Mast Varnish - SailNet Community
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post #1 of 8 Old 09-14-2007 Thread Starter
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Mast Varnish

Greetings All,

I am kind of stuck on alternatives, at the moment. I can get my 36' Luders designed Cheoy Lee off the hard before the weather goes ugly with not too much more work. The boat is in Mattapoisett, MA, winter comes early and stays long. The mast needs some new varnish. It has varnish but it looks poorly and the top of the spars look really bad.

Would you suggest varnish/paint remover to get the old coating off? I could just sand it and put some kind of varnish over the Epiphanes that was last appled (not by me).

What varnish remover have y'all used with good results? The mast and spars are sitka spruce.

Rockport, MA
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post #2 of 8 Old 07-31-2008
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Varnish removal R/E

I stuck with sanding on my boat. Epifanes should come off relativly easily, because it is one of the softest varnishes, however it has a tendancy to gum up sandpaper preety quickly. If tou use a stripper off of the boat, any will do. I reccomend one that is in a gell form which you can also cover with wax paper so that it will not dry out if you need to let it soak in. If the wood to be stripped is on the boat then you can not use standard furniture paint stripper because it will melt fiberglass and make it permanently soft. In this case West Marine sells a fiberglass safe stripper called peel-away.

When it comes to choosing a varnish, you may already have a favorite, but having tried many marine brands, my preference is pettit flagship spar varnish, which is captains varnish with extra U.V. filters. At 67% solids it is the most durable traditional style varnish. It will have a deep amber color. Interlux schooner varnish is decent, and will have more of a gold tone, and the Epifanes builds depth fast, and is almost colorless. The problem with the epifanes is the lack of U.V. protection, and its poor abrasion resistance due to a soft finish. I think it is a fine choice as a maintinence coat over the Flag ship varnish. Make sure you realy want to make the commitment before using two part stuff, because it will last longer, but will be hell on wheeles to get off next time, and cetol is only acceptable if you don't like wood, but want to apply a paint which will kind of be wood colored at a distance. You might as well go with brown enamel before Siekens Cetol. Good Luck.
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post #3 of 8 Old 07-31-2008
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I would use a heat gun and scraper.

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post #4 of 8 Old 04-14-2010
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Yep HEAT GUN (all of $25...) and a scraper. It puckers and sloughs off. I spent days as a deck hand aboard Windjammer FANTOME (before she was lost) dry scraping varnish on the 282 foot boat... we didn't have a heat gun at sea. Get one. It's pure magic -- works alos on paint, epoxy, caulk, bubble gum
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post #5 of 8 Old 10-28-2010
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Heat gun and scraper works well. If you have the desire to use chemicals try Jasco Premium Paint and Epoxy Remover. I call it Jellyfish goo because it looks jelly, burns through gloves, and stings your skin like a jellyfish. If you can deal with that then it works great!

S/V Ellen Louise: 1964 Cheoy Lee Robb 35'
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post #6 of 8 Old 10-29-2010
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Another advocate for heat gun and scraper. This is based on several varnish-months (VM) of experience. A varnish-month is the expenditure of 170 hours of labor directed at removal, surface prep and reapplication. That can happen when you have a boat like this for 48 years. I have had the best luck with Flagship.

Another option - to reduce VM's - after they're stripped, just slush 'em down with old motor oil as they did on Gloucester fishing schooners. Then reapply as needed from your bosun's chair.

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post #7 of 8 Old 10-29-2010
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Jasco Premium and a heat gun

I second the opinion about Jasco Premium. A couple months ago I repainted the Sitka spruce mast of my (new to me) 1980 CL 38' Offshore cutter. I took the old paint and underlying varnish off with Jasco, after trying two other products with lackluster success. With Jasco it was remarkably easy to get down to pure bare wood, much quicker than the heat gun alone (which was good for random stubborn bits). BTW the wood and factory scarfs after 30 years were as if cut and glued yesterday. One small rot section at foot (8" x 4") was repaired by a local (Panama City Florida) boat carpenter. He epoxied a new piece of Douglas fir into a tight fit and it's stronger than the original wood (his bill? $200). This points up the fact that wood masts can be easily repaired almost anywhere, in contrast to aluminum. When painted, at least, such repairs are not visible.

Last edited by Kitt; 10-29-2010 at 08:43 AM. Reason: typo
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post #8 of 8 Old 10-29-2010
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The heat gun/scraper combo works well but you have to be conscious of the possibility of setting the varnish on fire. The trick is to heat the varnish enough to loosen it, remove the heat, then scrape. Burning the underlying wood makes for ugly visuals.

While I've always liked the way Epifanes looked, it doesn't have a lot of UV protection and is "soft". This can be cured by applying a 3-part acrylic polyurethane clear coat similar to Awlbrite. The Awlbrite is pricey (as is all Awl*** components) but the results greatly prolong the life of the varnish.

Lately we've been experimenting with Captains varnish as it has a better UV reputation and doesn't require the cover coat.

Capt. Douglas Abbott
USCG/MCA IV/C.I./M.I. 500-ton Oceans

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