Thursday, March 5

CROWLEY’S TIP #15: Use high-quality, traditional varnish on your boat’s exterior

Crowley’s refinishing expert, Jayne Parker, continues her series in Part Two of her three-part series on choosing the right finish for your boat. Here, she talks about varnish and its different characteristics and brands.

After deciding that you want the look and feel of varnish, the next step is to pick which type of varnish to use. Remember that the beautiful depth and color you get from varnish is directly proportional to the amount of work you put into it, even if just normal maintenance is required.

There are many different brands and types of varnish available on the market today. The major brands are Epifanes ( high gloss varnish), Interlux (Schooner), and Awlgrips (Awl spar) all of which have very high UV protection. Among these you have the traditional tungoil/linseed oil based varnishes and polyurethanes. Additionally you have varnishes that require sanding between coats (mechanical bond) and some that do not if recoated within a certain time frame (chemical bond.)

There are also varnishes that you can purchase at the hardware store that call themselves spar varnish from companies like Minwax. Please do not use these on the exterior of your boat. They cost a few dollars less because they are not designed for the marine environment. They do not provide as much UV protection or hold up as well as the varnish you purchase from a marine store. Considering that finishing your boat is so labor-intensive it seems foolish not to use the best quality products available.

I usually recommend using a traditional varnish on a boat because they are a bit more elastic than a polyurethane varnish, and do not crack due to the movement of jointed wood. They are also a bit softer so, if damaged, they are easier to fair in and patch.

Epifanes high gloss varnish is one of my favorites; it has an amber tint, builds well and has a very high gloss. They also make a varnish that they call wood finish, which does not require sanding between coats if recoated within a certain time frame. It is not quite as clear or glossy, produces a slightly softer finish and has a caramel tint. Wood finish can be over-coated with their high gloss varnish producing a finish which will be very close in appearance to one that was built up completely with high gloss varnish. In my opinion, Ephifanes varnishes do not flow as easily as some other brands. In certain conditions, they may even require slight thinning and adjusting your brush stroke but the results are worth the effort.

Interlux Schooner varnish is also a wonderful varnish. It has a golden tint to it, is high gloss and flows easily, even in hot weather. Like Epifanes high gloss, it requires sanding between coats (mechanical bond).

Awlgrips Awl spar classic varnish also has a golden cast - a little lighter than Schooner. It flows easily and does not require sanding between coats if recoated within a certain time frame (chemical bond).

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