Let’s Talk Walnut Stained Covering Boards.


Darker Covering boards? NOT SO FAST!

We haven’t had a good senseless argument for a while and the topic of Dark Stained Covering boards seems to be one of those topics that just goes in circles. So, today, we try and talk about such things. So, here goes.

1949 Chris-Craft Water Ways Brochure

Does this photo suggest darker covering boards?

First, the topic came up regarding WECATCHEM, and it has been suggested by “someONE” that the covering boards were stained darker. There is some proof on Sedans of dark stain slop in vent holes. Not a metaphor by the way, but sure sounds like one. Anyway, “SomeTWO” said, NO WAY! Never happened unless requested to the factory. By the way, that is always the default. If your build sheet says it, its so. But lets just talk about when you are not sure.


Pre war up to the war 1941 and 42  17′ and 19′ Barrel Back Did NOT have dark covering boards, this is a 1941 and wrong!


Correct with no dark stain!

Lets all agree that pre war, it was more common, yes certain models had it and some didn’t. Like certain 22 triples did NOT, but many think they did. What we are talking about today is Post war, because it is our belief that Chris Craft chose to go Blonde after the war as there second accent color. It would be strange to also include Blonde, Mahogany AND walnut, or Chestnut stain. Logic dictaits this, yet we see countless post war boats with just that. Its wrong? Or are we wrong?


No color change and would not make sense here!


The white stripes make it appear lighter.

OK, one reference to this is photos. Well. Lets just say that the photos are BW and there is an optical allusion happening here. Its a very common thing, and the white stripes blend with the mahogany and create an allusion of it being lighter. Its a first year art school lesson in Color and color interaction.


Post war blonde details


Blonde ceiling boards

OK, lets talk production. The blonde stain was time consuming and the general design of the boats don’t fit with a different color covering board, the color accent was inside on the ceiling boards and in the center, not the covering boards. It can also be said that this even changed right before the war on certain 17 barrel backs. They are not dark stained.


WECATCHEM with not darker boards, but looks like it may


With Dark boards. Looks wrong, and a little over kill.

OK, lets talk about how this has happened. Well over time, folks looked at photos..(Optical allusion) and for all the right reasons did it. At first using in many cases black paint, which turned green with varnish over it. Then various stain formulas. The one we did, yes we did it, was a base stain of the correct mahogany stain and then a water based Walnut stain OVER it and it did really well. But was it right on a 1941 on a 19 barrel back? So.. Remember this is a debate, so you can crap all over us here, we are just taking a position and want to bring this stain issue out into the open and have a fun, or not discussion on the topic so when your boat is being judged, or you are judging, you can whip out your phone and click on this story and say SEEEEEE, SomeONE says and SomeTWO said and look at all the comments.


He aint talk’n! Dang!

This is one of those cases where someone that worked in the factory and has an opinion would be helpful.

53 replies
  1. Dan T
    Dan T says:

    I think it’s more about the stain application to get a nice contrast on your covering boards. A little more strain and a little less wipe there will give a nice clean contrasted look without trying to turn a beautiful mahogany tone into a brown walnut or something it’s not. I’ve seen some bad stain jobs, but I’m sure the folks at Katz’s know what to do.

  2. Troy in ANE
    Troy in ANE says:

    It’s all good in the hood!

    I like the dark gar boards, I like the blond gar boards, I even like the medium ones.

    If you have some definitive statement on your hull card that’s great, stick to it. If you don’t, than do what YOU like, it’s your boat.

    • Greg Lewandowski
      Greg Lewandowski says:

      I agree with Troy, it’s your boat. I reduced the amount of blonde when I did my Continental and I think it looks great. If you are not concerned about winning awards for originality, it is your opinion that counts.

      • Troy in ANE
        Troy in ANE says:

        I feel a real testament to originality with our boats is the fact that Chris Smith put a custom windshield on his own boat that he felt looked better than what the factory did.

        The Factory was very focused on production time. Today we can take the time we need to make them the way we want them, even if it does mean you end up taking your buddies boat, that used to be yours, to Dora.

  3. Mark
    Mark says:

    B & W photos are good enough to tell the difference. Pretty clear to me the “someTWO” is correct and you have all one color.

    I too had dark runs in the vent holes. Pretty evident it is just stain never wiped into open grain.

  4. Mike K
    Mike K says:

    are’nt you debating with the wrong group. what does the boatress like? thats how it goes on our dock!

    speaking of which, im in big trouble if you do not out do the valentines from last year. SHE STILL HAS THEM OUT!!!

    just over 2 weeks, do not let us down!


  5. Paul H.
    Paul H. says:

    The covering boards on Barnwood, a 1948 bearing hull number SP-25-140 were dark, and were dark from the factory. This was not denoted as a special request on the hull card but was nonetheless original, as proven by several unequivocal tell-tale indicators.

    Around hull number SP-25-149, CC made some changes to the 25’s, including a different dash and the addition of some free board (among other changes) and it may be that they changed finishing spec’s at that time, I don’t recall. However, Brian Robinson and any one of several other very experienced restorers will know and will be able to add that information to the discussion.

  6. Cameron
    Cameron says:

    On my boat I had to stain the new mahogany on the new bow covering boards to match the ‘old’ mahogany it butted against. Old wood tends to go darker over time, doesn’t it? In this case a stain was essential.

  7. m-fine
    m-fine says:

    I am going to vote with Thing Two. I don’t think they were dark from the factory, and even if they were, I like the all mahogany look on the post war utility.

    • Tom Parsons
      Tom Parsons says:

      Thanks Matt. I like both the factory and dark covering boards so I agree that it is up to personal preference. Once again a great topic for a cold snowy Michigan Monday morning when spring seems so far away!

  8. tparsons56
    tparsons56 says:

    This is an interesting topic to me as I have wondered about the covering boards of my 1941 19′ CC Custom. Mine are similar in shade to the sides and deck but I have seen other 19′ Customs with almost black covering boards. Was the very dark covering boards an option from the factory or would these have been changed later to get more contrast?

      • Don Vogt
        Don Vogt says:

        where does that information come from, Matt?
        btw, the factory referred to the stain on boats that had it as

        “dark walnut stain”. the trick is it looks sort of black looking straight down on it, but from an angle the grain should clearly appear. Also it should not have any “green” tint to it.

        • Don Vogt
          Don Vogt says:

          Matt, a quick look at the 1941 Chris – Craft fleet catalog in the ccabc archive shows a colorized picture of the 19′ that clearly depicts the covering boards as darker than the hull sides or the deck in general. So I question this information.

      • Brian Robinson
        Brian Robinson says:

        Come out from who? That’s the biggest load of BS I have heard in a while. So the ‘holy grail’ ’41 #48817 and countless other original stain ’41 and ’42 that have been documented are wrong? So EVERY factory photo from ’41-’42 is wrong? So the 1941 factory video in the Mariners Museum showing the application of the walnut overstain to a 17′ barrel is fiction? Matt, consider your source.

        • Matt
          Matt says:

          Thanks Brian for reminding me of the Holey grail 19 barrel. It was two tone and all original 1941! I know 1941 was a transition year in some ways. And Sedans may have been different on the Sportsman. We were unable to find any trace of dark stain. But its more likely that the transition in 1947-48 Sportsman was related to the upholstered dash with no stain, and the two tone dash with dark stained covering boards. Eith way, its a fun topic to argue about

          • tparsons56
            tparsons56 says:

            Interesting. My boat is Hull #48885 which was shipped on June, 17th, 1941 and is currently in Mike Green’s shop getting the deck “refreshed” which is why this topic is so relevant. We have opted to keep the original stain as this boat is very original even though I do like the contrast of the darker stain.

          • Matt
            Matt says:

            As reported Oct 2007 Mt Dora the all original 1941 Barrel Back. No refinish, all original in a boat house its entire life. I forgot how breath taking this boat was..is..

  9. Randy Rush Captain Grumpy
    Randy Rush Captain Grumpy says:

    Well I once worked in a factory, and I once saw a boat, so I believe that qualifies me as an expert. I think the dark stain is just sexy as all hell. Do what you want, its your boat. You sell it let some other ________ decide what they think is right.

  10. Jeff Rogers
    Jeff Rogers says:

    Can only speak to pre-war Chris Craft’s, but the dark walnut king plank and covering board stain treatment was done extensively throughout the 1930s – on both runabouts and utilities (including Sportsman) – and was often described as such in CC brochures and literature. Believe this was phased-out by 1941 or so.

    For reference, here’s a brochure for the 1938 CC 19′ Sportsman – which shows the deck stain contrast. This stain treatment is also spelled-out in the specifications on the back page as well.

  11. Matt
    Matt says:

    Thanks Jeff. This is a fun topic since its kinda all over the place and people used artistic licensee back in the day, and now could be perceived as gospel!

  12. Mike F
    Mike F says:

    I just refinished the deck on my 25 from bare wood. Hull 176. I cannot imagine it with dark covering boards. It just wouldn’t look good. My opinion, of course.

  13. Mike Green
    Mike Green says:

    I believe some were and some did not have the walnut colored covering boards. We do know for a fact that the pre-war 24’ Sportsman which was the predecessor to the 25’ post war Sportsman came with walnut covering boards and some walnut color on the sides. We know for sure that the Sedan 25’ Sportsman like Paul and Karen Harrisons boat came from the factory with walnut covering boards and a strip of walnut through the middle of the dash. I think there is one way to tell and that is the dash panel. I have worked on several 25’ Sportsman and 2 had the walnut strip in the dash which in my experience should have the walnut covering boards to go with the dash. I don’t believe all the Sportsman’s had walnut on them and I believe Matt’s boat should be all red mahogany. It’s hard to include Barrel Backs into this equation because it was a totally different boat at a different time although some of them came with a 2 tone dash with walnut in the center just like some of the Sportsman.

  14. Jeff Rogers
    Jeff Rogers says:

    Would agree Mike. This treatment seems to have been predominantly been used on the pre-war Sportsmans (19′ and 24′) – as well as other runabouts / utilities – and was listed definitely in all the 1938 brochures. However, CC didn’t apparently spell-out that color-scheme in print again – either pre-1938 or post. Makes for interesting/challenging sleuth-work, but it’s another fun aspect of the hobby…!

  15. Garry
    Garry says:

    Gee Whillikers, y’all are talking about something that happened around 77 years ago. I can see the stain guy after a good weekend grabbing the wrong stain because of the fog and saying afterwards “it looks good”.
    In the past 77 years or about hw many times has your boat been refinished? WHen in those years did they worry about which stain was used?

    • Mike Green
      Mike Green says:

      I strongly disagree that the workers and foreman’s could just do what every they wanted and that’s why some are different then others. When they made changes on the line they recorded it, most everything had to be OKed with the management especially when it came to changing the boat was painted or stained, that why we see so many engineering change documents. This was not some fly by the wire company.

  16. bruce
    bruce says:

    I’m going to disagree with some of you fellas. Not every classic boat owner has the good sense to make appropriate decisions like this. Suppose Matt really wanted to paint the covering boards blue … Would that not be flat wrong? I only ask this illustrate a point.
    The lucky owner is merely the current custodian to a very special classic boat, and owes it to all of us to get it right.
    So Matt, thanks for asking.

    • tommyholm
      tommyholm says:

      Recipe for Green tinted CC Covering boards: Paint the boards with black paint and varnish liberally. Even better thin the black paint to a wash so the grain will show and then put on the yellow tinted varnish – result: a nice green hue. or best, use a black dye that is not lightfast, couple coats of varnish and you are on the way to CC green. Oh so CC beautiful… p.s. I once saw a barrel of black paint in Algonac.

  17. Matt
    Matt says:

    I would imagine there are documents that state when the dark board topic is referred to? Like mike said, everything was documented and a design change like this would have been a huge design meeting.

  18. thomasd
    thomasd says:

    I do what looks good to me and no one else. If you don’t like my boat move on to the next. I dark stained my 1938 utility because I like the look. i’m going to refinish my ’47 deluxe runabout in a couple months and i’m going to do the dark cover and king planks on it. I personally think wecatchum would look better with the dark stain but it’s YOUR boat not anyone else. 😉

  19. jim g
    jim g says:

    You should put your refinish on hold and wait until the museum reopens so you can do the correct research into this stain question.

  20. Jimmy
    Jimmy says:

    The stain question is just like the two tone dash on barrel back argument which wasn’t two tone or walnut stained, but anyways this is another never ending question that us woody boaters will never stop talking about.

  21. don danenberg
    don danenberg says:

    Just look at the 1947 CC Color catalog. It does NOT show Walnut covering boards on the 25-SP.
    On the next page to it is a 22-U Whitesides; With the contrast of the white topsides and the halation of the white deck seams, it looks more like darker covering boards.

    All I have here is a tiny cell-phone e-mail, as the owner is in Australia till spring. His boat is S-25-061, twin K’s, Streamlined Cabin. His Grandpa bought it in 1961 and color photos from then show red covering boards. I re-stacked the original planking, topsides and decks, and saw NO evidence of any darker stain.
    Who has a ’47 catalog?

  22. Frank Miklos
    Frank Miklos says:

    The second photo does suggest dark covering boards but in photos the white deck stripes will lighten that area and can make it look lighter. Also Chris Craft often are stained much lighter than they were originally. When these boats were new Chris Craft Sanded to 80 grit as did Century . When people sand finer the stain will look lighter and less rich. About Chris craft, I was under the impression that Chris Craft did no dark covering boards after 1946. Some models if not all had walnut covering boards. I may go pull out some of our original catalogs and look to see if I can tell …… But if I were to go from the photos posted I would say. No…. But I saw an original orange striped 17′ barrel that had factory dark covering boards. But it was more of a black Cherry not walnut. That boat had never been down to bear wood It still had orange stripes under the white . also had signs of the orange waterline. That boat was in the Wilkes barre area. Bruce Meyers knows that particular boat much better than me..

    • don danenberg
      don danenberg says:

      All prewar barrelbacks did have factory, dark, covering boards (except #48777 which was all blond), but here we are speaking of postwar, 25-ft Sportsman.

  23. Carroll P
    Carroll P says:

    My forty-eight SP 25 does not have contrasting colors. Although I think the covering boards may have extra (or more) stain giving it the appearance of a different color or shade. It is especially noticeable on the aft deck.

  24. don danenberg
    don danenberg says:

    Nor should it, in my opinion and experience.
    Dark covering boards were a sales and marketing decision on prewar 24’s and apparently all other models then.

    That’s a handsome boat.., Imagine how silly it might look with dark covering boards and that big stem-head area?

    What do you find “noticeable” on the aft deck?

  25. Matt
    Matt says:

    Yes, thats a Pre War which we all agree has the darker stain. We are going to do a story on the Apple Green seams on this one soon!

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