A couple tips for bedding deck hardware

22 Nov

Ok, I’m about to write about prepping the deck for hardware, and I know what you’re thinking. ‘Yea, yea, you drill the hole big, fill it with epoxy, then drill it the right size. Easy.’ And if this topic commands any interest from you, you’ve probably already ready the same information, twice. But that’s just it – I’ve read it at least a dozen time but I still find that when I’m in the middle of it nothing works quite like in the book. Inevitably the epoxy drips out the bottom of the hole, or it’s too thick for the syringe I’m trying to use and I end up squidging it in with a (gloved) finger, or it simply gets everywhere, or ….  I expect anyone who has worked on a boat is familiar with the feeling, if not these particular circumstances.

Bearing that in mind I’m going to talk about installing hardware in a cored deck but I’m not going to give you yet another ‘exaustive’ description of the process. Instead, I’ll just show you a couple photos and point out some little things that can make a big difference in how smoothly things go. Even if you think you know the whole process, it never hurts to see it done, right?

 Start by drilling your holes.  It’s easy to get them a bit off so these days I try to to pretty careful about the alignment. The most accurate way to drill multiple holes for the base of, say, a cleat is to drill them one at a time using the cleat as a guide. Start with one hole then put the cleat down with a single loose bolt holding it in place through the hole you just drilled. Use the cleat as a guide for your second hole, then put a second bolt in and drill your third and fourth holes. Once you’ve got the piece held at two points it won’t be shifting around so I usually just drill holes 3 and 4 at the same time.
Once you have your holes drilled, widen them out. It is arguably better to do this by gouging out the core without re-drilling the top skin, but it is easy and effective to just run a bigger bit through the hole. However you do it, it’s always better to leave the bottom fiberglass skin intact, if you can., Here I’m re-drilling with a 1/2″ bit for 5/16″ holes.
Take a good look at the shavings that come out – if you’ve got a cored deck then light, meaning dry, is good and dark, which means moisture, is bad. This isn’t terrible but you can see a bit of moisture in the holes on the right.
Not a good sign

This dark, wet wood means I have water in the deck core. The proper course of action would be open the deck up in some manner and dry the core out, or replace it. But my boat is built like a tank, and most of the holes I drilled weren’t so bad as this one, so I just let them dry out for a couple days then proceeded. I’ll have to deal with that bit of water eventually, but for now the deck is plenty sound.

Lay down a strip of tape to protect the deck from excess epoxy
and tape on the bottom to retain the wet epoxy

The next step is to wet out the holes with neat epoxy so that it will soak into the dry wood. The ‘best’ way to do this is to take a syringe and fill each hole with unthickened epoxy and then suck it back out a minute later but it’s not always that simple. Sometimes your hole is on an edge so you can’t get a good tape seal, or it’s horizontal, or  you don’t have a syringe around or …. An easier, faster and generally adequate way is to cut a brush down to just a shock of bristles and paint each hole with it.

If you’re careful not to get epoxy on the shorter bristles you can poke this all around in the hole without making a mess.

With the prep work done all that remains is to fill the holes. The most-recommended practice is to inject thickened epoxy into each hole using a syringe. In practice I find this tricky, and messy. If the epoxy is properly thickened it’s hard to suck it into the syringe and if you’re doing a bunch of holes it takes plenty refills. I find it far easier to dispense the thickened epoxy via a plastic bag with the corner cut off, as if I was icing a cake.

Just squeeze it in

I like to mix my epoxy nice and thick and sometimes I tamp it into the hole with a finger to ensure it fills te area.

Once the epoxy has set you just drill the original holes again, now through your plug of epoxy rather than the core itself, and then install your hardware. Use plenty of the bedding/sealant of your choice.

Don’t forget backing plates for your hardware.

There you have it-  a couple little tricks that might make your life easier. Unless you’re already figured out a better way?


 See my Index of DIY and How-to Posts

This article was syndicated from Safe At Harbour But Meant For The Sea: DIY Sailing with Paul Calder


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