new wood and varnish ??? - SailNet Community

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Old 08-08-2013
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new wood and varnish ???

My step dad remade all the wood handrails, winch island, etc.. All wood up top. I let him do it at my hesitation cuz he gets ahead of me an tends to just do things his way. anyway, they are done and ready to install. He stained and put one coat of helmsman spar urethane on it. Just wondering what you guys think about this product? Can I go over it with something better? He also says to use steel wool inbetween coatings? I always thought steel wool was a no no on a boat? Opinions please.
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Re: new wood and varnish ???

I would put about 4 coats of tradtional spar varnish over his one 'base' coat

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Re: new wood and varnish ???

any brand recomendations
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Re: new wood and varnish ???

I use Pettit 2015 Flagship varnish. I've also heard that Epifanes Wood Finish is pretty good.

You need at least 4 coats, and preferably 7 or 8. It is too thick as supplied so you'll need the matching thinner.

The best maintenance regime is a top-up coat, once a year. Sand lightly, and apply one or two coats, slightly thinned.

You are right about not used steel wire wool on a boat, they sell copper wire wool at the chandlers. However, I always use 320 grit sandpaper between coats.
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Re: new wood and varnish ???

What kind of wood did he use? Teak is nice but doesn't hold varnish very well. If it is teak, the first coat should have been thinned with thinner 50/50 to really soak into the wood. If it is teak, you probably need more than 4 additional coats, maybe 6-7 and yes, do not use steel wool - use very fine sand paper and a tack cloth to get all the dust off between coats.
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Re: new wood and varnish ???

He used fir for the rails and oak for the winch islands and new block to level the winch. Not my choice but free to me so I wont complain even though I would like to.
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Re: new wood and varnish ???

The Helmsman should be fine. Epifanes seems to be the "preferred" varnish, but for your purposes the Helmsman should be OK. If you have, or can make, UV covers for the wood, the Helmsman should last quite a while.

As for the steel wool, that's somewhat "old school", but it works. There are Scochbrite-style pads that do the same basic thing as steel wool, but don't leave steel splinters in the wood/finish that might oxidize and rust. As I understand it, that's part of why steel wool isn't really used on boats - it can rust too easily.
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Re: new wood and varnish ???

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Originally Posted by abrahamx View Post
He used fir for the rails and oak for the winch islands and new block to level the winch. Not my choice but free to me so I wont complain even though I would like to.
I don't think there's much of a reason to complain. The fir might be a bit soft, but as you said, it's free. If he used white oak for the blocks, you'll be in good shape, that's a very "outdoor-friendly" wood.

Worst case, you can re-do everything to your liking in a few years when it goes bad. In the meantime, though, he's allowed you to focus on other "stuff" that needs to be done, which is great, IMHO. I'd like someone to do some of the work for my boat!
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Re: new wood and varnish ???

I second Epifanes. The high tung oil content keeps the product more flexible. The West Marine brand is probably similar, but costs less.
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new wood and varnish ???

Helmsman is fine, I've used it extensively. 10 coats on all sides. Sand between coats with 220 or 320. But you are setting yourself up for a lot of maintenance regardless of brand. The finish must be maintained or will lift rapidly.

Oak is especially vulnerable to black streaks if not well sealed, due to tannins in water.
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