Stain and varnish vs. bleach, stain and varnish

Being new to mahogany hulls, I have a question regarding stripping, staining and refinishing. I have included some photos of my 1957 Century Resorter hull. Some planks are a bit darker than others. While I can live with the differences, I was wondering if it would be worth the effort, in my case, to strip, BLEACH, stain and refinish the hull. The other alternative I guess, would be to not bleach and just strip,

stain and refinish. What do you folks think? I have watched video on the bleaching process from sources that I would deem authorities, but being new, and with the hull wood color differences I have, I want to know if it is worth my effort.

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Hi, I don’t think the color inconsistencies that you have there are worth the effort of a refinish. Your finish seems to be in good condition, maybe a topcoat could be in order.
When I do a refinish bleaching the whole boat is part of the process.
Nice looking boat. Makes me miss my Resorter.:slightly_smiling_face:

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Thanks for the input! I figured it was all or nothing. So, maybe a light sanding and some varnish is what you are suggesting?

If its driving you nuts, and it shouldnt BTW, it looks great, When you varnish it next, Mix a little stain, the thinned out kind in with the varnish and kinda just varnish those boards, Blend it in a way. You cant sand it to much cause you are basecly tinting it in those areas, Then coat it all with your other coats. It’s a little artsy but its been done on several of my boats and looks perfect. The bottom plank is new on the transom

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Here is before

From the pictures that you attached I’m with CaptainNemo.

I would not even strip the old varnish.

Sand, Sand, Varnish, Sand, Varnish, Sand, Varnish…

Matt that is an idea, but I am not very artsy! In my case, looking at the boat, it is those dark planks that stand out. I would like to some how lighten them up a bit.

Troy, This sounds like where I am heading with the hull sides, given the responses I have received. I did note a corner on one plank where the varnish finish is flaking away from the wood. Is this a major concern or do I just use more caution in this area after carefully removing the loose varnish? Thanks!

A picture would be helpful, but if the varnish is flaking in that area only I think I would peel it off as best I could.

After that I would put on a coat or two of highly thinned varnish in that area followed by some build coats and finish it while varnishing the rest of the boat.

The trouble I see too often is that a new member to our hobby gets excited about doing a full strip and varnish and it becomes all work, no play at which time they get discouraged and don’t enjoy the hobby.

I think you will be surprised at what a couple of fresh top coats will do for your boat.


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The pictures are of mahogany without any stain on a 1956 Thompson. This shows that wood planks are light and dark based on where it is cut out of the log. You can have darker wood from the core of the tree, vs lighter sap wood from the outer areas of the tree. Both will take stain different; the core wood is harder and dark, next would be the grade wood that has the nicest grain features, and then the outer sap wood that is lighter and weighs less. Trees can be flat sawn or quarter sawn that adds a different look to the grain. The options in refinishing a mahogany boat are, 1. Lighty stain and let each plank show it’s characteristic’s, 2. Heavy stain boat and blend all planks, opaque look. 3. lighten dark planks with bleach, and stain boat. 4. stain boat and then stain light planks again, 5. Matts option, over stain already varnished boat with colorized varnish.

Thanks Troy! I want to preserve the boat and have it look nice, but I so want to get it on the water…soon! Good advice!

Bleaching is a lot of work and unless you have to change a plank or install different wood then it would be up to you to bleach. If you do bleach then use CPES or I used shellac cut 505 with alcohol, 2 coats and then sand smooth. The shellac gets the porosity of the wood so that when it is stained it is uniform. You should use interlux mahogany oil base stain. brush on and then let it set for awhile and then take a old towel and rub all access off so that you have uniform finish. Cut varnish 50 % for 1 st and 2 nd coat then less cutting until you have 4 to 6 coats on. Wet sand with 400 and buff with polishing bonnet on variable speed buffer. Looks like glass when finished.

The second plank down from the sheer plank was intentionally dark when new on these 50’s Century’s, Just put more varnish on it looks great.