View Full Version : Varnishing the Gunwale

10-22-2010, 11:50 AM
Ok, new to boat building and getting close to finishing the gunwale. I want a clear coat finish and purchased Ephifanes clear varnish. My question, should I seal the gunwale first with epoxy as I have read in other forum postings, or should I follow the directions on the Ephifanes can and apply to bare wood. My concern is in filling the grain for a smooth finish. Epoxy has worked well in sealing the grain and creating a hard undercoating in contrast to the porous soft wood. I am inclined to simply follow the directions on the can, but would like opinions if the epoxy process has merit.


My building blog http://stansboat.wordpress.com/

10-22-2010, 12:14 PM
What wood, what sort of storage, and how hard will the use be?

I've not used epoxy for this, but CPES with a hot-coat of varnish over it seems to hold up fairly well on my boats -=- and can easily be sanded back to bare wood to repair gouges, nicks and scrapes. The alternate method is to use either boat soup or thinned varnish as a sealer and semi-colorant.

10-22-2010, 12:19 PM
Hi Thorne,

The gunwale is Sapele Mahogany with Red Oak rubbing strakes. It will be stored in the garage, southern California. I will research, but what is 'boat soup"?

10-22-2010, 12:38 PM
I just finished 3 weeks of varnish work with Ephifanes. For bare wood, I thin the first coat almost 50% with turpentine. Then I use 25% for the second coat, and 15% for the third. For the other 3-6 coats, I thin only enough to brush smoothly. I sand between each coat with 220 grit. Shines like glass.

Lew Barrett
10-22-2010, 12:43 PM
Some people like to seal with CPES and then go over it with the varnish. Varnish purists (I am maybe more like one of those) don't bother with the CPES step and just do their first coats with thinned varnish or a sealer like Old Salem. I generally use thinned varnish using a step such as okawbow suggests. The actual amount you thin, be it 50% or 40% (or plus/minus) is not that critical. But thinning to a reasonable degree is important for penetration

For your boat that will be stored indoors, I suspect that will be the least complicated approach and it should be perfectly satisfying.