View Full Version : Wood Cleats: What Type of Finish???

08-13-2004, 12:43 PM
I've been meaning to replace the cleats on my boat, (it's an 18' old inboard diesel powered skiff, made of the other stuff). It's not wood, but I like this boat a lot and it's set up well for the fishing I do. Anyway, the midship cleats are no more than fender hangers, the aft cleats are not as big as I'd like. So, I'm making some 10" cleats, similar to some I searched up in the archives.

I was thinking of buying some teak, but then I found a nice hunk of straight grained douglas fir with about 14 rings per inch in my garage rafters. It's fairly heavy stuff. The ends had been painted and there was little to no checking. God knows it gets hot in there. I made one up last night, and I like the looks of it. Looks very stout.

To the point, I searched the archives and still couldn't dedide what type of finish to use on them. Varnish is out. This is more of a work boat.

Also, on grain orientation, the one I made has the grain running horizontally when viewed from the end. My reasoning was that when bolted down the bolts would sort of compress the grain preventing it from splitting at it's weakest point when side loaded. Did I do it right? Part of me thinks that I'm thinking too much about it. Comments please.

Eric Krueger

Keith Wilson
08-13-2004, 12:50 PM
I've finished wood cleats by saturating them with linseed oil. Stick small wood parts in the oven at low temperature - 200 or 250 - to get 'em warm, then submerge them in linseed oil and let them cool. I've never tried it with Douglas Fir, but oak or mahogany parts I've treated this way and then cut or drilled were oily all the way through a 1" thick section. Not yachty, but it seems to work.

08-13-2004, 03:01 PM
Thanks Keith. I might do a test piece to see how I like it.

Andrew Craig-Bennett
08-13-2004, 03:14 PM
I agree with Keith. And I would rather have a big cleat made of good Douglas fir than a silly little thing made of teak. The cleats on my own workboat are unpainted ask, given the linseed oil treatment, by the way.

As I'm sure you know, there's more than one way to make a wooden cleat.

Amongst the cognoscenti of this sort of thing the EG Martin pattern, where the slope is in the base not the underside of the top (does that make sense?) is reckoned good, as you can get 4 screws in it rather than 2.

08-13-2004, 03:57 PM
Thanks Andrew. I'm not sure I follow your description of the E.G. Martin cleat. I will try to google up a pic.

Now, the million dollar question: boiled or raw? ;)

Tom Robb
08-13-2004, 05:09 PM
Boiled. Raw stays sticky.

Wooden Boat Fittings
08-14-2004, 04:43 AM
Martin cleat --


Although a large oregon cleat is better than a small teak one, a large teak one (or other hardwood) is better still -- both more durable generally, and less likely to crush under heavy loads, than a softwood fitting.


Andrew Craig-Bennett
08-14-2004, 04:58 AM
Thanks, Mike.

landlocked sailor
08-14-2004, 06:49 AM
I "cooked" mine in hot boiled linseed oil. I have an electric glue pot (for hide glue) that works perfectly. Left 'em in 2-4 hours, wiped 'em off and let dry. Rick

08-14-2004, 09:07 AM
My boat has 6 home made hardwood cleats. Its a local hardwood variety, jarrah, and they have stood up to some abuse so far. They were originally epoxy coated to a full gloss finish and they looked a picture for a while until UV and rope wear got the better of the epoxy coating. Varnishing is a waste of time on cleats - its simply not hard enough for this rope wear. I tried various oils but that got grungy in no time. So the cleats are now coated with Sikkens cetol which gives a dry durable finish and is easy to touch up.

A suggestion about cleats in general, I prefer them with a hole across trough the centre. This makes it possible looping a spliced eye through this hole and over the horns and there is still enough horn left to tie up the other end of the mooring rope after it loops back from the jetty bollard.

With a centre hole there should be two bolts holding the cleat down. I routed a shallow recess at the top to accomodate a stainless pressure plate that takes care of the compression load of the two bolt heads.
My cleats are also epoxied to the deck, they were strong enough to stop the 2 ton boat from about 3 knots forward speed when snubbed against the jetty bollard.

Wooden Boat Fittings
08-14-2004, 07:45 PM
Yes, that centre hole is a good idea Klaus, and we generally use one. (Circular is easier to make, elliptical is more practical to use.) The only thing to watch for is to have plenty of spare line before the stopper knot, so that not too much load comes on the line while it's leading sideways.

http://www.woodenboatfittings.com.au/public/clt-h2-s.jpg http://www.woodenboatfittings.com.au/public/clt-h1-s.jpg

If you make the counterbores for the bolt-heads with a spade bit you get a nice flat bearing face for a washer. And we also make the holes deep enough to take a shallow plug over the bolt-head as well.


Peter Malcolm Jardine
08-14-2004, 08:30 PM
Yep, linseed all the way. Hard to argue with a couple hundred years of success. :D

Just an aside, I bought some ipe for the first time recently, and I think it would make dandy wooden fittings too... anybody tried? By golly it's tough stuff to machine. Veeeeeery dense.

N. Scheuer
08-15-2004, 07:18 AM
I finished a pair of teak cleats a couple of years ago by soaking them in a 50%-50% mixture of Linseed oil and Terpentine. They still exhibit a very good finish having had no touch-up.

It needs to be real Terps, not Mineral Spirits.

I had to put the soaking can out in the yard as the Terps was way to odifrous to keep in the house without a lid on the can.

Don't know where I got this idea, probably either from here or from someone over on the Trailer Sailer Forum, but it's a good one as far as I'm concerned.

Moby Nick

08-16-2004, 08:37 AM
Thanks guys. Sorry for the late comeback, I'm not near a computer on the weekends.

Mike, my cleat came out similar to the one in your bottom picture.

OK, linseed oil it will be.

As far as strength issues, I think these will be stronger than they'll need to be. I'll try to post a picture when I'm finished.


John Blazy
08-16-2004, 09:26 AM
I heated my cleats and wiped on epoxy, then wiped it off, to be like an oil finish, but to be waterproof and sealed. Looked like an oil finish, and could be buffed if you wanted, but there was no film build to chip off.

This is the only pic I could find that has some of the cleat showing, but from a design standpoint, four screws are better than two or three. These were made from Bubinga - super hard, heavy, and interlocked grain to keep from splitting. Ash, oak, or maple is a better choice than Doug Fir, but if you made the bolt stems wide enough to accomodate double bolts, than you'll have the strength.

Bruce Hooke
08-16-2004, 10:02 AM
While heating linseed oil will increase the penetration I would be VERY wary of heating anything as flammable as linseed oil indoors. If it were me I would only do this outside, away from anything that is AT ALL flammable. Also, flammable substances should ONLY be heated on an electric hot plate, never over an open flame...

08-16-2004, 10:21 AM
John, those look really nice.

Bruce, thanks for the warning. I doubt my wife would've let me do it indoors anyhow.