May 12, 2017

DIY Teak panels

N 14° 27.952', W 60° 52.225'

If you have read our previous blog you have realized that we had to find someone to finish the teak work in our cockpit. Unfortunately we didn't find anyone here in Martinique to finish the job, so I had to do it myself.

Fabricating a teak panel begins with making an epoxy fiberglass base. I did it with two coats of very thin fiberglass mat. I put protective plastic under the epoxy stuff, epoxy won't stick to it.

Next step was to make measurements for the panel. I preferred to make cross measurements. Cross measurements give you error management. If measurements don't match you have made an error. Drawing half angles at this stage makes life much easier later.

When you start to arrange your jigsaw puzzle, you should start with the frame.  First you screw in the stoppers for the frame. Then you make the frame. After this it's easy to fabricate the pieces you need for the rest of the puzzle.

The real boat carpenters use this kind of models. I was told that they handle the 3D dimension of deck. Cross measurements do that too...

The real work is making the teak strips. I suggest starting with the longest. If you make a mistake you can still reuse the piece.

Carpenters have big and fancy tools in their workshops. I used these improvised tools. Jigsaw was used to cut the teak strips to correct lenghts. Belt sander was rigged sideways on plywood with cable ties. I also placed two guides to easily sand the right angles. (Note! Rigging your belt sander sideways on a piece of plywood might void the warranty.)

I decided that the seams would be 3 mm wide and bought some 3 mm plastic batten. When the jigsaw puzzle is ready, you rip it all apart. Degrease the base and teak with lots of acetone (use good mask and gloves). Then carefully spread the epoxy resin to both teak and base. Make sure that the epoxy doesn't cure too fast, use the slowest possible converter for it.

I used pieces of plywood and screws to press the teak strips to the epoxy base. Screws must be very thin so they don't scratch the teak. Gluing is a messy job. Try not to get too much epoxy onto plywood pieces. 

Next step is caulking. Try to put that stuff deep in the seams. It's not very easy but you can also repair it later. Over caulking the new panels is preferred. If you are fixing old teak then use masking tape.

After 48 hours the panels are ready to get rid of the extra caulking. I have to say that this phase needs good nerves. It takes time. Do it lightly. After a while you get a nice peace of teak. If you rush it and use too much force you will ruin all your hard work. Doing things yourself you save money, which you can then use to buy more quality tools.

After the teak panels are sanded and perfected, they must be glued in. We had rehearsals for all the pieces before the gluing. Make marks in the masking tapes, to get the panel back to it's right place. 

We thought that the bending of one the of teak panels to a locker cover would be the most difficult one for gluing. We were wrong.

Deck panels were much more difficult. Especially those angled side areas.

I made a special support for the angled panels.

But it was not only the angles areas that were difficult. Everything that you have to glue in with weights and not with clamps are challenging.  If the surface is not absolutely horizontal the panel gets very slippery for at least an hour. If there is a possibility for the teak panel to slide somewhere, it will.

You need to mask the deck and the teak panel. This is important for handling the excess glue and also to mark the right place for the panel. When the panel is put in it's place the glue starts flowing. It's very difficult to see the edges of the masking tape because of the overflowing glue. Using a cocktail pick you can feel the edge of the the tape, but it's not very easy. Be very patient.

This very same cocktail pick can also later be used to determine the readiness of the glue. The time for removing the masking tape is very tricky. If it stays for too long, the excess glue will be very hard and also very hard to remove. If you try to remove the tape too fast, the glue is very stretchy and can make a big mess. For us in the Caribbean climate it was after about 3 hours that we could remove the extra glue. Then it was easily cut with a knife, but it was not stretchy anymore.

Materials used: Epoxy resin, acetone and fiber glass mat can be found in any marine chandlery. Glue and caulking were products of Teak Decking Systems, these might have to be ordered in.

This project is not the easiest DIY project, but it's still far from the most difficult ones.