Sonrisa shines

Loving the natural glow of the teak.
The tough part is finding a comfortable position to work from.
A reminder of where we started from.


So I think I’ve got my process down for refinishing the exterior teak. Timing is imporant as I’ve found that the Semco does need at least one good day for drying after applying to avoid any water spots or blemishes. Still not a bad window.

1. Stripping the old finish.

This is arguably the hardest part and the reason why I’m really hoping the Semco route works out as I’d never have to do this part of the process again. I found that using a paint stripping heat gun on low and a variety of thin blade scrapers worked well without creating a toxic mess of chemicals. I found that if I directed mostly toward the blade as I was working, I had pretty good control of how much I was heating the wood surface. Since Sonrisa has an AwlGripped hull and topsides, it was important to not heat up the surrounding surfaces. Fortunately the old Cetol started to peel at fairly modest temperatures, confirming my suspicion that it just didn’t fare well in the Mexican heat.

It was also very useful to have a small shopvac handy and some canvas drop cloths around to catch the Cetol shavings. I used an inexpensive plastic-backed cloth drop cloth which worked great as the shavings tended to be attracted to and stick to the cloth side.

2. Teak Cleaner

Since the teak on Sonrisa was somewhat weathered in many places, I wanted to be careful not to stress the wood grain any more than necessary. I chose a one-part teak cleaner, diluted in water and applied with a green scrub pad. It did a nice job of brightening most of the teak, but there were a few areas that some gray remained in some of the deeper grooves.

3. Very light sanding.

I did want to knock down some of the raised grain a bit, so I used a Dewalt finishing sander in two light passes over the teak. First with a 120 grit and then again with a 220 grit. Again the small shopvac was indispensible as the hose plugged directly into the exhaust outlet on my sander and really did a great job of containing the dust. One of the challenges of sanding teak is that the oily dust quickly plugs the grain of the wood as well as the sandpaper. The atttached shopvac really helped pull the dust out of the wood as I was sanding.

4. Wipe down

Even with the shopvac, some dust remained in the grain of the wood after sanding. I think I was able to get the rest of it out with a wipe-down using an Acetone-soaked cloth.

5. Tape surrounding areas.

Eventhough the Semco is pretty forgiving it was worth the effort to tape off the surrounding areas so I could get a good coat into the nooks and crannies of the teak.

6. Three coats of Semco

I found that the most effective way to apply the Semco is with a small cloth and protective gloves. For larger sections I’d wad the cloth up into a pad and wipe on generous amounts of Semco. For corners and tight spots, I’d take the cloth and wrap it around my index finger and finger-paint the Semco in to the tight places. This made the work go much more quickly than using brushes with much better control of the very watery Semco and fewer runs and drips.

7. Followup coats

On some areas I’ve found it useful to followup with another light coat a few weeks later. I’m not sure if this is due to the teak slowly soaking up more of the sealer or if there was still some dust working its way out of the teak.

Time will tell how well this holds up. So far the bow sprint that was done almost 6 months ago looks great, although I did do a light refresh coat (literally takes 10 minutes) about 3 months ago just for the heck of it.

My hope is that although I will likely need to refresh the coating every 4-6 months, it will be a quick process (maybe a day) that I’ll be inclined to keep up on. I’m trading less frequent but much more labor intensive renewals and a high-gloss finish for more frequent, easier updated renewals and a matte finish. The goal is that I’ll be able to more easily maintain a good finish all of the time rather than having a great finish for a year or so and then it looking like hell until I can work up the ambition to break out the stripping tools again.

Still, even with a matte finish, to my eye nothing is quite as magical as the glow of teak on a white hull.