be, and drilled a hole through the plate and deck.


A piece of string threaded through the deck
let me pull the plate up into position.

The inboard holes are through
a cored section of deck,
and at this location it's a very
strong core of 3/4" marine plywood.

( The aft mooring cleats
are mounted next to this spot,
thus the plywood.)

After dipping some 4 inch bolts
in vegetable oil, I threaded them
into the plate and took care to make sure it was all lined up properly.

Then the entire area was packed with an incredibly thick epoxy putty to fill the gap between the plate and the cored / nocore transition area. It's very important that the putty be injectable, but still so thick that it will not possibly run, because
if it drips off the side of the plate
it will be wasted (and make a mess.)

With the epoxy all the way up, the holes are actually threaded for over 1.5" in length, and the epoxy should provide a strong brace for the fiberglass backing plate.

The rest of the bases were mounted in a more traditional way,
just drilling out the epoxy plugs,
and putting a wide camfered area
at the top to ensure that there's a good mess of caulk around the top of the bolt.

Instead of using my Handy Dremel Tool, I just kissed the top of the hole with a 1/2" drill bit, holding the drill at a 45 degree angle to the deck and spinning it around
in a circle.


The bases have a drain slot ground into the bottom. To avoid plugging that, I put some strong *polyester* cord through the slot.

After the base was mounted, I pulled it back and forth a bit to remove caulk from the slot, and left a clean section of cord in the slot while the caulk cured. After a couple of days, the cord was pulled back and forth again and removed.

I had to make new straps to hold the toe rail covers in place, as my old design is now obsolete.
I'm not going to remake my
toe rail covers!

Well, there's nothing exciting to see here,
but I need to show a couple of pictures of a stanchion base mounted on the deck.

I waited a few days before removing the polyester cord, and found that it was a lot easier if I ran the cord back and forth while the caulk was wet, and then left a clean section of cord through the drain slot while the caulk set.

This is one of the bases to support the new stern rail (or pushpit,
if you prefer.) In a couple of weeks, when the rail is done,
it will be welded right onto this base.

I took a bit of time to work with the welder as he formed and tacked the new design into place -- which was a good thing as I wanted something really cool and I had a hard time communicating my vision in advance,
but once we worked on it together the job came together nicely.

There are two bases left to sink,
but that'll wait until Tops-In-Quality
ships my new stanchions.

Update: The Stanchions are in, as well as the New Stern Rail.