Wooden Merlin restoration

07/04/2010 22:31:17
Stephen Drew
Hello everyone. 
I feel a little out of my depth here but i've just purchased a wooden Merlin - "Mr Chips" built in 1962 by chippendale boats. It's vanished at the moment and the previous owner has part stripped her down and ran out of interest and that's where I come in.
A friend looked over the boat and could believe how sound it is for its age but i was wondering on adivce on where to start. I've stripped all the rigging off the boat and i'm ready to start to sand but being an absolute beginner I'm puzzled! What sander to i use? What density of paper do i use. What do i do after i've sanded her?
The only wood that appears to need replacing is the rubbing strip in a few places.
Any help to get what could be a gorgeous boat back on the water would be greatly apprecitated!
Cheers. Steve

07/04/2010 23:06:53
Robin Szemeti

I'm in the process of re-varnishing my boat at the moment too (see the "to epoxy or not to epoxy" thread for more info.

For sanding, I would recommend you do it by hand, as the veneers are rather thin and you dont want to take off any more than you need to. Strip it with a good quality paint stripper, then wash out with white spirit or meths to neutralize the stripper. Sand back with an 80 grit then a 120 grit. Treat any black staining around screw holes with an Oxalic Acid based wood bleach (Liberon Wood Bleacher is one, but there are others). Repair and fill any damage ... SP or West epoxy is the stuff to use.

Finally rub back with 240 grit. I cannot stress enough, WITH ALL YOUR SANDING, ONLY EVER RUB ONLY ALONG THE GRAIN. A careless stroke with the sanding pad across the grain means you will have to sand it again, removing yet more veneer. In my opinion, rotary or orbital sanders have no place in preparation of fine wood like this, its a relatively small area, and a few afternoond of pottering about will have it done. Try not to think how long it will take to sand it back, think of the hours of skilled craftsmanship that went into building the boat, and it deserves a few afternoons with a sanding pad and elbow grease.

I am then epoxy coating mine, as it gives a protection and stability to the wood that you just don't get with varnish alone. On top of that will go several coats of two-pack polyurethane varnish. I'm using International Perfection Plus (about 38 for 750ml) .. not cheap, but there again, you do this once. The concensus seems to be to roller apply the coats and then lightly tip-off with a soft brush held at 45 degrees.

Theres a series of excellent videos on Google by International paints on how to apply paint to a hull ...


About 80% of your time should go on preparation. Sand, fill, repair. The varnish will show any minor imperfections up and make them worse rather than hide them, so get that surface every bit as good as it needs to be.

Apat from that, all I know is I am yet to apply my varnish, I'm still sanding and will be for several days yet, but its worth it :)

07/04/2010 23:29:14
Garry R
I also would suggest that you look at the CVRDA site where there is a wealth of knowledge on old boat restoration and this advice is invaluable.  There are lively debates about all things restorational on the forum

07/04/2010 23:38:45
Hi Steve,

I apologise in advance for the essay.

What you about to start is immensely rewarding. But it could be quite a big job if your fussy. I started a similar project 4 years ago on a similar age boat, without much idea. My plan was a quick coat of paint and then off you go, the boat looked pretty sound, I sailed it a few times, but it did leak.

The thing is, the more paint I stripped the more I thought, that doesnt look strong/right/like I want it, and kept cutting the nasty bits out until I found good wood. Before I knew it, no paint, no center board case, no deck, no transom, no thwart, just a few hull planks.

The reason it took me so long was two fold, I was unprepared to take the plunge and agree with myself to undertake some quite drastic repair work, such as replace side decks, then when I decided to do so I went mad, partly because my salary doubled in the time frame, partly because I was becoming much more capable. I decided to deck step, repair a snapped carbon mast, one string etc etc.



All in my humble and possibly ill educated opinion:

Assuming you are only going to repaint. As far sanding goes, you'll probably do quite a lot, so go buy one roll each of 3M sandpaper in grits 80, 120, 240, 320. It s not worth skimping on sand paper, its a false economy if you put a price on your time.

For decks its very easy to rip through the top laminate with a belt or orbital sander: use with extreme care and prior practice, I would try a hot air gun and 2" chisel sharpened to perfect edge then blunted slightly. Get most of the volume of epoxy/varnish off this way then hand sand. Hoover up the dust. degrease with acetone or SP solvent A. wipe down lightly with a tag rag to get rid of any remaining dust, then 2 coats epoxy (preferably wet on tacky). When cured wash down with slightly soapy water to remove amine residue from the epoxy, sand smooth finishing at 240 grit, 2 coats epiphanes 2 pack PU varnish. Done.

Hull inside and out, strip as above and sand. fill any holes with epoxy/ microballons. 2 coats of epoxy (SP320), 2 coats 2 pack PU paint, such as Serene paints 65 line.

As you start stripping back asses rot and weakness, especially in load bearing areas, around self bailers, deck eyes, shroud anchorages, rudder fixing, the plank next to the keel etc etc. If your concerned fix early, be bold. Its much easier to do before painting, which is expensive and takes a while. All bonding/ filling do with epoxy (SP106), buy some scales that are accurate to a gram and some plastic half pint glasses to mix in. Dont under estimate how much epoxy you may use, 1Kg packs dont go far, but they dont keep well either.

Good luck, it is worth it.

08/04/2010 08:51:29
That's a really nice job John, well done. I look forward to seeing the boat in the flesh. You should put a link to those pics on the Merlin Rocket Facebook page if you have not done so already.

08/04/2010 09:04:56
Ben 2529
Hi Stephen
Where is the boat (area not address) if you are a complete beginner someone may be able to have a good look at Mr Chips and give some personal advice. Are you a member of a club? Have a look at the Vintage calendar, on this site, you may be able to go to a meeting and talk to several owners in one place and look at several vintage boats.

08/04/2010 10:13:27
Garry R
John - looking at picture 47 I can only assume that you live alone or have a very understanding wife/partner.

08/04/2010 10:46:19
Robin Szemeti
It reminds me of my first DIY attempts ... moving a sink a in a bathroom  and fitting a new bath ... tried to re-use the old plumbing and not disturb the tiles ... as both seemed jobs beyond me ... of course in the end, after messing about tring to fit modern 15mm taps to imperial pipe etc, ripped the whole lot out, including all the tiles, and started from scratch. It is in the end a lot easier. Same seems to apply to boats, rather than messing about trying to patch a bit of flaking paint, its often actually easier and more effective to strip the lot and start again.

08/04/2010 11:51:50
you see, there are two main uses for the family silver; you either sell it and buy a new boat, or you mix the epoxy in it and do a rebuild! Excellent job and looking forward to seeing some more!

11/04/2010 22:35:51
Stephen Drew
Hi all, sorry in delay - i;ve been away for a few days. thanks for all advice, going to make a start on boat tomorrow. The boat is located in north staffordshire so if anyone wants to cast an expert eye on her there's a cup of tea waiting.

The boat isn't actually painted at all, just vanished so will sand back (by hand), repair what bits I find and then seal and vanish.

Good times ahead
Thank you

22/04/2010 13:24:38
Leonard young
I have a vintage Merlin that I would like to give away to someone who would make use of her.

Number 2095 Rob Hoare built. Shown as Jim's Joy in my old MR members book. The hull and decks are sound, original and slightly newer masts. Sails. Boat & Road trailer available too.

Do you maintain a list of people who might be interested.

Kind regards
Leonard Young



Your Name
YouTube Clip
Paste the link provided by youtube under the "Share" button, looks like this "http://www.youtube.com/embed/XEsrho3jqbo"
Type a Number under 42: