DIY and Gear

11 Indispensable tools from our refit

Having the right tool for the job is vital

It is only after you have used the right tool for the job you realize how much time you wasted before hand. While Jon and I are in no way “new” to DIY boat refits we are still learning every step of the way. 

Through  our whoops-ies and “that didn’t work” experiences we have found there is an assortment of must have tools when working on boats. 

Here is the list of tools we have found to be indispensable project after project.

This is in no way a full comprehensive list of all tools needed, but these are some that have stood out to us over the years.

The tools listed here are the actual tools we used.  The links provided are where we bought the tools from which is Amazon or Fisheries Supply……oh and Home Depot 

1) Die Grinder & Attachments

AKA the key to everything. If you have never heard of or used a die grinder before then you are about to see just how much you have been missing out on.  From grinding out spider cracks in gel-coat, popping blisters to removing stubborn galled nuts or bolts and stripping paint, this is our go to tool.

Note that this die grinder model has a grip paddle switch. This is great in case you fall or drop the tool when in use, it will automatically shut off. It is also great for bursts of power as well as it can be locked in the “on” position, but a quick squeeze of the paddle turns it off.  Lastly you do not need to reposition your hands to turn the tool on or off. 

Along with the die grinder itself, we have included the attachments we used most. The assorted  carbide bits are great for pretty much any project you can think of. The paint stripper does wonders in tight spots and makes life easy when removing old caked on sealant/ caulking as well.

It should be stated that when using the paint strippers on the die grinder, it must be used in conjunction with a rheostat, more on this further down the list.

2) Angle Grinder & Attachments

We found whether we were cutting metal, fiberglass or wood this angle grinder was used in some shape or form. This model once again has the paddle switch which we found useful when using this very powerful tool.

Jon also found that keeping old/ used 5″ hook and loop sand papers with the hook and loop attachment along with the rheostat created an incredible  sanding/ polishing tool. Using these items together utilizes “trashed/used” sandpaper which means less products for you to buy. 

Once again, it should be stated that when using the sanding pad attachment on the angle grinder, it must be used in conjunction with a rheostat, more on this further down the list.

3) Rheostat

When too much power is an issue, this tool is worth its weight in gold.  As mentioned with the tools above, this tool simply controls the speed of the power tool which is plugged into it.

We found this to be important when certain attachments can not be used at full speed or when you need just a little more speed control.

4) The Scraper

To say that we have done quite a bit of varnish work aboard Prism would be an under statement.  This hand tool right here was fought over till we realized, why not buy another one? 

We amazon one clicked this bad boy so both Jon and I could get back to scraping varnish as fast as we know how. Further into our refit this tool came out and was at the ready when it came to all things prep. We used this tool to scrape/ shape drying epoxy repairs, scrapped paint and just simply just kicks ass whenever we needed it. 

Don’t just buy one… buy two.

5) Heat Gun

Heat guns are more useful than just for stripping varnish or paint. We have found that using heat can help release stubborn nuts and bolts, it can soften old sealant and help cure your epoxy repair just a bit faster.

We have the older version of this heat gun aboard Prism, well we have 2. The Wagner heat gun has never let us down and always gets the job done. 

6) The 30ft Hose

There is nothing more annoying than dragging the heavy ass vacuum across your deck when doing all your prep work. I’m sure 100% of you reading this right now, know exactly what I am talking about and have all thought about throwing the vacuum off the deck a time or two. Well here is an item to help with your prep sanity.  The 30ft vacuum hose. You have to have a minimum 5hp vacuum to power this long hose, so if you are currently deep into a project and don’t have at least a 5hp vacuum, it’s time to upgrade.

We were able to leave the vacuum in the center of the boat and do full laps around without moving it. Or we could, get this, even leave it on the ground and work on the deck 10 ft up in the air and still have enough hose to work around the deck! 

You’re welcome.


We used the 4.5 Gal. 5.0-Peak HP ProPack wet/dry vacuum made by Ridgid (bought at Home Depot). It worked great and never gave us any problems, but the bags for it are a joke and kind of a pain in the ass to get in. 

We recommend shopping around to see what bags you can get easily for your shopvac and go from there.

7) Orbital Sander

Not all orbitals are created equal.  Having a dependable sander is a must have when working on boats. Sure if you have the budget you can get the fancy reliable sanding tools made by Festool, but if you’re a broke sailor like Jon and I, then a good sander with a vacuum can do the same thing with a little more work.

*** Some yards, well more like most, require all sanding to be done with a vacuum sander.

Jon and I fell in love with this sander, its comfortable to use, not too heavy and the variable speed dial allows us to have complete control and even sand those pesky radiuses. We bought this sander back in 2017 when we started to remove the teak decks, used it practically every day during our refit, and now we are using it again helping friends with their boat projects. We did have to change out the Velcro pad once, but those are easy to find and affordable. Remember, do not throw away your used sanding disks, they can be used with the angle grinder as mentioned above.

8) Reefhook (Caulking removal tool)

From Teak Desk Systems: “The Caulk Removal Tool is used before re-caulking to remove caulk or other flexible materials from seams. A razor knife should be used to free the caulk from the side of the seam, along with the Caulk Removal Tool.
The Caulk Removal Tool is specially designed and constructed for long service life, and ease and speed of operation. You can remove most of the caulking, leaving minimal material for final hand sanding”

This tool is a life saver if you are dealing with a lot of caulking on your teak decks.


9) West System Epoxy Mixing Sticks

Sick and tired of making make-shift tools to sand your tongue and groove paneling? Here is the tool you have been looking for and could possibly already have. The west system epoxy stick. Yep. It took Jon and I days and days to finally see that a piece of sand paper wrapped around one of these bad boys was the answer to our groove debacle. Not to mention the many other uses, like mixing things 🙂 

Fun fact: if you let the epoxy dry on the stick, you can flex it off the following day leaving a fresh stick to be used again. Jon and I made it through our entire refit with only one 60 pack of these bad boys. (bought from Fisheries Supply)

10) Sanding Blocks

The question: How did you get such a great finish with your paint job?

The answer: Blocking ( and patience)

Having a good block set for all sanding needs is essential. We found that in the kit was a block for every job. We even custom shaped one side of the skinny block to fit into the grooves on Prism’s hull. 

11) 3M PPS Accuspray Gun

If you have access to a large compressor and the yard you are in allows you to spray yourself,  learning/ using a spray gun will speed up your project and most likely leave you with a professional finish.

Not to say that it is easy, it 100% takes practice, but the 3M accuspray system is extremely forgiving and versatile. From shooting varnish, to Awlgirp and even bottom paint  you can truly shoot any type of finish you want and or need. Clean up is a breeze as the tips, hopper liners and lids are disposable.

It is also a completely sealed system, so once you have mixed your batch, the reducers will not evaporate. We have an extra hopper, so while one person is shooting, the other can be mixing the next batch creating a seamless and quick refill transition.

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