1969 Chris Craft Roamer 46 Refit: Making the Salon Steps Pretty

With the salon mahogany stained and varnished with ICA base coat clear, then sanded again and topped with two more coats (total of 8), I covered everything with single flute cardboard. While all of that was going on, I was also working on making the salon steps pretty. This was a challenge because:

  1. this ghost ship was a mess when we found her;
  2. the boat had carpeting on the steps way back when she was new that was held in place by a gazzillion staples; and
  3. during the refit, we didn’t take especially good care of the mahogany steps since they were already ugly.

Still, the more I looked at the wood the more I thought the steps might clean up pretty well. I got even more optimistic when I saw how well the salon wood had turned out. So in the quiet times, like when the Pettit 1095p stain was drying, I got out my pliers, prying tools, and picks and got to work removing all of those damned staples and ring nails. Then I filled all of the holes with epoxy thickened with wood flour, which made me very, very dubious about how it was going to look in the end. But then we sanded and stained it with the same Pettit 1095p. It’s not perfect, but compared to what I started with, it isn’t too darned shabby.

The salon steps in 2007, when the refit began

Somebody had already come along and ripped out the carpeting, leaving behind stringy tatters of the original stuff and a TON of freakin’ staples.

September 2015: looking worse for wear

September 2015: looking worse for wear

Pretty pathetic...but are they beyond help?

Pretty pathetic…but are they beyond help?

Looking pretty good after a few hours with a sander

After a few hours with a sander they’re looking pretty good…from a distance

But up close...a staple infestation of biblical proportions

But up close…not so pretty

There’s a combination of staples, staple holes where the staples had come out cleanly with the carpet, plus ring nail holes and the occasional pitting and discoloration from water damage. This was, after all, right under the place where the salon roof hatch had failed sometime between 1985, when the boat first entered Purgatory Row in the Southern Maryland boatyard, and 2007 when we found her. That was a lot of time for the elements to do their dirty work.

3 kinds of staples: "gone" staples, staples that will go, and rotten staples that really don't want to go

3 kinds of staples, and all of them suck

(cue What Kinda Gone) There are “good and gone” staples, which pulled out of the steps when the carpet was removed. While it’s a good thing they didn’t put up too much of a fight, they leave holes behind. Another category of staple is the ones that ain’t gone yet and don’t plan to get that way anytime soon. They’re sunk deep, but they’ll be “long gone” after putting up a fight. The last category are rotten staples that break off, leaving all of the scars of the other two categories of staples, plus you have to fight to remove the bits that are left in the wood. I thought I could get away with leaving a few behind, but they have to come out or the steel shines right up when it gets sanded. Plus, because steel is so much harder than wood or varnish, when you sand it smooth the pointy ends of the staples always poke through. These are skin-ripping buggers that have got to go.

Staple infestation

Staple infestation

In the picture above, there are 26 staples and/or holes in this one little section of one corner of one step.

Tools of the staple-pickin' trade

Tools of the staple-pickin’ trade

Best work light ever

Best work light ever

I picked this Snap-on branded LED worklight over the summer, since halogen lights put out way too much heat and the tent is already miserably hot in July. $39 at Costco and the light output is blindingly bright white, which makes it perfect for spotting itty bitty little broken off bits of staples. This is a great addition to my tool collection, and I highly recommend them.

Angled pick makes a dimple under the staple

Angled pick makes a dimple under the staple

Note how the staple in the picture above isn’t shiny steel. That’s because it’s buried so deep in the wood that the top surface is still below the surface of the surrounding mahogany, so the sandpaper that stripped the wood never touched it.

Sharp-edged scraper protects the wood from dents

Sharp-edged scraper protects the wood from dents

Staple's gone but not in a good way

Staple’s gone but not in a good way

Though it’s good that it came out with out breaking and leaving the two micro-spikes in the wood, it actually looks worse than when the staple was there. Now I’ve got two holes and a long, deep dent between them. That ain’t gonna sand out.

5 hours later, holes get filled

5 hours later, staple holes got filled

I used  epoxy thickened with mahogany wood flour to fill the holes, then hit the whole thing with the sander once the epoxy had cured. I wasn’t optimistic about how that was going to turn out.

Not too darned bad!

I’ve seen worse, but I’ve also seen much, much better

At this point, I was thinking the steps looked better with the staples left in them. So I hit them with the same Pettit 1095P mahogany filler paste stain that I used on the salon walls.

Hey! That's not half bad!

Hey! That’s not half bad! Especially compared to what I started with!

Next up on our 1969 Chris Craft Roamer 46 Refit: Making the Aft Stateroom Steps Pretty



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