Introduction: Faux (fake) Cheap Teak Deck From Plywood

In this (my first) instructable i want to tell you about the method i used to create a cheap(er) new decking for my boat, the technique can be used for other uses than decking, it's the actual look and methods used to achieve this look that i'll be documenting.
Any constructive feedback is more than welcome, as said, this is my first instructable and English isn't my native language.

Here in Holland, and probably around the globe, real Teak wood is becoming more and more expensive. For the average boat-owner with a tendency for the DIY (you wouldn't be on instructables otherwise would you?) there are alternatives however!

I first looked at the 'plastic' teak look-a-like, you'll get tons of hits googling for 'fake teak'. This still isn't cheap however, if you do all the measuring and applicating yourself, the price is still nearing the $1000 mark for the surface area shown in this instructable. It does have the distinct advantage of being lower-maintenance than any wood solution, but i feel it lacks that genuine feel you can only get with real wood.

So the obvious choice for me was to see if i could find another solution using just the tools available to me, i ended up using:

- Rotary router
- Routing bits (3 pieces, explained later)
- Power saw
- Sanding paper in different corseness
- Woodworking pencil
- Guide (long ruler or straight piece of wood)
- Tape measure
- Clamps
- Eraser

Apart from the router this should be available to everybody by looking in the garage. Routers aren't cheap, i borrowed mine from my father, and i would advise borrowing a more expensive model rather than buying a cheap one. Cheap routers can be a pain to work with, but it's up to you.

For the materials i ended up using 15mm waterproof plywood. I don't know how to translate this to english, but we call it 'watervast verlijmd multiplex', there are different wood-types available, i choose Ocoume, because it has a very nice wood-grain.

On the next page we'll get into the measuring and drawing part, where it gets interesting!


Step 1: Measuring, Measuring and Drawing

As with any project, the old saying 'measure twice, cut once' applies here too, both when preparing the sheets for fitting and when drawing the outlines for the router, precision here will pay off later.

I first took the sheets and cut the outlines i measured in the boat, using some of the old decking, the more intricate bends were traced. This comes down to just being precise and carefully think it all over before you actually start cutting.

Before you can actually start drawing the outline to be cut you have to make a plan as to which sheet goes where, the most important thing here is to remember the direction of the  grain of the wooden sheets! With plywood the grain runs lengthwise, you will want to route along the grain most of the time (lengthwise). When trying to figure out how to place the sheets, keep this in mind.

When you have rough-cut the sheets, start to test the fitment in the boat, this might take a couple of tries, but you better be carefull, removing excess wood is easier than adding it when you cut too much. In my case all but one sheet were dead-on, the final sheet had to be trimmed a little due to the boat not being perfectly symmetrical. No boat is, so keep that in mind!

When the boards fit exactly as they should, we are ready to draw the outlines for routing!

As i want to show with the example photo of teak decking, real teak is comprised of separate planks, so that's the look we want to achieve from our solid board. To do this, choose a size for the 'outer' plank, this plank runs across the entire outline of the deck, at least in a real teak deck. For my deck i chose 7cm wide. Also choose a size for the inner planks, again, i opted for 7cm, but you can pick any size you want, as long as you make it consistent in the entire deck!

I drew the plans for the placement of the boards and outlines as a sketch in my notepad and then transferred them to a nicer sketch on the computer, use this as a reference! (Wouldn't it be nice to have a sheet-size portal CNC router...). I have those documents on another pc, i'll add them just for reference.

Now pick up your guide and trace the first outline around the entire deck (not neccesarily the outline of each board, the outline of the deck can be a totally different thing!) using the first size you decided upon. See the attached image for reference.
When you have that outline, determine where you want any hatches to be, these should never cross into the outline 'plank'. It might help to keep the next step in mind when deciding on size and location, but you should make some rough lines now to help you decide on the location. Also keep the structure beneath the deck in mind when doing this, it would do any good to have a hatch with a support beam running down the middle.

With the hatches roughed in, measure and draw lines for the planks that fill the deck, using a centerline and working outwards to both sides is the most effective way, if you want to, you can also add some decoration there, and if you need more than 2 boards side by side, the centerline is the best place to join them (see attached photo for my solution).

Now with the planks all drawn out, start to enhance the lines, start by finalizing the hatches, on real teak decking it is common to have boards running along the outlines of the hatch as well, so start by adding a plank around the outline of the hatch, use the same size as the outline plank for the entire deck to keep things in line with each other. When doing the hatches, round the corners using anything that has a radius to your liking (i used a coffee cup). You will cut the hatch along the outermost outline and using this bend, but you can draw the box rectangular for easy measuring. See the attached picture for reference.

Make sure the planks on the deck run across the inside of the hatch, this will give nice clean lines!

Now, when attaching real teak planks in a corner joint, carpenters will always use a 45 degrees cut to join the planks, add a 45 degree diagonal line to EVERY corner in the deck. In some point i had to cheat a little and the line was not 45 degrees, but from exact inside to outside of the 'plank', in the centerline i used a more agressive angle to create the 'diamond' centerplank. Feel free to experiment, so far, any mistakes can be solved with an eraser.

When you are completely satisfied with outline you have drawn, it's time to move to the next step: routing!


Step 2: Routing the Grooves

Let's first make sure we have the router set-up correctly, we will be using 2 different router bits, one with a very sharp tip, which we will use to make the grooves for the outside 'planks', and one with a slightly more 'blunt' tip to create the wider and deeper grooves for the infill-planks. 

Whatever depth you choose for the bits is up to you, but make it consistent throughout the entire project. i chose a relatively shallow 1 mm for the outside 'small' grooves. For the deeper grooves it is important you cut completely trough the first layer of the plywood, exposing, or just into the second layer, this will create a color difference which accentuates the groove. See the attached picture for reference.

With the first small groove bit set-up to the correct height, measure the exact distance from the flat edge of the guide foot of the router, to the center of the drill bit, in my case this was 51mm. Now place the guide of your choosing along the outer lines, the correct distance away from the line you have drawn, when you are completely satisfied it is the correct distance from the line, clamp it down on both ends. It pays to be accurate here. Also, make sure that the guide you choose does not bend, else you will end up with curved grooves. 

Cut all the outside lines this way, including the 45 degree corner lines.

When you're all done with that, do the same for the outside planks of the hatches, you should only have to cut the inside lines, because you will use a jigsaw to cut along the outside lines to separate the hatch. I did route the straight parts of the outside line, to serve as an extra guide when i used the jigsaw, if you do too, be careful not to cut past the rounded corners!

When all outside planks and hatches are done it's time to change the bit for the deeper and wider groove of the infill planks.

Basically, the procedure is the same, take your time placing the guide, be careful not to overshoot into the narrower cuts of the outside planks on the ends and the hatches. The router may have the tendency to want to 'walk away' from the guide, try cutting in the opposite direction if this happens. 

After you're done with this part, sit down, admire your work and have a beer, you earned it.

Beer done? Okay, back to work, step 3: the hatches!

Step 3: Cutting the Hatches

Now the hatches can be a bit difficult, but patience here will deliver a better end result. In order to be able to use the jigsaw you have to have a starting hole. This can be achieved by drilling a couple of holes close together on the outside line of the hatch, make sure you don't use a drill bit bigger than required for he blade of the jigsaw. After drilling the series of holes, start drilling at an angle (staying in-line with the line you want to cut!), thereby making a small slit using the drill bit. This takes a little time and patience, but do it nice, or you impatience will show in the end result!

Test if the jigsaw will go trough the slit you made, if so, you can start cutting along the outside line, following the rounded corners you drew. For the straight lines you can use a guide, obviously that won't work for the rounded corners, just be careful and take your time!

Now the hatches will have sharp edges, as well as the decking where they will fit. Use a third routing bit with an inward curve to create a fillet of about 2~3 mm on both the hatch and the hole in which it will sit. The hatch can be filleted on both the top and bottom, the decking only needs to be hatched on the top. This will make sure you don't feel any height difference the hatch might have after final placement. Also it protects the side of the hatch a little from 'peeling' of the layers. See the pictures for clarification.

When this step is all done, it's on to the final step: finishing!

Step 4: Finishing

Now  comes the part that most people dislike, but is all-important if you want to enjoy your new decking longer than one season. The finishing. 

Basically, sand every surface smooth, use special care in the grooves, make sure no splinters remain.
The fillets on the hatches and the decking can best be smoothed by hand.

I use 100~120 grit sanding paper for finishing.

If you have any pencil marks left, use the eraser to get rid of most of it, a light sanding will do the rest.

When all is sanded smooth you have some decisions to make:

- Do you want to stain the wood or paint it?
- Do you want the grooves to remain as they are or do you want to fill them?

Staining the wood definitely has my preference, it will bring out the natural grain of the wood. I choose Teak stain, 2~3 coats brings the color close to the natural teak.

I left my grooves as they were, but you could also fill them with caulking to more closely resemble real teak. If you want to do so, first paint or stain the wood including the grooves, if you don't moisture will rot the wood under the caulking.
When the paint has dried, carefully place masking (painters) tape along the edges of the deep grooves. Make sure the tape adheres well, don't do the entire board, just one or two grooves at a time, the tape will come undone otherwise. Make sure you also place some tape at the 'ends' of the groove.

With the tape down, cut the nozzle of the caulking tube to a rather large diameter, you want it big enough to 'fill' the groove in one pass. When you have filled the groove with caulk, use a plastic or wooden tool, covered in water with dishwasher fluid to scrape it flat in the grove, simultaneously removing the excess caulk. You will get the hang of this, maybe make some small test grooves in some spare board before attempting this. The color of the caulk is up to you, but teak uses black (sometimes gray) caulking.
After each groove is done, remove the tape, any small excess caulking can be removed later when it's hardened.

And that's it! All your hard work will have given you a brilliant end result. Put the decking on your boat and boast to your friends!

Happy sailing.

Comments

author
HansR24 made it! (author)2017-06-12

Instead of using a router I cut a board of 4mm ply to strips and glued to surface.

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author
respawndespair (author)HansR242017-06-15

Wow, just...wow...that is some very pretty and impressive work!

author
HansR24 (author)respawndespair2017-06-15

Thank you. I too was thinking of options to plank the deck, and teak was one of them. Then I saw your pictures, and the result looks great. Thanks for the inspiration. I have now improved the deck where it terminates at the dashboard.

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author
respawndespair (author)HansR242017-06-16

Very nice work, and that's what instructables is for, inspiring people to improve on existing ideas, and improve you did! I'm very happy to have been the inspiration for this amazing work!

author
Dajackal (author)2017-06-14

Hi! very nice project, I've been thinking about a cheap way to build a wood deck for my sailboat and this looks to me to be a fairly streight foreward project.

My intention is to us a CNC to carve a 6mm teak plywood to shape the plywood and then epoxy it on deck. I want to use epoxy to stiffen the composite deck, which is way too flexible (for a big guy like me to walk on!).

My concerns are:

Durability - A deck is exposed to wear and has to be sanded every couple of years (at least).

Removal - when it will inevitably have to be removed, epoxy could be a hard bond to pull off.

Is it worth a try? do you think I sohuld go with traditional teak or another type of wood, and mill it myseplf to keep costs down?

Thanks!

author
respawndespair (author)Dajackal2017-06-15

Hi, the decking has been on my boat for a little over 4 years now and it still looks good. This deck is normally shielded from the weather, so that helps. Removing something that has been epoxied will be difficult, especially on a fiberglass boat. If i remember correctly, there is also a company that sells a teak look-a-like rubberized system. You also glue this directly to the fiberglass, but it will withstand the weather better and will probably not need removing. This is, off course, not as much fun and as rewarding as doing it yourself :)

author
Dajackal (author)respawndespair2017-06-15

You're right, not very rewarding and fun. The options are quite a few, from rubber to cork.. just liked your solution better ;)

author
mwituni (author)2016-10-18

Excellent work and good idea. Its been a few years now - would be interesting to know how its held up. If still good, has it needed any heavy maintenance?

author
respawndespair (author)mwituni2016-10-18

Thank you, it has held up very nice over the years, we lightly sanded and then varnished it one year after the original instructable and we don't need any touch ups now. I will say it pays to invest in marine grade plywood, else water would get in the seams and destroy the wood.

author
AlanTeed (author)2014-12-28

Beautiful work! Really nice concept and execution. I do have a question. Since I imagine that the routed grooves penetrate the outer layer of the plywood I am wondering how the deck is standing up to weather? I am particularly interested if the grooves have remained waterproof.

author
respawndespair (author)AlanTeed2014-12-29

Hi Alan,

this was a concern for me as well. I have coated the wood three times with varnish and it holds up really well. It has been on board for two years now, it's not directly exposed to the elements, but it definately got wet and it still looks good.

I would suggest lightly sanding and re-varnishing the wood every 2 years depending on use.

I'll see if i can snap a picture in the coming weeks to show the wear.

author
kenkaniff (author)2012-05-14

I believe in North America, A-B-A Grade Plywood is the only kind that is suitable for marine applications.

Feel free to correct me, anyone.

author
Doctor Jazz (author)kenkaniff2012-05-19

Number of marine grade Baltic Birch Plywoods are available in the states.

author
spiderham (author)2012-05-12

It looks great, but the grain patterns are a dead giveaway.

author
respawndespair (author)spiderham2012-05-12

Very true, but after the first 2 rounds of staining the grooves turn a lot darker. On first impression everybody believes it to be separate planks. The grain on ocoume is actually pretty fine, so on first look it's hard to distinguish. But i totally agree it's obvious on closer inspection. Still, i'm very pleased with the end result.

author
spiderham (author)respawndespair2012-05-12

I'm not knocking your work in the slightest bit, I'm especially impressed by your router skills. I used to work for Teakdecking Systems fabricating these floors, so I guess I'm a bit biased against the plywood idea.

author
respawndespair (author)spiderham2012-05-13

I'm not offended :)
You are absolutely right, if i could afford it i would have gone with real teak, but prices are very very high now. The results are very good looking and for me what matters is that i'm happy with it. I'm sure a lot of boat owners will be happy too with the end result of this method, but real teak is still something beautifull.

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