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Author Topic:   Stain Color for Mahogany Interior
nancyfv444 posted 02-04-2004 05:34 PM ET (US)   Profile for nancyfv444   Send Email to nancyfv444  
My husband bought me a 15' sport so he didn't have to hear me complain about taking out the "big" boat to take the kids to sailing school and anywhere else on the lake. I love him for that, but I'm not sure I love the fact that he immediately took apart my boat to refinish it. He took out all the wood and stripped it to refinish it. Does anyone have any information on the classic stain color so it looks like a whaler should? Any other helpful hints on the marine varnish, how many coats or anything else you could think of would be great too! The fiberglass is in great shape and when this is done, my boat will look like new (while still being the old classic it is). Thanks
JBCornwell posted 02-04-2004 07:00 PM ET (US)     Profile for JBCornwell  Send Email to JBCornwell     
Whaler didn't stain the wood, Nancy. They varnished the bare wood.

If your wood is sun bleached you need to sand it down to the natural red color.

You will get a lot of differing advice on finish. I use 6-8 coats of Helmsman polyurethane marine varnish, light sanding between coats, and get factory quality finish and better than factory durability.

Red sky at night. . .

TsTime posted 02-04-2004 07:29 PM ET (US)     Profile for TsTime  Send Email to TsTime     
With respect to the sanding. I also will be refinishing the wood on my 17SS. Should a finish stripper be used, belt sander etc to get the coats of varnish off?
jimh posted 02-04-2004 07:58 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
[Changed TOPIC; was (something else).--jimh]
jimh posted 02-04-2004 08:03 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
If your wood has faded and its natural color bleached out, I would not hesitate to try augmenting its appearance with some mahogany stain.
Cicada posted 02-04-2004 08:16 PM ET (US)     Profile for Cicada  Send Email to Cicada     

Refinished my Sport last spring. Used about 8 coats of Zspar varnish, no stain. Some of the pieces went to 12 coats. Was using a foam brush and kept getting some streaking. Last coat went to a good quality bristle brush. Eliminated the streaking and left a nice finish. The sanding brings the color out real well. Again, you'll get alot of opinions on how to finish. Personal preference and it's all good information.

I tried a chemical stripper, sanding, cabinet scrapers and hand planes to remove the old varnish. Didn't remove much varnish and got pretty frustrated. Some people here recommend using a planer so I rented one from Home Desparate and was very happy with the results. If you go that route make sure the set up is right and take the minimal amount at a pass.

Make sure you take some before, after and during photos.

Good luck, it can be a very pleasurable project.


lhg posted 02-04-2004 08:37 PM ET (US)     Profile for lhg    
I recommend you do a search for tons of information and opinions on the subject of stains, varnish brands, etc. In essence the situation breaks down to a few basics:

1. Just stripping old varnish is not enough, because in most cases the surface of the wood, under the varnish, will be UV degraded (faded and yellowed) and require orbital power sanding to get down to the true reddish tone of the philippine mahogany. Be sure to do this.

2. To stain or not to stain is your decision. Whaler did not do it, but then again the factory finishes did not really hold up all that well, and tended to yellow out quickly. I believe red mahogany stain adds pigment which protects the underlying wood and finished varnish product from future bleaching, yellowing and lightening.
All of this is a personal choice.

3. Use a top grade of UV INHIBITING spar varnish. The cost of the varnish is nothing when compared to the labor of this entire job. Not all varnishes are created equal. The new products are far superior to what was used originally. I like Z-SPAR Flagship. Apply varnish with a good FOAM brush! Sounds crazy, but they are fantastic for a high gloss finish. "Outrageman" deserves credit for this excellent recommendation to all of us.

4. I know this hurts, but do 10-12 coats per instructions on the can. Buy 3M's professional grade sanding papers. They really cut, last and last, and do not clog up like cheap regular papers do. This relatively new product is the best sandpaper I have ever used.

5. Once done, do not use Whaler's sharp screw finishing rings against the new varnished surface, as they will cut it and allow quick degradation (blackening). Put a same size fender washer under each finishing ring first, which will lay against the varnished surfaces.

6. Once done, don't let the finish degrade from use, cuts or damage. About every two years, apply another 2 coats, and it will look brand new again. It's not as much work as one thinks.

I guarantee this will give you a fabulous looking 15 when completed!

SpeedBump posted 02-04-2004 08:44 PM ET (US)     Profile for SpeedBump  Send Email to SpeedBump     
Nancy- you found yourself a great guy- buys you a nice boat and he is willing to refinish it for you..

Good suggestions so far- Fresh genuine mahogany will have hues of brown and red in it. Phillipine mahogany will be brownish. Varnish has an amber color and if the mahogany is new and freshly finished it doesn't need any stain to look beautiful but it does need a filler before varnishing for a quality finish.

If using the original wood and it has been bleached by the sun you may be well served by using a brown mahogany filler stain. This will serve two purposes; one - it will fill the wood pores, which you want to do with mahogany so you get a glass smooth finish. Two - a light brown mahogany stain color will help offset the bleached wood. If you use red mahogany stain your bright work will end up looking like a fine chipendale side table. From photos I have seen and my recollection of the whaler bright work red was not in the equation.

As for varnish- there are lots of quality varnishes out there. Most important is getting one with high UV filters so the hard work your hubby puts into finishing the wood holds up. Interlux Schooner is a good choice, captains is another, epiphanes is an excellent varnish.

You want the UV protection and high solids content, plan on about $35.00/quart. 6-8 coats minimally, sanding between each after letting each coat dry 24 hours. You are better off with 8-10 coats, Wet sanding the last three coats in between. The finish will be as smooth as a baby's bottom and a deep lusterous shine that will last many years. Use a good quality bristle brush and good solvents. A first class job is dependent on good prep work. You'll have a real head turner when it is done. good luck!!

lhg posted 02-05-2004 01:30 PM ET (US)     Profile for lhg    
Speed - Your recommendations on using the filler stain are excellent, and I should have mentioned it. I also use this on both mahogany and teak when varnishing, because they are porous woods. I buy plain wood filler and mix it with the stain I will be using. Once sanded down, I then re-stain with just the stain. Initially, it looks like your wood will be too dark, but once the varnishing is done, it doesn't.
nancyfv444 posted 02-05-2004 10:12 PM ET (US)     Profile for nancyfv444  Send Email to nancyfv444     
Geez, you guys are great. I said it wrong when I said we stripped it. He sanded it down to the original wood using a combination of belt sander, orbital sander, planer, and I think his teeth. Thanks for the information. I think he's a great guy too, but he's not too sure about this 10-12 coat stuff. I think he's going to be a little goofy after spending the next few months in the garage. I should get some pictures, that's a great idea. This boat was taken care of exrtremely well before we bought it and I am thinking I'm going to be all that and a bag of chips tootling around in it next summer. We'll keep you up to date on the project and let you know how it's going. Thanks again for all your help.
jimh posted 02-05-2004 11:50 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
LHG's detail about the finishing rings is a very good point. What kills the varnish is allowing moisture to get under it. Water, and especially water vapor, will lift the varnish off the wood and leave a nasty re-finishing job to be done.

The finish washers tend to cut into the varnish, making a little entry point for water to get under the varnish and lift it off.

Another detail you might consider is this:

The folks at WEST System build entire boats with wood and have produced some fabulous hulls that are entirely finished with a varnish appearance. They recommend sealing the wood with a top coat of epoxy applied after the sanding, filler, and stain steps. This locks moisture from the wood. Then apply the varnish layers. This step should make the varnish more durable, as the wood will not be able to absorb water and then evaporate it out and lift the varnish.

Now on these matters I speak without any first hand knowledge, because I am still working on the mechanical perfection of my boats, and I have held the cosmetics in abeyance.

Someday, perhaps this summer, I hope to progress to some rudimentary wood refinishing.

Backlash posted 02-06-2004 08:05 AM ET (US)     Profile for Backlash  Send Email to Backlash     
On my 1989 15' SS the screws fastening the interior had the finishing washers AND nylon flat washers underneath. The nylon washers were slightly larger than the SS finish washers preventing them from cutting into the wood. Weren't all mahogany/teak pieces fastened this way from the factory?


SpeedBump posted 02-07-2004 09:35 PM ET (US)     Profile for SpeedBump  Send Email to SpeedBump     
Nancy- Since the wood is free of old finish, make sure everything gets a final handsanding with 220 or finer paper. Use LHG's suggestion of blending a stain in with a natural wood filler if you can't get a premixed colored filler.

BTW- Wood Filler is not the stuff you use for filling screw holes. It is a paste filler that is wiped or brushed on and quickly rubbed off across the grain to even out the surface. You should use some stain just to even out the coloration of the wood prior to varnishing.

Tell hubby that the 10-12 coats are only 2-4 more than he was planing on putting on to begin with and it does make a huge difference in the finish and its durability. every thing is out of the boat so it is easy to do. It will take an additional 3-5 hours total to do the additional coats and one more day delay per coat for the drying period between. Well worth the effort for something he wont have to touch again for two to three years.

good luck

nancyfv444 posted 02-08-2004 12:20 AM ET (US)     Profile for nancyfv444  Send Email to nancyfv444     
We did a little research and came up with a few helpful hints for anyone doing their wood. Before you apply the finish, be it stain or only varnish, take a sponge and wet down the wood to raise the grain. We have had mixed opinions on foam or bristle brush and are going with bristle, will let you know. The last tidbit we got before we started was to put on the first how ever many coats and then let the wood sit for six weeks before you put on the last two coats. Seeing it is Feb. and our lake is covered with ice, this shouldn't be a problem.
OutrageMan posted 02-08-2004 09:03 AM ET (US)     Profile for OutrageMan  Send Email to OutrageMan     

Just a few more points worth consideration...

1) You should thin your first 2 coats of varnish 50-50. The next two coats thin 10%. After that use the varnish full strength. You can get a fantastic look if you thin the last coat 20-30%. It will make the varnish flow and lay down very well.

2) I used to use the 3M paper that LHG talks about, but I have now found Norton 3X. It is available at home depot and is by far the best paper I have ever used. I could actually write a whole post as to why, but lets keep things kind of short for this one.

3) When you get to your last 3-4 coats, instead of sanding between them, use bronze or synthetic wool to rough things up. Using steel wool will leave bits of steel in the surface that will rust.

4) Not only do foam brushes leave a superior finish, you save time by just throwing them away when you are done.

5) Finally there is a product you can use instead of varnish. It is made by Interlux and called Interthane Plus. It is a two part finish meant as an alternative to varnish. It has a few things going for it:
a) You can apply as many as 4 coats in one day
b) It more UV inhibitors than any spar varnish
c) It will last about 50% longer than varnish
Of course it does have one major drawback. It can not be chemically removed. Should it go south on you, it will need to be mechanically removed.

Have fun with this project. This is definitely one of those jobs where any shortcuts you take will be magnified in the finished product. Take your time.


gonzo116 posted 03-08-2004 10:59 PM ET (US)     Profile for gonzo116  Send Email to gonzo116     
One note I did not see mentioned that I learned the hard way years ago. When stripping mahogany, NEVER try to use teak cleaner or brightener!!! It will stain the wood a grey color that will be almost impossible to sand out.

Just a note born of near tragedy,


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