Join Date: Mar 2010
Location: SF - South Bay
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Are you sure modern Cetol is enamel-like? I would not have described it as such. My coatings have remained slightly soft over many years, and have not cracked yet (touch Teak!). And it can be removed by carefully using a heat gun, pretty well like old varnish.
You made some great points - I agree about your comments on ferrous oxide. Even though I know I am running the risk of flame wars, I think another way to put it is:
Old Cetol formulations:
Horrid nasty orange stuff which looked plain wrong and has put some people off it for life. 'nuff said.
Pro - quick and easy to apply (e.g, bubbles not an issue, no sanding between layers). Fewer layers required. Quick and easy recoat.
Con: Does not achieve super-smooth high gloss; "Natural Teak" color acceptable, but still slightly opaque (due to ferrous oxide?)- full beauty of wood less visible.
Pro - "warm", clear often smooth and high-gloss finish which is unmatched in showing off the true beauty of the wood ("the glowing iridescent 'patina' of the wood cells").
Con: Time-consuming and difficult to apply; many layers required, with sanding between layers; constant maintenance (touch-up) to maintain finish; frequent re-coats to maintain finish.
So in summary, well-laid varnish is simply gorgeous, but it does take work and experience. Cetol is a quick and dirty way of making your wood look shiny and protect it from UV.
Personally, I use both. The wood that gets a lot of use (and abuse) I coat with Cetol. The wood I want to look beautiful - some topside and everything below - I varnish.