Woodworking

Wood Plugs

One of the finer details of woodworking on a boat is to hide the screws. Making a piece of furniture is enough of a project, but hiding all of your mechanical fasteners takes your skill to a whole new level!

I had read about wood plugs but honestly had never actually given them a try.

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The concept is simple: countersink the screw into the wood and then plug the hole above the screw with a wooden plug. The question that should arise in your mind are: What holds the wood plug in place?

The answer is going to vary depending on who you ask. Some people swear by friction alone, others tout only using varnish, yet others love to glue the plug in securely with wood glue.

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My thoughts on the three options: Nothing, Varnish, and Glue.

If you rely on friction, you better hope that the furniture will always live in a moist environment. As the wood dries, the wood will shrink and the plug will fall out. Maybe not today, but at some point, it will just fall out.

Varnish works as a weak adhesive, but more as a luting agent which simply fills any air pockets and holds the plug in with suction. This method is the equivalent of licking a playing card to hold it to your forehead. Yes, it is “glued” but it is not permanent. If you need to access the screw below, you just pop it out and get straight to the screw.

Wood glue is the last option and offers the most secure method of holding it since it will be glued in just like all the other pieces of wood in the furniture. This means that the plug will never come out but it also means that if you need access to the screw, you are going to regret having used glue!

Since this is my very first time using wood plugs, I was concerned that I might have messed something up and might need to gain access to the screws to remove or relocate the strips of wood. If for any reason I need access, I don’t want to destroy everything just to get to the screws, so I chose varnish.

I also cut out some extra plugs so that if I like how it all is working, and if the plugs fall out and are lost, I can replace them with new plugs and with wood glue. I just have issue with permanent things, so the retrieve-ability of the plug with varnish really appealed to me. Once I know that I like the furniture there on the deck like it is, I will consider replacing the varnish with wood glue, but for my first attempt at plugs, I wouldn’t want to bury my comfort in permanent glue.

Olive Oiling Cutting Boards

We had enough leftover wood to build a set of cutting boards. I glued the planks together and then had the wood shop rip the block in half to create two thinner cutting boards. These are functional, but they could be prettier.

Instead of oiling them with linseed oil, like I did the counter top, I decided to use Olive Oil. I got the idea from a comment on one of our YouTube videos, where someone mentioned that he oiled a piece of wood with olive oil because it is food safe.

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The olive oil was simply poured onto the surface of the wood and then spread around.

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As I spread the oil, the grain just popped! It was so beautiful.

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The end result is a set of beautiful cutting boards and two trivets that we can use for random things. I pictured us setting hot pots on them, Maddie envisioned us using them as cheese boards. The beauty of a pretty piece of wood is you can do anything you want with them because they are so versatile!

Deck Rack

I grossly miscalculated how much wood I would need for the Galley Refit. While it is always better to have scrap wood leftover instead of missing wood to complete the project, I kind of really overestimated the amount of wood needed.

What should I do with all this extra wood? Build other things!

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Our previous deck rack was made out of iron pipes, some were galvanized, some were not. The galvanized pipes merely spewed rust onto the deck while the plain iron pipes flaked chunks of rust onto the deck. It was not pretty.

The plan with the refit and repaint was to replace the deck rack with one made out of stainless steel because it should offer more resistance to the ocean world we live in. Stainless steel would be expensive and time consuming to make, whereas all of this wood was just laying around!

I laminated the pieces of wood to create a very sturdy and solid rack that is the perfect size to hold our dinghy, bikes, and most importantly: offer me a place to sit and hold on while tucking in a reef.

The feet of the rack are screwed into the legs and the feet are lag bolted to the deck with stainless steel fasteners.

While this rack did consume a lot of the leftover wood, it did not consume all of it. Believe me, there is still wood leftover for many more projects on the boat!

The Power of Linseed Oil

With the sapele mahogany polished with 2000 grit sand paper, it is time to take the finish to a whole new level: oil!

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I used boiled linseed oil to finish the counter for a few reasons:

1st: It is food safe. Food will be in contact with this surface and I would rather not poison myself for the sake of having a pretty counter.
2nd: It is forgiving. If the wood gets scratched, scorched, or damaged in any way, I can simply sand it a little and apply some fresh oil. The oil will keep the wood happy and help hide or heal scratches in the wood.
3rd: It makes the wood water resistant. Oil repels water, so if the wood is saturated with oil, water can’t get into the grain.
4th: It makes the wood shine!

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The drastic change in the woods appearance is quickly noted. The grain just pops to life as the oil soaks in.

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Quarter sawn Sapele Mahogany with ribbon grain can be polished to accentuate and bring out the golden flecks in the wood.

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As the oil soaks in, the wood begins to look a little dry. When the wood is “drier” we simply apply a fresh coat of oil. No sanding necessary, just wipe on a new coat of oil.

Having the wood oiled is great in the galley where water splashes all the time. The oil repels the water and causes it to bead up on the surface of the wood. Here the water is easily wiped off without any issues of water stains or marks left on the wood.

Galley Refit: Polishing Hardwood

All the glue sanded off and the entire counter fit in place. The plastic has been removed and everything is looking ready to go!

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Before the wood can be finished, the wood first needs to be prepared! I initially sanded the wood with 60 grit paper to take off the glue lines and fair up any imperfections. Then I graduated to 320 grit paper, then 500 grit paper.

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At 500, the wood felt smooth and looked great, but I knew I could do better! To take it the extra mile, I sanded the entire counter with 2000 grit paper, the same kind you use to polish porcelain.

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The result was wood that not only felt smooth, but also looked smooth too. Being a very hard wood, the wood itself could be “polished” on it’s own to have an amazing luster where it was “almost” reflective.

With the wood dry and “thirsty” I then caulked the seam between the sink and the counter top. Once that was cured, the counter itself was oiled with linseed oil.