Beneteau First 235 Home
All we need is a reason to love thy router!
First 235 Faux Teak & Holly Sole
By Mike Hayden,  Carbon Cat, & Windependent

I always liked the look of a teak and holly sole, but never thought the cost of fabricating the real McCoy was worth the money. Actual teak and holly strips are expensive, and reasonably priced veneers are very thin and don't wear well. Here is how I did it on Windependent for next to nothing. It should wear like iron. Here's what you need:

Materials et al:

• About half a day's time
• A small can of stain
• A 1" x 4" x 48" piece of knot free (clear) whitewood from your favorite box store or lumberyard.
    Sometimes it is called craft wood. Or real holly if you can get it.
• A router with a 1/4" straight bit
• Pint of semi-gloss varnish
• Waterproof glue or epoxy
• One cat
• No bottle of Smoking Loon until after the cat says it's ok

Here's the original sole on Windependent.


A couple of initial comments. First the wood of the sole is very high quality. It is a marine plywood laminate of hardwoods and very durable. Mine was in excellent shape even given its age. A few dents and dings, but most importantly, I did NOT try to fill them or dress the sole up cosmetically prior to this project. I simply used the sole as is.

Applying stain over top of the existing varnish would be futile. So the plan here was first take the finish off the sole and take it down to pure bare wood so it can be re-stained to look more like teak than douka wood. It is necessary to do this to the top surfaces only. I left the underside alone.

I stripped off the old varnish with two applications of furniture stripper. I used Klean-Strip Furniture Stripper in a red can that says "removes polyurethane, paint, varnish and lacquer". The active ingredient in it is methylene chloride. Follow the label directions, specially the safety precautions. I worked outside for adequate ventilation because otherwise, said the can, I am a dead man.

Apply the stripper heavily using a disposable paint brush with the sole laying flat. Let it work for 15 minutes. It will blister the varnish. Scrape the old varnish off with a plastic putty knife and dispose of the residue properly. Then repeat a second time. If there are any significant areas that still did not strip, you can do it a third time. If only small bits of varnish remain, you can handle them in a moment.

When you finish stripping, clean the board well with a damp cloth and then let the boards dry a day outside. When they are dry, sand down the surface to remove any remaining bits of varnish. If you miss any varnish in this step, the new stain will not stain and it will look bad when you are done. So take the time to examine the wood carefully and get that varnish 100% removed.

Now select the stain color you want. The way I did it was to go to the Minwax website at and in another browser page open up some pictures of a teak and holy sole copped from a big, expensive yacht. Using a side by side color comparison for the teak part, I picked out several Minwax colors that approximated teak. In my opinion, in order of authenticity, teak is closely matched by: English Chestnut, followed by Special Walnut, then Early American and finally Provincial. The local Walmart didn't have English Chestnut so I went with Special Walnut. Your tastes may be different, so you should check the colors yourself.

Ok, now stain your bare wood. It looks real dark, eh? Nevertheless, I applied a first coat, rubbed it off, then applied a second coat. I didn't miss any old varnish so it stained uniformly.

If there is a standard spacing on a standard teak and holly sole the standard seems to be teak strips that are 2 3/8"wide separated by 1/4"holly strips. This is the spacing that I used. Run a piece of masking tape along the forward and aft edges, so you can write on it conveniently. I made a paper strip and marked this spacing pattern on it repeatedly. I used this paper strip to transfer the marks to the masking tape. You can see the marks on the masking tape. My fake teak and holly will run parallel to the centerline. Notice that I started the first teak strip 1 3/16" in from the centerline. This is so when the sole boards are adjoined the center teak strip will appear to be the correct width.

The most outboard 1/4"holly strip will start on the aft edge, but terminate on the starboard (or port) edge, so the terminal area will end up tapered. There is a picture that will make this clear later.

Now fit your router with a 1/4" straight bit. Your bit must leave a 1/4" routed groove with a flat bottom. Lay a 4 foot board across your marks at a location that will center the router bit cut on the 1/4" holly strip location and clamp it down tightly Then route all your grooves about 7/32"deep. Hold the router against the board and run along it as a guide. Be careful. If your router wanders or you otherwise screw up here you won't be able to hide your mistake. You will be setting your fake holly into these routed grooves so they must be properly spaced and accurately cut.

Just route right through the masking tape. Incidentally, the 4 ft board is the board I later cut up to make the holly strips.

All this routing made a Really Big Mess. Sawdust was everywhere. Ever faithful Carbon Cat stayed in the shop the entire time and never moved, oblivious to the sawdust storm. I'll vacuum him later.

When you are done routing the grooves, carefully remove any sawdust and debris from the channels or the holly won't seat properly...and Carbon Cat might be highly annoyed.

Now you make your holly strips. You cut them to width first, then to depth, and finally to length. Adjust your saw to 1/4"and cut a small piece first and test fit the width. When you have the exactly correct width, the strip will fit into the groove easily but not fall out if you turn things upside down. When you think you have it right, cut a SECOND test piece to make absolutely sure your width is perfect. Then cut a sufficient number of 1/4"wide strips to width for all your grooves.

Now, cut them to depth. Use trial and error on small pieces to be certain you find the exact right depth. You want the strips to press firmly down into the channels and bottom out with their top surface flush. There can be no final sanding of the sole board (it would remove the teak color stain) so get these width and depth measurements right. When satisfied, cut all your strips to depth.

Here are the strips laid in place, but not yet cut to length.

Holly is a very white wood, so these strips cheap whitewood are going to be used without any stain finish at all. Varnishing the sole at the end of the project with protect them. Notice the right-most groove in the above picture. The holly strip ends with a long taper on the right side edge. In the next step, install a full length of holly in this groove so it fully sticks out. You will taper it later.

Cut each strip to length so it has an overhang of 1/8". You'll sand the 1/8"nubs off later.

One strip at a time is now glued in place. Run a 1/16"bead of water proof glue (or epoxy, if you prefer it) in the length of the first channel. Spread the glue uniformly across the full width of the channel bottom with a piece of scrap, and then before the glue dries press the strip into place. Use a scrap block of wood and a hammer to tamp the fake holly strip down perfectly flush with the fake teak. Install the rest of the strips the same way until you have faked out the entire sole.

When the glue has dried or cured, address the holly strip that needs to be tapered. I used a small hand plane to taper it to shape, and a little light sanding. The tapered edge is finely faired into the edge of the plywood and becomes very thin. Apply a little glue to this thin tapered edge and clamp it in place until it dries. Then lightly sand the edge one final time so it is smooth and won't snag on anything.

Trim off or sand all the 1/8" overhangs of holly so the sole board is once again the same exact size as before you started. Finish the sole with several coats of semi-gloss varnish, or high gloss if you prefer. Seal it well, to prevent moisture from penetrating your woodwork and discoloring your fake holly. Real holly is preferred because even wet it does not darken.

All that remains is to take it to the boat and set it in place. I'll take a picture of it after installation. Notice the teak where the two boards meet appears to be the proper width.

return to
Beneteau First 235 Mods Online


©2006 kh • : site design and hosting by i-vol