Marine Varnish Tips for Keeping Your Brightwork Beautiful

If you are the owner of a wooden boat with classic varnished surfaces, you may find it difficult to find the time and discipline it takes to keep your vessel in the tip-top condition that elicits admiring remarks from fellow boaters and casual observers alike. Before you give up on being the envy of your marina, remember that the beautiful, glossy finish of marine-varnished wood, although it requires patience and skill to keep beautiful, is well worth the effort of maintaining. Here are some tips to help take the mystery out of marine varnish selection and application and make it easier to keep up your vessel’s classic appearance.

Marine varnish differs from regular varnish because it contains special components that not only protect wood that is constantly under assault from dampness and humidity but preserve it from becoming brittle and faded from exposure to the ultraviolet rays of the sun.

High-quality marine varnish is designed to withstand all the vigorous demands that a nautical environment can present, so it is usually more expensive than ordinary varnish. Many of the best brands are formulated using high-end tung oil instead of less durable and cheaper linseed oil. Durable marine varnish also tends to contain a higher ratio of oil to varnish resin than cheaper grades. The additional amount of oil allows it to maintain its flexibility and the ability to remain crack-free as the wood it covers expands and contracts with the weather and marine conditions.

If you desire to take some of the hassle and work out of maintaining your brightwork, do not skimp on price or quality when it comes to marine varnish, or you could find your woodwork needing care more frequently.

Preparation is another area where you must never take shortcuts. You cannot expect to restore the finish of a varnished surface by simply adding another coat over the old one. Before you begin applying new marine varnish, you must remove the old, brittle, worn layers by carefully using an orbital sander or chemical paint stripper.

After the old finish is removed, continue your prep work by making any necessary repairs to the wood. These tasks include fixing chips or cracks with epoxy, removing stains using wood bleach and applying color stain to the wood if it is faded. Remember to only use 180-200 grit sandpaper, and sand with the grain of the wood to avoid unsightly sanding marks.

Bubbles in marine varnish can make repairs look sloppy and amateurish,so avoid shaking your varnish container. Marine varnish never requires mixing or stirring unless you need to thin it. If you must thin your varnish, gently stir it with a clean wooden paint stirrer. While you may use thinned marine varnish for early coats, the finishing coat should always be applied at 100 percent thickness.

Marine Varnish

Marine Varnish

Always use a new brush to apply your varnish. The best brushes to use for marine varnish are made of badger hair or some other natural fiber. Never use a brush made of synthetic materials such as polyester or nylon. Man-made bristles can cause brush marks to mar the finish.

Only dip about 40 percent of the length of the bristles into the varnish. It is better to load the brush lightly than to overcoat the surface and create runs and drips. As you work, brush with the grain, and keep brushing toward areas that you have just coated to avoid dragging partly dried varnish out of place.

A marine surface usually requires between six and eight coats of varnish to be well protected. Allow 24 hours for each of the first few coats to dry, and sand them with 180-grit or 200-grit sandpaper. Subsequent coats require 48 hours each to dry, and you must use finer grades of sandpaper such as wet-or-dry 320-grit or 400-grit on them.

Following these tips will help you get the mirror finish that makes marine-varnished wood so desirable.

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