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Old 03-28-2013, 12:38 PM   #1
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My Experience with Varnish and having it last 10 Years

Back in the 90's I was looking for a longer lasting varnish and happened upon a varnish used by Riva Yachts. Riva

They make the old style mahogany runabouts that are all varnished and they say it lasts 10 years. They also make large yachts and the teak has the same varnish and longevity. I soon found they sold the varnish they used and labeled it Rivali. It is sold as three steps and two are two part varnishes with different thinners.

They didn't have instructions and I had just come from several microsoft windows classes and found their application instructions by snooping their web page. I printed it and bought their two, two part varnishes and thinners. That was close to 400 back then but I thought worth it because sanding and varnishing three times a year all the teak on a GB 42 was taking too much time from my drinking habit.

I'll give you a run down on how this works. I know I'll get feedback, now that I've experienced the oil thing, and some will say it isn't so. lol just joking here.

Teak is wood with natural oils and that has to be addressed if you want a long term bonding with varnish and teak. First, sand the wood to a clean surface free of dirt. Then sand with 100 grit sand paper along the grain and that opens the grain for better penetration.

Then, I added this, I take the brush accessory on my vacuum and vacuum off all dust and wood particles. Now you can see open clean wood.

Now, put thick gloves on and get a stack of clean white rags and a can of MEK. Pour the mek on the teak and wipe it off. Repeat this until you get a clean rag and move over the entire teak cleaning it good. This removes the surface oils and fine sanding dust. If you don't do this step, don't expect a lasting bond.

They looked at varnish and teak at the molecular level and determined that tung oil based varnish made the best bond which is spar varnish. I used Captains and the first coat needs to be a 50/50 thinned coat. It will dry in a few hours and you can go back with a second coat of 30% thinned spar varnish. That's probably a day there.

The next day do a third and fourth coat and drop thinning to 25% and 20% respectfully.

Now you have 4 coats and the grain is visible and looks large. You haven't sanded between coats. If you sand and break through this coat to bare wood, you'll have to start over. This is the sealing coat and it should be sealed good.

The middle coating system is a polyester based varnish and there are now several companies that make it. There isn't any UV inhibitors in this. It's strictly for build up.

I take the 3M scrubbers/scratchers that are off red like maroonish. They scratch deep into the grain and that's what you need here. Scratch until there is no shine appearing but don't get into the wood. The two part is mixed and let set to combine then brush a coat on. It dries so fast that when I did my rails I was on one side, wife the other, we met at the transom cap rail and when we went back to the bow I could place my hand on the rail ans apply full pressure and it was dry. I could do 4 coats a day.

Pull all tape every day. This stuff builds fast and will leave an edge so always pull the tape. The next day, sand it with 220 and get most of the grain to disappear. Just be careful not to break through. After taping off, repeat 4 more coats.

Now you are ready for the top coat. Sand again with 220 and all grain should be gone. It should be smooth and pretty. The top coat is really a clear LP with a hue amount of UV inhibitors. It brushes on like butter. When you apply it, look back in 15 to 30 seconds all brush strokes disappear. It will look sprayed.

I buy a $20.00 or so badger brush that is made for varnish. Paint brushes have longer bristles and you will drip and run with them. Find the shorter more tapered varnish brush for this. You will have to toss it after use. I used everything to clean a few of them. Toss it. It's not worth the hassle.

Between coats sand with 320. Between the second and more I use the 3m instead of 320.

I like three to four top coats. It's done then. Always remove tape each day.

In four or five years, you can sand with 320 and apply a new top coat.

Places where it breaks through can be patched but always do the system and it will look like nothing happened afterward.

Rivali is no longer available but the company that made it still sells it. Stoppini is the brand. Here is a link in Europe. http://www.nautimarketshop.com/shop/.../Stoppani.html

I think there is a supplier in Seattle. I had his number and I'll try to find it. It's amazing stuff.

Today, there are other brands selling LP and polyester varnishes so duplicating this system should be easy.
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Old 03-28-2013, 03:58 PM   #2
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Sounds like a lot of effect to accomplish something on raw wood that you can do with two coats of CPES and seven or eight coats of Bristol.

We refinished some new wood on the exterior of our boat in this way some 12 years ago when we discovered Bristol and they have not needed a touch up since. This is wood that's in the weather 24/7/365.

Where major exterior finish problems happen most frequently is with trim or exterior wood components or joints that are no longer bedded properly, either because they never were or because the original bedding has long since given up, dried out, etc. This allows moisture to get behind the wood or into the joint and start lifting the finish.

Doesn't matter how you prep the wood surface, what finish you use, or how many coats you put on, if moisture can get round behind the piece it will work its way in under the finish and it's just a matter of time before the finish starts to lift.

This is the problem on our boat where the 40-year old bedding has long since given up behind trim and in handrail and caprail joints.

The only sure cure for this is to remove and re-bed the piece. Where exterior wood on our boat has not been subjected to moisture intrusion the CPES-Bristol finish has vastly exceeded our longevity expectations.

In fact, where the bedding issue has been dealt with properly, most decent finishes, if sufficient coats are applied and the finishes' UV resistance is high, will go a surprisingly long time without failure without the need for replenishment coats, although a replenishment coat every few years depending on climate is always a good idea I think.

But keep the moisture out and a bright finish, no matter what it is, will have a much longer life, years longer in many cases.
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Old 03-28-2013, 04:15 PM   #3
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Bring the CPES covered wood to Los Angeles and see what you get.
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Old 03-28-2013, 05:46 PM   #4
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Well, you have to put something over the CPES. CPES breaks down pretty fast from UV if its not protected by something over it.

As to "bring the boat to LA," I know different climates can make a huge difference to the longevity of a finish. But besides the fact I would not be caught dead in SoCal other than to change planes to leave, there is pretty good evidence as to the longevity of CPES and Bristol in Bob Lowe's experience in Mexico with Dreamer.

None of which is meant to imply the method you've been using isn't just as effective or maybe even more so in your climate. The point I wanted to make is that if the issue of moisture getting under the wood is not addressed properly it doesn't really matter what finish one uses, including paint. If moisture can get under it, the finish will eventually fail, probably sooner rather than later.
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Old 03-28-2013, 07:39 PM   #5
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You are right about the moisture and Riva Yachts found out that getting a molecular bond with the cellular structure of the teak had to be done completely or water will seek and break that bond. They spent years and big money developing this system.

Bob Smith and I go back to about 1984 and I was one of two here in the LA Harbor that used CPES. I bought directly from him and even spent hours talking to him over the years. Not at one time but collectively. I never used CPES under varnish and actually Bob said not to. Years later in the GB forum I read where Bob and others were doing that. I wrote what Bob Smith had repetedly told me, that CPES off gasses a lot and always allow a full day or tow before you cover it. Bob covered it as soon as it tacks. Bob said trapped gas won't be a good thing.

Years later I was doing my system and I had to do my transom. I decided to try CPES and I followed Bob Lowe's method of covering it as soon as it tacks. I used Captains and I applied six or seven coats over the CPES. Then I used the middle coat and top coat of the Rivali.

A year later I had an orange streaking transom. I wrote about it and Bob Smith called be and said not to buy from him again I could get it locally.

It was ugly as hell. I had to strip it all off and do it over again.
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Old 03-28-2013, 07:55 PM   #6
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This is a varnish thread but I will say I use CPES for everything. I put 6 gallons on my boat's bottom. Another 4 gallons on the hull, 2 gallons on the bullwarks and I don't know how many on the cabin. I use CPES. It's inside my lazarette under paint. I tried his varnish which was clear LP but that was a bust. I like his CPES. I'm sorry his skin was thin but that's the way it goes.
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Old 03-28-2013, 07:55 PM   #7
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We, too, adopted Bob Lowe's method of applying CPES and then putting on the first layer of finish (for us, Bristol) while the last coat of CPES is still tacky. And, for us in our climate, the results are simply amazing in terms of longevity.

My work schedule and the weather usually conspire to prevent us from putting more than two or three coasts of Bristol on top of newly-stripped wood with CPES on it. This is one reason we try to take pieces like grabrails and such home for refinishing so we can do it properly.

But where we have used Bob Lowe's method of CPES first, then Bristol, even two coats of Bristol have made it through a year, including our non-stop rainy winters. This never used to happen prior to our use of Bob's method. I doubt two coats of Bristol could go much longer, and of course all this does nothing in the face of a moisture intrusion problem.

But we have been very impressed with the "clingy" nature of the first coat of Bristol when applied over a tacky last coat of CPES. We have never experienced any streaking or discoloration with this method.

Perhaps actual varnish would not be so successful in this respect--- we stopped using varnish on the exterior of the boat when we discovered Bristol so have never tried putting varnish on top of still-curing CPES.

We buy our CPES kits from Rot Doctor in North Seattle. Just drive over to his house and pick it up. But even though it has Rot Doctor labeling it's the same Smith's product as you've used.
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Old 03-29-2013, 10:26 AM   #8
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I had two things happen with CPES under varnish and color change was one. The other was clarity. When I use only spar varnish as the first coat, I get a clear deep finish that I can see all the way into the grain.

For some reason I don't know, the CPES will be clear for a few months and then it gets cloudy and by a year or so in this sun I won't see the grain. I used CPES on my rails and that happened. I tried it a second time and it still happened so I quit using it under varnish.

When I used it on the transom, I had tried it twice on the rails and re finished them with the Rivali. I read BL's postings and thought I'd try once more and since the transom is vertical the UV isn't as bad. That proved to be wrong.

I made a test strip of teak with the 10 year on it and it is as clear and deep as when it was applied.

Today, I can find similar varnishes without buying Stoppani if I can't get it.

One last thing, the Stradivarius violins have Stoppani varnish and it's been around for hundreds of years.
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Old 03-29-2013, 11:49 AM   #9
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I have boats both in New England and FL, and I would never try to tell someone in FL finishes I use in MA would work for them. SoCal and WA same thing. Nor would I tell a man that where he lives is only good for changing planes, what's up with that?

PS: Riva site is beautiful, thanks.
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Old 03-29-2013, 02:44 PM   #10
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I just finished reading a new book about Stradivari. He, like all the violin makers of his day, made his own varnish himself from raw materials. Exactly what he used and the "mix" he used is still an unsolved mystery of great debate today. He did not use "Stoppani" or any other kind of pre-made varnish.

In our climate the CPES does not mask the wood grain at all, even after ten years on some pieces. The only thing it does is darken the wood a bit when its applied. But not much. It has no effect on the grain clarity at all in our experience. But we use Bristol over it and have never used varnish. So I cannot relate any direct experience with varnish over CPES. The only other people in our marina we know personally who use CPES under a bright finish also use Bristol so their experience with the method has been the same as ours.

By the way I just learned fom another forum member that Bristol has been acquired by another person (the creator of he product recently passed away) and it will continue to be available.
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Old 03-29-2013, 03:48 PM   #11
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Stoppani says it in their pamphlet or web page. I didn't make it up. They say they have been around for centuries.
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Old 03-29-2013, 04:07 PM   #12
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I'm sure that's true in terms of their history but companies often twist the facts or don't know them. I've read about and studied Stradavari a lot over the years as it's a subject of particular fascination to me. The documentation, notes, and letters that exist all describe the home-made nature of his varnish. Actually he used three layers of finish on most of his instruments. A very thin, very hard layer, one ingredient being a very fine ash, and then a softer layer and then a final layer, also fairly soft. He mixed his varnish to have a redder tinge than what his contemporaries were using.

The big mystery is the exact composition of his varnishes. It has been studied using a variety of instruments including electron microscopes and while the number and characteristics of the layers have been determined the actual mix is still a matter of hotly contested debate. Sort of like twins vs. singles.

In any event, nobody to date has been able to replicate Stradavari's varnishes. Not to say there aren't equally good or even better instrument finishes out there. Guarneri, also based in Cremona along with Stadavari and Amati, made fabulous instruments and mixed his own varnishes. Some violinists who have or have had both claim a Guarneri violin is superior to a Stradivarius.
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Old 03-29-2013, 04:11 PM   #13
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Very interesting. I never studied them but I was a music major in college. My main instrument then was trombone and they finish brass instruments with lacquer. I think.

Back to the varnish. Is crystal a 2 part? and what is it made of? I tried the first generation and didn't have the success I wanted and have never tried it since. I know people who swear by it now.
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Old 03-29-2013, 04:18 PM   #14
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Back to the varnish. Is crystal a 2 part? and what is it made of? I tried the first generation and didn't have the success I wanted and have never tried it since. I know people who swear by it now.
What is "crystal" finish? I have never heard of it.
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Old 03-29-2013, 05:07 PM   #15
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I meant Bristol. I looked and see it's a urethane and a 2 part.

If I can't buy more Stoppani I need to find a good varnish for the top coat. I see some people using awlgrip AwlBrite 2 part over the spar they sell and they are happy.
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Old 03-29-2013, 05:31 PM   #16
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This is a name board with Stoppani and I haven't touched it since I coated it. It still looks the same.
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Old 03-29-2013, 06:54 PM   #17
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I meant Bristol. I looked and see it's a urethane and a 2 part.
Ahh, I understand. When it first came out in around 2000 or so, Bristol was a three-part finish. Base, catalyst, and reducer. The mixing ratio was very strict: 8 parts base, 1 part catalyst, and I forget how much reducer.

After awhile they eliminated the reducer from the kit although it was still available separately. To be honest I don't know what it did and have never used it since it was dropped from the kit.

There are at least two kinds of Bristol. There is the traditional amber high gloss for exterior use. There is also a satin for interior use. We have only used the traditional amber high gloss.

Bristol is a kind of touchy substance. To start with, it is extremely thin, about the consistency of diesel fuel. Not quite as thin as CPES but pretty close. As such, you have to be very careful with its application to vertical or near vertical surfaces. It's all about lots of thin coats. To someone used to using varnish, Bristol is a whole new deal and this is where a lot of people experience frustration trying to use it. It runs and sags very easily.

Bristol is also extremely sensitive to moisture during the curing process. I mean really sensitive. Before starting the CPES-first method we applied Bristol directly to bare wood. If there is any moisture in the wood-- from morning dew, yesterday's rain, whatever--- it can raise hundreds of tiny "piimples" in the Bristol as it cures. The only way to remove these is to sand them down. The next coat fixes everything but it means you have to wait a few days for the first "pimple" coat to cure completely before you can sand it.

Also, if you apply Bristol too late in the day and the evening dew starts to form before the surface of the Bristol coat has cured sufficiently, it will turn hazy, almost milky. The good news is that the next coat of Bristol makes this go away completely, but still it's a little disconcerting. We learned early on not to apply Bristol after about 4:00 pm during the summer, particularly on clear days when dew is going to be heavy.

The use of CPES under the Bristol completely eliminates the possibility of moisture "pimpling." We apply two coats of CPES to the raw wood. The first one we let cure completely. This seals the wood. The second coat we let cure until it's still just a bit tacky, at which point we apply the first coat of Bristol. Usually, we let this first coat of Bristol cure completely. The theory is that as the CPES continues to cure it will "glue" the first coat of Bristol down.

So (due to my work schedule) the next weekend we then start applying multiple coats of Bristol. Usually three or four can be put on per day if the weather cooperates. After we get about eight coats on we let everything cure thoroughly, which is easy to do since we almost always have to return to the Seattle area for the work week. The last step is a quick finish sand to remove any sags or runs that we didn't catch during application, and then one or two final coats.

And that's pretty much it for the next five to ten years. UNLESS we get moisture intrusion under the finish, which I've mentioned before is a big problem on our 40-year old boat. I simply don't have the time right now, hence the blue canvas all over our boat that Eric loathes so much, but what we need to do is remove ALL the trim from the boat, refinish it properly and then reinstall it with new bedding. Where I have been able to do this with easily removable items like grab rails, the results in terms of longevity of the finish have been outstanding.

So after all these years we continue to be 100% sold on Bristol over any other finish. BUT...... you have to learn it's quirks in application or it can be very frustrating to use.
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Old 03-29-2013, 08:15 PM   #18
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[QUOTE=Capthead;145588]Very interesting. I never studied them but I was a music major in college. My main instrument then was trombone and they finish brass instruments with lacquer. I think.

Capthead,

You would be the King of the long slide thing! Lacquer is the usual finish to keep the brass fron tarnishing. Some players like the sound better with no lacquer. Classic example is Wynton Marsalis' trumpet.

Marin is right on reguarding the old string instrument masters, they made their own finishes. Some schools of thought say the climate the wood grew in is a factor also.

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Old 03-29-2013, 09:05 PM   #19
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West Systems and varnish

I used this system on one of My Willards, worked very well.
Varnish Over Epoxy - West System
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Old 03-29-2013, 11:52 PM   #20
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Datenight wrote;

"Marin is right on reguarding the old string instrument masters, they made their own finishes."

I made my own teak oil. The composition varied according to how many coats had been applied. It started out w kerosene and 25% raw linseed oil.
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