View Full Version : Need a bit of advice, noob alert, stripping paint from a thompson boat.

01-25-2010, 05:23 PM
Alright guys, be easy on me. I don't even know how to search this situation. Few questions;

1) How clean should I be able to get my boat with a scraper? I have pictures attached and think I need to start sanding for the most part. The paint is so thin I can see through it in 99% of the areas.

2) How do I deal with paint in the grain? Stripper and a brush? I really have no idea here. I was hoping they had painted over varnish. Definitely not the case.

3) If I can start sanding now to get the rest of the paint off, what grit should I start with? This is a mohogany lapstrake plywood boat.

The dark areas are where it is wet, I just finished washing it off in these photos.


Thank you for any insight.


01-25-2010, 07:36 PM
I would try it with a palm sander first, with a medium to light grit paper (100-150). Test it out and see how well the remaining paint comes off. You want to get the paint off but take as little wood off as possible. Taking paint off of unfinished wood that was painted it the hardest route. If that does not work you may have to go the stripper route. Whatever way you go, you are going to have to get in there with a pick to get paint out of cracks, seams and fastener holes.

The first thing I would do is take off that rub rail. You dont want any of that blue poking out above it when you finish the deck bright.

01-25-2010, 07:48 PM
I am planning on flipping the boat then dealing with the rubrail, and stripping the rest of the blue off of of the sides.

Thank you, Ill try tonight and report back!


01-25-2010, 07:55 PM
I will get shot for this.

You need chemicals. Methylene chloride based stripper and plenty of it. Apply the stripper, let it work about 20 minutes, go back and scrape gently. Apply another coat, to the first area, and scrape the second area, repeat procedure. Always keeping the area wet with stripper. After awhile, the finish is soft enough to remove with a nylon kitchen/dish brush.

I do canoes. I have tried heat gun and sanding. This is the only way to go. I did a 16 ft canoe the other day in 3 hours.

Use eye protection, respirator, cartridges, gauntlet gloves etc.

I do use a heat gun on trim and small areas.

My 2 cents.

01-25-2010, 08:18 PM
Fitz, will that remove the paint from the grain?


01-25-2010, 08:32 PM
Yes, it will remove the paint from the grain. Use a nylon bristle brush or plastic brillo pad. Not steel wool (it will rust). Since you have done so much sanding, your job may be easier and you may use less stripper.

01-26-2010, 12:06 AM
Fitz have you ever tried out that syntheic steel wool for this type of project?

We actually removed all the paint by scraping and citri-strip. Worked really well but may need to use something nastier to get the grain clean.

Thanks bud.


C. Ross
01-26-2010, 12:47 AM
Methylene chloride stripper works. From where you are right now, bronze wool dipped in denatured alcohol will probably take off the remaining paint. Circular motion, or where paint is deep in the grain rub with the grain. Once you've made a "slurry" of paint and before the alcohol evaporates wipe off with paper towels. Try different grades of wool. Buy a box of nitrile gloves. You can also use the bronze wool and denatured alcohol after stripper.

You also have some blackening around fasteners. Oxalic acid will take much or all of that out. Neutralize well.

Good luck!

01-26-2010, 06:21 AM
Sorry, I missed the fact that you had used citristrip. I haven't used that product in awhile, mostly because I find the orange odor to be really annoying.

I think it is easy to quit with the strippers too soon. I don't know about you, but I want to be done with the mess ASAP. It looks to me like one more coat might allow you to get the paint out of the grain. I think the biggest trick is to keep the wood wet with the stripper and allow it to work. Use the gel type. Sometimes I will cover the gel with wax paper to keep it from drying and allow it to work as much as possible. C. Ross has been here before obviously, so try his technique too. Good luck. It will be gorgeous when you are done.

01-26-2010, 07:35 AM
Nice boat you have there. And you have put a lot of effort into redoing it.
I assume, although you don't say explicitly, that you want to bright finish the fore deck and side decks.
The decks seem to be ply, and the fasteners are puttied over. Not, IMO an ideal base for a bright finish.
It seems the original (when first built) was either paint or painted canvas.
Is that right?
At any rate, if you varnish what is there, lots of stain will be required, I think, due to the large variations in color between plys.
I don't know if you are shooting for a showroom finish or just passable one, but, again IMO, it will take a lot (more)of effort to get something that looks better than varnished ply that was not meant to show.
Just a thought, but it looks relatively easy (easy for me to say, anyway) to veneer on some mahogany.
Just my idol, 2 cents worth, keep up the good work. Great to see an old wood boat getting the attention it deserves.

01-26-2010, 11:02 AM
This is a 1960 Thompson Bros. Boat Mfg. Co. of Peshtigo, Wisc. 17 foot Sea Lancer outboard power boat.

The deck and covering boards over the gunwales are 3/8 inch Philippine mahogany plywood and yes, they are nailed to the framing and nails are puttied over, which is factory correct. This was stained and varnished. The shearstrake was also stained and varnished. The hull was painted. NO canvas. This is how it was built at the factory.

Thompson Bros. built about 5,000 of these a year. Major production -assembly line construction. Quick and get 'em out the door.

Stripper and a scrubby pad and lots of rags to clean up the goop as ya go along. It's messy and smelly and yucky. But that's how ya gotta do it.

Evan, you'll have to set those nails a bit deeper to avoid sanding them. Use a big nail set or make one out of a nail with the same diamter head. Then strip and sand and when your finished with that, fill 'em with Famowood puuty and samnd smooth once it dries.

Here's a 1961 model year version of the same make and model. This was restored to original factory spec with the exception of the hull paint colour. Lemonade yellow was standard but white was an option. Photo by "Classic Boating" magazine:



01-26-2010, 11:09 AM
Andreas, thanks for chiming in. I appreciate it! He pretty much covered it.

I guess its time to crack open some more elbow grease.

Stripper did a nice job, but I think the rest will have to wait a few weeks. My attic of my garage is not insulated and it costs a fortune to keep it at 65-70 degrees in there.. which is where the stripper really works well.

I plan on insulating in about two weeks.

Fitz, since I am working inside I am avoiding using mek strippers if I can. So far so good, but I may need some nastier stuff to get the rest.

Thanks everyone for the vote of confidence! I appreciate everything. Ill try the denatured alcohol trick, which will work regardless of temps. Ill post more photos as I make more headway.


01-26-2010, 01:37 PM
Thanks to you and Andreas for the quick lesson in Thompson boats, another day where I know more then when I woke up.
Some more musings from me...
If the decks were originally varnished, why can you find no evidence of it?
Could these decks have been replaced earlier and then painted?
If these are the original decks (odd that there are 6 pieces) then it seems natural that they have already been sanded. Enough so that you can find scant if any residue of varnish.
I mention this to say the face veneer is already probably thin from earlier work and may not stand too much more sanding.
Finally, and I don't mean to throw a wrench in the works here, but what do you think of(here it comes!) replacing the plywood? Much of the prep work you have already done, and it looks from here, 2 sheets would do it.
Just my observations, sitting comfortably behind my computer.
Best of luck and keep us posted.

01-26-2010, 01:43 PM
Jackster, there is some areas that still have a little thin varnish left. I am pretty sure the PO sanded them before paint. I can tell because he sanded at a 45 degree angle to the grain which makes all the paint specks left in the wood look like diamond shapes.

Also, I completely agree about the idea of replacing the plywood and I am not against it. I am just trying to salvage what I have here right now. Do you know how much mohogany veneer ply costs? This is an honest question, and I have no idea. Maybe removing the deck and replacing IS the smart choice.


EDIT: I do want this boat to look nice, but it doesn't have to be absolutely flawless.

01-26-2010, 01:44 PM
Andreas, I missed it before but thanks for the headsup on the nail set. I wasn't sure if I needed to re-nail. I have some big punches that will do a good job.


01-26-2010, 03:27 PM
I use the methylene chloride gel strippers outside. As long as it is above freezing, I don't see much of a temperature related difference in performance.

Below freezing, I think the gel balls up.

01-26-2010, 03:50 PM
Fitz, it is a balmy 45 or so in my garage so that will work just fine. Above freezing won't happen for months. If need be I will work in small sections to keep fumes to a reasonable level.



01-26-2010, 06:13 PM
I have replaced the plywood decks on these types of boats. Even had to recreate them on a 1959 model that had the originals torn off before I got the boat. Thompson seamed to change the deck configuration and patterns almost every year. Evan has the exsting decks to use as patterns.

I did replace the deck on the '61 boat pictured earier in this thread.

I paid about $60.00 for a sheet of 9mm Meranti plywood a couple of years ago. Haven't purchased any recently. Ya can't find Philippine mahogany plywood, so use either Meranti or Okume. Both are related and work well.


01-26-2010, 06:48 PM
Thanks Andreas, I think maybe Ill keep chugging away at what I have to work with on my boat. It is nice to know there is a plan "b".

I am going to find out how much new wood costs, because by the time I factor in costs for stripper etc.. it may be not much more and much less work.


C. Ross
01-26-2010, 07:01 PM
Not to belabor the point about methods too much, but.... I've been refinishing an oak panel door in my house because it's too cold to do anything in my detached garage.

After heat gun and a dry rub with bronze wool and scrapers:


After denatured alcohol and bronze wool, with a putty knife to push it into corners, and a little bit of sharp scraper and utility knife work:


I use a lot of methylene chloride stripper, but it's a serious carcinogen and I think it can dull the coloration and contrast in wood, especially a large-pore wood like oak. Denatured alcohol isn't benign, but in a less-than-perfectly ventilated space I'd rather use it than methylene chloride.

Any of the methods in this thread will work fine, the key being elbow grease and attention to detail. (And, any advice from Fitz and from Andreas on Thompsons is worth the price of admission!)