Fillers for Wood Hulls: How to Get a Professional Look

Wood hulls have been around for centuries, and are often considered the most exquisite material for modern boat making. Wood is classic, chic, and beautiful when treated and maintained properly. It’s also one of the most reliable materials to construct a boat from, especially when its professionally built and maintained. Wood boats are also dent-resistant and usually only require seam filler. Of course, there’s nothing more striking than a wood boat in port.

When you own a wood boat and are faced with repairs, it can be somewhat overwhelming. Many different techniques for filling wood boats can be found online and even more can be sought from professionals. So where do you start when you want to make sure your wood boat repair is done right and lasts a long time? The kind of filler you want to use and how you prepare the surface of your wood boat for filler depends on the kind of wood and kind of repair you have.

When you have a scratch on your wood boat, a chunk missing, or just need to fill seams in between planks that are contracting and expanding, wood filler is often sold as “seam compound” or “surfacing putty.” It’s very important to always buy putty that’s designed for wood boats. Using solely fiberglass putty on a wood boat spells disaster as the fiberglass putty is not designed to contract and expand at the same rate as the wood. This leads to warping and eventual flaking of your repair. You can also use a compound that’s designed for both wood and metal, or even wood and fiberglass.

Before you start filling in seams or repairing bare spots, you must prepare your wood surface. Prepping the surface allows the filler to adhere to the wood better, which maximized the water tightness of the repair and seals it. It also prevents leaking and rotting by stopping water penetration into the wood layers.

Fillers for Wood Hulls

Fillers for Wood Hulls

Preparation begins with sanding and cleaning. Always sand in the direction of the wood grain. This prevents ugly sanding marks that will be visible once you varnish your wood. Cleaning the surface of the repair is the next step and this is where wood type becomes very important. If you have an oily wood such as teak, using the right cleaner is essential. You must effectively clean away the natural oils from the repair region to ensure the oils don’t affect the filler medium.

Don’t be afraid to use multiple coats to fully coat the seams or repair region. Multiple thin coats are better than one thick chunky coat, which is prone to flaking and falling away from its own weight against the boat substrate. Always sand between multiple coats of filler.

Another filler product for boats is filler stain. Applied to bare wood, filler stain helps to level the wood grain so less sanding is required in between coats of varnish. This is a popular product for those short on time to varnish their wood boats.

When in doubt, always consult a wood boat professional. It’s better than ruining an entire paint job!

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