Ask Sail: Line up your Drawers

The drawers have never been painted before and are made of plywood. What kind of paint should we use?
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Mack Mcdonnell of New orleans, Louisiana, asks:

We’ve been doing tons of work lately on our Westsail 32. I just finished painting the cabinets with Interlux Bilgekote paint and need advice on whether to paint the wooden drawers, as they still kind of smell like the boat did years ago when it was badly neglected. You know the odor—diesel fuel, oil and old head hoses. The drawers have never been painted before and are made of plywood. What kind of paint should we use?

Don Casey replies:

The interiors of drawers are normally treated with a clear seal-coat rather than paint. The best choice, particularly if you think oily vapors have penetrated the wood, is an oil-based polyurethane varnish. Sand the plywood with 220-grit paper and give the drawers at least three coats of varnish. This will protect the wood, and it should reduce or eliminate the smell.

Painting, however, is also an option, and one that I prefer because it brightens the drawer’s interior. You can use Bilgekote, but the only color options are gray and white. I like drawer and locker interiors to surprise with a burst of yellow or mint green or some other bright color, so I prefer to use house trim paint. I have been well served by Benjamin Moore Satin Impervo Alkyd Low Lustre Enamel, which has a higher solids content than Bilgekote (also an alkyd enamel) and is available in many different colors. Any premium alkyd enamel should do the job. For drawers you might want something glossier. Whatever paint you use, if the wood is raw you should apply a primer coat first. Use 120-grit paper to prep for paint.

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