Scratches on wooden boat

After a year of use my CLC Ches. 17lt now has several scratches on the hull. I can’t help it, I just have to explore every cove and creek I come to. I’m in the process of adding rubstrips (from CLC)to the bow and stern keel but am unsure what to do about the scratches. Should I just sand and reapply a couple of coats of varnish or try to fill the deeper scratches with epoxy and then varnish. I don’t think any of them are deeper than the original varnish, certainly none of them have penetrated the epoxy to the wood. Ideas? Suggestions? Thanks.


Leave them there
until you are ready to sand and revarnish the whole boat. They let people know it’s a boat and not a piece of fine furniture.

Let em be
if they aren’t hurting anything. This gives a boat character and shows that it is loved.


Mine is 14 years old
and it’s had plenty of scratches. In the past I lightly sanded and revarnished the entire boat twice a year. Hides the scratches nicely. I don’t do that anymore, since I don’t paddle it very often now.

Don’t sweat the scratches, they happen and add character to the boat.


If not through the epoxy,
then leave it alone till you refinish the whole boat.

I did a small patch repair of varnish, and as expected it shows. I masked it off nicely and now there is a raised rectangle of clear varnish :wink:

If it’s really deep through the epoxy, that might be worth patching up even though it’d show. But for routine scratches, leave them alone (unless you like experimenting like I did).

I added an epoxy-silica-graphite coating to the hull that can be spot-patched and then sanded to blend in with the rest of the dull gray coating. The shiny varnish you don’t wanna mess with because repairs do show.

New scratches
The varnish is there to scratch.

Every once in a while, lightly sand down the whole boat and revarnish.

It will look beautiful again and you can go out and make new scratches.

doesn’t matter

– Last Updated: Mar-28-09 10:09 AM EST –

Varnish is the easiest finish for a s&g hull and allows visual inspection of any damage but unfortunately scratches are highly visible against the dark wood. After a few s&g hulls I settled on a painted bottom over thick tinted fill coats as the low maintenance finish. Another finish detail for four panel hulls is a very thick glass/graphite strip from the entry starting about 1/2" wide at the entry widening out to about 2 1/2" under the seat then tapering back down to 1/2" at the stern strip. That gives a hard surface for dragging over bulwarks or logs where the wear is greatest.

1. you can refinish the kayak for purely cosmetic reasons,,because you like the look of an unused kayak. Basically a well used wood kayak that is refinished looks like a well used kayak that is refinished. It's natural state is well used,,not the final coat of varnish.

2. if there are scratches that remove large amounts of varnish, many square inches, and you store the kayak upside down in the sun the exposed portions will eventually whiten and degrade in a couple years compromising any subsequent cosmetic revarnishing. I had this happen on a kayak where the keel line was stripped of varnish and a couple years upside down in the sun left whitened epoxy along the keel. If that's the case just slather a few coats over the exposed areas and don't bother a total refinish. It'll look kinda crude but next to the scratches it won't matter.

3. the other reason to refinish is that the bump/scrapes are so deep that the epoxy/glass is fractured allowing waterstaining of the wood. This usually comes from the coaming, hatch edges and any other sharp edges that get dinged. Refinishing those details is more worthwhile than the large areas on the bottom of the hull because once the water staining occurs through the end grain it's pretty much permanent. The coaming and hatch edges are just as vulnerable as the bottom, and probably need refinishing if the edges weren't rounded and well sealed with many coats of epoxy.

re. "rub strips" that was something I did for CLCs demo boats way back when because the instructions looked at that detail as an afterthought and all the demo boats were worn into the wood. Wrapping strips of bias cut cloth is an inefficient way to provide a thick ablative material where the wear is greatest but it's what I did with my first s&g kayaks that were well used. I was simply going from the idea of adding "more" of a thicker cloth like dynel when I should have filed a flat spot and filled it with epoxy putty like the A.Hawk/Pygmy but that method wasn't familiar to me.

s&g leaves a much sharper entry than most construction. Like sharp bows most folks think that's the way it should be but there's absolutely no practical reason for a sharp edge or pencil sharp ends. If you've already started the rub strips go ahead, the accent looks purposeful. For all the work that went into redoing the Chesapeak manual from it's original dozen pages it's unfortunate that the detail that is on the A.Hawk, Pygmy and Shearwaters wasn't included regarding the application of a thickened epoxy putty for that 3/8"x 8" strip on the bow and stern. When I showed off to a customer how tough the dynel rub strip was,,lifted the bow and dragged the boat back and forth a few feet on the asphalt on it's stern ,,,and wore right through the two layers of dynel. Sure it's tougher than two layers of bias cut 6oz e-glass,,but not for dragging a lot. The very sharp entry/exit simply concentrates a lot of wear that requires a very hard and thick ablative material right on that narrow wear area.
I went through all kinds of material, brass strip, dynel cord, polyester rope soaked in epoxy, bundles of kevlar and s-glass threads, etc. A thick splooge of epoxy putty thickened with 80/20 cabosil/wood flour is lowest cost, effective and blends in. Must be a reason the A. Hawk kit went to such detail on how to make it.

Thanks everyone!
I think in addition to the rubstrips I’ll just do a light sanding of the bottom and a coat or two of varnish. I’m not too concerned with the cosmetics of the bottom, uh yes I am,… no I’m not,… well sometimes, but not really,…at least I think so, ummm. The only time you see the bottom is when it’s loaded on the truck anyway, right? Thanks again.

easttn , remember what you just said …

– Last Updated: Mar-28-09 12:04 PM EST –

...... when you start the "sanding" !!

To simply do a "light sanding" is a trick in itself , takes resolve and discipline to not end up doing a major sanding once you get started on a scratched up or dented surface !!

Sanding is one of things if you know what I mean ... you always feel like sanding it to perfection once you have the paper moving , lol .

And of course , that route means more finish coats and more inbetween coat sandings ... discipline I say , discipline , lol .

it can get obsessive
I was really thrilled with the dozen strips of 4oz s-glass layed down on the stern of a Coho,feathered into a hazy white. After lots of fairing in it also wore down after much dragging. THEN I unraveled threads from some 5oz kevlar cloth and 6oz s-glass forming it into a loose cord about 16" long soaked with cabosil thickened epoxy and formed over the stern keel line.

nylon scrub pad
it gets down into any dings in the wood better than sandpaper.

LeeG: Nylon scrub pad
Are you suggesting the pad as an alternative to sanding when you are re-varnishing the whole boat, or just using it on the places with deeper scratches? I’m going to be doing a re-varnishing in the next couple of weeks.


the dings on the bottom
for some reason I’d still want to go over everything with sandpaper for revarnishing.

For a permanant fix, might try giving it a graphite/silica/epoxy bottom. Tends to be a fair amount of work, but it gives the bottom a finish that’s about as damage resistant as you’ll find no matter what the construction. I’ve tried to damage mine and other than a few light scratches that are really hard to see it looks like I put it on yesterday, did it two years ago.

depends on how you define damage
Cosmetic or structural.

Graphite/epoxy scratches don’t show up like varnish on epoxied wood scratches but damage to the underlying laminate could be the same for the same thickness of fill coats, epoxy or graphite/epoxy. You simply won’t see the fuzzed up white varnish or the fractured white glass fibers in the graphite surface. That doesn’t mean it’s more damage resistant.

A thick black layer of epoxy/graphite that’s .25mm thick will have more durability than .15mm thick layer of varnish, simply because there’s more of it and it’s harder.

If you added three more fill coats of clear epoxy before the varnish goes on you’ll have the same durability against abrasion simply because the thickness of the epoxy fill coats is the same as the graphite/epoxy fill coat. While it’s true that the graphite is more slippery it’s also softer, get a screwdriver and gouge that graphite and it’ll dig deeper than pure epoxy. So what you get with epoxy graphite is a surface that slides over things more easily and doesn’t show scratches but the actual depth of the scratches will be greater,necessitating a thicker layer.

If a person likes the slippery characteristics so the kayak slides over rough things think of it like varnish,something that will need to be reapplied as it’s abraded off. For resistance to the kind of damage that makes one cringe,a 6" wave dumping you on a rock,or sliding forward into a rocky inlet where seaweed is covering sharp rocks and your kayak comes to a rest on sharp points it’s not going to be extra .1mm coatings of epoxy(with any kind of filler) preventing deep gouges,it’ll be extra glass and epoxy.

A simple experiment is to put a thick coating of epoxy graphite on a 6mil sheet of plastic. Then put a similar weight of epoxy/glass on another 6mil sheet of plastic. When they both cure see which one will resist abrasion and puncture.

I’d suggest for the person looking for resistance to dings and deep gouges ,and not just a slippery surface to low pressure contact it would make sense to replace the thick layer of epoxy graphite with a thin layer of glass and thin layer of graphite epoxy.

3.25oz fine weave e-glass from Raka takes very little epoxy to wet out, while it’s not very tough it’ll soak up as much epoxy as the first fill coat on 6oz glass leaving a stronger laminate with no weight gain as you’d be putting it into an existing fill coat. It’ll actually leave a smoother surface for subsequent fill coats or graphite/epoxy. A thinner graphite coat will show scratches to the underlying glass and clear epoxy more readily than the thicker graphite coat,but it’ll be the extra glass that will prevent the underlying wood from compressing into dings and it’ll be the extra glass preventing deeper abrasions as the kayak comes to rest and the point pressure increases to a stop,as the kayak rocks back and forth grinding on a point.

An extra layer yard of 4oz s-glass might add 0-6oz depending on the thickness of your original graphite mix but it’ll do a LOT more to prevent abrasion. It’s more resistant to abrasion than regular e-glass.

yeah,kind of obsessive,but trying to get all that black epoxy smooth without getting black dust on everything makes one rethink the goals,replacing white varnish scratches with a slippery black surface or addressing damage into the exterior skin and underlying wood.

Don’t look at the bottom. That’s what I do with my poly boat. I turned it over the other day and said “Uh oh” and turned it back. I just put 303 on the top and call it day. If the hull isn’t dented or doesn’t have a hole or crack in it in it then it’s good.

Wooden kayaks are beautiful, even with scratches.

I wetsand

uv protection
Not read all the responses, and sorry if this a repeat. The most important aspect of applying varnish to your boat is not so much for looks, but to protect the epoxy from UV rays. If it’s just minor scratches and the glass has not been cut/bruised, just do a light wet sanding (I use 200 grit) and apply another coat or two of varnish. Pick one specifying UV protection. I’ll repeat what’s been said before, ‘it’s a boat, not a piece of furniture…’. These signs of use provide character.


graphite coating

– Last Updated: Mar-29-09 10:58 PM EST –

Epoxy, silica, graphite. The graphite makes it slippery, the silica makes it hard.

I didn't in any way imply that this is a structural repair. It is a way to fill light scratches in a yak's bottom and to make it easier to use without having the bottom all scratched up.

Bill H.