Build update, Zenith's History

Finally varnishing the hull

It has been several months since the last update, but there’s been plenty of activity in the workshop. The bow and stern tanks have been painted, a centreboard made and considerable progress made on sorting the rudder, I’ll post about these when I’ve finished the rudder.

With Zenith turned over once more it was time to prepare the hull for varnish. This coincided with a win from the TradeToolsGiveAway website of a DeWalt Router and a pair of Bora Speed Horses – ideal for supporting Zenith.

Up until then I’d done very little to the exterior of the hull, apart from replacing some planking. Most of the varnish had come off over the past few years. Sanding the hull was not really an option, there’s 1000s of nail heads and sanding the hull would also mean the copper nails would get sanded down.

I ended up using paint stripper with fine wire wool as this removed all the remaining varnish as well as burnishing the hull. The wire wool was easy to manoeuvre around the nails. It did take several attempts to remove every remnant of varnish.

Once the entire hull had had paint stripper applied it needed the attention of a sharp scraper. Again, the nail heads could cause a problem so I found this small Bacho scraper the ideal tool to manoeuvre around the nail heads, though it did take about 25 hours to go over the whole hull.

Once the hull had been prepared it was time to start varnishing. I’m a huge fan of International Schooner varnish, it is a traditional Tung oil varnish, is not as temperature dependant as products such as Epifanes, has a lovely smell and is ease to touch up mid season if required.

I gave up counting the number of coats that went on, but the routine was to apply 3 coats then to flatten back by wet sanding with 240 and 400 grit wet and dry paper.

The process of applying three coats with a foam roller and tipping off with a Jenny brush seemed to go on for weeks, I think there are 24 coats, though this could be 21 or 27. All I do know is that I used 4 tins of varnish, but I’m happy with the results. Zenith will never have a mirror like finish and the planks are ridged, dented and carry the scars from nearly 100 years of activity.

With the hull varnishing completed all that remained was to fix a 3/8″ brass keel band as the original keel band had been removed before I took custodianship of Zenith. The keel band (fixed using numerous No.4 brass screws at 4″ intervals) starts at the stem and goes along the full length of the keel, a sail cloth centreboard gasket was fitted at the same time.

The varnish has been left to cure and harden off, so Zenith will soon be turned over again to complete the cockpit area before the redecking can commence.

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