Smith Mountain Lake Gang Puts On A Saturday Workshop! One More Reason To Love Classic Boat Gangs!

restored olds & barrel back chapter project

Restored Olds 442 & barrel back chapter project

Thanks to fellow Woody Boater Eric Zelman for reporting in from Smith Mountain Lake – Take it away Eric.

The Smith Mountain Lake gang put together another great workshop Saturday morning. Hosted this time by George Blosser at his beautiful lakefront home in Moneta, VA, folks started to arrive around 8:30 AM for coffee and homemade muffins.

George has a great collection of projects in his basement / garage workshop. A Chris Craft barrel back, a vintage Oldsmobile and a tractor.

restored tractor

Everyone should have one of these.


The first presenter was Alan Frederick. He reviewed the tools of the trade for varnishing with emphasis on the proverbial “final coat”. We know there is no such thing but how do we get to the point of hanging up the brush and enjoying the boat. Alan explained the differences in tapes, types of sandpaper, brushes; foam vs. badger hair, and various types of rollers among other components needed for a great finish. One little tool of interest was the “Run Razor”. This little gem could save a correction coat and lots of aggravation. Simple in design, it gently shaves off a varnish or paint run once dry instead of having to sand it and the surrounding area.

George Barrel Back Hatch

George Barrel Back Hatch – BTW his last name is not Barrel Back hatch, although it would be a cool name. Maybe his gang name?

A quick finish sand or scuff and you’re ready for the next coat. Another little trick that Alan shared was how to make a homemade grounding wire for use when varnishing to discharge static charge.

Alan Ground Wire

Ground wire talk.

Using a length of wire, one end gets attached to a washer that is in turn connected to the strut, and the other end is connected to a plug end from the hardware store to ONLY the ground. Plug it in and the boat is now grounded. And yes the various brands of varnish were discussed. The consensus on brush type and varnish…..once again…..use the products that you are comfortable with and yield the desired results. It’s always a good day when you get a little whiff of varnish!

George Buffing

George Buffing, while others watch George buffing, and so the buffer turns

Next up was George Blosser. George continued with the varnish subject touching on wood repair and buffing out the dust monsters. Regarding the wood prep, he reviewed a piece of mahogany that had several cracks. George used this to demonstrate the use of Smith’s Fill It, 2 part filler. The product is mixed 50/50, can be tinted, sands well and takes stain. Key point when using Fill It for a small crack or area is to use some low tack painters tape immediately around the edge of the repair area. This will keep the Fill It from getting into the grain of the surrounding wood and once cured your sanding, prep and stain will not affect the surrounding area. George had an engine cover on hand that once had a crack down the center of top. Using the Fill It, stain and varnish it virtually disappeared. This was in part due to the next topic George touched on, polishing. Using the typical progression of wet sanding he got to the buffer. The noticeable difference to me here was that George prefers a wool pad on the buffer instead of foam for the cream like cutting compounds. I have seen the process done with two densities of foam pad and was warned to stay away from radius edges and getting too close to vertical boards where they meet horizontal surfaces so as not to “burn through” or “cut into” the verticals with the foam. Watching George work with the wool pad he was able to flow the buffer right over and around the corners. The wool pad seems more forgiving and produced that “piano like” deep clarity and gloss finish.

Alan flying the woody colors left

Alan flying the woody colors left

Roger Half Hull

Roger Half Hull …. Half hull, thats Rogers Gang name now

Roger Smith was up and he discussed the engineering techniques and hobby of “Half-Hull Modeling”. Roger loved the vintage schooner yacht Atlantic. The Atlantic was built in 1903 by Townsend and Downey shipyard, and designed by William Gardner, for Wilson Marshall. At a length of 228’ how could Roger enjoy the yacht in his home? Once available as a model the kit was no longer available but the company was willing to sell the enthusiast a set of plans. He made copies of the plans, cut out critical frame sections and used them as templates to cut his wood. A rough cut stack of these critical sections could then be carved to a smooth hull using the reverse cut of the templates as depth gauges as the hull is shaped. The discussion continued to how these models and sections of them can be used to calculate waterlines and other critical aspects of the boat. Roger did a great job on the Atlantic and finished it by making a nice mahogany display board with engraved plate.


Alan Driving in Reverse

Alan Driving in Reverse, or explaining to the jury how it really happened.

Alan returned to discuss the trials and tribulations that some might encounter driving an in board. He reviewed the tendencies of the typical clockwise rotating prop when in reverse, the boat pulling to port, and how to make corrections. The model boat and chalkboard were a great way to demonstrate the maneuvering of the boat to a novice like me. It was also interesting to hear how the various classic boats will react based on the hull shape, rudder length, size and limit of rotation. I was happy to hear that my U22 will offer greater rotation and maneuverability!

group shot

The Smith Mountain Lake Gang!

The workshop ended with a nice lunch and some social time on the deck overlooking the lake. The next full workshop will be in Sat., Oct. 8th, and Steve Filarsky (GoldLeafMan) will be one of the presenters at Bill Garrecht’s shop.

fall workshop preview

You can visit the Smith Mountain Lake gang HERE. or in person if you want to visit the beauty of Virginia.

24 replies
  1. Dan T
    Dan T says:

    Interesting projects. I envy folks who have time to buff their varnish. I’m happy if I can get a couple of coats on without spilling it or dropping my brush in the dirt.

  2. Wilson
    Wilson says:

    Would love to compare notes with George on the 442. My Cutlass convertable ( same body) which I have owned since new has a design flaw in the top mechanism and a visor that will no longer stay up.

    • George Blosser
      George Blosser says:


      I’d be happy to help if I can. There is a shim that wears out in the visors that probably needs to be replaced. The Olds parts folks all have them….Year One, Fusicks etc. Not sure about the top mechanism.

      • Wilson
        Wilson says:

        The last time I had my top replaced I was shown the padding where the arms had sliced their way thru the padding and the second layer of material. The outer layer was not cut and so I had never noticed it before. The top guy told me he had seen the same thing in other GM convertibles of that vintage ( 1968-’72) and it was a design flaw. He said the way to save my top and the padding was to insert a rag where the top arms bend and come together when the top is down.
        I have taken the visor as much apart as I could and didn’t see where a shim might go…but I’ll look again and if I can’t find it, I’ll mention your comment to the guy in our town who is the den mother to every thing with a 283 or 350 engine and see what he says. Each time I take my car in there it is like going to a car show,…always some ’55 ’56 and ’57 Chevys.
        I wish I had a 442 but my Cutlass with a 350 probably gets a little better gas mileage…But don’t ask what mine gets…I probably don’t want to know.

        • George Blosser
          George Blosser says:


          If you would like to call or email me I’d be happy to send a copy of the visor parts which show the bushing. I am in the ACBS Directory or your can call 540-297- 9202.

          Thanks, George

  3. Al Benton
    Al Benton says:

    Varnishing is indeed an acquired skill that takes many hours of trial & error to learn. I am always amazed that it’s one that I could not get a good handle on over the years. Especially on vertical surfaces. It sure was fun trying to get that perfect finish accomplished though; almost an obsession.

  4. Alan Frederick
    Alan Frederick says:

    The SML club is fortunate to have snagged Eric as one of our members because he really does his homework when it comes to researching not only the original but also what is the latest and greatest available products out there today.
    The theme for this year’s boat show will highlight the 50th Anniversary of the “Jewel of the Blue Ridge”. We are featuring a couple of boats that are 1966 models and have spent their whole life here on the lake. Come join in the celebration. I’ll guarantee you’ll have a great time!

    • Eric
      Eric says:

      As a wise man recently shared with me, You Mr. Fredrick, “Knowledge is a lot like a pile of manure, it doesn’t do any good unless you spread it around”. And I appreciate you and the other members sharing your experience!

  5. Matt
    Matt says:

    Its also been called the Lake George of the south. The real attraction on this lake is the gang life though These folks really keep it going and are very active. VERY active. The show sadly for us here at Woody Boater is to close to the Reedville show and the ACBS international. AHHHHH. With that said its a fantastic show and well worth the trip.

  6. floyd r turbo
    floyd r turbo says:

    I understood that buffing or polishing varnish reduced its UV protection…anyone confirm that? Great workshop guys, always wanted to do some half hull models, maybe I’ll have time in my reincarnation as a ??? That’s a great tight knit group, they know their strengths.

    • Phillip Jones
      Phillip Jones says:

      Factory say’s that’s not correct. UV dispersed throughout the liquid and does not rise to the top. Saw a boat that I buffed out eight years ago, yesterday, and she hangs in a slip. Looks as good as the day I buffed her out.

  7. George Blosser
    George Blosser says:


    I have always heard the same thing, but have never noticed it on any of my projects.

  8. Kevin F
    Kevin F says:

    Interesting comment about the “clockwise” prop rotation. I have a ’48 U-22 that pulls to starboard in reverse, and also turns tight to the right, and not so much to the left. If I try to turn around in a tight space to the left, I might as well use an oar. I think I have the same prop on the boat for entire time I have owned her; although I have the original CC prop I think.

    Do I have an “odd” prop?

    • Troy in ANE
      Troy in ANE says:

      Rotation has to do with the engine and reverse gear (aka transmission) not the prop. Personally I do not know enough about U-22’s to say what your prop rotation is. American Beauty has one of each.

      • DougP in the PNW
        DougP in the PNW says:

        Troy has an odd prop, and Wilson, use a potato chip bag closure clip to keep your visor in place

        • Wilson
          Wilson says:

          Down here our potato chip bags don’t come with a clip…wonder if a clip like a cloths pin or stronger would work ?

  9. Dan T
    Dan T says:

    I think the confusion lies in weather or not you talking about bow or stern. Bow to starboard, stern to port?

    • Wilson
      Wilson says:

      All single engine sterns pull to left or right when in reverse, depending on which way the shaft turns which naturally determines which way the prop turns.

    • Kevin F
      Kevin F says:

      In my boat the stern pulls to starboard. When I back into a slip, I put the wheel full starboard, put it in reverse, as the stern pulls to the right, put it into forward to straighten it out, the reverse, and repeat. I was just curious because everyone says their boat has the stern pulling to the left. I have a Velvet Drive trans I believe.

    • Wilson
      Wilson says:

      Okay…Now I know what you are talking about and how it works…And yes we do have some clips like that in the kitchen…I just don’t remember them coming on potato chip bags….We red necks down here just use cloths pins for the chips….But now that you have enlightened me we may use the shorter fancier clips on potato chip & Fritos now. Thanx.

  10. Tom
    Tom says:

    If you have a left hand prop (turns counter clockwise) the boat will back to starboard. Right hand rotation (usually flywheel forward such as the old CC 283 ) back to port. Think of the bottom of the prop dragging on the river bed and that will tell you which way your boat will go in reverse. Proper planning and a little practice and you can use this to your advantage at the dock.

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