1958 Peterborough Nomad

by Geoff Clarke
(Carleton Place, Ontario)

The mahogany plywood deck on the boat is now ready for varnishing, but I'm looking at colour variations in the finish (part due to bleaching, part ??).

I'm thinking that if I just varnish it that the discolouration will still be very evident.

It was suggested to me to stain the deck and that may result in a consistent colour across the whole deck?

But I'm not so sure that would be the case?

And thus my question..... would it be better to apply a stain to get a better looking result, or just varnish?

I don't want to start the varnishing if applying a stain first would be better?

I've posted some pictures with this message so that you can see what I'm seeing. THANKS!

My 1958 Peterborough boat has a mahogany plywood upper deck that I'm in the process of completely refinishing.

I've removed all the hardware and although most of it will go back in place, there are holes left in the plywood from fitting etc. that will not be going back on.

Those holes need 'repairing/filling in' before I start the final sanding etc.

I've read many articles & have been given different bits of advice as to how best to do that... ranging from using epoxy filler mixed with stain through to mahogany sawdust mixed into the varnish and then just filling the holes.

BUT I'm still undecided as to which is best way to repair those holes so that they don't 'jump out' when the varnish goes on?

The deck will not be stained but will get 5-6 coats of clear varnish.

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Comments for 1958 Peterborough Nomad

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Apr 27, 2014
by: Anonymous

Just a thought here since I can't see your wood first hand, but it is wood and wood, by nature has color variations.

This is also not a suggestion, but where the wood is faded do to oxidation is also going to be drier and more porous, therefore taking an oil stain more readily.

A coat of light stain thinned with mineral spirits might bring the colors back to a more even level, but in my experience, nothing will make it look completely even.

A coat of staining varnish after could help hide those variations.

As for screw holes, the fillers Mike mentions are very good, but if the holes are larger than about 1/4 inch I think fillers will stand out too much and would consider cutting plugs with the grain running with the surrounding wood.

Pre-cut plugs are available in several type of wood and plug cutters can be found at most home improvement stores.

Now that I've added a new level of confusion, the final decision is yours and I think you are doing a great thing by restoring the Nomad.

Apr 27, 2014
just varnish
by: Geoff

Thank you Mike, that was my concern with 'just varnish'. But I also figured that 'just staining' would result in the same thing, the discolouration standing out, a bit of a 'catch 22'. And of course, whichever I go, once I start, I'm stuck with the result.

Is there any particular filler-stain product you would recommend? When searching the multitude of wood stains available, I couldn't spot anything with a specific 'filler-stain' description. Again thank you for your guidance!

Apr 27, 2014
This isn't a recommendation
by: Mike

This isn't a recommendation Geoff as I haven’t done any competitive tests on these products and to be honest I doubt if there is much difference between them.

But I have heard of both being used to good effect.

Pettit Z-Spar Mahogany Filler Stain.


Interlux Interstain Paste Wood Filler and Stain


Apr 27, 2014
the discoloured areas will stand out.
by: Anonymous

If you just varnish as it is the discoloured areas will stand out.

A ‘filler-stain’ that has a high solids content is more opaque than normal oil-based stain.

So, it will tend to give its own color to the wood and help to obscure any discolouration.

A thin coat of ‘filler stain’ will be only partly opaque.

Perhaps if you give just the discolored areas a thin coat then go over the whole area with another coat it should all begin to blend in.

Apr 27, 2014
Thanks for the info and recommendations
by: Geoff

Hi Mike,
Thanks for the info and recommendations. I'm a real novice at this & so am moving forward very carefully with the project as I do not want to 'mess up' this great old boat! So please excuse some really 'basic' questions.

I've already stripped & carefully sanded down the deck, repaired shifted seams in the plywood & removed old caulking etc. So what I have left to do before the first coat of varnish is to repair the holes I've mentioned. You're saying... Save the sanding dust to mix with clear epoxy if that is what you are going to use to fill those holes..... this is one of the answers I got before, but I've not been able to determine 'which' epoxy should be used (I wouldn't think it's the glue stuff) - is it something like one of the 'West System' products I've read about - if so, which one? As I'm only dealing with a number of small screw & nail holes, we're only talking small quantities for sure. But can you sand the epoxy mix afterwards to achieve a smooth finish?

Another suggestion I got yesterday is to just mix the sawdust with some of the varnish to fill the holes? Would that work as well?

Thank you... that's the direction I'll go then. I've purchased Epifanes woodfinish gloss for the first 3 coats, so that's what I'll mix with the sawdust. I'll have to experiment to get the closest colour match, but I expected that. :-)

One additional question regarding the varnish... the instructions on the can call for it to be thinned 50% etc... but I've not been able to get a straight answer as to just what is used as the thinner? Anything special?

Thank you again.... (busy making sawdust !)

Many thanks... Geoff

Apr 27, 2014
careful when sanding veneered plywood
by: Mike

H Geoff,

Be very careful when sanding veneered plywood, the last thing you need is to go through the veneer.

I would suggest that you use a heat gun or stripper to remove the varnish.

Then finish off by hand sanding with a very fine grit paper.

Save the sanding dust to mix with clear epoxy if that is what you are going to use to fill those holes.

Your biggest challenge is going to be getting an even color across the areas where the fitting have been.

The wood that has been covered will likely be brighter than that which has been open to sunlight.

And the edges where metal had been touching will probably be darker as will the edges of the screw holes.

Discoloring around the screw holes can be skimmed off with a sharp countersink bit before filling.

If you intend to use epoxy to fill the holes remember that it won’t absorb any stain, so you might want to try evening out the colors first before applying it.

Using thin-bodied wood stains on previously varnished wood can be a problem because of uneven absorption.

And color can vary from brand to brand and even batch to batch.

And as you are only dealing with small areas you might want to consider using artist’s oil paints.

Small tubes of Raw Umber, Burnt Umber and Burnt Sienna won’t cost much more than a tin of stain and a little goes a long way.

And you can mixe then with turpentine and a little Japan Drier, on a scrap of plywood, to get the desired tint, adding linseed oil will aid even penetration.

Apply it thinly with a small brush, you will need to experiment.

An alternative might be to use a Gel Stain.

These stains don’t soak into the wood, so they are a good way to get an even color across large areas.

However, they need to be applied thickly, like spreading butter, then wiped off, so you would have problems keeping the stuff off those light colored bands of stringing.

The sawdust and varnish mix will probably be just as good if not better than using epoxy, especially as they are just small screw holes.

If you use the varnish you intend to use for the finish there won’t be any incompatibility issues and you won’t need to mix any nasty chemicals.

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