Older timber boat components such as handrails, timber coamings, hatches, hulls and decks can sometimes be reinvented using epoxy and glass fibre.

The original component can be used as a mandrel to glass over encapsulating both sides. Or the component can be first structurally strengthened then sheathed with glass epoxy as a protective sheathing layer. Using a combination of the above is most common.

Teak handrail example project

Photos of a teak handrail encapsulation are shown below. The teak still has some strength so was used as a mandrel (former). The glass reinforces it to make it stronger than when new and keeps it dry.

Background: Teak is durable but soft, it wears away as can be seen on overlay teak decks. In this case the handrails diminution had been reduced to the extent that it could potentially break if given a decent heave. The teak plugs covering the fastenings were falling out exposing the countersunk machine screw heads. The rail was about 2/3 of its estimated diameter and the teak had ingrained mould in it.

Points to note that apply in all cases:

  • Timber must be dry below about 16% moisture content
  • Timber must be sound enough to hold fastenings
  • Timber surface must be clean of mould and abraded
  • Avoid dark finish colours that draw heat causing movement. Movement often leads to cracking and moisture ingress
Before: Mouldy, plugs coming out, worn down
Grind surface with 80g disc carefully to remove mould and prepare surface for epoxy
Fill plug holes and glass over to build up lost size and strength: 1 x 450g double bias over + 200 gram, 200g diagonal straps on insides underneath and wrapped around top to achieve full cover of glass. Wrapping prevents any chance of the glass coming unstuck from the teak.
Before glass cures fully coat with epoxy and microbaloons. Next: Sand sand, fill, sand, fill, prime with interprotect, sand, fill. Undercoat with perfection undercoat using foam roller, sand fill , recoat, sand. Topcoat with 2 coats of perfection gloss in under 18 deg c temp using a small nooks-and-cranny foam roller
Gloss on. Platinum colour. 2 full coats, one day apart
Back on the boat, sealed with Sikaflex 291 entirely covering each mounting base, tighten only until there is only just squeeze out all round each base is no more, clean up with stick and white spirits and alloy to cure. Tweak up nuts slightly. No more mould or wear, stronger than new with less flex. Different colour allows the rail to be quickly seen when grabbing it but isn’t so dark that it would draw heat to cause movement.