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MR. KILOWATT
06-04-2012, 08:43 PM
This is my first varnish job and I'm having a problem that I hoped someone here could help me with. I have a 16 foot fiberglass boat with a mahogany plywood deck. I started by block sanding with 220 grit and removed as much of the old varnish as I could without scuffing the veneer plywood. I have been using Epifanes single part varnish. My routine has been brush a coat of varnish, wait 5 day's and sand with 320 grit, wait another day then re-coat. So I average 1 coat per week. I now have 14 coats brushed, and 3 sprayed, for a total of 2 1/2 gallons of material. The deck looks good as long as I leave it in my garage, but when I pull it outside in the warm sun the varnish appears to shrink. It gets squiggly lines all running with the grain of the wood, and I can't seem to be able to fill them up. The tech guy at Epifanes said I was sanding off more than I was applying, so I tried substituting a red scotch bright instead of the 320 grit paper. The varnish seems to have plenty of depth so I don't really think I'm sanding to much, but I have problems somewhere.

Another topic I would like to discuss is how much I thin the varnish. It seems to flow a lot better for me to thin 30% using their brush thinner. Again the Epifanes tech guy said this was a lot, but if it worked for me then I may just need to go a few extra coats at the end. Iv also tried brushing straight out of the can, I'm just saying 30% seems to look a lot better at the end of the day.

Can any of you guys explain what I'm doing wrong. I need to get beyond these squiggly lines. Thanks, Richy

Jay Greer
06-04-2012, 09:43 PM
First of all, you do not need to use sandpaper finer than 220. I also avoid using Scotch Brite pads as they sluff off debris in the work that is hard to remove. In your case, I suspect that you are thinning your varnish too much. I never allow too much time to lapse between coats when ever weather permits. I may even apply a hot coat or two in the beginning stages in order to obtain good build up. Epifanes is a touchy varnish to apply. Full strength it is like spreading snot with a comb. Everyone thins Epi to their own liking. But too much thinning can be a bad thing and leave a steaked surface. Do some research on varnish brushes and get a set of the best you can afford. A good set of Hamiltons should last the user thirty years or more if they are properly cared for. Incidently, eight coats is the magic number of coats to apply from scratch. More than that and the surface can become varnish sick and blister, lift or alligator.
Jay

ramillett
06-04-2012, 09:59 PM
On our boat when we varnish teak it takes about 12 coats to get rid of the grain . We only thin the first coat . When building coat , we varnish every day , with a light sanding between coats . All the wood is in the sun ( outside ) , so no change from the sun . After the 12 coats we let it get good and hard , then we do a heavy block sanding , then we go onto an every 3 months schedule , 2 coats , light scuff in between coats . Bob

kbowen
06-04-2012, 11:10 PM
It's too late to do this now, but for future reference, I have become a fan of soaking in a good coat of epoxy, followed by spar varnish which has a UV inhibitor. The roof rack on my car is made of luan, (3/4" solid lumber, not plywood) I treated it with epoxy & varnish and haven't touched it in 10 years despite the fact that it lives outside in Chicago 24/7. If you do this, start with the wood warm, and then move it to air conditioning or shade when you apply the epoxy and the vapor in the wood will contract and suck the epoxy into the grain. Lay down another coat before the first has fully cured to fill the grain and bond well. Then let it get quite hard ( a week) and wet-sand a lot (no gloss showing) before the varnish. This may not work in all woods and all conditions, but it has worked spectacularly in this case.

seo
06-05-2012, 06:09 AM
My advice would be to read carefully what Jay Greer has to say on the subject. Nowhere else can you pick up a line such as "...like spreading snot with a comb." Beyond that, I think that varnish retains quite a bit of plasticity even after the volatiles have evaporated. And like any plastic material, it will "flow" even though it flows slower than cold molasses. In areas of the wood where the grain is porous, it will flow into the porosities. I used to try to build up thickness by setting up parts (like, say, a door), horizontal, and putting on a really thick coat, and figured that it would level out. It would, and would look quite lovely until several days later when I'd reinstall it, and over a couple of days horizontal curtains would show up. Bummer.
But in your case, my guess is that your wood has typical early wood/late wood grain variations, and no matter how industriouly you sand it flat, some of the grain is more porous than other parts, and even after the varnish has hardened to the touch, it's still "flowing" into the porous striations of the grain. That would explain the ridged texture it sounds like you're getting.
But I am no kind of an expert. Putting on varnish is a skilled craft, maybe even an art.

Don Z.
06-05-2012, 06:43 AM
I'm no expert... and I'd like Jay to weigh in on this one, if he can:

Could part of the problem be waiting a week between coats? I've had issues with some (polyurethane) finishes doing that. I agree you may be sanding too much, and 30% thinner sounds a bit much too.

Spreading snot with a comb. There's a visual I probably didn't need! Epi's is a little thick, I've had luck placing the varnish pot in a pan of warm water. I'm not sure that was "the thing" to do, and it's a fine line between "smooth flowing" and "too hot". But it worked.

wizbang 13
06-05-2012, 07:10 AM
Plywood deck of a fg boat
no telling what kinna' grain/ wood is doin' here.
maybe needed gel filler stain?
maybe use poly on ply, save the oil varnish for timber

Jay Greer
06-05-2012, 10:00 AM
Varnishing is an art that is learned by repetition. Once learned the, ingrained, technique will last a life time. The material is layed on with the brush more parallel to the surface than when painting. One always swings the brush from the center of the chest outward, applying material from dry into wet so that the varnish is automaticaly feathered into itself. This lessens the chance of ending up with "shingles and Maggie's Drawers" in the work. If you are getting sags, Maggie's Drawers, you are either using material that is too thick or you are not feathering the material out enough.

Until it became necessary for manufactures to thicken their product, in order to meet VOC restrictions, varnish was always supplied at brushing consistancy. This, over thickening, has created incredible difficulties for people who have not learned how it feels to lay varnish on correctly. I get a lot of input from people who believe that fifteen or twenty coats of varnish is the proper amount to lay on. In truth, a varnish film that is too thick can cause no end of mischief for the worker. This usually shows up with wrinkling of the film in corners, blisters that go down to bare wood and lifting of the film at scarf joints. Blisters can be, temporarily, reparied by making a fine slit near the edge, with a razor blade,to allow air to escape and shooting varnish in with a hypodermic syringe. This will, usually, get you by till the next varnishin session is done. By then, the varnish in the blister will be dry enough to allow you to block sand the lump down using 320 wet or dry paper and water. The trick of laying on a long lasting film of varnish is to get it on within a reasonable amount of time. Waiting more than one or two days between coats loses the advantage of a chemical bonding of the material. A good varnisher can get away with hot coating two or even three coats of varnish in one day at the beginning of the job. Any attempt to lay on more, without sanding between coats, will result in a "ropey" surface. Depending on how flat I want the surface, I may choose to use a felt block that is 3/4" in thickness and cut to allow a quarter sheet of paper to wrap around it. 220 grit paper is the finest paper I ever use unless wet sanding. Ultra fine paper does not create enough of a tooth and can also pull the surface and ruin the job. How smooth the varnish goes on is the result of good technique and a very good brush. Remember, eight coats of well laid varnish, from bare wood, is the magic number. When it comes time for fresh up work, sand with 120 first, lay on one coat, sand that with 220 and lay on a second coat. This fresh up work usually is needed at the beginning of each season and should be just a part of normal maintenance. The sanding with 120 first removes the first two coats that are then renewed with the fresh two coats. This kind of maintenance should mean that your varnish will not need full stripping for many many years.
Jay

stromborg
06-05-2012, 11:17 AM
[QUOTE=MR. KILOWATT;3434212](snip) I started by block sanding with 220 grit and removed as much of the old varnish as I could without scuffing the veneer plywood(snip) It gets squiggly lines all running with the grain of the wood, and I can't seem to be able to fill them up.(snip)

I certainly don't bill myself as an expert or even journeyman varnisher, but I have painted a few things. The OP's problem is with the grain, which is exactly where I would expect residue from the old finish to be hiding. Is it possible whatever it is he's trying to cover is reacting to the new varnish? Much like an oily thumbprint on the primer coat will pop through the finsh on a freshly painted motorcycle tank, it sounds to me like there is a chemical as opposed to mechanical problem.

Steve

Brian Palmer
06-05-2012, 11:47 AM
I think that might be the problem. There may be some sort of wax or silicone in the old finish left in the grain that is causing "fish eyes" where the new varnish is being repelled, like trying to mix oil and water. It would not be surprising to think that a previous owner that waxed the fiberglass hull also waxed the varnished wooden deck or treated it with a silicone based "boat care" product adn there is still some residue.

I was shocked that he said he has already used 2 1/2 gallons of varnish to finish the deck of a 16 foot boat. That seems like an awful lot, and it would have been more than enough to fill the grain of clean wood.

The only option may really be to take it back down to completely bare wood and wide down the surface with something like acetone to ensure that all wax and silicone is gone before applying any varnish to the surface.

Brian

jonboy
06-05-2012, 12:23 PM
In the same situation here with a mess of old varnish that once beautiful but after a couple of years could be peeled off in sometimes huge sheets, and as stated in other posts i decided to top laminate a whole new deck onto the runabout, as the cost of three sheets of marine ply was less than HOURS of sanding scraping chemically removing,and belt sandering with sheets at 2 beer tokens a hit.....But now I am back to the best way to deal with virgin, raw mahogany ply .....I am a restorer and framer and I have a lot of knowledge and experience in finishing wood and other materials with trad processes... I'd recommended sealing with cellulose, sanding, sealing again with shellac, then any number of top coats and always got almost perfect finishing.... but lasting only a couple of years???? Of course the boat environment is different to a piece of antique furniture, but what are we doing still messing about with trad varnishes when you see what the auto world comes up with and thats a pretty harsh environment , doncha think...?

How about this....Having had a classic BMW car back- to- the- tin resprayed about ten years ago and it still looks bloody fantastic, I'm seriously thinking of taking the runabout down to the local bodyshop and getting them to lay on a couple of coats of modern technology paintshop lacquer or whatever, Ill have done the prepping in sense of how I want the mogonny planks to look , colour wise, (think two tone garwoods or chriscrafts 1950s) but as my old beemer sits outside sometimes days at a time in 40 degs C, and still looks great needing a cut-back and polish about only every three years or so to take off bird sh and sappy exudeates from trees...
I know the steel body of a car ain't the same as wooden boat, but as its a runabout that lives out of the water and ggets trailered and used only for one hundred days or so a year I am going to give it a go... After all the hull is never a problem , itsonly the flat deck surfaces that get worn and scratched and need refinishing...

Jay Greer
06-05-2012, 12:25 PM
Yes, fish eyes can really drive you nuts. I have had good luck using silicone removers that are available from automotive paint suppliers. Acetone has not worked for me in the past.
Jay

tprice
06-05-2012, 12:38 PM
I've been using coats of shellac to build up the surface of teak on my boat after wooding. Just like "Kilz" (which is essentially shellac) is best for contaminated walls, my thinking is that for an oily wood, shellac will adhere best. Appropriate to this post, the grain is quickly filled by applying many coats of the fast drying shellac quickly (you can put 3-4 coats in a day). It sands easily and is a nice color on teak. Then follow with 3-4 coats of nice varnish. It seems to give a nice substrate and build up. Touch up coats every year make for a trouble free surface. In this case though, he's already got 2.5 gal of varnish to remove to try this!

Jay Greer
06-05-2012, 12:45 PM
I use a lot of shellac in my work as a finish conservator. However, one or two coats are all that are needed as a sealer under marine varnish. Too much build up of shellac under varnish will, eventually, result in crazing of the surface.
Jay

jonboy
06-05-2012, 12:55 PM
My point isn't the quality of finish... there's many ways to get the high gloss .....but it seems to me as a casual observer of stuff outside the marine world...the problem is durability...as I sad about a multi layer properly applied trad varnish that came off in sheets after only a couple of years...

Jay Greer
06-05-2012, 09:48 PM
With all due respect, one should be sanding the bright work and applying two fresh coats of varnish each year at fitting out time. Putting this work off too long will result in all manner of finish failures. We freshen up ours each and every Spring.
Jay

Mrleft8
06-06-2012, 09:07 AM
Well....... My opinion of Epifanes is fairly well known here on the forum, so I will just say that I don't think very highly of it..... I'd suggest sanding with 320 grit wet/dry paper (wet) wrapped around a block to level up what you can, then rub the whole surface out with rottenstone. rub it out after it dries with a piece of burlap across the grain. then apply a coat of Benjamin Moore 440 spar varnish thinned 3:1 with turpentine (not paint thinner). Wait a few days to a week, and sand with 400 grit wet/dry paper (wet) wrapped around a block. wipe it down with a piece of towel after it dries, and apply a coat of Benjamin Moore 440 spar varnish thinned 1:4 with turpentine. Wait a week, and sand with 400 grit wet/dry (wet) paper wrapped around a block. wait for it to dry, and rubb it down with a piece of towel. Apply a coat of full strength Benjamin Moore 440 spar varnish, and let it dry for a week. If you want, now you can rub the finish out with rottenstone, wipe it down with a dry towel, and apply a coat of paste wax.

Lew Barrett
06-06-2012, 10:23 AM
I use a lot of shellac in my work as a finish conservator. However, one or two coats are all that are needed as a sealer under marine varnish. Too much build up of shellac under varnish will, eventually, result in crazing of the surface.
Jay

Especially when exposed to the sun, where it will also discolor (usually darkening dramatically) even under UV resistant varnish.

pcford
06-06-2012, 10:48 AM
Epifanes is the varnish of choice for most professionals around Seattle. (There is a growing number that use Fine Paints of Europe Varnish.) Thus, problems with application are likely caused by the applicator.

A lot of the advice on this thread and the runabout thread is, in my humble opinion, mistaken. (If not just plain wacky.)Those following suggestions on the threads may waste as much time as the search for the the miraculous will o the wisp Behr varnish. ("It's boiled in copper cauldrons!")

Tonight I will attempt to share some suggestions...don't have time right now.

wizbang 13
06-06-2012, 01:15 PM
There is no picture of this boat yet.
Two and a half gallons on the deck of a 16' boat is just not right.

skaraborgcraft
06-06-2012, 02:40 PM
Im with Whizz on this one. Having just coated an entire 15ft skiff inside and out with 3 coats of epoxy,i dont see 2.5 gallons on a wood deck...especially a plywood deck! As someone mentioned, silicone could be a problem,and like Jay,i have never had success with acetone,you really need the automotive silicone remover.I wont have any silicone based sprays around when it comes to finishing time,having had a spray job ruined by fish eyes on a Triumph TR6...caused by an over-zealous application of WD40 by the tractor engineer who was temporarly sharing the same workshop. Anyway,i want to see some photos of this deck before i make any more comments.
I like epifanes better than International Schooner which i have used a lot.......but varnishes are another hot debate!

EDIT....and why anyone want to apply a "paste wax" on top of varnish????

Mrleft8
06-06-2012, 02:47 PM
EDIT....and why anyone want to apply a "paste wax" on top of varnish????

To make it slipperier. ;)

jonboy
06-06-2012, 03:22 PM
No, like my earlier query about automotive products, correctly and carefully selected.... a good carnauba wax (traditional) or one of the new generation micro-crystallines like paralloid B as used in art and archaeological conservation, is an effective 'polish' barrier on top of trad shellac/french polish, or cellulose car finishes, so on top of a varnish it's another weather resistant layer and can be buffed up or easily removed with a diluent that isn't the same as the varnish base..If its good for high standard classic car resorations I can't see why it isn't suitable for boats' decks anyway.

As a matter of interest as a snapper I worked with an old showman, who when the circus was out of season, spent his time painting the rides.....he never used gloss anything except the very last top coat... all painting and faux gilding in matts and sometimes flamboyants, and sign writers colours, and then cutting back with durax, french polishing and then the top coat of wax..... a finish you could fall into the depth of gloss was so deep... I watched him coach paint (thats where the phrase comes from ) a newly crafted body on a Mulliner Park Ward Rolls or Bentley, can't remember, from the twenties, in maybe 1972, and he used one brush... but he spent an hour each day cleaning drying and binding the brushes... ah the days when you could use gallons of solvents for a couple of pence....and chuck it down the can without a care.. He's dead now of course , from inhaling nitro cellulose and carborundum dust and washing down each day in turps and amyl acetate.. then forty capstan full strengths and six pints and chasers....but he did make 88...

seo
06-06-2012, 06:18 PM
I have heard of two sources of fisheye problems that are sort of unusual:
1) wiping down with acetone. It is so volatile that it picks up the oil just fine, but then flashes off and leaves the oil behind. A less-volatile solvent gives you a better chance of keeping the oil on the rag, rather than spreading it thin on the workpiece. I have used a surface prep solvent made by Ditzler, which I think is a tradename of PPG. Works very well, but I think it's pretty nasty stuff.
2) Wiping down with household paper towels. The better grades of these are treated to a thin mist of silicone as the towels are wound onto the rolls, to keep them from clinging together. The paper towel itself then becomes a means of delivering silicone onto the surface. Silicone is a serious source of fisheye.

seo
06-06-2012, 06:57 PM
A friend of mine who had a boatyard used to care for several one-designs of classic profile and S&S pedigree. He would spend the late-winter weeks painting on semi-gloss, and then sanding, repainting, sanding, world without end, amen. I argued at the time that the only difference between gloss and flat was that with gloss paint there was a varnishy material that floated to the top and made the paint glossy, and was hard to sand. So why apply varnish (with paint) and then sand all the varnish off to get to the paint underneath? Didn't make any sense to me.
Made a lot more sense to paint flat on flat until you've got a smooth coat, then put on the gloss.

MR. KILOWATT
06-07-2012, 09:49 PM
Thank you all for taking the time to respond. The reason I didn't put any type of sealer or epoxy on the deck was because I had the understanding that those things had to be done to bare wood. My wood wasn't bare because I couldn't sand all the varnish off for fear of sanding through the veneer. And I didn't want to try and chemically strip because the paint on the boat is like new and I was afraid of making a boo boo. I don't think it is silicon or wax, I started wiping it with prep sol several weeks before I started sanding trying not to let any contaminates get pushed into the wood. I have tried to post a photo but can't seem to do it. If someone would be kind enough to post it for me I can e-mail it to you. Thanks, Richy.

Concordia 33
06-08-2012, 12:58 PM
Well....... My opinion of Epifanes is fairly well known here on the forum, so I will just say that I don't think very highly of it..... I'd suggest sanding with 320 grit wet/dry paper (wet) wrapped around a block to level up what you can, then rub the whole surface out with rottenstone. rub it out after it dries with a piece of burlap across the grain. then apply a coat of Benjamin Moore 440 spar varnish thinned 3:1 with turpentine (not paint thinner). Wait a few days to a week, and sand with 400 grit wet/dry paper (wet) wrapped around a block. wipe it down with a piece of towel after it dries, and apply a coat of Benjamin Moore 440 spar varnish thinned 1:4 with turpentine. Wait a week, and sand with 400 grit wet/dry (wet) paper wrapped around a block. wait for it to dry, and rubb it down with a piece of towel. Apply a coat of full strength Benjamin Moore 440 spar varnish, and let it dry for a week. If you want, now you can rub the finish out with rottenstone, wipe it down with a dry towel, and apply a coat of paste wax.

By then, the sailing season will be over :D

Jay Greer
06-08-2012, 01:14 PM
I have used Epifanes a bit. My first experience with it was that it does need a bit of thinning to bring it to good brushing consistancy. While the product is expensive, once thinned you are getting more product in the end. While they recommend their own thinner, expensive, I have had good luck using turpentine which, gives a smoother consistancy when laying their varnish on. One thing that I will comment on is that the product self levels well and, when dry, produces an exceptional gloss. Still in all, I prefer varnishes that require less tinkering to produce a good job.
Jay

lesharo
06-25-2012, 07:19 AM
What contributes to the filling of the grain when varnishing is the sanding off of what finish is there. That's if you are not using a grain filling stain which does help some. If you put on many many coats without a hard sanding, you will still see the grain. Which apparently is what happened here. 320 is a very fine grain and too fine to level out a finish and of course it is also effected by what brand and model of 320 you are using. The 320 Gold is more aggressive than the 320 Trimite (that's in 3M). You could do a pretty good leveling with a 220 3M Gold after a few coats. Some people do an initial leveling with a coarser paper, even down to 120. The important thing is you have to level it down. You could even sand it all the way down and then you would have only the grain filled.

I looked at a stripping job a guy was doing on an old big Chris Craft toe rail yesterday and he has the grain pretty well filled (at least for a start) after 4 coats. And that's with Awlspar varnish which is about as thin as paint thinner or at least it was the last time I used it. He's got a great fill for four coats. But he obviously sanded hard and knows pretty well what he's doing.


There has been a false claim made here again that varnishes have been made thicker (higher viscosity) because of voc regulations. This is just not true. Varnishes are not thicker. Has this person ever looked at Schooner or Awlspar? Schooner is about as thick as paint thinner. I just used some yesterday. Epifanes has always been thick. There used to be ( a couple years ago) - two Awlsaprs, a thick and a thin, same voc regulations.

And brushing Epifanes bears no resemblance even the most vague to the foul and very misleading description given here. Beginners should be very wary of the advice they get here even from so called experienced people and professionals. Much of the advice is wrong, poor and even insane.

If you want to see some outstanding varnish work, check out a Hinckley. Usually they are at a whole higher level. And oddly enough the vast majority are done with Epifanes. Who would have thought it? And oddly enough the guy with the Epifanes distributor used to be the painting and varnishing supervisor with Hinckley. Another surprise.

Cogeniac
06-25-2012, 09:46 AM
Without pics it's hard to know exactly what your problem is. THere are a number of pic posting tutorials online here.

Here's one:

http://forum.woodenboat.com/showthread.php?123463-Posting-photos-with-a-Mac&highlight=posting+pictures

It sounds from the discussion, and your description that the issue may not be grain, but issues in the varnish itself. The "squiggly lines" you mention may be wrinkles or some such thing in the varnish. They COULD be grain, but at the 14 varnish coats you claim to be at, that is unlikely.

Usually the grain will fade from long thin lines to shorter and shorter lines until you just have little dimples and then just a smooth surface. If you still have longer lines after many coats, then those are probably in the varnish itself, not the wood.

I'd recommend the following:

Give it a good sanding with 220 3M Frecut (the yellow paper). Use a firm foam block, or, as Jay (I think) suggested a piece of felt wrapped around a wood block). This will prevent uneven scratches in the finish. (I sand bare wood with a hard block and varnish with a foam "sanding sponge" wrapped with 220. )

When sanding, you are seeking a smooth flat surface. When you sand, you are basically cutting off the tops of the high spots, so at the start when you sand, you will see that the low points in the grain remain shiny, while the high spots go dull. Usuallly at about 5-6 coats, the sanded surface will be uniformly dull, so at that point the low spots have been filled to the point where they catch up to the high spots. In fact what is happening is that the high spots are staying the same level since they keep getting sanded down, while the low spots fill with varnish. When they are all the same, sanding will produce a uniformly dull, smooth surface, with no shiny spots at all.

Usually at that point I'll switch to 320 Frecut paper and do another 2-3 coats.

I suspect another part of your problem is waiting 5 days between coats. The varnish is usually ready to sand in 24 hours, so more time is just asking for the surface to get contaminated. Your deck is generally flat, so the varnish should level on its own. I have found that vertical surfaces are very difficult because you have to get the consistency exactly right. Too thick and you get a poor surface, and holidays, and too thin and you get runs and sags. On a flat surface though many sins will be tolerated.

30% is too much. I only use Epifanes. I start with 50% on Coats 1-2, then I go to 25% for 3-4 and then add just a dash of thinner to get a brushable texture of all other coats (probably 10% or so). Use a strainer. I pour the Epifanes into the strainer and then add the thinner on top. I then start stirring in the strainer using a tongue depressor (I got a giant lifetime supply of them from Jamestown...). One the varnish is through the strainer, I stir it for about a minute. It is surprising how the texture changes as the thinner gets mixed in. With a little experience, you can feel when it is too thick or too thin just by the feel of the varnish as it is being stirred (which is why it is a good idea to always use the same device to stir it (hence the giant box of tongue depressors!). It should feel silky and not runny.

Good luck, and don't forget the pictures.

S

pcford
06-25-2012, 12:43 PM
Beginners should be very wary of the advice they get here even from so called experienced people and professionals. Much of the advice is wrong, poor and even insane.


Well said. Beginners should realize that this site is populated by non-professionals. Some people that announce themselves as professionals have not changed their methods since the second Truman administration. Some people that announce themselves as experts are in fact just BS artistes. Before taking their advice as gospel, dig deeper and see what their work has produced.

There are many, many ways of accomplishing the same ends. Be careful about taking advice from one person...me or anybody else...get as many points of view and go from there based on your own experience and thinking.

Back to the original poster...my guess is that you are seeing grain in the varnish. (?) One usually builds up several coats, say 5 or 6, sanding fairly lightly between coats with a soft block or similar. After 5 or 6 or so coats sand aggressively with a hard pad. You are building up then leveling...like a road grader.

Jay Greer
06-25-2012, 02:27 PM
What contributes to the filling of the grain when varnishing is the sanding off of what finish is there. That's if you are not using a grain filling stain which does help some. If you put on many many coats without a hard sanding, you will still see the grain. Which apparently is what happened here. 320 is a very fine grain and too fine to level out a finish and of course it is also effected by what brand and model of 320 you are using. The 320 Gold is more aggressive than the 320 Trimite (that's in 3M). You could do a pretty good leveling with a 220 3M Gold after a few coats. Some people do an initial leveling with a coarser paper, even down to 120. The important thing is you have to level it down. You could even sand it all the way down and then you would have only the grain filled.

I looked at a stripping job a guy was doing on an old big Chris Craft toe rail yesterday and he has the grain pretty well filled (at least for a start) after 4 coats. And that's with Awlspar varnish which is about as thin as paint thinner or at least it was the last time I used it. He's got a great fill for four coats. But he obviously sanded hard and knows pretty well what he's doing.


There has been a false claim made here again that varnishes have been made thicker (higher viscosity) because of voc regulations. This is just not true. Varnishes are not thicker. Has this person ever looked at Schooner or Awlspar? Schooner is about as thick as paint thinner. I just used some yesterday. Epifanes has always been thick. There used to be ( a couple years ago) - two Awlsaprs, a thick and a thin, same voc regulations.

And brushing Epifanes bears no resemblance even the most vague to the foul and very misleading description given here. Beginners should be very wary of the advice they get here even from so called experienced people and professionals. Much of the advice is wrong, poor and even insane.

If you want to see some outstanding varnish work, check out a Hinckley. Usually they are at a whole higher level. And oddly enough the vast majority are done with Epifanes. Who would have thought it? And oddly enough the guy with the Epifanes distributor used to be the painting and varnishing supervisor with Hinckley. Another surprise.
Well, the president of a well known paint company is a member of my family by marriage. More than thirty years ago, he told me that, eventually, there would be no more oil based paints and varnishes available on the market. In addition, one of the members of the family that who invented and put Behr Paint and varnish on the market told me the same thing. Also, when I was attempting to bring out varnish under my own label, I was told by the chemests of both companies that I could no longer order product that was made to the original formulae and, in addition, I would have to settle for product that was of much higher viscosity in order to meet with the imposed regulations of VOCs. Our own idea was to offer top grade varnish in a special form of packaging that is used by the wine industry. We came up with the idea of putting our varnish in a sealed plastic bag within a box. The varnish could be drawn by gravity out of the package and would not be exposed to oxidation thereby, remaining fluid and not scumming over. I can honestly say here that I have been around the block several times with marine finishes and have no need to make false or rash statments on this forum.
Jay

Bob Cleek
06-25-2012, 03:07 PM
Well, the president of a well known paint company is a member of my family by marriage. More than thirty years ago, he told me that, eventually, there would be no more oil based paints and varnishes available on the market. In addition, one of the members of the family that who invented and put Behr Paint and varnish on the market told me the same thing. Also, when I was attempting to bring out varnish under my own label, I was told by the chemests of both companies that I could no longer order product that was made to the original formulae and, in addition, I would have to settle for product that was of much higher viscosity in order to meet with the imposed regulations of VOCs. Our own idea was to offer top grade varnish in a special form of packaging that is used by the wine industry. We came up with the idea of putting our varnish in a sealed plastic bag within a box. The varnish could be drawn by gravity out of the package and would not be exposed to oxidation thereby, remaining fluid and not scumming over. I can honestly say here that I have been around the block several times with marine finishes and have no need to make false or rash statments on this forum.
Jay

Great idea about the "varnish in a box," Jay. Too bad it came to naught. Amen to the unavailability of oil based coatings. Here in the SF Bay Area, thanks to the "Bay Area Air Quality Control Board," it is getting harder and harder to buy oil based paint anymore. I can't find a can of Penetrol or even Rustoleum anywhere in the hardware and paint stores that used to always sell it. (They still sell Rustoleum in spray cans, though. Go figure! I guess the graffiti artists have a better lobby than the boat painters.) They all say the same thing, "It's against the law."

Bob Cleek
06-25-2012, 03:08 PM
I have used Epifanes a bit. My first experience with it was that it does need a bit of thinning to bring it to good brushing consistancy. While the product is expensive, once thinned you are getting more product in the end. While they recommend their own thinner, expensive, I have had good luck using turpentine which, gives a smoother consistancy when laying their varnish on. One thing that I will comment on is that the product self levels well and, when dry, produces an exceptional gloss. Still in all, I prefer varnishes that require less tinkering to produce a good job.
Jay

Amen. Absolutely true.

Bob Cleek
06-25-2012, 03:20 PM
My two cents worth about "beginners" and "professionals" and varnishing. Like most everything in life, competence comes from experience. A book will only get you so far and, often, written instructions turn out to appear far more complicated than they needed to be once the task is done a time or three. There is no substitute for experience and this is especially true with finishing work. It's damn near impossible to write instructions that tell somebody how to properly condition a coating on any given day, or time of day, let alone how to properly apply it thereafter. Like a lot of jokes, "ya had to be there." A perfect varnish job reflects the experience of the varnisher, simple as that. Keep varnishing, beginners. You will learn from your mistakes.

And a couple of cents worth of change: Trying to get a deep "perfect" varnish finish on an expanse of plywood is probably a fool's errand. Don't ask me why. I just know that from experience.

seo
06-25-2012, 05:45 PM
Especially when exposed to the sun, where it will also discolor (usually darkening dramatically) even under UV resistant varnish.
And this from a guy who lives in SEATTLE!

Lew Barrett
06-25-2012, 06:23 PM
And this from a guy who lives in SEATTLE!
Yeah! Ain't that sumthin'? We haven't had any sun this year. In fact, the doc proscribed Vitamin D pills to me at my annual check up! That's how bad it is!

Actually my experience with shellac darkening and going weird under varnish (believe it or not) has been on the interior. I will guess a lot of the old guys used shellac (or something surely like it) as a sealer before applying varnish coats on interiors. I've seen this on a few locally built boats. After some years the stuff can get very odd. It can darken, and it breaks down. Then there is only one cure; stripping. I think shellac, when it fails, is problematic; it goes gummy. As a general sealer, it is among the best and there are plenty of uses for it but not I think under varnish that will be exposed to "conditions." Maybe it's just my luck...........

But this is a comment from the peanut gallery (me) as yet another varnish thread rolls on!

I do agree with those who say that there are many different approaches to skinning this cat. Find and develop an approach that works for you and then refine it. My piece of advice is that fussing too much over getting some varnish on and built up is counter productive for a driver boat. Show boats are another story, but if you use your boat, the ability to do a good varnish job comes naturally with time and experience, especially if you work on the same boat(s) over a period of years. Each one presents it's own challenges and needs, and damned if some sticks don't seem to take a finish better (or more easily) than others. Learning to deal with your own problem areas can be frustrating as the same issues rear up from year to year. Noodling through those is one of the interesting challenges of keeping a boat.

Re: Epifanes: What Pat says about this is correct. It seems to be a favored product in this neck of the woods. It builds quite well but is not the easiest product to work with. It is as good a traditional varnish as there is in general distribution though.
I keep going back to it, which is not an endorsement, just an observation. People do a lot of things repetitively and then it becomes habit. It may be that I use Epifanes "habitually" simply because I am used to it. I suspect some of what passes as "the way things need to be done" result from this sort of habituation, but there are usually good reasons why skilled people follow a certain path, and having one's own systems that are known to work make people adherents of one approach or another. But there is frequently more than one way.

skaraborgcraft
06-26-2012, 06:55 AM
Still waiting for a picture of this deck. Im not getting drawn into the varnish debate,too many variables to say one is clearly superior to the other.......Hinkley MAY just be using Epiphanes because they got a great deal on products, which is almost priceless advertising for them(epi).....it does happen. International were good at it.

MR. KILOWATT
06-26-2012, 07:34 AM
Thank you for all the reply's. Since my last post we sprayed 3 coats, parked the boat in my garage for 2 weeks, and started to see the grain appear after the 2nd week. It does seem to look better but I'm not going to be happy till these squiggly lines disappear. By the way, I had a friend who paints cars to do the spraying and it looked a lot better than my brushing. Also, I tried to post pictures and could not, I will try again. Thanks to everyone for your time. Richy.

pcford
06-26-2012, 09:59 AM
Thank you for all the reply's. Since my last post we sprayed 3 coats, parked the boat in my garage for 2 weeks, and started to see the grain appear after the 2nd week. It does seem to look better but I'm not going to be happy till these squiggly lines disappear. By the way, I had a friend who paints cars to do the spraying and it looked a lot better than my brushing. Also, I tried to post pictures and could not, I will try again. Thanks to everyone for your time. Richy.

Spraying puts on a much thinner coat than brushing. As a very general rule, brushing is preferred.

MR. KILOWATT
06-26-2012, 01:24 PM
Spraying puts on a much thinner coat than brushing. As a very general rule, brushing is preferred.

This is what I have been told. But we sprayed 3 coats 1.5 hours apart on a Saturday afternoon and put on 1 quart of varnish. No sags, runs, or orange peel. The finish looks great till 2 weeks later when the grain re appears. When I brush a coat, it takes 3 brush applications to use the same quart of varnish and my brushing never has looked as good as the painters spray coats. But, It doesn't matter if I spray or brush, after a week or two I can always start seeing the grain again. To date I have 14 brush coats and 6 spray coats. Richy.

Bob Cleek
06-26-2012, 02:30 PM
When you say "the grain reappears," do you mean that the grain "raises" so that you can feel it when you run your fingers over the surface? If so, this is likely not a problem with your varnishing at all, but rather simply that the wood is moving beneath it. As I mentioned above, plywood isn't really very suitable for a varnished finish. It is made of thin layers of "peeled" wood. Like all wood, the laminates will shrink and swell, but because of the way the "peeler" shaves off sheets of laminate from the log, you get a unique patterning of hard and soft wood which, of course, will shrink and swell with the ambient humidity at somewhat different rates, depending on the species of wood. This may be what is causing your grain to raise, if it is indeed raising. There's not much you can do about it. Some plywoods stay very smooth, but others will exhibit this effect. It doesn't affect the strength of the panel, but it does make finishing problematic. (This is why a lot of boatbuilders favor MDO oro HDO plywood, which is covered with a paper sheathing set in a phenolic resin to make it smooth, stable and paintable, although not "varnishable.")

MR. KILOWATT
06-26-2012, 07:05 PM
Yes Bob, I can feel these squiggly lines after they appear. They always seem to be low never high. Sorta like the varnish is shrinking down in the grain. It seems to be getting better but far from gone. The boat is a 1966 and the wood is ribbon grain mahogany. I have known the boat for 30 years and had looked at it many times over the years and never remembered seeing the deck looking like this. The previous owner said he never had this problem when he re-varnished. I agree with you about not being a varnish problem, but surely I have to be close to burying the grain. I took photos today but not sure these lines are going to show up good enough to see what I'm talking about. If you can tell anything I'll try to post them again. Thanks again for everybody's input. Richy.

geoduck
06-26-2012, 11:05 PM
I never sand finer than 220, I use plain old MacCloskies, turps, Jap drier, a good brush and I go like hell to get the job over with! 40 yrs of painting and varnishing wood boats - east coast -west coast - north & south.
I just built a new mast for my 48' ketch out of old growth fir. I coated it with 105/207 West and put 6 coats varnish on top.
That ought to do it - if it don't, we'll always think it should of!
You are probably having a reaction to the resin in the plywood. Why would you varnish a plywood deck??? Use airobol or flex-a-deck or something similar. On fishing boats, we use 1/3 linseed oil,1/3 pine tar, 1/3 turps - works as good as anything and good for the wood - slop it on and be done with it! Go fishing! To hell with the glitter!

Jay Greer
06-27-2012, 02:03 PM
I also use Jap drier in my work quite often in order to get varnish to kick in cold weather. I hear that it too may be a thing of the past if the EPA has its way! I also believe that it may no longer be, politcally correct to call it by its original name "Jap Drier".
Right now, as I write this, I am in the process of revarnishing the 8' lapsrake mahogony ply wood dinghy that is the tender for our H28. This is the gift boat that I have mentioned in a past posting. There are places where a former owner sanded through the first veneer exposing parts of the core. Also, there were areas that it was exposed by
chafing on the beach rocks that I filled in with color matching burn in shellac sticks. It was necessary to allow the boat to dry out thoroughly in winter storage in order to do a job that will last. The bare spots were sanded down and several thin coats of orange, now called amber, shellac were applied in order to color match the rest of the surface as well as to seal it. We then put on four coats of spot varnish over the shellac for build up. Now we are applying four coats of, Behr to it both inside and out. The former owner, builder never ut enough varnish inside of the hull and it is suffering from a few varnish skin break down spots. Fortunatly it is not so far gone as to not be savable. In many places such as the mahogany transoms I did some wet sanding with 220 wet or dry paper backed up with a thick felt block. Felt has the abilty to retain water and also, slightly, conform to a curved surface making the job much easier to perform than when using a hard bodied block. I use felt blocks almost always for backing up when sanding. All in all, the job is turning out very well. Pictures will follow.
Jay

Mrleft8
06-27-2012, 02:33 PM
Be extra super-duper careful with rags that have Japan drier and oils/varnishes on them..... The drier makes already spontaneous combustible material even more so.....

Mis4tun81
06-27-2012, 03:04 PM
Without pictures its hard to fully understand what is going on, also I don't think you explained what your goal is, glossy show boat finish, work boat finish, or looks great from 10 feet away.

If you don't think the defect will show up in pictures it is probably better than looks great from 10 feet away.

Is it possible your expectations are too high and that because you are doing the work you are over critical and looking way too close? I know I am, and do, in situations like this. In the 30 years of knowing the boat, did you or the previous owner who may have had different standards really look close enough to detect this specific defect if it is this hard to see?

As I said, I like being that critical and striving for perfection, but these are the questions I ask myself when I find myself in your shoes, did I really look close enough at the before?

The only thought I have to offer without seeing pictures, is to consider wet set sanding and polishing, if you are really going for perfect. It might be worth testing at least in what you consider a particularly bad spot. If you don't think there is a problem with the boards shifting, and that it really is a grain fill problem. You could block sand it with progressively finer sand paper, approaching 2000 - 3000 grit, and polish.

Talk to your automotive sprayer friend about it, and see what he has to say. Its the same process with high end auto finishes.

Also if you are not regularly using the boat you could test a spot, if you wet sand what you consider a particularly bad spot maybe 1 sqft with progressively finer sand paper (maybe up to 1000 grit) on a long board, until all of the shine is gone and the area is defect free and perfectly smooth, wait a few weeks to see if the problem comes back (it will be easier to detect in the matt sanded finish), if it does its probably something else. If it doesn't come back its probably stable. And you could wet sand and polish the rest of the deck.

I believe this is probably way overkill, but I have found to get the results I am looking for, I am better at sanding and polishing, than painting or varnishing. Of course most of my experience is with paint.

Cogeniac
06-27-2012, 05:05 PM
This is what I have been told. But we sprayed 3 coats 1.5 hours apart on a Saturday afternoon and put on 1 quart of varnish. No sags, runs, or orange peel. The finish looks great till 2 weeks later when the grain re appears. When I brush a coat, it takes 3 brush applications to use the same quart of varnish and my brushing never has looked as good as the painters spray coats. But, It doesn't matter if I spray or brush, after a week or two I can always start seeing the grain again. To date I have 14 brush coats and 6 spray coats. Richy.

That's weird.. Sounds to me like the plywood is shifting around as one of the other posts suggested. The varnish is basically dry in 24 hours, so if it looks great for 2 weeks and then turns bad, then something else is going on. Maybe you should wait for a good hot day, and varnish it in the shade...that way it will be expanded to its max size when the varnish goes on.

Somehow, I can't see how you are going to get a mirror finish on what sounds like an unstable piece of wood.

S

MR. KILOWATT
06-28-2012, 04:49 PM
Boat in the water completed before the new varnish went on.

http://i757.photobucket.com/albums/xx213/mustangsrusrus/WillettFamilyLake090_picnik.jpg

Lines in the varnish on the deck
http://i757.photobucket.com/albums/xx213/mustangsrusrus/Interior031.jpg
Lines on the interior panels
http://i757.photobucket.com/albums/xx213/mustangsrusrus/Interior008.jpg

ChrisBen
06-28-2012, 07:01 PM
Boat in the water completed before the new varnish went on.A picture is worth a thousand words (literally :D). That's not grain, but brush strokes, coupled with to much varnish, to fast. If you left that out in the sun for a couple of weeks it would look like the back of an alligator. 2 1/2 Gallons of varnish for that little thing? Here's something for comparison..
http://i143.photobucket.com/albums/r133/loki59/starboard.jpg
http://i143.photobucket.com/albums/r133/loki59/rail.jpg
http://i143.photobucket.com/albums/r133/loki59/rail3.jpg
http://i143.photobucket.com/albums/r133/loki59/rail2.jpg

This is what I'm currently working on, just the 6 doors it has would equal the area you have. There's 10 coats of cheap Helmsman varnish from Homedespot (owners choice). Maybe 1 1/2 pints of mineral spirits for thinning a bunch of $1.39 chip brushes, and a bunch of 220 grit paper.

ETA.. I've used a total of 5 quarts of varnish, less what was left over after each section, so maybe 1 gallon total of varnish.

wizbang 13
06-28-2012, 07:50 PM
More pics of the girlfriend, not the boat , silly.

MR. KILOWATT
06-28-2012, 09:26 PM
Like my earlier post said, the last 6 coats were sprayed on so it's not brush marks. When I brushed it I could see a few brush marks but they flowed out real good before it dried. What your looking at in the pictures does not appear for at least a week after the boat has been varnished. Another important note is the dash and combings are solid wood and I have never had any sign of a problem with them. It's only been the plywood that gives me the problem. I feel like the varnish is shrinking and showing the grain, but I can't understand why it wont eventually fill the grain up smooth. Thanks for the reply's, Richy.

ChrisBen
06-28-2012, 11:26 PM
Like my earlier post said, the last 6 coats were sprayed on so it's not brush marks. When I brushed it I could see a few brush marks but they flowed out real good before it dried. What your looking at in the pictures does not appear for at least a week after the boat has been varnished. Another important note is the dash and combings are solid wood and I have never had any sign of a problem with them. It's only been the plywood that gives me the problem. I feel like the varnish is shrinking and showing the grain, but I can't understand why it wont eventually fill the grain up smooth. Thanks for the reply's, Richy.Not to be critical, but from the picture posted those are brush marks telegraphing through from the one coat that actually had time to cure. A quart of varnish properly thinned will cover 150-160 Square feet. You have maybe 30 square feet on your deck. That equates to 5 coats per quart. You've used 2 1/2 gallons, the equivalent of 50 coats in the month since you've posted.

Waddie
06-28-2012, 11:54 PM
I'm just an amateur at finishing, but I use the same techniques on gun stocks and guitars, as well as my boat's brightwork.

No matter what finish I will apply, like tung oil on gun stocks or nitrocellulose lacquer on guitars, or varnish on the boat, I always seal the wood pores with this product;

http://www.stewmac.com/shop/Finishing_supplies/Fillers_and_putties/Timbermate_Wood_Filler.html

There's a video showing how to apply, and a little goes a long way, but it fills the pores perfectly, ONCE YOU APPLY IT CORRECTLY. You think teak has pores, try Walnut. You can even tint the filler if you're that anal, but it really doesn't show up after the finish is applied.

By sealing the pores before applying the finish I save several coats and the associated sanding. On a piece that will be sanded to bare wood on some areas but not on others, I just apply it to the bare area, and give the whole piece another sanding.

BTW; IMO, no transparent topcoat will ever have the UV resistance of an opaque finish.

regards,
Waddie

pro from dover
06-29-2012, 12:44 AM
This is my first varnish job and I'm having a problem that I hoped someone here could help me with. I have a 16 foot fiberglass boat with a mahogany plywood deck. I started by block sanding with 220 grit and removed as much of the old varnish as I could without scuffing the veneer plywood. I have been using Epifanes single part varnish. My routine has been brush a coat of varnish, wait 5 day's and sand with 320 grit, wait another day then re-coat. So I average 1 coat per week. I now have 14 coats brushed, and 3 sprayed, for a total of 2 1/2 gallons of material. The deck looks good as long as I leave it in my garage, but when I pull it outside in the warm sun the varnish appears to shrink. It gets squiggly lines all running with the grain of the wood, and I can't seem to be able to fill them up. The tech guy at Epifanes said I was sanding off more than I was applying, so I tried substituting a red scotch bright instead of the 320 grit paper. The varnish seems to have plenty of depth so I don't really think I'm sanding to much, but I have problems somewhere.

Another topic I would like to discuss is how much I thin the varnish. It seems to flow a lot better for me to thin 30% using their brush thinner. Again the Epifanes tech guy said this was a lot, but if it worked for me then I may just need to go a few extra coats at the end. Iv also tried brushing straight out of the can, I'm just saying 30% seems to look a lot better at the end of the day.

Can any of you guys explain what I'm doing wrong. I need to get beyond these squiggly lines. Thanks, Richy

what you are doing wrong is thinking that with your FIRST varnishing job you will end up with a perfect finish. 2 1/2 gallons ? Try removing 2 1/4 gallons, or better yet remove all of it and and start anew. Thats what I would do. But what do I know, I've only been spreading varnish for a living for 36 years.

pro from dover
06-29-2012, 01:10 AM
[QUOTE=pcford;3435858]Epifanes is the varnish of choice for most professionals around Seattle. (There is a growing number that use Fine Paints of Europe Varnish.) Thus, problems with application are likely caused by the applicator.

A lot of the advice on this thread and the runabout thread is, in my humble opinion, mistaken. (If not just plain wacky.)Those following suggestions on the threads may waste as much time as the search for the the miraculous will o the wisp Behr varnish. ("It's boiled in copper cauldrons!")

+ 1000 HA HA HA I still have an unopened pint can of Behr varnish. I used to work for the owner of Behr Paints ( not the one you worked for Jay, the other one) and he made me use his varnish on his boats. Fair enough, his boat his varnish. It was a decent product by the way, with a good gloss and lasted a BIT longer than Captains or the other brands then on the market. But it was NOT magic in a can. On interior work it took a week to tack off and six months later you could still leave a fingerprint in it without too much pressure. Maybe I should list it for sale on ebay, Buy It Now for $ 500.00 HA HA HA

MR. KILOWATT
06-29-2012, 08:17 AM
OK, my observation thinking the grain was telegraphing through is wrong, it's brush marks. Since we all know this is my first varnish job I still need you to explain why brush marks won't sand out. I block sanded with 320 between each coat trying to keep everything straight and imperfections knocked down. I didn't just knock the shine off the high spots, I tried to block flat till everything was straight. I think a lot of the 2 1/2 gallons is already sanded off due to long boarding between coats. After 14 brush coats and block sanding each, we decided to spray 3 coats, block sanded those, and sprayed 3 more. I fully understand that my first time brushing can't compare to your years experience, but its hard to believe that whether I have brush marks or a raised grain that it can't be sanded flat and not telegraph back through. Thanks again, Richy.

seo
06-29-2012, 08:58 AM
I'll admit to being mystified by this. I can think of two possible explanation: 1) You applied such thick layers of varnish that there's still soft varnish in between the layers of hardened skin. 2) The wood is still moving around. Did you seal the wood before your first coat of varnish? What was the sealer. Some people use sealer, others thinned varnish, other still a mixture of tung oil and thinned varnish.
I'd suggest that just for the sake of education you get a piece of easy-to-varnish wood. Mahogany, say, which is easy to finish. Sand it up to 180 grit, seal it, and put on four thin coats of slightly thinned varnish, sanding with 220 between coats. If that works, it might tell you something about the wood you were working with on that foredeck...

MR. KILOWATT
06-29-2012, 11:26 AM
I originally took my advise from epifanes tech line. He told me since I only scuffed the wood in a few places when I stripped the deck to only use thinned varnish, so I didn't use any type of sealer. They also said that since each coat was sanded at least 5 days after varnishing they didn't think soft varnish was a problem. I never had a sanding problem. It always dusted the sandpaper nicely and never rolled up like little balls when sanding. seo, soft varnish between hard layers is a interesting idea, I'm still confused why it looks great for several days after the varnish coat. When the lines start appearing they get worse over a 2-3 day period. After the 3rd day they won't get any worse.

Bob Cleek
06-29-2012, 12:19 PM
Well, at first blush, I'd hesitate to consider advice from anybody who varnished with a chip brush, but I must say, the pictures do show he gets decent results.:)

Sometimes it is a mystery why varnish doesn't produce the results we want. In this case, I would not consider the problem brush marks, particularly since you sprayed multiple coats. I'm just guessing, of course, but I'm starting to think it may well be that you just have too darn much uncured varnish on there.

Wiki is our friend:

"After being applied, the film-forming substances in varnishes either harden directly, as soon as the solvent has fully evaporated, or harden after evaporation of the solvent through certain curing processes, primarily chemical reaction between oils and oxygen from the air (autoxidation) and chemical reactions between components of the varnish. Resin varnishes "dry" by evaporation of the solvent and harden almost immediately upon drying. Acrylic and waterborne varnishes "dry" upon evaporation of the water but experience an extended curing period. Oil, polyurethane, and epoxy varnishes remain liquid even after evaporation of the solvent but quickly begin to cure, undergoing successive stages from liquid or syrupy, to tacky or sticky, to dry gummy, to "dry to the touch", to hard. Environmental factors such as heat and humidity play a very large role in the drying and curing times of varnishes. In classic varnish the cure rate depends on the type of oil used and, to some extent, on the ratio of oil to resin. The drying and curing time of all varnishes may be sped up by exposure to an energy source such as sunlight, ultraviolet light, or heat."

There is a difference between varnishes' "drying" and "curing." You may have a "curing" problem, caused by too much varnish (too many coats) slowing the cure rate down and the curing, which shrinks the varnish coat to some extent, occurring unevenly. I have often see the exact same uneven surface shown in your pictures occur with polyurethane varnishes, which seem to have a slower cure rate than ordianry varnish. These days, it's hard to know what chemicals are in any varnish in any event. Some time back, a fellow varnished our yacht club bar with a urethane varnish marketed for bar tops that get hard use. The stuff is bulletproof, pretty much. He treated it like ordinary varnish and put on maybe six or eight coats. The same result you've got ensued. We left it alone. It was a bar top, not a boat! I think in both instances the "bumpy" surface may have been caused by uneven curing.

As much "horse sense" as exists in this forum, you may want to email those pictures to the company that makes the varnish you are using and ask them what is causing the problem. They have chemists who may not know diddly about varnishing, but are very knowledgeable about the problems that people encounter using their products.

Lew Barrett
06-29-2012, 02:26 PM
There is a difference between varnishes' "drying" and "curing." You may have a "curing" problem, caused by too much varnish (too many coats) slowing the cure rate down and the curing, which shrinks the varnish coat to some extent, occurring unevenly.

Raising good points, Bob. You may have a problem with underlying coats not curing due to added top coats slowing the process. Sanding uncured varnish is difficult and gummy, and uneven sanding will not fill grain. Something to consider. Epifanes is generally a slow curing product.