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  #1  
Old 05-30-2012
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Rubbed varnish finish - how to replicate?

My Bristol 31.1 has a lot of teak in the cabin, and the original brochure refers to a "rubbed varnish" finish. What I would like to know is how this was done, and how I might replicate it. Clearly the result is lowish in gloss and the grain is still slightly raised so they didn't use too many layers.

I want to replicate it, as most of the interior is in great condition. But some areas are worn (particularly areas with heavy traffic, like the surrounds of the chart table and galley) and could use re-finishing.

Thanks in advance,
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My guess is that Watco Oil may have been used. My boat was done in similar fashion. I'm a big fan of using lemon oil (Old English) to bring it back to life.
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Re: Rubbed varnish finish - how to replicate?

My old Tartan 27 was advertised similarly. I used a low gloss tung oil with very nice results. Easy upkeep if scratched. Lightly sand and recoat. You can build up many coats, use high gloss if you like.

Plenty durable for down below. I no longer use varnish inside.

Just my opinion.

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Re: Rubbed varnish finish - how to replicate?

Hand rubbed varnish is 'finished' by rubbing on various mixtures of rottenstone or various grades of pumice PLUS either water or oil to get the exact 'finish' to the varnish you desire.

The varnish, paint, heavy or 'resinated' oil (75% oil + 25% oil based varnish), lacquer, etc. must be fully cured before 'finishing'; on oil based coatings its better to wait 30 days before 'finishing'.

Flat sand with 2000 or finer grit W&D paper, then 3M Finese-it, then 3M Perfect-it rubbed in by bare hand = 'ultra-gloss'
Rottenstone + water = high gloss
Rottenstone + oil = semi gloss
Fine pumice or crushed diatomaceous earth + oil/water for semi glass
.... all the way down to coarser pumice and oil for coarser and coarser to matte finishes.

How to do:
• clean bare hand or clean 'balled-up' microfiber rag, slightly wetted with oil or water.
•*small* amount of abrasive picked up (dabbed into) by the moisture on the hand or rag.
• rub in the direction of the grain, until gloss/semi-gloss/matt is attained ... change/add abrasive often.
• Finish up with *very small* amounts of abrasive with wetted bare hand, rub until the surface gets HOT .... for development of the iridescent glowing 'patina' of the surface wood cells .... that warm radiant GLOWING appearance from the now 'dazzling' wood cells under the varnish.
The final polishing is usually better 'bare handed' as you can better feel the heat generated.

Rottenstone and pumice grades are obtained in old fashioned 'paint stores'.

For mega-ultra gloss, like what you see on high end private jet aircraft, mega-yachts, and the finishes on 'concours quality' auto paint jobs, etc. you can speed up the process by flat sanding 2000-->3000grit wet & dry, then Using Finese-it then Perfect-it and use an autobody shop rotating polisher, on low speed, and with a 3M knobby foam pad ... be careful not to burn the surface, keep the polishing pad 'moving'. Never change 'grits' on the knobby foam pads, one pad for each 'grit'.

The technique is almost similar to 'french polishing' of shellac but without the alcohol soaked cotton pads ... just a bare hand or clean microfiber rag.
Do webseach: "french + polishing" ... french polishing is the ultra-ultra gloss finishes found on the most expensive pianos, and other high end musical instruments, furniture, etc.

Happy 'rubbing'.

Last edited by RichH; 05-30-2012 at 08:41 PM.
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Old 05-31-2012
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Re: Rubbed varnish finish - how to replicate?

RichH has nailed it but I'd add one thing - if you want the finish between satin and ultra gloss that most call "rubbed effect" or "hand rubbed" you can achieve it more easily by applying several coats of gloss varnish then wet sanding to 600 or maybe 800 and then switching to auto rubbing compound applied by hand.

Gives a very nice, hard, gloss finish but not the "show car" ultra high gloss.
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Re: Rubbed varnish finish - how to replicate?

Generally a rubbed varnish finish wont need much maintenance, so I would guess it's a an oil like Watco.

Here is Solare after refinishing the teak with Watco.



On the other hand, you can get a rubbed varnish finish by using Epifanes Rubbed Effect Varnish.

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Re: Rubbed varnish finish - how to replicate?

That looks really nice - did you have to do much prep before applying the Watco?
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Old 06-01-2012
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Re: Rubbed varnish finish - how to replicate?

Oil finishes are great; and, if applied 'thick' and let cure can be more beauteous than varnish ... can be 'polished'/hand rubbed to a gloss the same or better than varnish.
The downside with a straight oil finish ... will begin to oxidize and turn dark after a few years and by 15-20 years the inside of a boat will look like the inside of a mausoleum. Most of the old sailing ships werent painted 'black', its just the oil finish they used went totally oxidized/black. If you 'must' oil, try walnut oil (bring mortgage application when you buy it) ... longer lasting and doesnt turn as dark as fast as straight oil or tung based oils.

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Re: Rubbed varnish finish - how to replicate?

Quote:
Originally Posted by RichH View Post
Oil finishes are great; and, if applied 'thick' and let cure can be more beauteous than varnish ... can be 'polished'/hand rubbed to a gloss the same or better than varnish.
The downside with a straight oil finish ... will begin to oxidize and turn dark after a few years and by 15-20 years the inside of a boat will look like the inside of a mausoleum. Most of the old sailing ships werent painted 'black', its just the oil finish they used went totally oxidized/black. If you 'must' oil, try walnut oil (bring mortgage application when you buy it) ... longer lasting and doesnt turn as dark as fast as straight oil or tung based oils.
Listen to this man! I am in the middle of refinishing my teak which was coated in decades old oil & grime. Cleaning the old crud out was a brutal job - I literally had to use Easy-Off oven cleaner on some of it! I used Watco years ago on another boat and it looks wonderful at first and for a while but it will blacken and hold dirt & grime as RichH noted and then you have a hell of a job cleaning it up.
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Re: Rubbed varnish finish - how to replicate?

So what is the best product belowdecks? Tung oil? A wax? Or just revarnish?
My woodwork below is looking a bit "dry". I would be interested in advice from others.

(RichH: Good summary!!)
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