SANDING TEAK The Basics
By Piet Van Alder(from the archives)
I often hear people referring to teak decks and coveringboards as a maintenance nightmare, and I couldn’t disagree more. It seems to me that they are either lazy, don’t know HOW to maintain it, or they don’t have any! On a sportfisher, teak is not only pleasing to the eye(if well kept), but it is functional. It gives better traction while zipping across your cockpit(hopefully with leader in hand and a big fish connected to that), and it also gets rid of those dirty footprints that haunt a pure white deck all day long. But what is the best way to maintain it or bring back dirty or severely weathered teak?
Bottom line, there will come a time when certain decks and coveringboards need to be sanded. The black thiokol between the boards gets much higher than the wood, and it’s difficult to clean between it. Thiokol is like an intense caulk, rubbery but hard to cut, and until you bring it down to the same level as the teak you’re trying to sand, not much will happen with your wood. If that’s your case, don’t waste your time with a palm sander or anything like that. Most guys who know how to sand it properly use an 8 or 10 inch grinder with a 36 grit pad for starters if it’s bad. You can use the same polishing wheel/grinder you use for compounding, but you’ll need a spin-on pad that you stick the sandpaper discs to. Also helpful is a special housing that not only attaches to a shop vac to keep the dust down, but it helps you keep your machine flat on the deck to avoid gouging. It’s not essential to have the housing, but it will make the job easier.You can buy all these products at Glue Products in West Palm Beach or a place like that in your town that sells resin and sandpaper and stuff like that. Probably not at the Home Depot.
Before you get started, you’ll have to tape off any spots that might get hit by your machine. Sandpaper and chrome don’t mix well, so use the blue stuff and tape off your fighting chair stanchion, your hatch handles, and any hinges or other metal items on your deck that might get grazed by your wheel. On your coveringboards, go ahead and remove the rodholders completely and tape off or remove any hause pipes that are in the way. Dont forget to tape off any tower legs that come down on your coveringboard. Once you’re ready, go ahead and slap on a respirator or paper filter mask, as things are about to get very messy.
When you know what grit you’re going to start with, depending on how bad the deck is, move your machine FORE AND AFT, WITH THE THIOKOL, not across it. This will help eliminate bouncing and result in a better, smoother job. You’ll have to test an area and decide on the right rpm’s for the job. Too slow, and it’ll be hard to cut, and too fast and you’ll actuallly burn/melt the thiokol and clog your disc. As I said before, be careful around the chrome. You can hit these areas later by hand or with a die grinder. When doing your coveringboards, again go FORE AND AFT, WITH THE GRAIN to avoid bouncing.
Alright, so now you have it ripped down, all nice and brown like a brand new deck. If you started with 36 or 40 grit, you can probably follow with 80 and be done. If you want, you can follow that with 120. You’ll have less scratches, but the deck will be more slippery. It’s a trade-off. Smoother will last longer, closing the grain, but you’ll sacrifice some traction. Maybe 80 and 120 on the coveringboards, and only as far as 80 on the deck. You decide.
In closing, remember that sanding the teak is eventually necessary, but not a piece of cake. Done properly, it will look awesome. There are a few guys out there who specialize in it, so ask around or if you tackle it yourself, be careful. May the force be with you