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Refinishing teak toe rails

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Joined: 16 Jun 2003
Posts: 1
Location: Austin, TX

PostPosted: Sun May 22, 2005 9:56 pm    Post subject: Refinishing teak toe rails Reply with quote

I have a 1989 Pearson 31-II (#224). The previous owner's didn't spend a lot of time on the teak and the toe rails (and handles) show it. It looks like sanding the toe rails on the deck would be a real pain, has anyone had any experience removing, refinishing and replacing the toe rails? Or is this something I should avoid?

It looks like there is a metal plate on the underside of the deck/hull joint that would allow access to the screws that hold the toe rail.

Any advice would be appreciated...

Pearson 31-II #224 Aphaia
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Joined: 26 Sep 2003
Posts: 16
Location: Lake Rathbun, Iowa

PostPosted: Wed May 25, 2005 11:49 am    Post subject: Toe rails Reply with quote

I think it would be better to refinish the teak in place. I plan on heating and scraping my flaking varnish whenever I get to it. To access the screws for the toe rail if you decide to remove, you would need to remove the 100 or so screws holding in the plastic underside of the rub rail. (I know it's around 100 because I have retrofitted large SS fender washers to the undercover screws since most of the plastic surrounding each screw is cracked). Removing the undercover should not be too difficult but tedious. The plastic is very brittle though, and I don't know if replacement is an option. The plastic undercover fits into the aluminum rubrail so it has a very specific size and shape. Somebody on the Pearson list at sailnet had some hurricane damage and tried to find a source to no avail, I believe he ended up modifying the rub rail assembly. Sorry I can't remember his name, you could try to search the sailnet Pearson email archives. I also recall somebody with a P31-2 replacing the teak toe rail with synthetic, but again, can't remember any details.
Trevor Richards
s/v 'Cecilia', P31-2 #231
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Joined: 18 Jun 2003
Posts: 31
Location: Westfield, NJ

PostPosted: Wed May 25, 2005 8:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I just refinished all my teak this winter/spring. My 1990 P31-II seems to never have had the teak finished. It was just weathered gray. I removed as much teak as I could to finish at home over the winter. This included hatch boards, boarding ladder steps, and the pieces around the v-berth and head hatches. Cleaning, sanding and finishing at home was easy. The rest of the teak, toe rails, grab rails, etc. that was left on the boat I did in the spring. The cleaning, sanding, prepping was tedious, but doable. I sanded with an electric random orbit palm sander, down to I think 120 grit as recommended for the Cetol finish. One suggestion is to put down two layers of masking tape all around before sanding. This prevented any inadvertant scratching of the deck. The basic procedure was to use a cleaner, then a brigtener, then tape, then sand with 80 then 120 grit, then three coats of Cetol. It took a while, but it looks great. For Cetol the recommendation is one annual maintance coat, which after all this sounds easy.

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Joined: 07 Jul 2003
Posts: 21

PostPosted: Mon May 30, 2005 3:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I took my toe rails off last year. (1987 hull 89) It really wasn't too bad. The trim underneath the rub rail unscrews readily and the rails are held on by large phillips head screws. Having the rails off allowed me to clean the deck where numerous seasons on varnish had accumulated. Reassembly went smoothly and I used big gobs of polysulfide caulk on the holes.

I've been using a Epifanes product called Rapidcoat. Goes on thinner than normal varnish but you can do two coats in a day. I did 10 coats on the rails and they came through last season beautifully. A quick scrub with 220 grit and a coupke of quick coats this spring did the trick.
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Joined: 27 May 2003
Posts: 32
Location: Edgewater, MD

PostPosted: Wed Jun 01, 2005 10:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I also have removed the toe rails and refinished them while off the boat. The refinishing was easy, but the reinstall I found to be a pain. The undersides of the toe rails on my boat are not flat except at the ends. For most of the length of the rails,except at the ends, material has been removed along the centerline such that a cross section of the bottom of the rail looks like a shallow, upsidedown "U". You will not be able to see this until the rails are removed. (There must be a technical term for this).
On my rails, the material removal profile was different for each rail: some had only about 1/4" of material removed, while others had as much as 5/8" removed. The result was that some of the screws, mounted from the bottom, had barely penetrated the rail and really didn't bite into it very well. I wanted to be able to tighten down the rails as to squeeze out the new sealant to be sure that there were no voids, etc., and could not do this with screws mounted from underneath. So I ended up counter boring and thru-bolting. This was actutally not a bad job, but probably not worth the time just for the sake of cleaning up the teak. These toe rails and hull to deck joint IMHO are one of the weak points in the pearson design.
Bill Lawler
'Capella', Pearson 31-II #128
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Joined: 27 Mar 2005
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PostPosted: Tue Jun 20, 2006 10:01 pm    Post subject: Teak Toe Rails - Part Deux Reply with quote

I thought I would chime in on the teak toe rail refinishing saga.

Count me among the group that removed the rails to refinish them. And knowing what I do now, I would do it again.

First, the removal......the easy part. At least for me because the previous owner refrained from using 5200 to rebed them. Lots of screws as mentioned in this string before so have a baggie ready to hold them all. There really are over 100 screws....40+ per side just for the toe rails and then you have another hundred to hold the under cap on. But a speedy drill with a phillips head on it made quick work of these. Had them off in under 2 hours.

The varnish removal was uneventful but tedious......heat gun approach with lots of scrapping. Be careful not to dig too deeply as the teak does get soft. After scraping I sanded with a 150 grit random orbit sander. I ended by cleaning with a two step (West Marine) teak cleaner.

Then the decision part....what do I refinish WITH. This seems to be a more emotional issue than I thought depending on who you ask. I did not want to do this again so I opted for a two step process. Step one was two coats of Clear Penetrating Epoxy Sealer (CPES). I did this to seal the teak and help prevent water penetration later on. Part two was 10 coats of Bristol finish. I did some light sanding after the 5th and 9th coat to even things out.

So far so good. They looked great but I still had to get them back on the boat. That's when the challenges started. I had filled in the screw holes with epoxy but that was not enough. I installed three of them and was not satisfied with the way the screws were holding (or NOT holding) so I tried a longer screw (bad idea) and split a rail. So I then went to plan B.....

After consulting my local marina shop, I drilled out each and every screw hole, plugged them all with a teak bung (and 5 min epoxy). After 1/2 hour I lightly applied a wood chisel to the top of each bung and evened out the surface and then drilled a pilot hole just slightly smaller than the large screws. BINGO it worked like a dream. The screws not only bit, but held tight as I secured them. Two additional recommendations......put on LOTS of sealant (I used 3M 4000 UV) and then leave the sealant set for 24 hours and THEN trim off with a plastic knife and second, tighten the screws by hand. You get a much better feel for way the screws are biting and you won't over torque and strip them.

As for the split rail, I expanded the crack with a screw driver and injected Gorilla glue in the middle and then clamped it for 24 hours. I need to sand and put a coat or two of top coat on and it will look like new.

It's really not that bad a job. A couple of side comments on previous replies to this string. The "curved out" section underneath the rails is functional. The wood can't be flush because the toe rails cover the deck/hull thru bolts so the hollow part is there to allow them to cover the machine screw heads.

I opted for Bristol Finish because of it's reputation for not requiring annual maintenance. I will let you all know if the product lives up to its billing.

Good luck!
Mike Rosencrance
Manitowoc, WI
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