Ask Sail: Bringing Back Old Woodwork

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BRINGING BACK OLD WOODWORK

Q: I’m looking to purchase a 1985 Sabre 38 Mk1 sailboat. It has the traditional dark teak/mahogany cabin woodwork. My question is, can the woodwork be effectively lightened to something like that of a white oak or similar appearance?

Edwin M. Bellamy, St. Clair Shores, MI

DON CASEY REPLIES

The short answer is, no. Thirty-year-old teak and mahogany will almost certainly have darkened, so you can strip and bleach these woods back to a lighter color, but nowhere near the color of white oak. A master woodworker might be able to fool the eye with a dye (equalizer) application, but not for an entire interior, and not without consequences for the appearance of the grain.

You really have only two good choices: you can strip, bleach and re-varnish with the clearest finish you can find to hopefully end up with lighter versions of teak and mahogany; or you can go for the classic Herreshoff look by painting the flat panels white, accented with the rich colors of the existing wood trim. The latter is not as scandalous as it might sound. In fact, it is the best way to achieve a bright interior, and many find it more attractive than the English library look of all dark wood. If it was good enough for Herreshoff…

Got a question for our experts? Send it to sailmail@sailmagazine.com

August 2017

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