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Old 10-23-2019, 10:48 AM   #1
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Varnish, first time...

I am wanting to re-varnish the rails, steps, ladder, doors. I can take everything but the rails off and bring them home this winter and tackle them one by one. I got the book Brightwork: The Art of Finishing Wood: Rebecca J. Wittman. I have read it twice and will use it as a reference once I start. After a few months of research my wife asked me a simple question that I never thought about. She asked what year was that book written and has anything new came out in the last 18 years that is better to use. Before her question I was leaning towards Interlux Schooner Varnish, as my local shop has every product they make and plenty in stock. I believe the current finish on the boat is also Schooner as I have found two open cans tucked away with a few bits of sandpaper and some foam brushes, the stuff that is out of the weather looks good still and I know it has not been touched for 5 years or more.

The shop owners state its user friendly for my first time, and Rebecca Wittman calls it out in her book as one she used often. My only prior experience was with some seat backs I used a water based clear on, they look good, but have no UV protection (inside a car). So I understand most of the steps needed to create a deep gloss with no dirt/dog hair/dust and how long it takes to build up just a few coats in a controlled environment.

So without starting world war 3 on swapping to Cetol Marine or painting it, any other recommendations? I love the look, I'm able to physically do it, and I understand that once I go down this road.. it never ends.

Our boat is a 1971 Egg Harbor Sport Fisher, it has a full camper canvas on the rear and the boat is under cover in the harbor. We live in Everett Washington and I know some brands do better in the PNW than others.

I have read a little on a two part system, but the shop owners state its best left to a professional. If there are other treads on this topic please send them my way, I did a simple search but found most are going to Cetol or paint.


Thank you

Ron R.
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Old 10-23-2019, 11:04 AM   #2
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While I am sure you will get lots of advice, here are my thoughts, and I am certainly no expert!. First, nothing beats the look of real varnish. Second, given your location plus covered dock, varnish should survive the elements well. Third, if you use good quality varnish, you can usually repair any defects going forward without redoing the whole sections. Lastly, if you use Epifanes (for example) you can apply multiple coats without sanding between coats, so you can build a multi-coat finish much easier/faster. Applying the finish in a controlled environment means you can avoid the plague of dust and flies. I always used a simple disposable "chip" brush, a fresh brush for each coat, and thinned the varnish (Epifanes thinner), starting with very thin for first coats to seal/soak in.
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Old 10-23-2019, 03:36 PM   #3
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And just for fun I picked up a few test cans.
Schooners
Schooners Gold
Pettit 2015 Flagship

I will cut up a few boards and see what one works/ looks best.
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Old 10-23-2019, 03:49 PM   #4
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Actually, I prefer Interlux Schooner. We used it exclusively on our wooden ketch that we sailed from San Diego. I've used it, Jamestown Gleam another good product, Epiphanes (I find it a little more viscous that the others). The work is in the prep, do not short cut it, do not use steel wool. I use the roll and tip method and foam brushes like suggested in the book. Rebecca's book is excellent and my go-to reference but Wooden Boat also has a good reference called "Painting & Varnishing" you can get it from the Wooden Boat Store.
Good luck with your project.
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Old 10-23-2019, 05:59 PM   #5
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For many years
Epifanes

wins my tests and many shipwrights


testing on scrap wood is good but it doesn't answer the test of time,
application indoors 4 coats exterior 6.
First coat thin 20%, then 10% all other coats

Exterior 2nd year lite sanding like 320 one coat, then every year same.

I even used it in FL on outdoor gazebo & furniture



Interior last for several years



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Old 10-23-2019, 06:36 PM   #6
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Based upon my experience with my Nordhavn46's rail cap, if it has external teak, I don't want it. Way too expensive and time consuming to maintain. I let mine go gray and got nothing but grief from dock walkers. I did not see them contributing the necessary funds to maintain it.
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Old 10-23-2019, 06:48 PM   #7
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Recently finished seven coats of Petit Flagship on our handrails. Will see how long it lasts. We are a covered slip, so that helps a lot. And the boat came with canvas handrail covers, but are a pain to put on and off.
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Old 10-23-2019, 06:59 PM   #8
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Been using Flagship for 20+ years now. Always worked great for me, and very easy to repair. If kept covered and properly cleaned, its a 10 year varnish with maybe a refresher coat every other year. Nothing beats the look of real varnish, IMO.
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Old 10-23-2019, 07:15 PM   #9
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We are gradually painting all the exterior teak on our boat. Besides the savings on work we are really liking the way it looks.
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Old 10-23-2019, 10:56 PM   #10
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Epifanes has multiple products. Only a small few do not require sanding between coats. Woodfinish gloss and rapidcoat being the two Iím familiar with. Between them, woodfinish floss I find to be chemically and cosmetically nearly closest to their varnish product. I use the woodfinish myself over varnish most often, though they are compatible with each other.

I really like epifanes, but it is a little more finicky in its viscosity and flow in various temps and getting it to lay down, at least in comparison to other varnishes. It might not be my first choice to learn on, and I find Iím still learning every time I use it.

Iíve experimented with teak oil sealer coats and epoxy sealer coats. So far, I donít have a clear winner. Iím convinced the Magicís is in the prep and overall build, more than any other factor, inclusive of product.
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Old 10-23-2019, 11:51 PM   #11
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Epifanes has multiple products. Only a small few do not require sanding between coats. Woodfinish gloss and rapidcoat being the two I’m familiar with. Between them, woodfinish floss I find to be chemically and cosmetically nearly closest to their varnish product. I use the woodfinish myself over varnish most often, though they are compatible with each other.

I really like epifanes, but it is a little more finicky in its viscosity and flow in various temps and getting it to lay down, at least in comparison to other varnishes. It might not be my first choice to learn on, and I find I’m still learning every time I use it.

I’ve experimented with teak oil sealer coats and epoxy sealer coats. So far, I don’t have a clear winner. I’m convinced the Magic’s is in the prep and overall build, more than any other factor, inclusive of product.
Your little boat doesn't have very much varnish on the exterior. Not enough to get all fussed about. You should be able to knock that off in no time at all.
I have used Schooner and found it to be one of the better varnishes. about even is Flagship.
Way better is Epifanes. I like heir true varnish better than the "wood finish" gloss. he latter claims recoating without sanding. True, but the varnish will also recoat without sanding, so long as you recoat when it is not tacky to touch, but still not cured, so usually within about 4 hours. The "wood finish" is recoatable for about 72 hours, but once hardened, a further recoat will come off in a year, so lots more work than the real varnish. On balance, though the highest price, Epifanes is the best bargain, given its hardness once cured and its longevity once you have 2 or more coats on. It also levels out better than any of the others.
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Old 10-24-2019, 12:32 AM   #12
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Your little boat doesn't have very much varnish on the exterior. Not enough to get all fussed about. You should be able to knock that off in no time at all.
I have used Schooner and found it to be one of the better varnishes. about even is Flagship.
Way better is Epifanes. I like heir true varnish better than the "wood finish" gloss. he latter claims recoating without sanding. True, but the varnish will also recoat without sanding, so long as you recoat when it is not tacky to touch, but still not cured, so usually within about 4 hours. The "wood finish" is recoatable for about 72 hours, but once hardened, a further recoat will come off in a year, so lots more work than the real varnish. On balance, though the highest price, Epifanes is the best bargain, given its hardness once cured and its longevity once you have 2 or more coats on. It also levels out better than any of the others.


Not sure what you mean by ďfurther recoats will come off in a yearĒ.

If you go past the open coat time, you simply sand, exactly the same as real varnish and Iíve never had binding issues either during the open period or when sanding between coats.
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Old 10-24-2019, 02:03 AM   #13
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RonR,

Have you considered the varnish over epoxy method? In theory the epoxy seals the wood and the varnish protects the epoxy. I elected to go that way and have no regrets.

I currently use Pettit 2015 Flagship and re-coat every other year (covered moorage). If you go with Flagship I highly recommend the brushing thinner.
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Old 10-24-2019, 10:16 AM   #14
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As another post has stated given you are doing it indoors and when completed its in covered storage, Schooner would look great. Now your toe rail which looks painted is a different challenge as would will need to remove the rail, I left front stanchions on and tied off with a line to bridge rest of railing. Also really need to seal stanchion screw holes well, might even want to take the time now to over drill hole and fill with epoxy, redrill for screws, otherwise water gets under varnish pretty soon after.
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Old 10-24-2019, 10:32 AM   #15
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Picked up a few samples of what I think will work and what the local marina store suggested for ease of use and what was original to the boat.
Interlux Schooner, and Schooner gold, and Pettit Flagship. So with one coat I used 333 brushing agent on all 3. The Schooner was easy to lay down, the gold was super thick but I like the color, the Flagship was also easy. Over the next few weeks I will build up to 8 coats and see what we like far as ease of use and color.
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Old 10-24-2019, 03:30 PM   #16
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I have tried most all from real varnish to Cetol, teak oil, Epifanes and more. I came to the conclusion that my next boat would have no exterior wood, and last year that dream came true. However on our last trawler with wood, Epifanes was good but the best I found was Bristol Finish which is a two part that is easy to mix and easy to apply and for my cap rail I could apply as many as 3 to 4 coats in one day so long as there wasn't a heavy morning dew. It dried very quickly and got the job done fast. After 3 years it still looked great and I sanded lightly and gave it a couple more coats just for maintenance. I have since used it on many other teak projects. Love the stuff.
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Old 10-25-2019, 01:55 AM   #17
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I only use Le Tonkinoise. No solvents so less coats. Deep golden colour.
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Old 10-25-2019, 05:18 AM   #18
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Picked up a few samples of what I think will work and what the local marina store suggested for ease of use and what was original to the boat.
Interlux Schooner, and Schooner gold, and Pettit Flagship. So with one coat I used 333 brushing agent on all 3. The Schooner was easy to lay down, the gold was super thick but I like the color, the Flagship was also easy. Over the next few weeks I will build up to 8 coats and see what we like far as ease of use and color.

Ron what kind of wood is that test on?
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Old 10-25-2019, 11:21 AM   #19
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Ron what kind of wood is that test on?

3/4 Maple Plywood. Just wanted to see how it laid down. And how much it changes the color.
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Old 10-26-2019, 10:54 AM   #20
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Picked up a few samples of what I think will work and what the local marina store suggested for ease of use and what was original to the boat.
Interlux Schooner, and Schooner gold, and Pettit Flagship. So with one coat I used 333 brushing agent on all 3. The Schooner was easy to lay down, the gold was super thick but I like the color, the Flagship was also easy. Over the next few weeks I will build up to 8 coats and see what we like far as ease of use and color.
Based on this, you're clearly one of the varnish demented, which I was for decades before entering rehab. Before that, I would have varnished my wife if she'd stay still long enough.

In any case, having maintained a 55' spruce mast, Port Orford cedar cabin sides, teak call rail, oak rudder skirt, etc. What I found was most durable was penetrating epoxy, wet sand smooth, then 10 coats of Flagship. Schooner flows and levels better, but Flagship has better UV protection. Use foam brushes, except for the penetrating epoxy, and don't bother sanding for the first 8 coats unless you need to because of bugs, etc., Then wet sand with 320 flat before the final coats, to which you can add a bit of boiled linseed oil for optimum levelling at the cost of longer dry time.

Epifanes is fine, but needs to be thinned to be workable, and I don't think is as durable as Flagship, but does have better color than Flagship, and about the same as Schooner.
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