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Varnish Stinks and Secret Recipe Revealed

Posted on Monday Dec 12, 2011

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I think we have been stripping teak and varnishing for 8 weeks now and we probably have another 4 or 5 weeks to go not including holidays. We've gone through a gallon of varnish which is supposed to cover 500 square feet in one coat. To say we are tired of stripping teak oil, and varnishing and sanding is an understatement. Just smelling the urethane solvent from a distance brings me down.

Here's an example of the starboard side settee after we stripped it and before we varnished it.


Now here's what it looks like after varnishing.


We usually put on about 6 or 7 coats so it will be durable and hopefully last about 100 years. Since we have to do everything in sections, we have to move things around and try to plan what can be stripped while the other area gets varnished. This makes all the spaces in the boat either under construction or buried in stuff for storage.

We did perfect a secret recipe for stripping off the teak oil:

  • 1 - part "Roma" laundry soap powder. (Roma brand soap is an important ingredient!)
  • 1 - part Baking Soda.
  • 2 - parts White Vinegar.
We apply this as a liquid paste and don't let it dry but rather sit on the wood for 10-15 minutes. It pulls the teak oil and gunk out. We can usually strip off the old layers of oil in 2 passes. Sometimes some sanding is required, but the stripping part usually removes a large bulk of the old teak oil. Rinsing the soap out of the wood probably takes another hour or two of work, but at least the chemicals are fairly non-toxic and they work well.