Before I began our boat interior renovation, I knew there were a few screw holes in the teak, left from various things that the prior owners had hung on the wall. I just didn’t realize quite how many holes there were on a 20-year-old boat!
I stopped counting at 50 and started thinking about how I was going to repair them.
One question that comes up is whether it’s better to fill any holes before or after finishing the teak. Before sounded better to me, so that the repair would hopefully blend in as the finish was applied over it. But it honestly didn’t seem too practical to try to clean the teak, fill the holes multiple times due to likely shrinkage and be able to put the finish on within 24 hours of cleaning the teak. And cleaning it again after the repairs seemed likely to damage the repair.
So after the finish it was going to be.
I first tried using a bit of Minwax Wood Putty (testing in a pretty hidden spot) but discovered that none of the colors matched my teak at all and any mixture of colors that I tried was also not matching.
So I went to the local wood shop (Buck’s Woodworking just off Overseas Highway in Marathon) and asked the owner how to do it. His recommendation was to get teak sawdust, mix it with Elmer’s Wood Glue and fill the holes. And he gave me a small bag of teak sawdust from their custom fabrication area.
One point that he was very clear on: do not use epoxy as it will cure black, not teak-colored. The Elmer’s Wood Glue will not affect the teak color of the sawdust and it cleans up with water.
Important: this technique is for filling small holes, not large ones. Use bungs for 1/4″ holes or larger. Also, realize that you’ll be able to see the repair. It will just be a lot less noticeable. People who have come on our boat did not notice how many screw holes there had been until I pointed it out. The only way to totally “repair” them is to replace the wood — and that’s not a realistic option for most of us!
Repairing the screw holes wasn’t a hard job, but I did learn a number of important details as I did it.
- Teak sawdust
- Elmer’s Wood Glue
- Very small container to mix in (I used an applesauce cup pulled from the trash and rinsed out)
- Disposable tool to mix sawdust and glue with (I used a kabob skewer; a toothpick or tongue depressor would work)
- Rags or paper towels
Mix a very small quantity of sawdust and wood glue at any one time, as the mixture begins drying fairly quickly. I found that about a tablespoon of sawdust was a good amount.
Start with about a quarter as much wood glue as teak sawdust (by volume). Mix well and add more glue or sawdust until the mix is about the consistency of peanut butter. This is not an exact science.
The best tool for applying the sawdust mix is your finger. Push the mix in as far as you can — go over it a number of times to get air bubbles out.
When the mix starts getting too sticky to easily fill the holes, it’s time to discard it and mix up a new batch.
Before the fill has a chance to dry (which happens quickly), use a damp rag to thoroughly clean the excess off. Take care not to wash the fill out of the hole.
As it dries, the fill will shrink. Due to the shrinkage, I had to fill the holes 4 or 5 times. Let it dry several hours to overnight between layers.
When it is even with the wood surface, apply a layer or two of Teak Guard over the repair and feather it into the surrounding area.
This was probably the easiest part of our interior renovation and really made a difference in the overall finished appearance.