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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
So, I'm jumping into the brightwork on my boat and I'm in the process of removing the old varnish with a heat gun. All is going well/quickly but the varnish that is on the caulking is a bit stubborn to remove.

The heat makes the caulk soft (of course) and the caulking, when scraped, tends to roll. The varnish doesn't come off too well.

Anyone have a trick or suggestion to remove that varnish?
 

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Once known as Hartley18
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The heat makes the caulk soft (of course) and the caulking, when scraped, tends to roll. The varnish doesn't come off too well.

Anyone have a trick or suggestion to remove that varnish?
Other than removing a 1/4" or so of caulking with a seam rake and re-doing it later.. no.

If they'd used something like pitch (a.k.a deck glue) to caulk the seams, it would have just melted and reformed, requiring perhaps only a little trimming later - but since it looks like they've used something more modern, methinks you're stuck.
 

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It's a PITA, but dental tools would probably do the job if you don't want to sand everything. The caulk is flexible, but the varnish is hard so it will break away from the caulk with a little prying. Got kids?
 

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..of course, given that the teak itself looks a bit weathered and will need sanding anyways, an alternative to doing it properly is to get a hold of the largest, meatiest belt sander you can find and take the top few thou right off, caulk and all.. Yee, hah! ;) :D
 

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That's pretty wide coaming. If you step on that, I would not want varnish on it. How are you treating after you're done? I've gone old school, let it weather and grey, other than a few accent pieces. If you go grey, just let the varnish flake off over time. Time = couple of years. :)

To your question, sanding is your best bet. Personally, I'm a random orbital guy. Belt sanders require experience and can get you in trouble fast. Rent an RO if you don't have one.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Thanks for the replies.

I'm thinking either R&R the caulk or scrape what I can off the existing and varnish over.

Sanding down to the caulk is not gonna happen. A belt sander would work, but WAY too much sanding would be required.

The teak isn't that bad, the grey scrubs off quickly so a cleaning/bleaching and minimal sanding with >180 is all I'm planning.

Yes, it is getting Varnish. Step on it afterwards? You are off the boat!:mad: :D
 

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I'm thinking a paint stripper used just on the caulk will soften the varnish and the surface of the caulk. Or lacquer thinner.
 

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Maybe hit the caulk with a toothbrush and see if the varnish let's go. Stainless steel wool perhaps?

In any event, varnish isn't going to seal well to caulking, which means any cracking between the caulk and plank will allow water in and that's the death of varnish. Most things I see varnished, do not have caulk joints. Even without them, varnish is hard enough to maintain. :)
 

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Scotchbrite is a good idea. Scrub the teak too.
 
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Once known as Hartley18
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In any event, varnish isn't going to seal well to caulking, which means any cracking between the caulk and plank will allow water in and that's the death of varnish. Most things I see varnished, do not have caulk joints. Even without them, varnish is hard enough to maintain. :)
To be honest, for the application in GMFL's photos, he'd be far better advised to use a soft-setting absorbent Teak Oil of some kind - not a hard varnish - for all the reasons you mention.

If varnished he'd have to do it all over again in a year or two anyways.. and an oil is far easier to maintain if caulking is involved.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
To be honest, for the application in GMFL's photos, he'd be far better advised to use a soft-setting absorbent Teak Oil of some kind - not a hard varnish - for all the reasons you mention.

If varnished he'd have to do it all over again in a year or two anyways.. and an oil is far easier to maintain if caulking is involved.

Sorry, I have to totally disagree with you here. This is even bordering on bad advise. While I know some people prefer the weathered teak look on all their teak (or just prefer not to maintain it). I'm not one of those. For the cockpit sole, the teak is just that and I don't plan to change it. If I had teak decks, the same would go. But this area is not used for any major foot traffic so varnish it is. Oil BTW, just attracts dirt and would need monthly cleanings and re-oiling and never looks that great IMO. Same goes with Cetol, might as well paint it if you go that route. Again, my opinion.

As for having to do this all over again in a year, well, not quite the case. Sure, if I re-varnish and don't maintain it, then that statement may be true. But properly covered and bi-annually light sanding and re-coating should give me many many years without having to re-strip the varnish.

Maybe I should have stated I'm a contractor and have experience with many a tool and actually enjoy these projects. I just haven't had to remove varnish from caulking before.

I do thank you for your opinion though.
 

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I have varnish on my coaming, but it doesn't cover separate media with different expansion rates along the same coating. It's not a good idea to use varnish over teak and caulk alike.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
I have varnish on my coaming, but it doesn't cover separate media with different expansion rates along the same coating. It's not a good idea to use varnish over teak and caulk alike.
I do understand that and I will take these suggestions under consideration. However, the existing varnish has been over the teak/caulk joint for many years and there was no failure that I could see. The reason I'm stripping the varnish is that it had not been maintained so i let it go until I had time to re-finish.

Again, I do appreciate these comments, but the purpose of my thread is to get suggestions on removing the varnish from the caulk. You and others have offered suggestions and I welcome them all. But... ITS GETTING VARNISH! :D
 

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I have varnish on my coaming, but it doesn't cover separate media with different expansion rates along the same coating. It's not a good idea to use varnish over teak and caulk alike.
FWIW, I agree totally.

If it were my boat, I'd be leaving it bare.. as it was most likely intended to be.. but to each their own. :)
 

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Once known as Hartley18
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I do understand that and I will take these suggestions under consideration. However, the existing varnish has been over the teak/caulk joint for many years and there was no failure that I could see. The reason I'm stripping the varnish is that it had not been maintained so i let it go until I had time to re-finish.

Again, I do appreciate these comments, but the purpose of my thread is to get suggestions on removing the varnish from the caulk. You and others have offered suggestions and I welcome them all. But... ITS GETTING VARNISH! :D
Message received, loud and clear.

...but if you really must varnish it, do yourself a favour and put the varnish down before re-doing the caulking. :cool:
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
Message received, loud and clear.

...but if you really must varnish it, do yourself a favour and put the varnish down before re-doing the caulking. :cool:
Curious, why would you suggest that? All common sense (and practice) would suggest otherwise.
 

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Curious, why would you suggest that? All common sense (and practice) would suggest otherwise.
It's fairly simple really: Firstly, if you varnish right over the whole thing, the varnish will crack along the edges of the caulking as the timber moves allowing moisture to get under it. Secondly, some varnishes (you haven't said what you're using: a tung oil base? Urethane??) aren't compatible with some caulking products, making them "melt" and stuffing the finish. Thirdly, since the caulking has a matt finish and most varnishes a high gloss.. it makes for a better finish. Fourthly, it's easier to clean up excess caulking from varnished timber than bare timber because it doesn't get into the grain. Fifthly.. no, that's enough for now.

All common sense (and practice) would suggest you leave the timber un-varnished...
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
It's fairly simple really: Firstly, if you varnish right over the whole thing, the varnish will crack along the edges of the caulking as the timber moves allowing moisture to get under it.

All common sense (and practice) would suggest you leave the timber un-varnished...
What would make you think the varnish would crack? Teak hardly moves, healthy varnish is flexible, so is caulk. The caulk would have to rely on the varnish to provide a secure joint. Teak caulk is formulated to adhere to teak, not varnish. I could go on....

You could make an argument that the varnish won't adhere to the caulk. However, if that was the case, I wouldn't have started this thread.

Common sense would suggest that my boat had no exterior wood. I'm passed that though.
 
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