Varnish Briightwork Like a Pro - Part 2

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Senior Member
Oct 6, 2007
In Section 1, we talked about how to prepare for laying some varnish on your trawler's brightwork; let's now get to work.

Step 3- Varnishing, Getting Ready

Supplies We Will Need

Your selection of varnish
Mineral spirits·
Foam brushes ( I like the ones from Wal-Mart)
Tack rags

If you are starting with raw wood you may wish to use the Cetol Marine which has some pigment in it. I prefer to use two coats of it on bare wood to give it a nice color to it. I follow this with 4 coats of gloss . On previously finished teak rails, I use only gloss. Obviously each year, the varnish builds up so you will have to strip it down to bare teak and start over every 5-6 years or so.

This year I only used 3 coats of gloss as I stripped it down to bare teak last year.

Cetol advises not to thin their product with thinners. Forget that! I cut my Cetol with a suitable thinner at least 30%; if its in the 90 degree temperatures I reduce it up to 50%. The rational for doing this is that it allows the Cetol to flow and level itself, reducing the uneven results you will get otherwise. Cetol right out of the can will flow to a greater extent like honey than a paint.

My choice of applicator is a 2 inch foam brush. No brush hairs to deal with and it spreads on without brush marks.

Step 4- Ready to Lay Some Varnish

Okay, we are about ready but there's one additional step you need to do. Brightwork has a inclination to get mold under the varnish on the teak over time. You'll need to kill any likely spores with a rag moistened with bleach and wiped over the teak before the first coat. The bleach will not raise the grain nor will it harm any bare teak.

OK, let's varnish.

Dampen the foam brush with Cetol and apply the varnish to the teak in about 6-10 inch stokes. Apply it lightly to avoid runs always watching your work to catch that run that does occur. Always keep a wet edge, meaning you work your way into the previously wetted areas to avoid drags from drying varnish. The going appears slow but it moves quickly.

You'll need to let each coat dry before reapplying another; perhaps two or even three can be applied in a single day if the weather permits. I use a tack rag to get rid of any dust before laying another coat. There is no requirement to sand between coats when using Cetol.

About 6 coats will give you a lovely finish.

Time - 2 hrs. for coat

Complete application time - 6 hours

Step 4- Clean Up

Think back, we put the tape on certain spots for catching the overlooked brush strokes? It required me about 5 minutes to remove it all. I passed nearly 4 hours with a Dremel tool and brush some time ago removing the varnish that the Patricia Ann's past owner had "applied".

It looks pretty good. All said it took the Admiral and I a total of 8.5 hours out of a 2 day weekend to get the bright work back into Bristol shape. maintaining teak brightwork is not such a bid chore after all.

The author, Mike Dickens, is a trawler owner and owner/Broker of Paradise Yachts located in Florida USA.
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