Identification and Restoration of a Wooden Boat (by a complete beginner)

by Ivan Tanner
(Bishops Stortford)

Hi Guys,
Cutting a long story short I have had the good fortune to come upon a boat, a 14' clinker built sailing dinghy, most likely one of the Thames Estuary types from the 30s and 40s.

A restoration had been started by a gentleman who sadly passed away.

I understand the wood itself was found to be sound and have no reason to doubt this, however I hope to have a more experienced eye cast over it before launching.

So, HOPEFULLY, my work will consist of stripping the old varnish, caulking, varnishing and re-fitting all the metalwork.

I don't mind how much work I need to do, be it labour or research, because it might well result in me having a 'free' boat.

However I would appreciate it if someone could possibly point me in the right direction to get me started.

Firstly, could anyone please recommend a book suitable for a novice explaining the type of jobs above; what type of techniques, tools and equipment should/should not be used for stripping, (heat guns ? chemical agents ?) types of paint or varnish I should use, how to caulk, types of fasteners and how to fit etc. ?

Secondly, does anyone have any clue please as to what it might be, or how I could find out?

It's not a Wivenhoe One Design (only 10 planks rather than 12), nor is it a Brightlingsea (too short).

I can of course supply more detailed pics if required.

Finally, my plan was to get it on to my drive and spend the summer stripping it under a tarp, before moving to the garage to paint.

Will a wooden boat be ok under a tarp during an English summer ?

Many thanks,


Comments for Identification and Restoration of a Wooden Boat (by a complete beginner)

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Jul 13, 2013
"Yachting World Dayboat"
by: Mike

Apr 29, 2012
by: Chris Truman

Looks quite like a Tideway 14 - there is a fair bit of info for them online.

Start with the Tideway Owners Club.

Feb 03, 2012
Possibly a YW Dayboat
by: Redwing Hon Sec

Hi Ivan,

Nice to see your restoration of a 14ft sailing dinghy.

I notice from previous comments that she is thought to be a National Redwing.

I am afraid to say that no she is not.

Her transom is too deep and does not have the tiller port/sheet horse let in to it as Redwings do.

Maybe she is a Yachting World 14ft Dayboat?

Failing that she may be a local One Design class from down Essex way?

Are there any identifying numbers or builder's plate on her hull?

All the best,

Bill Redwing 228

Jul 22, 2011
National Redwing?
by: Anonymous

Hi Ivan,

Ah, now those new photographs make me think that she might be a "National Redwing".

That's "National Redwing" not "Bembridge Redwing".

It was the 'squared' forefoot that was the giveaway, quite unusual for a traditional carvel boat.

They were originally designed by Uffa Fox in the 1930s.

The original fleet was built for the Looe Sailing Club, and they are still being sailed there.

And they are still being built by the Good Wood Boat Company.

There is also a Redwing Association you might want to check out.

Jul 21, 2011
Identifying my boat
by: Ivan Tanner

Thanks for advice guys, I've emailed you Mike with the more detailed pics.

The deck is plywood, I believe made new by the gentleman who owned her as the wood is bare and the filler in the screw holes has not yet been sanded.

The current owner (the son of the afoermentioned gentleman) believes it had a mainsail only with no foresail, and is giving me the sails he has.

I'm expecting them to be in poor condition, but will make the best of them.

He also mentioned his Dad had been using a heat gun (electric) to start on the varnish, and having used one myself when renovating our house, and reading the articles on your site, I'm inclined to start there, I found them more user friendly than chemical strippers.

Will invest in a variety of decent scrapers too.

If anyone knows of an organisation based on the Estuary one design racers of old, I'd be glad to hear from them.

Will post some results in a few months/years/decades and tell what worked.

Thanks again,


Jul 02, 2011
Removing Varnish
by: Anonymous

A scraper is the best tool for getting off thick, old and many layered varnish and getting into odd corners.

A sander is not always the best tool to start with as the sandpaper can get clogged up with the gummy varnish.

Get off as much as you can with the scrapers first and then clean off the remaining residue with a sander.

Jul 02, 2011
Wooden One Design?
by: Mike

Hi Ivan,

It sounds as though you have already done some research into her origins and design.

Do you have the rig and sail/s?

If there is a number on the main sail that might be a clue.

And how was she rigged?

If you want to add some more photos (a profile shot would be helpful) to this page you can email them to me at and I can resize them etc and add them.

But regardless of her type, you are lucky guy, you've gat a little gem there.

And yea, she should be fine under a tarpaulin, as long as she is blocked up off the ground.
(Umm, an English summer, is that an oxymoron?).

As for stripping the varnish, I would start by seeing how much will come off just by sanding first of all.

I only tried using a chemical stripper once years ago and apart from the health hazards I wasn?t impressed.

But check out this post from Bill about using a stripper.

And some discussion and various opinions on the subject of sanders on paint here.

And some more here about removing old varnish.

Is the decking covered with painted canvas? If it is I wouldn?t get any chemicals on that.

The centreboard case (I'm assuming she has one) is something you might want to check thoroughly, they do tend to be vulnerable areas.

As for varnish I would use a traditional type of one pack oil based varnish or even an oiled finish but that?s something to think about later.

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