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Oct 7, 2007
Vessel Name
Arctic Traveller
Vessel Make
Defever 49 RPH
I could use some advice on varnishing.* Our Defever 49 has a lot of wood on the exterior, and 90% of it is in really nice shape. The cap rails and other wood is a very light golden color that is coated in some type of high gloss coating that is nearly perfect, but there are areas that are beginning to peel along the edges and such.* I have tried to sand and refinish these areas with little luck The problem is that no matter what type of finish I try, it turns the wood a red color.* I really don't want to refinish the entire cap rail due to 5% of it being degraded, while the remainder is perfect. In addition, I like the light blond color.* I have tried many different products, and all seem to change the color of the wood.* Prior to applying the coating, the bare wood matches the wood under the good coating perfectly.* Once the new coating is applied though the red color appears.* I even noticed that clear water causes the wood to discolor.* Does anyone have any ideas?* Could I somehow seal the wood prior to applying a top coat?* Wood finishing is something I know little about and would love some advice.* I guess last resort is to refinish the entire boat, but it really pains me since so much of the wood is perfect, and I dislike the reddish color I seem to get.* Thanks in advance...............Arctic Traveller
Trawler training and yacht charters at
OFB, I tried for two years to get the previous owner to tell me what he used, and finaly got a message that his brother had done all the work, and he thought it was Man O War, cut with something I can't remember at the moment. Armed with this valuable new information, I carefully prepared the wood, and started brushing the stuff on, only to once again discover that it did the same thing. I ended up with a rail that looked like it had a bad case of spotted fever. I have used plenty of Cetol, and have loved it for several reasons, but in this case I prefer the look of the blond wood far better than the orange of Cetol. Funny thing is, the wood is that wonderfull color right up until I brush on what ever I'm trying at the moment. Where the current good coating is, the wood totally matches the just sanded bare wood, so again the problem is that what ever I put on stains the wood with a slight tint. I'd love to hear ideas...................Arctic Traveller

Trawler training and yacht charters at
Arctic Traveller---

As the owner of a boat with a rain forest's worth of exterior teak trim, I can tell you that matching a previous brightwork finish is almost impossible, even if you use the same stuff that was used previously. The problem is that UV light will gradually change the tone of the wood under the finish as well as the tone of the finish itself. When you go to refinish, part of the prep work is sanding the wood. Even a very light sanding removes the surface cells that have changed color and exposes the new wood cells underneath. And of course, you will remove the old finish, too.

Add to this the fact that the finish out of the can will be a different color than the same finish is after several years of exposure to light.

So when you apply the new finish, even if it's the same stuff as used before, it will come out a different color. Sometimes slightly different, sometimes a lot different because there are a ton of variables. The only thing you can try is a long process of trial and error using stains to see if you can arrive at a combination that when you put new finish on top of freshly exposed wood cells you will get the same color as the old finish. The chances of this happening are very, very slim.

This is why, other than making spot repairs to fix a problem, most people who want a consistency of color and tone the entire length of a handrail or piece of trim refinish the entire piece rather than try to get a match when refinishing part of it, since it's almost impossible to get a match.

What you're up against is the nature of the beast.

-- Edited by Marin at 18:26, 2008-01-21
Try thinned down clear epoxy. I use clear epoxy as a base on the areas that get*a lot*of wear.*If I can not match then will strip the*one*piece as each teak piece is a different color.

You could lighly sand the whole piece and then apply a solid stain to the lighter color than re vanish over.*I have done that on several light colored wood to make all one color.* *Or you could make it look like that area just stained a different color.***I*have done both*on several large areas/pieces and nobody knows except me.** The secret is don't be to picky and/or get to close.**

If you are picky the best is to strip and start over.* A heat gun works best then an orbital sander to take off*what remains.* *******
I guess what I'm confused about is the fact that the current coating did not seem to change the color of the bare wood. When I sand the wood to perfection, the color of the wood is identical to the color of the wood under the solid coating next to it. As soon as the wood gets wet with even water, it takes on a redish tint. I have tried several clear coatings to no avail. Perhaps the question is, why does even water make the wood turn red. By the way, I don't know what the wood is, but the color is close to light oak. I still wonder if I could seal it with something? I'm trying to avoid a summer long project stripping all the wood. The available days for varnish work in Alaska are few and far between due mostly to the weather. .........Arctic Traveller

Trawler training and yacht charters at
Here's the problem with repairs. When you do the entire piece of wood from bare, you've sanded it down and it's nice and pretty, clean, etc. You varnish it and all is well. However, once the coating breaks, water gets in there, and sunlight hits it, and starts changing the teak's color. You know how freshly sanded teak looks vs. grey teak that's been out in the weather. This color change is almost instantaneous!

When you go back to try to repair a part where the coating has lifted and is gone, you can try sanding it back to nice, clean bare teak, but that takes a lot of sanding, and you can make dimples everywhere. Usually you sand a bit 'till it looks nice, then varnish over it, and the wood turns darker at that spot, because it really wasn't the pure, clean wood that the original varnish was applied over.

Best solution I've found is to use Te-Ka at that spot. Just use tiny brushes, Q-tips, etc. and follow the directions. It'll turn the wood very light and pretty, and you'll have to sand again, but it will almost if not perfectly match the finish around it when re-applied.

Of course you need to know the type of finish. If you don't, good luck. You can at least tell if it's a polyurethane or regular varnish. Take a little square of cloth and wet it with acetone. Place it on a varnished spot that you're going to refinish anyway. Let it sit and keep it moistened with acetone for 5-10 minutes. If the finish doesn't soften, it's polyurethane. If it does, it's varnish.

Best reference book on brightwork is Rebecca Wittman's. Get a copy if you have any significant brightwork you're going to have to maintain or restore.
A lot of people like to use oxalic acid (or other bleaching agents) to lighten wood before applying finishes like varnish. We did this when we completely refinished our hand and caprails several years ago. I would never do it again. It works exactly as advertised, and lightens the wood, removes stains, etc. The longer you leave it on before neutralizing it with water, the lighter the wood gets (up to a point). And when the finsh is applied (we use Bristol), the results are terrific.

The problem comes later. If moisture gets into a joint, say, and lifts the finish, the fix is to remove the failed finish, prep the wood underneath, and apply new coats of finish to build the area back up to the same level as the rest of the finish. But..... when you finish sand the wood where the original finish failed, you remove many of the wood cells that were bleached by the acid and expose the darker cells underneath. So the repaired area almost always comes out darker. We've tried treating the "new" wood with acid to lighten it, and while this works to a degree, it so far has never resulted in an exact, or even a very close match.

So between the affect of light and time on wood, the affect of UV and weather on finishes, the characteristics of the different pieces of wood used on a long component like a handrail, whether or not the wood was bleached prior to being finished or re-finished, and the affect of the wood itself changing over time, there are a ton of variables all of which conspire very effectively to prevent getting a match when refinishing only a part of a rail, trim, cabinet, etc.

We have learned to simply like the look of nicely finished wood, and if one piece doesn't exactly match the color and tone of the piece next to it, we don't care anymore.
Hi Keith, thanks for the reference to Rebecca's book, whats the name of it? As for the color of the wood, once sanded it is an identical color to the wood under the good varnish. I have gone so far as to try wood bleach to get an even lighter color, but once everything is dry, the color returns to being identical to whats under the good coating. I don't think this is teak, but instead something much lighter with a tighter grain. All I'd like to be able to do is maintain the color of the bare wood without the coating changing it, which I believe is the way the last coating performed. All ideas are welcome. Thanks for the ideas...........Arctic Traveller

Trawler training and yacht charters at
Marin, when you try a repair, and properly sand the area prior to coating, (beach or not), does the wood color match the undamaged areas? What I can't understand is that my wood color matches perfectly until I coat it. Areas I did two years ago (and that don't match) never faded to match the original finish. Thanks..............Arctic Traveller

Trawler training and yacht charters at
thanks for the reference to Rebecca's book, whats the name of it?

Brightwork, the art of finishing wood, Rebecca J Wittman, International Marine Publishing,
ISBN 0-87742-984-7
Bristol is no different than varnish in the way it responds to moisture getting underneath it. It lifts and eventually peels just like varnish. The repair process for both finishes is the same.

Where we were unable to get enough coats of Bristol on something (we have found that 6 coats is the absolute minimum but we usually try for 10) what has happened is the thin spots have "weathered' through exposing the raw wood underneath. If we do nothing about it, this wood turns gray very quickly. So we have to do at least a light sanding to get the teak color back before we start applying the Bristol.

Where we have problems on our old boat are the joints in the caprails, handrails, and cabin trim. The handrail joints in particular are a challenge because they "work" and so eventually let moisture in which eventually lifts the finish off the wood. The problem with our cabin trim strips is that the factory bedding has long since dried out and so does a poor job preventing moisture from getting behind the wood, at which point it can get into the wood and lift the finish. This is a particular problem around joints.

The only truly effective fix is to remove and disasssemble all these items and then reassemble them with new adhesives and new bedding. But that's way more work than we want to do right now, so we try to keep ahead of the finish lifting, which is not always easy in our rainy, wet climate.

If finish lifts off the wood, the only cure that I'm aware of is to remove the failing finish and prep the wood underneath for new finish. Usually this just involves a very light finish sanding with 320-grit sandpaper. We then start applying new finish, ideally eight or more coats to this section. When we have built the finish thickness up to match the surrounding undamaged finish, we do a final fairing of the new finish to the old finish and give it one last coat that overlaps the repaired area and the undamaged area. I believe this process is right out of Rebecca's book.

Since finish lifted by moisture turns milky and generally looks like crap, I see no way of fixing these spots without going down to the wood. Which of course opens up the color match problem we've been discussing.

As to Arctic Traveler's question, when we take lifting or discolored finish off to refinish that section of rail or whatever, the raw wood is the same color the whole piece would be if we stripped and sanded the whole piece. But since we are only prepping the bad section, there is no way it's going to come out the same color as the rest of the piece which is still under it's 8 to 10 coats of finish. The newly sanded wood is always lighter than the finished wood next to it because Bristol (and varnish) has it's own amber color--- it's not clear.

But when we put Bristol on the newly sanded repair section, it invariably turns darker than the surrounding wood because the wood and the new finish have not been subjected to a year of more of UV light, weathering, etc.

I'm talking about 35-year old Burmese teak here--- I have had no experience with finishing other types of wood other than walnut gunstocks, so I have no idea if mahogany or "plantation" teak would react the same way our Burmese teak does.

Like I said, based on our experience, refinishing a section of a piece of wood and hoping to get an exact color match to the finished section is damn near impossible. The only way we've been able to do it is to strip and refinish the entire piece.
Arctic Traveler, what you have is a mahogany,African, Indonesian,etc. These are naturaly red woods that finish beautifuly in a furniture appearance but are red hued. People who like the gold look of teak will use a primer under varnish to give mahogony a yellow hue.

-- Edited by LUVN LIFE at 12:29, 2008-01-28
As for color I've always been happy with the redish color I get useing McCloskeys Varnish. I don't like the orange color of Cetol. The problem I have with varnish is bubbles in the paint cup I dip with my brush. I drag the brush on one side back over the lip of the cup so I won't drip off the end of the brush. The bubbles get in the brush and then into the cup and then everywhere. When the brush gets loaded with paint up near the bristle clamp I feel I need to unload the brush or I'll be drooling paint everywhere. Whats a boater to do.

Eric Henning
30 Willard
Thorne Bay AK
Eric -

Try this: keep your cup filled low enough (or use a tall enough cup) so that you can dip the end of the brush in the varnish (or other favorite coating) and then lift it just clear without lifting the bristles clear of the top of the cup. Then press the bristles on the inside edge of the cup and tilt the handle towards the center. This squeezes the surplus material out of the bristles gently, and with only a quarter inch or so to fall back into the liquid - it eliminates most of the bubbles. (To do this, use a cup without an inside lip so that the inside edges come straight up to the top).

And naturally, don't use the 007 vodka martini recipe - you want the material stirred, not shaken, before starting.
One of the biggest hassles of varnish , here in the warm places is DEW.

In the AM the dew drops work as a magnifying glass and concentrate the UV into the varnish.

Two "cures" ,a wipe in the very early AM with a chamois (real not plastic) ,

and of course the usual tropical requirement ,

" Da Coat Da Month Mon!"


I used to have exactly the same problem with getting bubbles into varnish and paint. A good friend of ours was an engineer at Uniflite for many years and he showed me a technique that is so obvious I couldn't believe I hadn't thought of it. Dip the brush (we use foam brushes but the type of brush is irrelevant) into the finish and then hold it out of the finish long enough for it to stop dripping on its own. Then apply the finish and do it again. Since I started doing this I've never had a single bubble.
Thank you Chris and thank you Marin,

That may be the best thing about this forum, the knowlege that is literally at our fingertips, whenever we want it, all accross the country and further. Or could it be something else ... now that may be an interesting topic. One thing about the Forum thats less than perfect is that I need to write this down as it will soon disappear. On the Willard Boat Owners group at Yahoo the post remans forever. There are 8000 posts and one can go back anytime and look up stuff that was said years ago. It's also fun to surf the old messages and very enlightening. The amount of knoledge stored is incredible.

Eric Henning
30 Willard
Thorne Bay AK
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