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Thread: Repairing dings in a cabin sole

  1. #1
    Contributing Member II
    Join Date
    Jan 2002

    Unhappy Repairing dings in a cabin sole

    This was our first year with our first boat, a 1986 30+. We learned a few things the hard way, like properly stowing items so that they wouldn't go flying across the boat and create dings in the teak and holly sole. (Actually, in our defense, the lockers need new latches, so the first couple of dings came as a surprise.)

    Anyway, now we have a half dozen or so serious dings in an otherwise perfect cabin sole. (It's funny how the previous owner could have the boat for 14 years and not do the damage we managed to do in our first season.) Apart from putting in a new sole, which we're not ready to do for some time, or covering the floor, which only masks the problem, is there any preferred method for repairing deep dings in the cabin sole?


  2. #2
    Senior Moderator Loren Beach's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2000
    Portland, OR. Columbia River
    Blog Entries

    Lightbulb "Saving your Sole"

    I would look into drilling and filling with a teak (or holly) plug, if the ding is "plug sized", like maybe under an inch...

    This even works with a small gash, where you can put several 3/8 or 1/2 plugs in a row. You insert the first and shave it flush, then drill a slightly-overlapped hole partly into it and plug that, and do another until reaching the end of the damage. Just remember to carefully select the color of the plug and line up the grain...

    Next step up the repair ladder would be to chisel out the bad place, and epoxy in a piece of appropriate wood as a patch -- a little tricky and tedious, but when you have more time than money, this works very well. I did this with some small chipped-out areas along the edges of my sole pieces.

    How about a filler that matches the color of the surrounding wood? Not in the same league, but hard to pick out when the whole surface gleams equally with several coats of varnish.
    Others have pointed out that you can "raise" small dents with steam (I have not personally tried this).

    Remember, no matter how perfect you want it to be, there will always be some scratches or small dings --- after all, it is a used boat!

    Others have pointed out that with several coats of varnish or maybe epoxy with varnish over it, the sole will be super protected from future damage. Our cabin sole pieces are far from perfect, but guests all seem to be impressed enough by the shine that small repairs under the finish do not catch their eye.


    Loren Beach
    Portland, OR

  3. #3
    Contributing Member II
    Join Date
    Jan 2002

    saving your sole, ctd

    All of your suggestions make sense, Loren. Given the fact that the dings do not appear to crack the wood in all but one case, the idea of plugs, fillers or patches really don't seem to be the ideal approach for my situation. It would be a bit like getting a door ding on your car and filling it in with bond-o: I might do it for a big dent with a crease, but the repair would otherwise emphasize the problem rather than mask it. I might use the filler for the one ding that has cracked the surface, though.

    A quick Internet search did show one person's extraordinary refinishing job which also involved repairing a crack that had sunk on one side. The person stuck a razor blade in the crack (which was about 3 inches long), then injected, using a syringe, a kind of quick-hardening epoxy filler. The sunken crack turned into a barely visible line. (Even then, I think he was able to sand out the line and refinish it, so that no crack was evident.) I was also thinking about some device that I think they have for cars (but in a bigger size) that involves drilling a pilot hole, sticking in the device which then expands from the side and allows you to pull up. Or maybe I'm just imagining it. Besides, I'm trying to save any drilling or filling as a last resort.

    Anyway, given that five out of the six dings in one location (I have other dings near the base of the companionway ladder) are about 1/4" to 1/2" long and about the same width, and 1/4" deep or less, the idea of steaming the ding out is intriguing. Not knowing how this is done, I would assume that you could use some sort of portable clothes steaming device, aimed at the center of the ding, with perhaps even a jury-rigged small-diameter hose attached to concentrate the steam further. Beyond that, I wouldn't have a clue of how to go about doing it. (How long to apply the steam, whether to do it in stage or all at once, and how to keep the broader area from getting "overdone" - i.e., warped).

    If anyone has tried this method before, I'd be interested in the details. (I thought about posting to the Ericson email list, but for some strange reason, while I get the mailings, my attempted posts get bounced back for lack of permission by the moderator. If you or someone else who posts on the list could do it, that would be great.)

    Incidentally, I do like the idea of a healthy shine on the floor. That certainly would draw the attention of a visitor away from any single defect and it's nice to have a shine one the wood anyway.

    Lastly, you can get a yoga mat for $12.99 at Marshall's that can be trimmed to form a runner from the nav table to the door to the head (on a 30' boat like mine). It's attractive, easy to clean, and absorbs minor assaults by flying equipment. I do want to fix the floor, though, so I'll know that I'm only protecting the floor and not covering up a flaw. Big difference, psychologically.

    So... does anyone have any instructions/experience with the steam approach?



  4. #4
    Fellow Ericson Owner Geoff Johnson's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2001
    Mamaroneck, NY
    I remember using it in "shop" as a kid. As I recall, we used a wet rag on the ding with a heat source such as a wood burning tool to create the steam. However, that was on solid wood. I don't know the effect on plywood like the cabin sole. Obviously, you should practice on something else. On the other hand, I've got dings (on my cabin sole and elsewhere), but have resolved to live with them.

  5. #5
    Contributing Member II
    Join Date
    May 2002
    Victoria, B.C., Canada

    sole dings

    Like you I put a number of big dings in a perfect ten year old sole. I have been looking at remedies and have decided that the world of marquetry probably holds the answer. I tried steam and leaving water in the ding with no success because it is veneer over plywood.

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