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PaddleWise Discussion on Wooden Frame Renovation

The following discussion occurred on the PaddleWise mailing list. All original comments are presented in their entirety. Some quoting of previous posts copied into subsequent replies are excluded from those replies to improve readability and reduce redundancy. Full archives may be retrieved by PaddleWise members from the PaddleWise digest by sending a message to with the word "index" included in the body of the message. These posts may not be reproduced or redistributed without the author's permission.

From: Ferdinand Soethe
Subject: Using oil and wax on wooden frame?
Date: Sun, 19 Sep 1999 11:18:40 +0000

I just bought my first folding kayak (a Nautiraid double with a
wooden frame) and did a nice trip around the Italien island of
Elba with it (report coming as soon as I get to finish it).

Now the paint has been scraped off the frame where the pieces are
connected and I need to renew the protectice coating.

I'm wondering, if I couldn't just apply wood oil and wax rather
then normal paint, the advantage being that oil will pentrate the
wood and protect even when the surface gets scratched.

The same question applies to a small dent in my wooden paddle.

Has anybody tried that or knows why you should or shouldn't do it?


Date: Mon, 20 Sep 1999 12:13:24 -0400 From: Mel Lammers Subject: Re: [Paddlewise] Using oil and wax on wooden frame? Ferdinand, You will, I am sure get lots of opinions about this. Mine is: 1. The best protective is Marine Urethane Varnish. The brand is not as important as it being Marine grade. 2. The varnish should be thinned using the instructions on the can for the first coat and then a second coat full strength. For even more protection, try a third coat. The frame pieces at the attach points will not use much and you might as well really protect the wood well. What else would you do with the remaining varnish? :-) 3. The thinned coat will penetrate better than the oil finish you suggest. 4. You can use the oil and wax method but the life of this method is pretty limited, even worse in a salt water environment. 5. The urethane is really a plastic and in sufficient thickness, is the best protectant for wood in a marine environment if you get the marine version. 6. Welcome to the world of foldable kayaks. I have a K-Light with aspirations toward adding a K-1, both by Feathercraft. Paddle on dude! =^..^= --Mel-- Mel Lammers
Date: Mon, 20 Sep 1999 13:07:51 -0700 From: [Ralph Diaz] Subject: Re: [Paddlewise] Using oil and wax on wooden frame? Mel Lammers gives sound advice on the varnish approach to these spots. But if the spots that have rubbed off are not too large, you can do the oil routine you mention. If you go the varnish route, be real careful with the Nautiraid to do only a thin recoating. If the worn spots are just where the long wooden square rods meet the open notches in the wooden crossframes, a slightly overly done varnishing should be no problem. But if you are revarnishing where the long wooden square rods are joined inside hinges or where wooden square rod ends join at the middle of the boat in a a brass fitting, then you need to keep the varnish coating quite thin. Otherwise the wood will not be able to enter the fitting or will get stuck inside. Generally, I wouldn't worry about the varnishing or the oiling. Nothing really happens to the wood unless you leave bilge water in the boat all the time. And anyway, the Nautiraids leak the least of all the folding kayaks. ralph diaz

Date: Sat, 23 Sep 2000 23:31:40 -0700 (PDT) From: Pawel Palkiewicz Subject: [Paddlewise] wooden frame renovation Greetings, I have Nautiraid kayak whose frame will need a new varnish job done before next season. I am planning to strip old varnish off, and put epoxy instead. Can anyone tell me if this is a good idea? If not, what can I use to restore the frame of my kayak? Pawel Palkiewicz
Date: Sun, 24 Sep 2000 14:27:11 -0400 From: John Waddington Subject: Re: [Paddlewise] wooden frame renovation The epoxy will waterproof the wood, but you should still put varnish on the epoxy as UV protection (for the epoxy). John
From: "Paul Raymond" Subject: Re: [Paddlewise] wooden frame renovation Date: Sun, 24 Sep 2000 15:46:09 EDT Hi Pawel, I'm half way through varnishing my first boat, a folding kayak built from plans, so now's a good time to describe what I'm doing to see if I'm doing it right. There are three types of wood I used, ash for stringers and gunwales, okoume for ribs, and rotary cut mahogany for bottom (really poor way of saving money in the long run). Here are my thoughts: 1. Epoxy does not have UV protection. Anywhere you use it you should use varnish over it for protection. 2. The open ends on the mahogany I first sealed with Interlux Interprime Wood Sealer. Two coats on edges, one on faces. Not necessary on your Nautiraid though. Sand between coats and after with 220 grit paper. 3. Then coated mahogany bottom, and okoume ribs with West Systems epoxy, 105 resin and 205 hardener. Doesn't soak in as much as varnish, like I thought. This was my first time using it, had some small bubbles, found that by tipping off with a foam brushes helped. As an aside I found poly brush's at a craft store (same as West Marine)1 inch brushes four for 89 cents, 2 inch brushes 3 for 89 cents. Sand between coats with 220 grit. I did about 2 coats. Rotary cut mahogany is terrible, all nooks and crannies. Glad I used sealer first on it. Didn't bother sealing okoume. 4. Then began coating mahogany, okoume, and ash with Interlux Clipper Clear Varnish 95. This is a one part polyurethane varnish. I'm thinking maybe I should have used regular spar varnish. The 95 is very glossy and more desrving of a fine job than what I want to put into it. Someone else mentioned somewhere that even though it is wear resistant, that means that sand and rocks scratch it, and it takes that much longer to refinish and sand in between coats. It looks real nice though. My ten year old daughter was looking at the pieces I did and exclaimed "that can't be the one your doing it looks to good". I did not (Except for one test piece) epoxy ash stringers or gunwales. I was afraid that epoxy was not as flexible as polyurethane varnish. The sealer can said to make sure that plywood ends were completly sealed because a thick coating of epoxy can crack. Instead of using say 2 coats of epoxy and 2 coats of varnish I thought I would be better off with 2 -3 coats of varnish here. I was also afraid that the epoxy thickness would really affect the way the wood fits into the aluminum channel I'm using. I don't know if this is correct or not. Any opinions anyone? 5. I haven't finished details (brass pieces, wood reinforcemnt) on all my cross frames, because like I suspected the thickness of the varnish now makes the one cross frame I completely finished a really tight fit, so I'll resand where it wedges between the bottom and be careful on the other pieces. 6. I only have a maximum of two coats of varnish on at this point. I suppose I should get a finer grit of sand paper, say 320 before the last coat. I'm planning to do up to four coats on the plywood. Good luck, Paul
From: "Peter A. Chopelas" Subject: RE: [Paddlewise] wooden Frame renovation Date: Mon, 25 Sep 2000 18:52:14 -0700 Hi Pavel Palkenicz, and other listers: I'm new to this list, been lurking for a while, thought I'd put my two cents in to give you something to think about. I would not use the epoxy to finish the frame, it is thought but brittle and not very durable as a finish on a wood substrate. It would likely yellow and crack sooner than a more flexible finish. I would not even use the polyurethane finishes, though durable they too will crack eventually. A good grade of marine varnish, with a linseed oil base, would be much longer lasting. And it can be chemically stripped without damaging the wood when it comes time to remove it (not possible with the epoxy, it would have to be mechanically removed, and the first layer of wood with it). Even an oil based varnish would be more durable than the epoxy in this application, the advantage with the marine varnish (often sold as "spar varnish") is that it has UV inhibitors. Not really as much an issue with a kayak since it normally is stored indoors and the exposure to the sun is only during actual use. I think there is a misunderstanding about natural oil finishes, there is a notion that the synthetic finishes (epoxy, polyurethane, etc.) are more durable and this is not necessarily the case. The poly- finishes are harder, good for floors and table tops, but they will yellow, shrink and crack with age, and they are impossible to remove without damaging the underlying material. Natural oil finishes will last longer (except in high wear areas, like on floors) and will eventually yellow and become chemically unstable. That is they get all gummy and soft, though that makes it that much easier to chemically strip with risking damaging the wood. For floors, and table tops, and other areas of high wear, polyurethane are great. But for antique furniture, art work, all of my wood kayak frames (I build skin on frame kayaks), I use linseed oil based finishes. My favorite finish in Minwax "Antique Oil Finish" it yields a much nicer luster to the wood than you can ever get with a poly finish and economically priced. For the kayak frames, paddles and coaming I use Man-o-War Spar Varnish, though there are others I'm sure that will work fine. Hope this helps. Peter
From: [Ralph C. Hoehn] Date: Tue, 26 Sep 2000 06:39:06 EDT Subject: Re: [Paddlewise] wooden frame renovation Hi, Pawel! Here's a couple of pennies worth of my experience in keeping a folding boat frame alive for about 30 years: 1 - I abuse the boat. 2 - I store it outside for prolonged periods of time assembled (i.e., the boat experiences the full range of heat/cold and dry/wet cycles regularly). 3 - Folding boat frames are subject to a certain amount of chafing, both in regular on-water use and certainly during assembly and disassembly AND transport in its bag(s). 4 - Chafing wears down the best of finishes with time and too often in places where you do not notice. 5 - Epoxy does NOT penetrate wood very well. It creates a strong, durable (non-UV resistant) envelope only. 6 - Epoxy is great at keeping water out, but it is just as good at keeping water in. 7 - At any point where the envelope is not perfect, water will enter the wood and migrate via capillary action along the grain. 8 - Water tends to leave the wood by that same route much more slowly than it entered, i.e., the epoxy wood dries significantly more slowly than it got wet in the first place. 9 - Water in the wood heated (by the sun for example) under such an effective barrier layer as epoxy, will exert considerable pressure and lift the latter off the wood. Eventually the barrier will give way ... not usually obvious to the naked eye unfortunately. See point -7- above. 10 - And all this has led me to stick with boiled linseed oil as a base and old fashioned spar varnish as a finish. The latter I use every few years (sometimes as many as ten between), the former at least once a season on suspect areas. The finish on my frame is not factory fresh, but its integrity is unimpaired. You may also want to check out very practical publications like Wooden Boat and Boatbuilder magazine. I have extensive experience with an epoxy coated tortured plywood kayak where the water migration problem is greatly reduced because of the structure of plywood. However, even in that application immense care must be taken to seal the "end-grain". Good luck! Best regards, Ralph C. Hoehn
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