Restoring a laminated teak deck with epoxy/graphite seams

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There are fewer things more beautiful than a teak deck with sharp black seams. Every classic boat has them – like Mark Raynes’ MANCHESTER AND SALFORD lifeboat. Here, he talks us through the restoration of his stern deck, step by step.

Traditionally, a teak deck was made from one- to two-inch thick planks and the seams in between from some sort of pitch, like bitumen. But that’s expensive and the bitumen isn’t UV resistant, so it’ll crack and allow water in.

You’ll have something that is ultra-robust, completely watertight and, I believe, even more beautiful.

Nowadays, the sensible option is to use two half inch layers of marine ply, epoxy bonded with 6mm teak on top. Finish it off in the seams with epoxy thickened with WEST SYSTEM® 406 Colloidal Silica and WEST SYSTEM 423 Graphite Powder and you’ll have something that is ultra-robust, completely water-tight and, I believe, even more beautiful than it would have been using any traditional method.

Step 1 – prepare and lay the marine ply              

Once the skeleton of the deck is ready, prepare the marine ply.

On the MANCHESTER AND SALFORD, we used two 6mm layers, each encapsulated in epoxy so no water can get in. We then used WEST SYSTEM 105 Epoxy Resin® and 205 Fast Hardener® mixed with colloidal silica to bond the two layers of ply together. Then, we nailed the ply on with copper nails and roves and permanently fixed it around the edges with silicon bronze screws.

Step 2 – prepare and lay the teak deck

Lightly sand the ply with 60 grit sand paper, clean away sanding dust to prepare and apply 105/205/406 epoxy colloidal silica blend with a serrated trowel. When laying the planks, make sure you start in the centre and work your way out either side; you don’t want to end up with half a plank at one end if you can avoid it.

For the MANCHESTER AND SALFORD, we used a series of Perspex scraps as bridging bars, allowing us to put temporary screws between the planks to hold them down firmly against the epoxy. When set, we removed them and filled the screw holes with epoxy, using a syringe, for a watertight finish.

Step 3 – prepare and apply the graphite seams

Lightly sand away any high edges between planks. Then mix graphite powder into your epoxy colloidal silica blend. We found about 7-10% of graphite was what we needed, with a consistency similar to peanut butter.

Scrape it in with flat WEST SYSTEM® 808 Squeegees until it’s slightly proud, pressing in as much as you can to avoid any air pockets. Leave it overnight to go off and then sand the next day until you have razor sharp edges where the black meets the wood.

Step 4 – seal the deck

Because the stern deck on the MANCHESTER AND SALFORD isn’t intended to be walked on, we don’t need it to be non-slip.

We chose to give it real longevity by finishing with one coat of WEST SYSTEM epoxy.

We chose to give it real longevity by finishing with one coat of WEST SYSTEM epoxy and a very fine woven mat mesh, which we then sheathed in epoxy and finished with two-pack polyurethane varnish. This gives a completely transparent gloss finish, mechanical and UV protection and a much superior seal.

But for a deck you intend to walk on, you’d simply oil the timbers.

Mark’s top tips

  1. Take time to arrange the layout of the planks
    You can tack them with small brass panel pins first, to temporarily hold them in situ as you plan.
  2. Keep gaps between planks consistent
    We created little 6mm spacers out of Perspex to go between the planks, for a really precise finish.
  3. Measure your graphite and epoxy carefully
    You need to ensure the colour matches perfectly between batches so use identical cup measures or, better still, digital scales.
  4. Use masking tape when applying the seams
    It gives you a levelling bar for your scraper, so that when you run it across you have an extra half millimetre of height on the epoxy. You can sand this off later for a sharper edge against the wood.

Click here to learn Mark’s method for replacing double diagonal hull planks.

To see more of the MANCHESTER AND SALFORD, visit Mark’s website.

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