Refinish Your Brightwork

4 Easy Steps to Refinishing Your Brightwork

How to remove, strip, prepare and refinish
the timberwork on your sailboat


Eventually it comes to all of us.

The timber handrails, coamings, washboards and hatches on the boat are in desperate need of attention.

Well, if you have to do it, you might as well do it right and use a 2-part polyurethane over clear epoxy base coats.

Clear Epiglass epoxy coats followed by Interlux’s Perfection Varnish is a great choice.

Here’s the scoop

1. remove the fittings

  • It’s best to remove the timber from the boat before you start any work on it. Timber coamings will probably be the exception, but in all other cases you really should try and remove the fittings.
  • Remove any timber plugs by drilling a small hole into the center of the plug down to the screw. Don’t damage the screw slot.
  • Using a drill just smaller than the plug diameter, drill into the plug down to the screw. The small ring of plug can be removed with a small chisel if necessary. Clean any glue out the screw slot.
  • If the screw won’t turn, heat a soldering iron and place it on the top of the screw. The screw will expand and probably break the glue bond. Wait for the screw to cool before trying to get it out.
  • If the screw still won’t turn, you’ll have to drill it out. Use a small sharp drill bit to drill a pilot hole into the center of the screw head, then drill the screw head out, not the screw itself, using a drill bit the same size as the screw head.
  • Lever the fitting out over the headless screws and remove the screws using vice grips or similar.

2. strip the timber

  • Remove all existing varnish using a varnish stripper. Any oil based finish will need to be removed completely with a stripper. Previous epoxy coats will need to be abraded by sanding and scraping
  • Rinse off the timber with Interlux 2333N to get rid of all stripper and contaminants. Allow the timber to dry
  • Teak can be cleaned and brightened using a teak cleaner. Wet the timber and use the cleaner according to the directions.
  • Wash the timber thoroughly and allow to dry. Sand with 180 grit paper.

3. coat with epoxy

  • Mix clear Epiglass epoxy in the typical 4:1 proportions. You can use a different hardener to give a different pot life and cure time depending on the temperature. See your supplier for details.
  • Paint 3 coats of epoxy all over the fitting, including the undersides and timber plug holes. Thin the first cost down by 10% to let it penetrate into the timber.
  • Paint a new coat when the last coat is “tacky”. That is, when it will show a fingerprint when touched, but is not sticky (use gloves!)
  • Allow the epoxy to cure for 3-7 days depending on temperature. Scrub with a stiff brush using Interlux all purpose boat soap.
  • Rinse with fresh water. Note that sanding will not remove contaminants.

4. coat with Interlux Perfection Varnish

  • Wet sand the timber with 150 grit wet-and-dry paper and remove sanding residue with a cloth dampened with Interlux solvent wash 202. Keep the cloth clean by changing it regularly.
  • If you wish you can mix up a small batch of Perfection Varnish and test it on a piece of glass as detailed in the 2-part polyurethane painting article. Adjust the amount of thinners to get it to flow.
  • Apply 3 coats of Perfection, allowing 12 hours between coats.
  • Sand with 220-320 grit wet-or-dry sandpaper between coats and remove sanding contaminants with a cloth soaked in Interlux solvent 202.
  • Rebed the fittings using polysulfide. Refit new timber plugs and sand smooth.
  • Give the plugs 3 coats of Perfection as before.

That’s it.

Well done. The perfect varnish job.