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Author Topic:   Reincarnation of the oil vs varnish debate
newt posted 10-03-2002 07:50 AM ET (US)   Profile for newt   Send Email to newt  
During the upcoming winter I will attend to my teak (on Montauk). I am still up in the air about what product to finish with. I have read extensively about this subject in the archives.

My first problem is not knowing what oiled teak is supposed to look like. Does anyone have pictures of refinished oiled teak? If so please email to me. Or someone could point out pictures in Cetacea of both oiled and varnished woodwork.

Also, anyone care to comment on their (dis-)satisfaction with their choice of product.

For example, in an old thread Jimh stated he was using amazon teak oil and would update on the look and performance. Jim, could you comment on your results?

Someone else was just putting on a Sikkens product. Any comments? Another member was using teak oil followed by Tung oil. Comments ?????

I realize that this is an old topic, but I am looking for new revelations.


PFSQUAN posted 10-03-2002 08:13 AM ET (US)     Profile for PFSQUAN  Send Email to PFSQUAN     
Oiled teak can vary in shade from light to very dark brown depending upon the oil used to seal the wood pores, as well as the condition of the wood before it is sealed. Although I like the look of varnished wood (I used to own a 17' Thompson with yellow lapstrake planks and varnished decks, cover boards, seats and transom), my retriever and lots of fishing tooks its toll.
The problem with varnish is that if it gets nicked or chipped you have to fix it quick before water gets under the finish where it will discolor (darken) the wood or start lifting the layers or finish.

Varnish hates sun and flat surfaces are especially troublesome because they heat up tremendously under the summer sun.

On my Montauk I clean the teak with Tip Top Teak crystals, lighten it with the TTT brightener and finally, seal it with TTT oil. It gives the wood a golden glow rather than a dark brown and lets the grain of the wood show through.

But the best thing with this system is I can repair it easily without stripping off the old oil, thanks to a trick I learned when I used to skipper custom-built sportfishing boats. Whether you use oil or varnish you must remember that whatever you put on will eventually have to come off. Oil is a lot easier to remove when this becomes necessary.

Tom W Clark posted 10-03-2002 10:40 AM ET (US)     Profile for Tom W Clark  Send Email to Tom W Clark     

If you do not know what oiled teak looks like then what you really need to do is prepare yourself some samples. Photos will not be good enough.

There is no right or wrong answer. It's up to you to decide what you like best. Since this is going to be a winter project, you have plenty of time to go get some scraps of teak and prepare some test boards. I would recommend you varnish one and oil some others.

My preference is for Daly's SeaFin Teak Oil. Many here in the FORUM prefer the Cetol finish, which I think looks horrible, but that's a subjective comment. You might like it.

By preparing the sample boards you will also gain a sense of how much effort the different finishes are going to require. Like so many things, the more planning and investigating you do beforehand, the better your results will be.

Knockerjoe posted 10-03-2002 11:07 AM ET (US)     Profile for Knockerjoe  Send Email to Knockerjoe     
I prefer to use Sikkens Cetol. For it's ease of use and great results. Just a light sanding and 3 coats with no sanding inbetween coats. And it can last 2-3 years down here in the Florida sun. I find Teak oil does not last very long and takes constant reapplications. of course if you want to use the best and old fashion way and have the time and patience, take it out and do several coats of varnish. I will soon be done with my outrage with cetol. i can send you pics or you can look in the cetecea where there are pics of a outrage that had it done and it mentions it....good luck...joe
Barry posted 10-03-2002 11:51 AM ET (US)     Profile for Barry  Send Email to Barry     
I used Cetol on my Montauk. The Cetol does have somewhat of an orange-brown color. I understand that this is from the iron oxide that is used as a UV inhibitor. After cleaning and then sanding the teak, the Cetol went on very easy. The finish has held up very well during the last two years although the boat is garage kept.

Here are some pics taken shortly after I completed the work:

Taylor posted 10-03-2002 02:06 PM ET (US)     Profile for Taylor  Send Email to Taylor     
I have got to agree that Barry's RPS looks great.

Below is a link to a picture of what my RPS looked like in August. This is the first season since I refinished. I sanded down to bare wood and used Seafin. I think sanding is the way to go... teak brighter is hard on the wood, it really raises the grain.

Disclaimer: I took this picture mainly to embarrass my daughter when she turns 18, not show off the RPS.

lhg posted 10-03-2002 02:49 PM ET (US)     Profile for lhg    
Tom - I notice that you have recommended the "Dalys" product several times. I recently saw a Whaler where this had been used, and the fellow told me he used it because it has a high varnish content, something like 17%.

Is that correct? If so it would explain why it holds up a little longer, and looks darker.

I use Amazon's Blend 55 premium dark teak oil, which has very little varnish in it, using their Teak Prep product first. Most people don't know that all teak oil products contain varying degrees of varnish.
The more varnish, the longer it lasts. Teak cleaners, incidentally, are excellent at getting varnish off things, since to remove the teak oil, it also has to be able to cut the thin varnish film.

Cetol, Sikkens, etc is a synthetic varnish. I don't like it either. I've seen way too many boats where the stuff has been slopped on, without proper preparation, ruining the woodwork on the boat. Grand Banks style trawlers seem to be particularly vulnerable to bad Cetol/Sikkens work!

For Whalers used in Florida and other tropical sun/salt environments, and not stored indoors, I have found oiled teak to not hold up well, only about 3 months. To keep it looking nice results in continuous sanding and re-oiling, which eventually wears down the thickness of the wood. A good 12 coat varnish job is much more durable and looks much better, much longer. I have found that adding a few top coats once every two years is a lot less work than continuously sanding & oiling.

For shorter season northern boats, fresh water in particular, and stored indoors, a good teak oil job can last 4 or 5 years, with a re-oil (only) each season. I have found that even northern salt waters don't take the toll on oiled teak that the tropical salt environment does. This is why the Edgewater built Whalers are all glass.

If you're going to varnish, I strongly recommend application of a teak stain first.
This pigment really helps protect the underlying wood from UV bleaching and yellowing from showing, prolonging the length of the varnish job. After 3 or 4 years, the stained wood is about the same color as fresh varnished wood without the stain.

Tom W Clark posted 10-03-2002 08:54 PM ET (US)     Profile for Tom W Clark  Send Email to Tom W Clark     

I'm not much for chemistry so I do not know the varnish content of Daly's SeaFin Teak oil. I have been told through the years that it has a high resin content. Perhaps this is the same thing?

Daly's actually makes several products in the SeaFin family. SeaFin Teak Oil is but one of them. There is also FloorFin which is designed as a substitute for swedish finish on hardwood floors, and then there is ProFin which has the greatest resin content and a more "plastic coated" appearance to go with it.

Ironically, I use ProFin for base shoe on hardwood floors because of its fast build up and use FloorFin as an intermediate thickness finish on furniture when SeaFin does not build up fast enough for the job. FloorFin is a nice compromise. Why it is marketed as a floor finish I do not know. I know of only two people who used it for that purpose and it was not so great as a floor finish.

Anyway, I digress. Taylor had a conversation with the Daly's chemist not too long ago. Maybe he can fill us in on the specifics of the formula.

I do agree with you Larry that an oiled finish is not as easy to maintain as it sounds. Even SeaFin will wear off fairly quickly. It needs to be applied every month to a boat that is exposed to weather. On my Outrage I sanded the teak down to bare wood three times in ten years after the teak had begun to get bleached out. Oiled teak is ongoing maintenance, but fairly easy maintenance.

Varnish would be a good way to do as you have done and "lock in" the wood grain so it does not eventually get sanded away to nothing.

Whatever you do, do not use teak cleaner to restore teak! It eats the hell out of the wood and will accelerate its demise. If you trying to clean a boat up for a quick sale then maybe it's OK but not for a boat you want to keep looking good for years and years.

newt posted 10-03-2002 09:15 PM ET (US)     Profile for newt  Send Email to newt     
Great advise. The pictures help to sort it out a little without spending a fortune buying all the different brands to make samples. I will save that for the last step.

Anymore picts, or references to Cetacea?

Also, for a boat used on weekends and covered in between, how long will the oil hold up before a major overhall is required?

newt posted 10-03-2002 09:16 PM ET (US)     Profile for newt  Send Email to newt     
Barry, that is a fine looking seat. Did you make it?
RWM posted 10-03-2002 09:57 PM ET (US)     Profile for RWM  Send Email to RWM     
I too used Silkens Cetol Marine on all the teak on my '79 Montauk and I'm quite happy with it. The wood was really grooved and weathered when I bought it so...I stripped and disassembled all the wood, sanded until smooth, reassembled, and put on 5 coats with a high quality bristle brush.

It looks great and is not showing any aging at all (only two years so far though). The boat is run off Cape Cod and stored on a trailer.

I'd use Silkens again since I like the look and what I assume will be the longevity...Bob M.

jimh posted 10-04-2002 12:38 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
I have been slowly working on the teak on my boat, using the Amazon product line:

Teak Cleaner
Teak Prep
Teak Oil ("Golden" variety)

The first project was the cabinet under the helm. I followed the instructions:

--spray on Teak Cleaner; scrub; rinse; repeat.

--allow to dry overnight;

--apply coat of Teak Prep; allow to dry overnight;

--apply coat of Teak Oil diluted 3:1 with Teak Prep; allow to dry overnight;

--apply coat of Teak Oil (100%); wipe excess; allow to dry overnight. Repeat as needed.

The results were very good. I was amazed how nice the wook looked. The next season I reapplied oil for a touch up.

The boat is stored indoors when not in use, and has had limited use in fresh water only. It looks like yearly reapplication of the oil will be needed.

OutrageMan posted 10-04-2002 09:05 AM ET (US)     Profile for OutrageMan  Send Email to OutrageMan     
I have been considering the use of a homemade finish for my teak. I was going to combine equal parts of Amazon Teak Oil, Interlux Schooner Varnish, and mineral spirits.

My thought was that with the full 30% varnish I would have more "wearability" and UV protection, but because of the oil, still retain a more oiled look. Of course, the mineral spirits would be just for flow and drying.


AnthonyT posted 10-04-2002 03:51 PM ET (US)     Profile for AnthonyT  Send Email to AnthonyT     
Outrage Man,

I know some people who do make their own oil finishes with good results. One word of caution though, definitely try out your mixture on piece of scrap wood of the same species. Sometimes there is an interaction between the various chemicals and even sometimes the species of wood resulting in a finish that will not dry.. never.... It is then a mess to cleanup/remove a half dried finish....

Just a heads up...


Taylor posted 10-04-2002 05:10 PM ET (US)     Profile for Taylor  Send Email to Taylor     
My discussion with the Daly's chemist is covered in and the gist of it is that SeaFin includes 'hard drying oils' in order to improve build and keep dirt from sticking.

I find that touch up of all the teak on my montauk takes about six minutes. I seem to do it about once a month, and I kind of enjoy it.

newt posted 10-05-2002 09:53 PM ET (US)     Profile for newt  Send Email to newt     
Can anyone point to a Cetacea picture and identify the type of finish applied to the teak?

I am trying to assemble a library of sorts (pictures) of the various oils and varnishes used on teak to aid in selecting one this winter.

ratherwhalering posted 10-07-2002 01:59 PM ET (US)     Profile for ratherwhalering  Send Email to ratherwhalering     
Newt: Just remember that 10-12 coats of varnish is an unbelieveable pain, and you will need a clean, dry, dust free area to do this project. After the first coat, the "should have just oiled it" remo9rse sets in. The next two coats, you just want to cry because it doesn't look like you are getting anywhere with your dilluted varinsh mix. "What the @#$% have I gotten myself into" comes with the 4-5 coats. "I hate louvers" hits on the 5-6. "oh, it looks good enough...I'll just stick it back on" is around 6-7. "hmmm, this looks good" is around 8. "I really don't need to do the back of the hatches" is around 9 coats, and "I'll just lie and tell everyone I did 12 coats" ends your project around 10-11.

Good luck, and stick with it if you decide to varnish.

newt posted 10-07-2002 04:36 PM ET (US)     Profile for newt  Send Email to newt     

Nice narrative! I may be leaning towards varnish only to appease the wife. She likes "the shiney look"!

When I varnished the rudder on my sailboat, I thought the 2nd coat looked fantastic and called it good!

hooter posted 10-07-2002 06:03 PM ET (US)     Profile for hooter    
Ever'thing but the gunnel caps comes off and fits nicely on yer wife's dining room table an' buffet, on top some newspaper, of course. Not much dust in der, either. And keepin' da project on Momma's mind has a way o'keepin' it on YER mind, so's ya keep after it. Took me 'bout seven or eight days to get a like number o'coats o'varnish on the RPS and bright-woik of our 18'. No big deal. Ah recommends it. Quit mah teak erlin' years ago, and ain't missed dat teak cleanin' ritual none-at-all.
Chesapeake posted 10-11-2002 03:40 PM ET (US)     Profile for Chesapeake  Send Email to Chesapeake     
lhg and jimh:

Where have you found Teak prep as I have been unable to find it. Am also using Amazon, but would really like to penetrate the wood more deeply with the prep.

Second question. Is teak prep needed on new wood or only on older wood for penetration.


Kevin Cook posted 10-16-2002 05:10 PM ET (US)     Profile for Kevin Cook  Send Email to Kevin Cook     
I have varnished a ton of Mahogany and oiled a ton of teak so maybe I can help. My parents owned a wooden sailboat until about 10 years ago when it was replaced with a fiberglass boat.

The wooden sailboat had a hull that was entirely mahogany (attached with bronze screws to the frame) and the topsides where all teak. The hull was all brightwork (varnish) and the teak was all oiled. We could get about 10 years out of the varnish before needing to strip it and start again. It actually would have lasted much longer but it just loses some of the real eye catching beauty so we would strip it and start over. If you only put on a couple of coats it will only last a year or two. We applied 15 coats originally and two coats every year after that. Applying the two coats every year was surprisingly easy. We just lightly sanded the entire hull by hand (less than an hour) and laid on two new coats. If you let it go it is a lot more work to repair. If you have any dings in the varnish repair them as soon as possible or water will discolor the wood and it is more work to repair later. BTW, it was easy to tell when someone would hit the boat as it sat on the happened all the time, at least once every couple of weeks there would be a new ding in the hull.

The teak was cleaned and oiled every spring. We tried many different products over the years and they are all basically the same. I would recommend sanding the teak instead of using any of the teak cleaners. The cleaners raise the grain quite a bit and I think are more damaging that sanding. The sanding is actually easier than the cleaners since the wood is so soft. Depending on which oil you decide to use the color can be anything from a light gold to a dark brown color. We had to reapply the teak oil every 8 weeks or so to keep it looking sharp. (New England)

When my parents got the fiberglass sailboat it greatly reduced the amount of time we spent on wood finishes....we now spend at least as much time compounding and waxing every year. The only time savings with the fiberglass is we don't have to seal all the seams every spring. The plastic boat only has teak hatches and toe rails. The first several years we sanded and oiled them. For the last 5 years we have used Sikkens Cetol and have been very pleased with the results. It requires the same prep. as the oil or varnish but is easier to apply than the varnish and lasts longer than the oil.

To summarize:

Varnish - Lots of work initially but looks good and lasts a long time.

Teak Oil - Minimal prep work, goes on easy, needs to be reapplied every couple months if outside.

Cetol - Minimal prep work, goes on easy and lasts at a whole season.

If it was me I would use the Cetol because of its ease of use and durability.

OutrageMan posted 10-16-2002 09:24 PM ET (US)     Profile for OutrageMan  Send Email to OutrageMan     

I am really unsure why you would want to use the "Teak Prep." It is just another step in the process, and in my opinion, not at all necessary.

Teak naturally contains oil. When you apply a product like Amazon Teak Oil, you are helping replenish the oil from the exposed surface of the teak.

I think the only thing "Teak Prep" is doing is opening the surface pores of the wood a bit more. Since teak oil is a penetrating finish and not a film finish (like varnish or shellac), when you are finished, you just have bigger open pores of the wood.

I would like to hear from some of the refinishers like Harpoon Harry and Tom Clark on this subject.


newt posted 10-16-2002 09:27 PM ET (US)     Profile for newt  Send Email to newt     
Thanks Kevin. If you have any pictures please send 'em along.
lhg posted 10-17-2002 05:43 PM ET (US)     Profile for lhg    
Having worked with teak oiling now since 1986, using the Amazon products, I have found that for some reason the Teak Prep middle step really makes a difference. I do not know why. It is a clear yellowish liquid that dries quickly, but the Blend 55 Teak oil really looks great if the prep is used. They say it dries and cleans the wood and eliminate black spots and cleaning chemical marks.

For complete availability of Amazon Products, try Shoreway Marine catalog, 800-443-5408.
Qt Teak Prep is #12564 @ $8.49
Qt 55 Blend oil is #13730 @ $15.99

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