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Thread: Varnishing over screws

  1. #1
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    Default Varnishing over screws

    The screws on my mahogany row boat were varnished over. It was a nightmare extracting them.

    Do I need to do anything to protect the screws / holes from water? The deck boards do get a good bit of water on them.

    I'd rather leave them clean so that I can easily remove them for maintenance.

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Varnishing over screws

    Hi jeffwatl,

    Welcome to the Forum!

    It's pretty hard to varnish and avoid any fasteners that are holding the substrate being varnished in place.

    A set of dental tools comes in handy for cleaning out screw heads.

    Sometimes, the screws are sunk and plugged, and you need to remove the plug before removing the screw.

    Kevin
    There are two kinds of boaters: those who have run aground, and those who lie about it.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Varnishing over screws

    I wonder why you had to extract them. Do you do so often enough that it really matters? If you don't seal the end grain in the countersinks water will soak right into it and discolor and eventually rot the decking.

    Maybe if you seal the holes with epoxy then install the screws bedded in caulk gently enough that you don't crack the sealant then protect the boat from the rain you'll be OK, maybe.

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Varnishing over screws

    I'm a novice DIY. This is a renovation of an old 14' row boat that was not maintained. I removed all the screws, removed and sanded the seats and deck boards down to bare wood. The old brass screws stripped.

    I'll be putting new screws back in. I'm going to use square drive to try and avoid stripping.

    What is the proper technique for inserting the new screws? No varnish over them? A thin layer over them? Some other product to ensure the wood is not exposed?

    The existing screw holes in the wood are getting varnished, but will inserting the new screw expose the wood?

    I would like to be able to remove the screws and check that everything is good / maintain every other year or so.

  5. #5
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  6. #6
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    Default Re: Varnishing over screws

    Use silicon bronze screws and you won't have any troubles. Varnish right over them. If they are in pilot holes the right size, they will be able to back out every few years without issue.

    Dip each of them in varnish as you drive them to seal the holes well.

    Brass will strip every time no matter what you do. If you use slotted head instead of square drive, they will be much easier to clean for the screwdriver in the future. Cleaning the square hole is a pain.

    Nice boat. Have fun.

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Varnishing over screws

    After years of looking for the right tool to clean varnish, paint, glue and putty from screw slots, I discovered that a jewelers graver, the one with a wooden handle, works amazingly well! With this tool one can carve out all manner of crud and even carve a new slot in the screw head! Flat gravers are what I use.
    Best to buy that which is the width of the screw slots. They sharpen just like a chisle. I use oil stones for this.
    Jay
    https://contenti.com/engraving-tools/gravers-n-handles

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Varnishing over screws

    I have a different question - the main issue is that you want to be able to remove the floorboards, yes? You could fasten them to cleats instead of the frames and make them removable by lifting out. Then you wouldn't have to unscrew them every time. Search "removable floor boards" on this site (using Google it's "site:forum.woodenboat.com removable floor boards") for more information on how to do this.

    The other pieces - thwarts, etc. - shouldn't need to be removed at all for regular maintenance so I agree that you should just varnish right over them. Or countersink and cover them with a plug dipped in varnish.
    - Chris

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  9. #9
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    Default Re: Varnishing over screws

    Wooden twist togles are the usual way of doing it. They can either fit through the slot between the floorbords or through a slot that is cut in them.
    Jay

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Varnishing over screws

    If you have a hard time finding jeweler's gravers, a very good approximation can be fashioned from a dull drill bit of the right dimension. Just grind the shape you want on a bench grinder (making sure to quench often to keep the temper) and sharpen on a sharpening stone.

    A Dremel tool with a dental burr chucked on it is an excellent screw slot cleaner, albeit a bit tedious. Clean the corners out with a dental pick after the Dremel gets the worst of it.

    The next time you drive a screw, a bit of paraffin in the slot, covered by a plug of wood or a swipe of putty, will leave the slot easy to clean out down the road. If all else fails, a light touch with a heat gun and the corner of an absorbent rag will soak up the paraffin and you'll be good to go.... at least until the head twists off the corroded screw! Only use silicon bronze screws or, if you can't afford those, good marine grade stainless screws (above the waterline.)

  11. #11
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    Default Re: Varnishing over screws

    I worry when you use general terms like "the screws" ;-)

    Always always always use either marine quality 316 Stainless Steel screws, or Silicon Bronze screws (what you probably thought were "brass"). Anything else, even cheap Stainless Steel screws, will gradually rust out and damage the wood (Google "nail sickness"). I find that the used or cheap new dental picks are great for cleaning out screw slots, available from good hardware stores.


    As above use toggles instead of screws for the floorboards, as this also allows you to clean and dry the bilge / bottom after washing the mud and sand out of the boat.
    "The enemies of reason have a certain blind look."
    Doctor Jacquin to Lieutenant D'Hubert, in Ridley Scott's first major film _The Duellists_.

  12. #12
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    Default Re: Varnishing over screws

    I will be reinstalling the rub rail with silicon bronze square drive screws. How would I clean out the square hole in the screw head if I were to ever remove them?

  13. #13
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    Default Re: Varnishing over screws

    The square drive hole gives an excellent center for using an easy out screw extractor. Snap On/Neiko makes a very good extractor that can be hammered into the hole once it is drilled to size.
    But, in truth, square drive screws are a bit difficult to clean paint out of the drive hole so the above tool is the best I have ever used.
    Jay
    https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_s...crew+extractor

  14. #14
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    Default Re: Varnishing over screws

    Difficult to clean paint out of Jay but the good old Canadian Robertson drive is considered the best drive head by many. You can place a screw on the end of a driver and fling it around. Even hold it so the screw points straight down and it will stay on the screwdriver. Very handy when screwing in tight places, around corners behind cabinets etc. If only Henry Ford had not been so cheap as to refuse to pay for permission to use them, we would have them everywhere today.
    If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.
    -Henry David Thoreau-

  15. #15
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    Default Re: Varnishing over screws

    Quote Originally Posted by ahp View Post
    I will be reinstalling the rub rail with silicon bronze square drive screws. How would I clean out the square hole in the screw head if I were to ever remove them?
    Just an idea, but grind the point off of a nail, heat it red hot and poke it in the hole, follow immediately with a dental pick. Haven't tried that, it just popped into my head.

    Maybe grind the end of some square stock to form a chisel point, heat it and use it the way Jay uses the engraver's tool.

    Drill with a small bit, pick out the corners with a dental pick.

  16. #16
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    Default Re: Varnishing over screws

    Quote Originally Posted by ahp View Post
    I will be reinstalling the rub rail with silicon bronze square drive screws. How would I clean out the square hole in the screw head if I were to ever remove them?

    This will work:

    Make a wood box using sq. drive screws to hold it all together, including the removable lid. Put your car keys into the box, then fasten down the lid. Varnish the whole shebang, using multiple coats of varnish.

    They say necessity is the mother of invention.

    Soon you'll want those car keys. You'll find a way.

    Jeff

  17. #17
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    Default Re: Varnishing over screws

    Quote Originally Posted by jpatrick View Post
    This will work:

    Make a wood box using sq. drive screws to hold it all together, including the removable lid. Put your car keys into the box, then fasten down the lid. Varnish the whole shebang, using multiple coats of varnish.

    They say necessity is the mother of invention.

    Soon you'll want those car keys. You'll find a way.

    Jeff


    - Chris

    https://fvpetrel.wordpress.com

    Life is short. Go boating now!

  18. #18
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    Default Re: Varnishing over screws

    I am not against using square drive screws. I like them a lot and often use them because of their ease of driving! I just do not use them where they show, such as fastening a cleat, as the look is, a bit, out of step with traditional boat building. The ones I used for fastening the bronze pipe hatch edge covering seen here, do have a nice look though.
    Jay

  19. #19
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    Default Re: Varnishing over screws

    Jesus!

  20. #20
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    Default Re: Varnishing over screws

    Wait, back up, what's up with that clean garage? Where's all the dust?!

    Anyway, I second what J. and Jay. Use the quality SB or 316 screws, and don't lather on the varnish. No need to protect the screws and an old skool trick is to dip the screw in varnish before driving.

    We left the SB screw heads exposed on our Penobscot 14, for ease of maintenance.


  21. #21
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    Default Re: Varnishing over screws

    Has anyone ever tried plugging the screw head with one of those wax sticks used for hiding nail holes in furniture and interior trim?
    Management is the art of counting beans. Leadership is the art of making every being count. --Joe Finch

  22. #22
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    Default Re: Varnishing over screws

    Thanks!

  23. #23
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    Default Re: Varnishing over screws

    Great idea! There is no plug on the boat to let water out. We just have to pump and sponge through a little hole in one of the boards.

    These are awesome: http://www.pyiinc.com/floor-anchors.html

    But, with about 200 screws, that would cost me a small fortune! Maybe I could do these on the 2 outside boards where the water flows and pools.

    Lots of other great ideas and I'm second guessing the square drive. Definitely going w/ the Silicon Bronze. The original screws had to be brass. They were really soft.

    Also going with a shorter screw. The old ones were twice as long as needed.

    The boat was in a small fishing lake in Highlands, NC for 16 years w/o leaving the water. The guy who built it did maintenance once. I think he left all the screws in as there was a LOT of varnish pooled on top of them.

    I was thinking there may be some other sealer that is softer than varnish to dip / set / cover them with, but sounds like anything else would be an experiment.

    The good news is that I bought a trailer for 'Aly Oop' and she will not sit in the water for more than a few months.

  24. #24
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    Default Re: Varnishing over screws

    Hang on, brass screws aren't the end of the world. In fresh water they last for a very long time -- no electrolysis to speak of.

    In canoes, in Canada, they've been used by the millions. In fact there are NO bronze wood screws available where I live (Barrie, a town of 150,000 people). You can get stainless, or ZP, or brass. Those are the only options. Even the specialty places, like Bolts Plus, stock none.

    I've used brass screws a lot. To prevent the heads twisting off I drill the proper hole, then grease the threads with a small dip in pine tar, and use a hand-driver of some kind to install.

    The quality has dropped. I bought a box not too long ago that were supposed to be #10 x 1.5". They were in fact thinner than that. More like #9.

    In canoe restorations I have removed brass screws from 75 or so years ago; a bit green, and thinner than they once were, but still hanging on, and the wood around them still sound.

    By all means order bronze screws, but for fresh water, brass is no reason to panic.

    Dave

  25. #25
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    Default Re: Varnishing over screws

    For removing a square head screw with paint or varnish in the hole, I sharpen an awl to a very fine point. I use a file, not a grinder, so I don't heat the tip and lose the temper.

    Then I pry it into the hole, and lever it out in each corner. So that's 4 pries. Usually a "cap" of varnish comes out. The push in the screwdriver and give it a tap with a hammer to really seat it. Then start to turn it using a hand-driver of some kind so you can feel the tension going into it.

  26. #26
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    Default Re: Varnishing over screws

    One thing I insist on doing is to dip the tip of each screw that will be used in a boat in melted bee's wax. This is one of nature's gifts to the boat builder. I have said this before, bee's wax sticks to the screw tips. Unlike paraffin it will not crack and flake off of the fastening as it is driven. It also has an antiseptic quality and will assist in preventing rot from getting a foot hold around the screw. It does physically lube and seal the wood fibers as well. It also insulates the fastening against electrolysis.
    Jay
    Last edited by Jay Greer; 12-07-2017 at 01:35 PM.

  27. #27
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    Default Re: Varnishing over screws

    Bee's wax. I like the sound of that!

  28. #28
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    Default Re: Varnishing over screws

    When I get a new box of screws I take the time to put some of my favorite music on the shop radio and put a tuna can of bee's wax on the top of the wood burning stove. It is a pleasant break from the normal routine and gives me time to relax and plan the next move in my work. Dipping a box of screws in wax takes me about ten minutes. Time well spent!
    Jay aka Bird

  29. #29
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    Default Re: Varnishing over screws

    Quote Originally Posted by Jay Greer View Post
    When I get a new box of screws I take the time to put some of my favorite music on the shop radio and put a tuna can of bee's wax on the top of the wood burning stove. It is a pleasant break from the normal routine and gives me time to relax and plan the next move in my work. Dipping a box of screws in wax takes me about ten minutes. Time well spent!
    Jay aka Bird
    As always another great suggestion. i love that imagery.

    Be wary of your critics, at peace with your decisions, and work hard to be a better man.

  30. #30
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    Default Re: Varnishing over screws

    Quote Originally Posted by jeffwatl View Post
    Bee's wax. I like the sound of that!
    I use a wax toilet ring, almost a lifetime supply there.

  31. #31
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    Default Re: Varnishing over screws

    Toilet Rings contain oil that can soak into the grain of the wood and prevent the setting of any glue or epoxy used for plugs or other forms of bonding! while the oil keeps the wax soft it is not suited for waxing screws used in wooden boats. Better to use the real stuff, genuine bee's wax!
    Jay

  32. #32
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    Default Re: Varnishing over screws

    I ordered this: https://www.amazon.com/Fastcap-FastC.../dp/B0040NIC08

    They stopped making Akempucky. Such a cool name!

    If my friends only knew I'm searching for 'screw lube'...

    I think building a boat might be easier than renovating one. This really makes me want to go to boat building school. Not a lot of need for a shipwright in Roswell, GA. I'm a software developer. So nice to work on something tangible for a change.

    Thank you to everyone on here for giving me a little view into the amazing world of boat building.

  33. #33
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    Default Re: Varnishing over screws

    I have an idea about how to clean the varnish out of the square hole in a square drive screw. Heat a square drive bit with a torch and then stick it into the square hole. Comments??

  34. #34
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    Default Re: Varnishing over screws

    Good idea on heating the square drive bit! One of the things I like about using real bee's wax is that it is cheap! I have been using wax from the same one pound block for nearly twenty years! I think I paid five dollars for it. It from a local bee keeper. If you don't have a bee keeper near you, buy a couple of pure bees's wax candles.
    Jay

  35. #35

    Default Re: Varnishing over screws

    Quote Originally Posted by jeffwatl View Post
    Bee's wax. I like the sound of that!
    I like the SMELL of that!!!!!

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