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I’m on a steep curve myself with a woodie, though in my case the pressure is too keep the boat in its current very good condition. You’ll find there is lots of help on hand here!
I put up a general query a while back about advice on care of wooden boats – its well worth looking at the help people gave on that one.
I’ve been cleaning up most parts of the cockpit today and experimenting with sanding and heat-gunning.
Heat-gunning is great. Don’t use a blow-torch – too fierce. The electric ones are great, heat adjustable. Varnish comes off very nicely indeed with minimum fumes and nice clean wood underneath. Then you can sand to get a good base to apply your new surface too.
I’ve stripped A LOT OF WOOD, but always in old houses until now. I long ago gave up on paintstrippers, they are horribly toxic and make it really easy to mess up the wood. Just bad bad bad!
So I’d say get a heat-gun and a really good mask to protect your brain and lungs from the fumes.
I’ll be watching this thread to see what folk say about paints – it seems a bit of a minefield of apparently vague terminology (“two pot”, “enamel” etc) with no clear answers even at the chandlers!
In the end it all boils down to a sound clean wood surface and a waterproof coating …