With shiny paint on the hardtop and the cabin top longboarded, I thought Awl Grip 545 on the cabin top was the next step, followed by more shiny paint. So I was surprised when my painter told me that the next step was to get the mahogany toe rail installed. Since my painter’s day job involves making Weaver Boatworks’ multi-million dollar sportfishermen beautiful, I tend not to challenge his judgement. But putting the toe rail on before the paint just seemed…wrong.
It turns out that at Weaver they don’t use bedding compounds to seal their teak toe rails to the deck. Instead, they make them on the shop floor with long scarf joints that are epoxied together. For an 80 foot boat, that’s a lot of toe rail. Once the rails (one for each side) are done, they coat the bottom side with epoxy twice and allow it to soak in. Then, 15-20 employees lift in unison and hoist the rails onto the boat. In preparation for installation, they also apply a coat of epoxy thickened with wood flour as a bonding agent to the deck where the toe rail will be installed. They lower the rails onto the epoxy adhesive, then use hundreds of clamps to press the rails to the deck. Here’s why this is a slick approach:
- There are no fasteners penetrating either the rail or the deck.
- No fasteners means no bungs, which new boat owners apparently think are unsightly.
- Unlike bedding compounds and sealants, epoxy is forever.
- If you ever needed to replace a section of the rail, just cut it out with a saw, chisel and grinder rather than wrestling with rubbery goo.
Since our Roamer is an aluminum boat, we’re not concerned about deck cores rotting out from water intrusion. But a lot of corrosion can happen in the joint between the toe rail and the deck. In fact, the worst corrosion on this boat back when we found it was under the toe rail. I decided the epoxy approach was good, so we’ll use it. But unlike Weaver’s customers, I think bungs in mahogany are a necessity on a proper classic Chris Craft.
But I’m getting a bit ahead of myself.
I used 2×4 scraps to keep the rails off the deck, since the underside was still coated with the original butyl tape caulking Chris Craft used and that stuff makes a sticky mess.
When the joint between the old teak side decks failed, water would wick down and destroy cabinetry inside the boat as well as the toe rail on the outside. Our new aluminum plate side decks should keep that from ever happening again.
These old pieces will make great patterns.
I like the stainless steel scoop vents that Chris Craft installed over these holes, but they could have done a better job sealing the wood after cutting them in the mahogany.
14-inch wide 8/4 mahogany boards are required, especially at the bow where the rails take a turn.
Chris Craft used a 1:1 (45*) vertical scarf between the rail pieces and the joints tended to fail because the joint was less than two inches long. They also didn’t use epoxy for glue. This would let water inside the seam, where it would rot the wood and cause corrosion in the aluminum under the rail. We’re doing it the Weaver way, with long diagonal scarfs in the horizontal plane of the rail.
And with that, all of the rail pieces were rough cut. But they were still 8/4 boards, which are about 2-1/8 inches thick. The originals were 1-1/2 inches thick from the factory. I plan on never replacing these again, so I decided 1-3/4 inches is a good final thickness. We took them over to the shop and resawed the rails down to the final thickness, plus a bit for final sanding.
They’ll sit under the boat until we prime the decks, which has to happen before the rails can be epoxied in place.