Refinishing a stripper


Wooden Canoes are in the Blood
In Memoriam
I am going to refinish late member Lou's first stripper for his family. The canoe has a painted bottom to the water line and sides with clear finish. The hull has been left outside covered with a tarp, so the both the clear finish and the paint are peeling where moisture was present. There is no rot and the fiberglass seems fine except for one "bruise". The finish on the interior is fine.

I do not know what was used for finishes. The paint looks like Interlux topsides enamel. There is a chance the clear finish is polyurethane. The clear finish peels in 4 to 6 inch pieces in some areas.

How best to tackle the prep for this? Do I need the get all the old finish off the exterior?

I was planning to start with 100 grit and work up to 220 while avoiding damage to the glass.
I'd start with a plastic putty knife, and scrape as much of the loose flaky stuff off, then follow with 180 grit. You may find you want a coarser grit to start, but I would rather start with too fine a grit, and step up, rather than the other way around. But that's just my opinion, which is worth no more than what you paid for it...
Fitz, watch those strippers - dont want to get in trouble at home. FWIW, I'd pass over the boat with 180 or so and consider any paint left adhered as solid, rather than try to remove it all. My IC had what i figure was polyurethane, regular stripper had a hard time moving it and it turned yellow and crinkled right away, then needed more remover amost as quick. Behaves very differently than when stripping varnish. Is the boat polyester or Epoxy? Bet its the older resin, and polyurethane if its older. Since its stable hit it with "spar" urethane, and prime over the bottom and repaint.....
Just a thought:confused:
The danger of not getting all the old varnish off on the clear finished parts is potential color blotchy-ness when you revarnish it. You can test for this by wetting down the sanded surface and carefully looking for uneven spots. Assuming that what old varnish you might leave is sound and you're not seeing darker or more yellowed areas when you wet it down, you're good to go.

You can certainly sand between coats of new varnish with a fine grit like 220, since new varnish sticks to other varnish pretty well, but for the first coat of varnish (or paint) onto fiberglass, I wouldn't sand finer than 150 at most. I don't ever sand much finer than 120 grit with a random orbit machine or a feathering disk on resin or old paint or varnish. Sanding too fine can cause adhesion problems, so you basically want the coarsest grit that your paint or varnish will cover nicely and not leave sanding marks showing through.

As for sanding the glass, keep your eyes open and if you start seeing regular patterns of tiny white dots or a weave pattern, move on. Those are the peaks of the cloth and you have sanded as deeply as you can afford to go in that spot.
Cleaning up nicely.

Lou's stripper canoe is coming along nicely. I sanded the interior and gave it two new coats of spar varnish scuffing/sanding between coats. I have been giving the thwart multiple coats of spar. The seats are now ready for new spline and cane.

There were several spots on the canoe exterior where the fiberglass had pulled away from the cedar core. Also one stem end had been abraided and was letting water beneath the glass. I cut away the loose areas of glass, added two new fiberglass patches in each area and faired it back in. There should be no leaks now and the hull is in very good shape.

I would like to get one more coat of varnish on the exterior hull, one more coat of high build primer, and two coats of blue paint below the waterline.


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Hi Tom:

It is all a well crafted illusion! I have several projects that are nearing completion and there is a flurry of activity now, before the real flurries hit, so it looks busy. I don't have a heated space except for the basement. The Nymph fits in there nicely so it will give me something to tinker with while it snows outside. I also post the projects because if no one posts it would be a pretty boring forum.