Varnish: gloss or semi gloss?

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Brian
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Varnish: gloss or semi gloss?

Post by Brian » Thu Jan 09, 2020 9:28 pm

I'm using Epiphanes Clear Gloss on the sides of my 28' Monte Carlo design, and it seems really too reflective, showing up every little bump. I'm thinking I should do another coat with Semi Gloss, but still do the deck with Gloss. Or maybe all with Semi Gloss?

Oyster
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Re: Varnish: gloss or semi gloss?

Post by Oyster » Fri Jan 10, 2020 6:12 am

Personally I use high gloss to build up finishes before considering using semi gloss or even satin varnish on clear coated surfaces. High gloss helps you in your fairing process. Of course I don't know how many coats you have on your surface at this point in time. But don't be afraid of building up your surfaces and then block it out and you may reduce some of the imperfections that you may be seeing. If you do not have a lot of finish on it, then there is nothing wrong with sanding down to bare wood, if your veneers are thick enough and start over. The longer your sanding tools are, the better the flatter the surface will be. Just be careful on any flare areas and just hand sand that area with smaller blocks.

So a portion of my point is that there is nothing wrong with semi gloss varnish, which I use a lot on utility finish boat projects, but that you may be experiencing the point in your finish work that you may not have enough varnish on it while not getting your surface correct before you began? We normally use at a minimum of 10 coats to 20 coats, of course a lot of those coats being sanded off in the process of getting your surface fair. Fairing is done in two stages beginning in the bare stage and then in the build up stage before pausing at your "last coat" and using it. As the old folks used to say you are never done varnishing. :wink: :lol:

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Roberta
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Re: Varnish: gloss or semi gloss?

Post by Roberta » Fri Jan 10, 2020 6:32 am

Oyster is exactly right on sanding. Long boards are the way to get that super flat look like the hood of your car. First the decking must be near perfect using care and much hand sanding. Power sandera can be too aggressive creating hills and valleys and ruts.

On the Zip I built, I didn't like the original results due to a poor surface and method. I long boarded all the old finish off to bare wood and made sure it was level and fair. Then re-stained, sealed, and applied 17 coats of Epifanes high gloss varnish, sanding between coats. This levels out any minor imperfections and results in that show boat finish.

Glossy finishes will reveal any and all surface imperfections. If you are not willing to commit to a lot of surface prep and proper application of finishing products, then a glossy finish is not a good choice. Those beautiful boat finishes don't come without preparation and work.

When I built the Torpedo, I made sure substrate decking was fair so top decking boards would be of the proper contour and fair. That way long board sanding by hand was minimal and required only to slightly crown the boards to create the desired fair contour. That finish was much easier and needed only two coats of sealer and three coats of Epifanes two part poly u for a good high gloss finish. Planning and preparation really helps create good finishes and less work.

Roberta
Roberta "Queen of the Boat Builders"
Built Zip "Oliver IV", Super Spartan "Jimmy 70", and Torpedo "The Glen L".

mickfly
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Re: Varnish: gloss or semi gloss?

Post by mickfly » Fri Jan 10, 2020 7:10 am

I'm going to chime in with a question that may be considered heresy by purists on the forum.

Epiphanes appears to be the "gold standard" finish, but is the highest cost and requires sanding between coats.
Jamestown has "Total Boat" products that do not require sanding between coats--Lust or Gleam. These products allow several coats to be applied in a day versus taking 15 days to put on 15 coats...several weeks or months for those who build mostly on weekends.

I know, a good finish can't be rushed, but I'm wondering if I invest my time in quality surface prep, use these "fast build" products, only sanding between coats when I have a significant time lag (weekend-to-weekend), might I get a high quality finish? I would also sand between coats on the final few coats.

I'm not overly cost conscious when it matters, nor am I time conscious when it matters. I have 4.5 years in on my project and a few more days on varnish will not matter if the time/cost investment is worthwhile. I want a quality finish, but a perfect finish won't look perfect for long on my project. I'm building a Key Largo, which is a utility boat. I'm planning to use it mainly for trips to the beach, so it will be filled with people, beach chairs, and coolers on most days!

Just looking for some frank opinions on these "new" products.

Oyster
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Re: Varnish: gloss or semi gloss?

Post by Oyster » Fri Jan 10, 2020 7:41 am

mickfly wrote:
Fri Jan 10, 2020 7:10 am
I'm going to chime in with a question that may be considered heresy by purists on the forum.

Epiphanes appears to be the "gold standard" finish, but is the highest cost and requires sanding between coats.
Jamestown has "Total Boat" products that do not require sanding between coats--Lust or Gleam. These products allow several coats to be applied in a day versus taking 15 days to put on 15 coats...several weeks or months for those who build mostly on weekends.

I know, a good finish can't be rushed, but I'm wondering if I invest my time in quality surface prep, use these "fast build" products, only sanding between coats when I have a significant time lag (weekend-to-weekend), might I get a high quality finish? I would also sand between coats on the final few coats.

I'm not overly cost conscious when it matters, nor am I time conscious when it matters. I have 4.5 years in on my project and a few more days on varnish will not matter if the time/cost investment is worthwhile. I want a quality finish, but a perfect finish won't look perfect for long on my project. I'm building a Key Largo, which is a utility boat. I'm planning to use it mainly for trips to the beach, so it will be filled with people, beach chairs, and coolers on most days!

Just looking for some frank opinions on these "new" products.
Short and quick answer, there is no shortcut to achieving a long lasting finish that stays on your boat and something that you can recoast down the road without possibly having to strip it off as a result of the lack of bonding.
You will get a wide range of opinions on varnishing and the products that have emerged over the years. There is nothing wrong with Epiphanes varnish, which is consistently thicker than most established spar varnishes. This does create an issue for newcomers just on vertical surfaces. You will get sags and even some alligators in the surface, which can create some issues that requires you to remove most of it to get . So I personally do not recommend someone new to the game to start out using it. There are thinners, but both products are expensive by comparison to other products for minimum return in the beginning. Of course when you get to the final stages, and even have your surface like you like it, then apply the last couple of coats on it after you have advanced your learning curve.

For me personally and what I have used for years in my build up stage is 1026 sealers, which also has a nice deep tone color and works really well with the traditional varnishes like Captains Varnish. Both have a deeper color and plenty of UV in it. This is important to me. I can hot coat the sealer coats with a minimum of 2 coats for starters on bare wood, letting the coats dry to touch . Then use a scotch pad and scuff the surface and reapply two more coats, repeating the process. Scuff the surface again and then apply one coat of Captains on it and see what I have at that point.

Both products left to cure properly, dependent upon the temperatures of course will allow you to do your initial blocking. This is my established method for all boats that gets used in saltwater in particular and gets used in warmer climates, where you put more hours on the boat than you do up north.

Now there are other CLEAR finishes, which also do not have any UV protections in it. So be mindful of seeking out these products, which are also very good for covered boats the majority of the year and in northern parts of the country. The two part products fits this criteria. So do your research before using them.

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Roberta
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Re: Varnish: gloss or semi gloss?

Post by Roberta » Fri Jan 10, 2020 8:06 am

Once I achieved a level surface free of defects, sanding between coats was minimal using scotchbright and an RA sander to just scuff the surface for the next coat.

The UV products in varnishes tend to float to the surface and are removed with aggressive sanding. Two part poly u products retain the UV protection throughout the coats and tolerate sanding better.

My main point is preparation is key to that flawless finish and does not come without planning and a fair amount of work.

Roberta
Roberta "Queen of the Boat Builders"
Built Zip "Oliver IV", Super Spartan "Jimmy 70", and Torpedo "The Glen L".

Oyster
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Re: Varnish: gloss or semi gloss?

Post by Oyster » Fri Jan 10, 2020 9:50 am

Any two part clear coat finish product on large surfaces, especially on the vertical surfaces are better sprayed than brushed. So for the first timer with no experience in spraying in particular and the right compressor set up to capture any damp particles, I don't recommend it. Speaking about the costs of materials, which was eluded to, this is really a key factor to mess up. YMMV

Brian
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Re: Varnish: gloss or semi gloss?

Post by Brian » Fri Jan 10, 2020 10:46 am

Thanks for all the responses. Similar advice from the pros at Sierra Boat, Tahoe. My sides are really good in the bow 1/2, but a little lumpy in the stern. Strangely, the last few feet (the barrel back area) is perfect. Of course, I thought it was all near-perfect after long boarding the wood.

There are only two coats so far, thinned per Epiphanes) and only the sides. I think the deck will prove even flatter. The deck has one thin coat on bare wood, just to protect it for now. The sides are epoxy fiberglassed, so "sanding down to bare wood" is not an option. It sounds like I should start building up nearly full strength and use a long board when sanding between coats. We have just been hand scuffing with 220. Maybe we will try 180 on a board and then go to 220 blocks.

Wow, 15 coats!? I was thinking 4-5 on the epoxy sides and maybe 6-8 on the deck. Sounds like back to West Marine with the proceeds from my 401k!

My boat shed cannot be completely sealed, and we get a little dust in the varnish every time. For the final coat, has anyone ever used an auto body shop power buffer and compound, followed by auto paint buffing and polishing techniques? The process would be to sand with 400/600/1000/1500/2000 wet before using the compound. Works great on hard car paint, but not sure if it will work on Epiphanes. Maybe if it has dried for a month?

JimmY
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Re: Varnish: gloss or semi gloss?

Post by JimmY » Fri Jan 10, 2020 10:46 am

I agree with the comments on surface prep. One other thought from a pure wood working point of view, is that the semi-gloss finishes has a flattening agent in them to tone down the gloss. These also have the effect of "bluring" the grain pattern of the wood. So, you could apply semi-gloss and actually polish it to a gloss finish, but it would not be as clear as starting with a gloss finish. You can always polish "down" a glossy surface to a semi-gloss appearance.

Every finish has it's learning curve, but if you are seeing waviness in your finish you may want to apply another coat of epoxy and get out the long board again. I spent most of the summer in the garage working on my boat's finish and finally launched on Labor Day weekend to only pull my boat out a few weeks later to store it for winter. I really don't miss boating that summer, especially when someone admires the finish today. Bottom line, the build time is much shorter than the use time!

P.S. Posted at the same time. The finish I used would allow me to wet sand and polish. 800, 1000, 1500, 2000, then 3 stages of 3M Perfect It compounds. Not sure if you can do it with varnish, but someone here will know. The higher grit you can start with will make the later grits easier.
-Jim
Nothing says poor craftsmanship like wrinkles in your duct tape!

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Jimbob
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Re: Varnish: gloss or semi gloss?

Post by Jimbob » Fri Jan 10, 2020 11:09 am

I used Epiphanes gloss varnish. You can always make gloss look like semi-gloss by rubbing it out with steel wool. Yes, the varnish is expensive, but you can save by buying in lots of 4 to 6 cans. Got mine from Jamestown Distributors. I sprayed my varnish on thinning with naptha 30-50%. The roll and tip method didn't work for me. The naptha makes the varnish dry much faster. Even with the naptha, the varnish is slow drying. It will take at least overnight in good weather. I sanded with 320 grit paper between each coat. The sanding is pretty fast and easy once you get a smooth surface. I found that dry sanding with a random orbital sander worked better at showing if I had any areas that were not smooth. All you are doing is getting the varnish on evenly and with a smooth surface. You will buff out the final coat. I ended up with close to 20 coats on my boat. To get the high gloss finish, the final coat was sanded starting with 320 grit all the way up to 2000 grit, then buffed out with Meguires 105 and 205 rubbing compound.
Like anything else, go with you are comfortable with. The varnish will afford you with lots of practice with the many coats required.
Jim
Jim Neeley
Building a Barrelback in Sacramento, CA
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Oyster
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Re: Varnish: gloss or semi gloss?

Post by Oyster » Fri Jan 10, 2020 11:56 am

Having fiberglass on the sides does change the process and the amount of coats of varnish that you may end up needing. But at this point in time you will need to have enough build up on the surface for blocking so that you do not break thru the glass and even change the color in those areas from the surrounding areas. And there is nothing wrong with sanding with 180 after you get enough coats built up to block it out with. You can always start with finer grit paper and work your way towards rougher paper until you see how the build up sands out without tons of work. Then go back and sand with finer paper if you end up with any grit marks.

So I would not be too worried about getting it smooth at this point on each layer, just build up the varnish with about 6 coats, of course depending on how uneven the surface is and then block it out. Having the bow and flare area more uneven is really fairly common from the midship aft to the transom. Good luck.

Brian
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Re: Varnish: gloss or semi gloss?

Post by Brian » Fri Jan 10, 2020 11:59 am

I contemplated spraying, but I don't have the ability to really control my shed environment. We seem to be "getting it" with roll and tip. As you say, because of the number of coats, plenty of learning time! Coat and sand.

I think today we are going to put down a coat of gloss, jut thinned 5%, as recommended by Epiphanes. Then try to put together a 22 board about 2' long. I have done this with belts before, but not sure if I can find a 220 belt.

Re power buffing, I'm a little reluctant to try this because if it doesn't work out, I will have embedded the varnish with compound (3M) and then high have issues with re-varnishing. Anyone know what solvent will remove all traces of that stuff? It does sound like Jimbob has had good success with buffing and polishing, which would be great for me, as I am going to inevitably have specks which I could sand to 2000 and then buff to perfection.

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Roberta
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Re: Varnish: gloss or semi gloss?

Post by Roberta » Fri Jan 10, 2020 12:19 pm

I went sanded with 3m Trizact pads. 1500 to 5000 to remove dust specks. Compounding shouldn't add any wax. Dupont Final Clean will remove wax and oils from surfaces and is mild.

Roberta
Roberta "Queen of the Boat Builders"
Built Zip "Oliver IV", Super Spartan "Jimmy 70", and Torpedo "The Glen L".

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Jimbob
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Re: Varnish: gloss or semi gloss?

Post by Jimbob » Fri Jan 10, 2020 12:53 pm

I rolled my boat out of my garage and sprayed on my driveway. Never had a problem with dust. If a bug gets in the varnish, just sand him off before the next coat. Make sure you wipe down the boat before the next coat. I used Mineral Spirits followed up with Naptha.

Mineral spirits works great for cleaning up. To get rid of the oily film left by the Mineral Sprits, follow up with Naptha. Make sure the varnish is fully dry before buffing out. Some say a month cure, but I waited only about a week or two. A lot of boat people use the Meguires instead of the 3m for the buffing compounds. If you're not sure, practice on a scrap. I learned epoxy, varnish, sanding, and buffing technique restoring an old water ski. (pic below)
I got a random orbital buffer made by porter cable. You don't have to worry about burning the varnish with the orbital buffer.
If you are going to go this route, get some buffing pads to go with the buffer from chemical guys (on line).
Jim
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Brian
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Re: Varnish: gloss or semi gloss?

Post by Brian » Fri Jan 10, 2020 2:16 pm

Again, thank so much for all the advice.

Jimbob, its funny you showed a pic of a Maherajah ski. Bob built me my first race ski in the late 1950's, and I've owned several of his slalom skis, including my all time favorite GS speed ski. My fantasy will be to get on it behind the boat I'm finishing, at 75 on Lake Tahoe.

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