Thursday, 16 April 2009

8 Plugs of Failure

Ok, its actually only 4 plugs that failed, and it isn't complete failure, but still things didn't exactly go perfectly for me last night.

I got it in my head that after I got home last night I would spend 15 minutes and remove the plugs from the teak grab rails. The plugs had to come out so the screws could come out so I could get the goop off the bottom of the boards, so that in the amazing weather this weekend I could re-stain and re-install the teak.

The guys on the Catalina forum were patient with my newbie questions and explained the process in great detail.

In this pic, the handrails are sitting on the partially completed stitch and glue dinghy that Chuck and I have been building for 1-1/2 years. Its a weekend project. I know of 8 others that have been built in the time it has taken us to complete the stitching. That's pretty sad, really.

Step 1.

Drill a hole in the middle of the plug. The drill bit isn't supposed to come out of the chuck when it hits the screw below, and eventually I got a feel for not killing my drill bits, but lets just say that if I ever do this again, it will be with a lot of really cheap bits.

For the folks keeping score at home, I only managed to actually break one bit. I was using 1/8" HSS bits, I don't think that really matters though. I received advice on 2 methods for removing the plugs - one was to get a drill equal in diameter to the plug and drill straight into the plug exactly on centre. I am sure this work for people who have mad skills. Alas I do not. Details to follow.

Since I don't have mad skills, I used an alternate method which I will refer to as the "Screw Jack Method." If you've ever used a screw jack you know what I'm talking about.

Step 2.

Insert screw. It sounds simple, and it is for 97.2% of the human race.
Either I am not human, or I fall into the other 2.8% I chose to believe I am human. Testing to follow at a later date.

I figured a screw with an aggressive thread, long enough to reach deep into the wood would be desirable. On my shelf of assorted screws, I found a deck screw. The idea with the "Screw Jack Method" of plug removal is to put the screw into the hole drilled in step one, until it bottoms against the bolt hidden under the plug.

The screw will then act as a jack, lifting the plug out of the hole. Like this:

You may have been expecting the WHOLE plug to come out of the hole, as was I but apparently the plugs had a better idea. The better idea was epoxy. For reason's I don't know, the screw heads and the bottoms of the plugs were sealed to each other with a thick layer of epoxy. The only way I knew of to get the epoxy out was to chip away at it. Which I duly did with a wee little pick.

Then the screw was all wiggly, so I pushed it out the hole... It came out nicely but brought a big chunk of teak out with it.

Yowzas! I saved the chip, and will have to attempt an epoxy job to reattach it. If this job goes anything like my previous epoxying attempts... well lets just not go there.

I had the screw out and had the technique down. now there was only another 7 plugs and screws to remove.

Of the 8 screws, 4 would give me trouble. All of them were epoxied in, with 4200 sealant, and clear silicone goobered up and down their threads. This shows that previous owners were doing maintenance, however; I think some of their efforts may have been misguided.

I swapped out my deck screw for a much beefier wood screw that I have no idea why I own. I have a box foll of these. I think there are something like 100 of them. They are 3" long and about as big around as my pinky. Since I was hitting a solid bed of epoxy after about 1/4 inch, the screw diameter didn't matter as much as how aggressively the taper bit into the wood. With the larger screws I had much better success. I still found that the worst screws though were the ones at the ends of the rails.
Here is one rail getting ready to let go. The split is at the depth of the head of the screw below. Since the screw head is bonded to the teak via the epoxy, and there isn't a lot of working room in the hole, there isn't much to be done for it.
The top of the board will come away, but at lest the chip is big enough that i can hold on to it to epoxy the wood together. For re-assembly I will be sure there is no wet epoxy in the holes, and I will likely ream out the holes. The following pic is the resultant chip from the split above. (that's some insulation on the floor. I know someone is going to ask, but that's all the details you get.)
Now I don't claim to be a craftsman, I don't even claim to be proficient in these things, but honestly, I felt awful every time I saw another split open up as I removed the screws.
Here is the worst split in the whole process. I am not sure if this rail should even be used. If I epoxy it back together, would I trust the repair going forward in heavy weather? The split follows nearly the centre of the grab loop back about halfway down the length of the loop.
What a sickening feeling it would be to grab that rail, and feel it come apart in your hand. My woodworking friends assure me that an epoxied repair is stronger than the original wood since you are gluing together the weakest link, and since the epoxy is stronger than wood. I will have to ruminate on this for a while before I decide what to do. Part of rumination will be checking the price of replacement parts.
To repair a split like this I am told that you open up the split with some small shims, and then inject epoxy into the split. Once you have decent coverage its clamp and pray that the fix holds.
I am thinking that I will replace all the bolts that were in the boards since they are badly gunked, and are bent beyond belief. I wonder how they were installed, or what happened that they were so mangled.
At the end of the day, I had all my boards plug and screw free, here they are waiting for next steps which will include another once-over with the sander, and a treatment with the stripper to remove the final bits of whatever they were finished with. The bottoms of the grab rails will be cleaned up, and then it will be time to slather them up with cetol (4 coats plus)before re-installation.

After all this excitement it was bedtime. Too Bad buddy boy stole all the pillows...

1 comment:

  1. The best part of doing all the work is the satisfied sleep that comes after it's done. Looks like you must have been PRETTY satisfied with yourself! LOL
    I sent you other comments too along this pictoral journey...did you ever get them?
    Roofing this weekend. Wish us luck!
    Bye for now!~


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