Refinishing our Mill Creek 16.5

My husband and I just purchased a Mill Creek 16.5 that needs refinishing. The hull has fiberglass that has delaminated in one small section. The interior has gel coat that is pealing. The deck needs a good sanding and a new top coat. Does anyone know of a good reference book on refinishing and repairing wooden kayaks? 

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RE: Refinishing our Mill Creek 16.5

Hi Monte, 

i have built and restored several clc kayaks over the years and i don't think there is a single good reference book on repairing wooden kayaks.  that said, there is a lot of materail in this forum, some you tube videos and other reference material relevent to repairing wooden kayaks.

i think the best way to start would be to take pictures of the project, an overall picture plus close-ups of the type of damage/issues you want to address, and post them here so that folks with experience can then make suggestions - including pointing you to some of the reference material that may already exist.

each 'restoration' of a wooden kayak is unique and a lot depends on the particular issues you have as well as the goals of the restoration (e.g., its easier to restore a wooden kayak that one intends to paint than one that is finished clear...especially if the wood itself is damaged)

so that is where i would start, take some pictures and post them back on the forum.




RE: Refinishing our Mill Creek 16.5

   First the typical Mill Creek would be wood core with a layer of fiberglass [or 2] epoxyied to the wood with a topcoat of marine varnish.  You likely do not have "gel coat" on the boat. However it is possible. It is rare, especially on the inside. 

As said earlier  the best is to take pictures and post them on the web site. Make close ups but not too close. Have reference photos to relate the damage to the overall position on the boat. 

Nick Shade has excellant videos on his web site and you tube speaking to refinishing .  See the attached where he removed the glass and re-applied. I don't think yours is that bad but it shows how to do it. 

Refinishing a strip planked boat - YouTube

This one is boat maintenance on his personal fleet. Basically repair of wear and tear on wood boats. Pay attention to repair of scratches to the wood......similar to delamination to the wood.......... Note most of the time all that is required is sanding and re-varnishing.  But he covers that as I recall. 

Wooden Kayak Maintenance - YouTube


RE: Refinishing our Mill Creek 16.5

   Here is another. It's basically using paint stripper to remove varnish then revianish. I've not done this most of mine were just sand and varnish/paint. 

Refinishing Stitch and Glue Petrel - YouTube


Most of these are way more involved than usual. Posting your pictures can help the forum narrow down your necessary repairs.  CLC has the supplies you will need.  

RE: Refinishing our Mill Creek 16.5

   Thank you hspira and Grumpy for your advice and input.  It's all greatly appriciated.  Here is a You Tube link to our Kayak in the hopes that the video can offer more insite into what we are attempting.  Ha! 

I will look at all of the links you have sent and post progress.  Thanks again! 

(1) CLC Kayak Mill Works 16.5 - YouTube

RE: Refinishing our Mill Creek 16.5

Was gonna take a peek at that video, alas YT reports it's 'private' thus unable to play to those without permission.

You ought to be able to go back and change that if you wish. I'm not certain the link you posted will still work though once that's done. Worth a try! (I'd like to see what kind of refinishing you're facing.)  

RE: Refinishing our Mill Creek 16.5

   Oops, should be public now.  Thank you for your support!




RE: Refinishing our Mill Creek 16.5

Yep, got to see it just now!

(You where it's gonna be too cold to use that MC16.5 soon? Two or three weekends are what I'd estimate you need to bring your kayak back to nearly 'as new' condition's why I'm asking. It's forecast to be 17°F where I am this Saturday, not exactly kayak-friendly conditions....)

What I saw in that brief video tells me there's work to be done. Maybe a little more involved than just stripping & revarnishing what needs renewing.

But you're here, along with the rest of us, many of whom can offer suggestions and expert tips on what-all needs to be done to keep your new acquisition safe and usable for many, many more years.

I'm seeing varnish that needs removal first off. That's relatively easy; there are many stripper products that will aid in removing just the varnish that's yellowed, blistered, or cracked & fallen off.

Then there are what appear to be gouges that have left ply veneer exposed to the elements, causing the outer veneer to pull away from the underlying material. Those areas need to be addressed first as that kind of damage will affect long-term integrity of your kayak unless corrected.

Have you ever used epoxy before for anything besides minor 'fix-it' type repairs? You'll want to acquaint yourself with the instructional material available here under the Tips for Boatbuilders tab at the top of this page. It's not rocket science while there are some basic aspects that are worth paying heed to to get the most out of the time and money you invest in your repair efforts.

Once you get the varnish off (as much of it as you can & maybe then some) you'll want to effect repairs with epoxy & fiberglass cloth that will both ensure the structural integrity of your watercraft as well as protect the wooden materials underneath. Then reapplying varnish – or paint if you'd prefer to mask the blemishes left from repairs – comes later. (Varnish goes over epoxy, as does paint. Paint can go over varnish but it's best to avoid putting varnish over paint.)

Both will go far to protect the wood and epoxy from water and most importantly the UV radiation from direct sun exposure that will degrade the epoxy integrity.

Let's see what the other forumites reading this thread! I can help with the technical details about how to approach repairs & stuff but I'll leave it to others to offer up what they think you ought to do.



RE: Refinishing our Mill Creek 16.5

Hi Monte,

Thanks for the video. That is helpful.

Cosmetics aside, spclark is basically on track.  While we call these wooden boats, they are really composite boats with a wooden core that is encapsulated in epoxy/fiberglass. So the key thing on this kind of boat, is while the boat gets wet, the wood core should never get wet….and you are depending on the epoxy/glass to provide that water-proof barrier.    On top of that water-proof barrier, we then need to protect the epoxy/glass from UV rays with some kind of finish like paint and varnish.  Paint is opaque, varnish is a UV protectant but in the visual range, it appears clear.

So the first order of things in any standard restoration/refurbishment, is to ascertain the condition of the epoxy/glass that is supposed to be encapsulating the wood.  once that is ascertained, the next set of work is to ensure all the wood is properly encapsulated in epoxy/glass (e.g., fixing any scratches that went to the wood core, removing and replacing bad glass/epoxy, etc).  and finally, depending on your cosmetic objectives, you either use a “see through” finish like varnish if you are trying to show-off the underlying wood or paint if seeing the wood is not that important.   More extensive renovations can also include replacing old discolored or damaged wood with new wood and more complex structural repairs where wood that has been bonded to other pieces of wood have mechanical breaks or other defects that need to be attended to.

So in looking at your project, where I would start is stripping the entire boat of all paint and varnish so you can evaluate the state of the epoxy glass.  I would also take a good look with a flashlight into the entire interior of the boat (inside the cockpit and flotation areas) to check that the encapsulation of these areas.  

This stripping the boat can be done with a combination of chemical strippers as well as sanding and is the lion’s share of the work in any restoration like this.   After the ‘stripping’, we can then take a look with you on the condition of the epoxy/glass and make recommendations for how to address the various problems that we would see.

My other comment, looking at your short video, is that the boat has clearly been ‘let go’ but does not look damaged beyond repair.  I think you have a really fun project and can do a great restoration.  But it has been let go long enough and the general condition appears rough enough that I would approach this as a complete refurbishment which means all the paint/varnish is coming off as part of the process.   It’s going to be a lot of mundane work.   I also think there is a reasonable likelihood that you may end up painting a lot of it after all the issues are addressed due to the high likelihood that the wood will be stained or discolored because of how long the boat sat without basic maintenance.   but we won't know that for certain until we get all the paint and varnish off.

Fwiw, I find the best way to approach these projects is just with a lot of patience and pacing and to commit to a little progress every day (or whatever you can afford).    Just on the stripping and paint removal, I think you may have a couple days of labor.   But I don’t think we need to do a lot of thinking at this point beyond getting the boat stripped down to the epoxy/glass….and we can  determine what to do next after you complete the first step.

Anyway, that’s my view at this point..



RE: Refinishing our Mill Creek 16.5

   Wow!  Thank you hspira and spclark!  You are a wealth of information and experience!  We are in CA where the weather is mild but we will take the winter to address our boat.  

We've decided to start with the hull and address the scratches and gouges.  There are places where bare wood is showing so I must get very familiar with fiberglass patching.  I will be sure to make more videos as we progress and check in to make sure we are on the right track!  

Thanks again and I'll see you around.  You are most helpfull! 


RE: Refinishing our Mill Creek 16.5

I'd start with a quick survey of the worst damage the boat's sustained. Look for bare wood, either scraped clean of varnish/epoxy/fiberglass cloth or - worse - areas that look to have sustained damage sufficient to cut into or through the outermost layer of the plywood veneer.

These things (as Howard's stated) are composites in nature: the wood and plywood form the structural elements. Fiiberglass cloth & epoxy not only serve to strengthen and protect the underlying structure but also serve to keep everything free of water intrusion... which will lead to rot if left unchecked.

Varnish and paint protect the epoxy from wear and tear as well as UB radiation, which will degrade epoxy over time.

Whatever efforts you undertake to 'restore' your new hobby object need to begin with the worst damage, then move to what comes next, ending with new varnish or paint.

When you create then post new videos, please slow down a bit! Give us a few seconds' lingering view of the areas you have questions about. In your introductory video I saw some evidence of gouges that may have cut into the ply veneer in spots.

Nothing is insurmountable for repairs. A proper approach will take you less time and use the least material when you have a solid idea of what's involved before you begin.  

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