New gunnels, what grit SP before oiling?

Ok, the gunnels aren't actually new, but they might as well be. Older boat, always inside. The original owner only used linseed oil and last application must have been a long time ago. It sanded right off to clean ash.

I plan to use Watco Teak on the gunnels and want it to soak well in. I'm thinking I don't want to sand them down too smooth or I'll close up pores. But, I'm no woodworker either, so I could easily be wrong.

I use medium paper
Around 120 grit. If you sand along the grain, you won’t see any sanding marks.

If you really want a rich finish, you could wet sand with fine to very fine grade paper (anywhere from 220 grit to 1500 grit) between coats of oil. Hand rubbing the wood also helps.

I have also gotten good results with Watco’s Satin Wax.

my preference
I usually go to 220. I’m not saying that is right, just that it’s what I do.

No reason to go beyond 220.
It’s not a harpsichord.

I’ve been happy with 220
I have no justification for that choice except that it makes the wood smooth enough for me. I think that plugging of pores in the wood by going to extra fine sandpaper would not be an issue at all if you want to go finer. Wood is “naturally wetted” by the oil (for example, it does exactly the opposite of what drops of water do on a waxed surface), and as such, clogging pores with wood dust would be about as effective at keeping oil out of the wood as denim jeans which are completely caked with dirt are at keeping you dry in a rainstorm.

i’d go for 60 grit

– Last Updated: Jul-11-10 7:45 PM EST –

but then again, I'm a boat pig. If I gave a crap, probably 220, but it'd have to be a big crap. Beat 'em up, patch 'em up, run 'em hard. My millbrook doesn't even get sanded, just soaked with some teak oil left over from the sailboat.

Don’t use the teak oil.
Use Watco Exterior Wood. The Mad River website has their instructions for refinishing ash gunwales.

While everyone else was arguing in teh hundreds, I decided to go to the other end of the spectrum.

Just to be contrary.


And I like Teak. Applied with a Scotch Brite green pad.

Watco after 220
I just did a round of maintenance and the gunwales looked great after a light sanding with 220 and 2 coats of watco on top of whatever was left from the earlier rounds. Not quite furniture quality, but a real pretty finish.


Thanks for the replies
I had 180 on hand so that’s what I went with. Nice and smooth.

I really like 3M Sandblaster sandpaper with the soft backing. The 80 grit also does a nice job on minicell.


I use 6o grit or coarser on whitewater boats in which the gunwales pick up a lot of dings from rocks and paddle scrapes and it looks fine as well.

I do love your attitude…makes me feel soooo much better about my boat.