Restoring and Refinishing Old Oak Hatch Doors

by Juli
(Seattle, WA)

I have two doors that go to the booby hatch of our 1925 70ft tugboat.

The doors haven't been refinished in a very long time (we just purchased the boat last Sept.).

There is hardly any varnish left, the wood is very dry and there are cracked areas in the panels.

How can I repair those cracks and what should I seal the wood with before varnishing?

The doors are very heavy and I don't want to try and rebuild them, I doubt the doors can be taken apart without ruining them, so I need to make repairs in place.

Thanks for any help!

Comments for Restoring and Refinishing Old Oak Hatch Doors

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wood in fill
by: bill

May I add to Mike's comment that you need to try and match up graining of wood so it flows in the same patterns, otherwise you will see the difference even far away.

For fine cracks you can use a wood filler stain, it will color the wood uniform and has filler agents to seal and level out areas.

Interlux makes them.

Hatch Doors
by: Mike

First thing Juli, is to get all the old varnish off.

Scrapers are the best way to get any stubborn patches off, then sand them down.

I would avoid using any chemical paint strippers and be wary of using heat, some of the old fashioned varnishes can react in funny ways.

On very fine cracks you can use filler/stopper/shellac sticks/wax sticks, the problem I have found with any of these ?fillers? though is that it is almost impossible to get a good color match.

It might look ok before varnishing but once the varnish goes on the wood and filler change tone differently.

I have found that using a darker filler ends up looking better and gives more of an antique look.

For wider cracks/splits/shakes, it is better to glue in thin filets of new wood.

You may need to rout out the crack first, and cut the filets so that the tap in easily, if they are too wide they could push the crack wider causing strain in the frame joints.

When you have sorted the cracks, spend time smoothing the wood surface, the more time you spend on the preparation the better will be the finish.

Work down to a very fine grit sandpaper or even cabinet scrapers.

My preference is for good quality oil based marine varnish, one with UV blockers.

Get rid of all traces of dust, use your vacuum cleaner and a soft bristled brush.

Then several thin coats of varnish, building up to the final un-thinned coats, sanding, with fine grit paper along the direction of the grain, between each.

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