Monday, March 31, 2014

Sole Strippin'

We did it! We got the cabin sole stripped yesterday. It wasn't pretty at first but we got the hang of things and through sore backs and shaky muscles we managed to get it all stripped in about 5 hours. We were originally planning to use a heat gun to strip the sole however, after reading more info on the process and finding that heat gunning areas with little to no finish left on it can be a major pain, we opted for the chemical stripping route.

It started out rough. Real rough. Real annoying. And more than once I caught Ron having a major tough talk with the stripper/scraper/sole/boat/you name it. But, as is usual with most boat projects, you get the hang of it after a bit and the quality and quantity of progress gets better and better.

Bare spots and minimum finish on most of the floor

Edges taped and floor hatches removed. We opted to remove the metal frames from the
hatches to make refinishing them easier.  Good thing too, LOTS of dirt and grime wedged underneath.
Lessons Learned:
This project taught us a lot about stripping wood, mainly to disregard the directions on the can and find what works for you.

What we used.
NOTE: The following 'lessons' are based on our personal experience and
DIRECTLY oppose instructions provided by the manufacturer.
Follow our 'lessons' at your own risk.
 1. Use metal scrapers- The directions specifically said to use plastic scrapers for the project. So we did. For the first couple of hours. And we got NOWHERE. We were having to reapply stripper 3 to 4 times to make any progress. Talk about a real downer. For a while we thought maybe we'd underestimated the time commitment this project needed and that maybe our day or two estimation was a bit....stupid. I was on my hands and knees putting every ounce of muscle and weight behind that stupid plastic scraper and still was barely managing to get any finish up. Holy hell.

Then, in a desperate attempt to start making progress, Ron made a trip to Home Depot and came back with a super stiff plastic scraper and two metal scrapers. I got the new plastic scraper, definitely an improvement, but still very.slow.going. Ron on the other hand was tearing it up with the metal scrapers. Soon I grabbed the small 1 1/2" scraper and was amazed at the difference. Not only was it easier to actually get the finish up but I could also tell by feel where there was still finish and where it was down to bare wood. So.much.better.

It probably only took us about 2 hours to get the entire floor stripped once we were working with metal. If you choose to work with metal scrapers, I would HIGHLY suggest you use brand new scrapers instead of used ones to avoid putting more scratches in the wood from using a bent scraper.

2. Don't wait 15 minutes- Again, the instructions say to let the stripper sit for 15 minutes before scraping. Uh-uh. Don't do this. When we waited for anything over 10 minutes the paste would dry out and be a total waste. We found that it worked best to put the stripper on a small area that takes 1-2 minutes to cover. Once covered we started scraping the first area covered and were able to easily remove the finish...all of it.

Get that finish rolling!
3. Don't mess with poor ventilation- We had the hatch above the v-berth open with a nice breeze blowing through, which worked perfectly but at one point we had to close the door to the cabin for a couple minutes to get behind it and we could definitely tell. A bit creepy considering you've had your face close to the stuff for going on 3 hours.

4. Where the gloves- One part of the directions we did follow was wearing protective gloves. While doing some taping my hand brushed across one of the floor hatches that had stripper on it and within a couple minutes I could feel some fairly intense burning where my skin touched the stripper. I wouldn't even think this job could get done if you weren't wearing gloves. Yow.

5. Get in the groove- Once you get used to the feeling of how to get the finish off you can really get into a groove and make progress pretty quickly. I'd estimate that if we'd found our groove from the start we could have finished the project in about 3 hours instead of 5.

The bare spots were hit once with metal scrapers, the parts that still have finish were done 2-3 times with plastic scrapers

Again, bare areas from metal scraper and finished areas after using plastic scrapers
 We were so dead tired at the end of the day that we didn't even get an 'after' picture taken. Heck, we could barely manage to rub some mineral spirits over the floor and climb (shakily) back down the ladder. I'll be sure to get some next time.

I told Ron that I don't care if it takes us putting multiple coats of polyurethane on every year, we're NOT doing that again. But that might be my sore muscles and tested mentality talking.

Glad to have this part done!


  1. I grabbed the teak/holly floor board from our aft cabin this weekend. I'm hoping to find some time in the next couple of weeks to refinish it. I was planning to use a chemical stripper and some fine grit sandpaper.

    Did you end up sanding at all? Our floorboards are pretty thin I know I don't want to sand too much, but think they'll benefit from a light sanding too.

  2. We didn't sand anywhere, once we figured out how to use the stripper we really didn't have to. The only place I know we'll have to sand is on one of the hatches that has some dried glue/adhesive on it.

    After actually looking at how thin that veneer is, I now see what all the fuss about careful/minimal sanding is all about. There sure isn't much there!

    Good luck with your project, looking forward to hearing about your experience!

  3. Nice first project of the season to tackle. Can't wait to see the finished product.

    Good luck and fair winds,


  4. Looking good!

    As an FYI, when you strip again, try using a metal pot scrubber. It will take out any need for elbow grease.

    Mark and Cindy
    s/v Cream Puff

    1. I reeeeeaaallly hope there isn't a 'next time' (ha), but if there is I'll keep that in mind.