Teak Handrail Plugs

windblown

Member II
The PO did a rather hasty Bristol application on the teak handrail, probably to prep for sale. The coating peeled and separated from the wood in our first season. We are removing the rails to refinish over the winter, and then we will re-bed them. (We’ll possibly use Cetol since that has worked welll for us on the stern rail—there is much here and on Practical Sailor about what products to use, etc., but that is not the advice I’m seeking.) The question I have is related to the teak plugs that go in after the SS screws have anchored the rails back in place. If we apply the varnish at home, What’s the best way to set the new plugs and treat them to match? Or should we remove the old finish at home, but save the new finish application for after the rails and plugs are reinstalled? Thanks for any guidance.
 

Christian Williams

E381 - Los Angeles
Moderator
Blogs Author
The plugs are for sale at West Marine, or you can make them yourself with a plug cutter and scrap teak.

I'd refinish the rails at home to 80 percent satisfaction. The plugs are just set in with a bit of varnish, and the grain lined up (no glue; they should come out easily down the road). The excess plug is then nicked off with a sharp chisel. That's the part worth practicing, and with the grain. You can also use a razor blade. The idea is to nip the plug level, without needing a lot of sanding into the surrounding wood. But avoid haste, because if the plug breaks below the surface it is necessary to start over with a new plug.

A few final coats of varnish while in place seals everything

Varnish or something else? Up to you. It's one of those boat issues that draws more heat than light.
 

Loren Beach

O34 - Portland, OR
Senior Moderator
Blogs Author
What Christian said... altho I have a proven clumsy reputation with a chisel. For the last decade I have changed to a small "Japanese" pull saw with a fine tooth side. I then put a layer of blue tape on the saw adjacent to the row of teeth. I tape each side of the plug. Idea is to avoid nicking the surface veneer. Of course you can damage the adjacent surface with a chisel, too. Ask me how I know this. :(
Anyhow, just take it easy, and proceed. Sand it to finish up with a hard rubber block, down to about 120 or so.
Us amateurs can be rather slow, but our satisfaction in a small detail like a near-invisible plug in a perfect teak piece is wonderful and fulfilling.
 

Christian Williams

E381 - Los Angeles
Moderator
Blogs Author
Yes! Japanese saws changed my life from ignorance to enlightenment. Wow, do they cut fast and true--not at all like the saw from grandpappy's garage never sharpened in 40 years from which every kid learns that sawing wood by hand is for for losers.

Here is more on the topic: https://www.woodcraft.com/blog_entries/choosing-using-japanese-saws


I have a cheap version looks more or less like this. Have to replace it every few years because I ruin the tiny teeth.

31ShfhVYW0L._AC_ (1).jpg
 

Kevin A Wright

Member III
And in case you mess up and have to remove a plug, take a wood screw and grind the head off so it can be chucked up in a drill. Drill a pilot hole through the plug till you hit the screw head underneath. Then use the screw in the drill to pull the plug out. It goes down through the wood plug but once it hits the screw head underneath, it starts pulling the plug right out of the hole. Sometimes I get brave and don't use the pilot hole, but that can lead to splitting if you aren't careful.

Kevin Wright
E35 Hydro Therapy
 

windblown

Member II
Thank you, Kevin. Haven’t used the grinder in years, but we do have one on the basement workbench. . .
 

gabriel

Member III
The PO did a rather hasty Bristol application on the teak handrail, probably to prep for sale. The coating peeled and separated from the wood in our first season. We are removing the rails to refinish over the winter, and then we will re-bed them. (We’ll possibly use Cetol since that has worked welll for us on the stern rail—there is much here and on Practical Sailor about what products to use, etc., but that is not the advice I’m seeking.) The question I have is related to the teak plugs that go in after the SS screws have anchored the rails back in place. If we apply the varnish at home, What’s the best way to set the new plugs and treat them to match? Or should we remove the old finish at home, but save the new finish application for after the rails and plugs are reinstalled? Thanks for any guidance.
When i did my rails a year ago I removed and completely varnished them off the boat. After reinstalling the rails I banged in the plugs, sanded them even with the rail and re-varnished over that spot.

If i could do it all over I wouldn't have used any varnish at all as i now find natural teak more appealing.
 
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