View Full Version : Hand rubbed?

Ian Wright
11-30-2003, 06:52 AM
I intend to re-finish (bright) the accommodation on Patience. I've hand rubbed a few items before, 8 coats of Epiphanes, sanding between coats with 340 grit, then burnish with OOOO wire wool lubricated with white spirit, let dry then wire wool and wax. Buff with a cloth and buff again,,,,,,
Have you got a better way? I donít want to use the 'rubbed effect' version of Epiphanes, I think the high gloss varnish gives better protection and I don't mind doing the work, but if there is something I could be doing to get a finer result I'd like to hear about it.

11-30-2003, 07:19 AM
I think you're close to the easiest method, but perhaps making a bit more work for yourself than you need to.
Try sanding lightly with 180 grit between coats (320 polishes. What you're looking for between coats is to creaye a "tooth" for the next layer to adhere to)and not quite so many... I think for interior work 4-5 coats would be plenty. Instead of steel (wire) wool use rottenstone powder as your polishing agent. Dampen a cotton rag with fresh water, charge it with rottenstone, and rub the surfaces with the resulting slurry. add more drops of water as the surface gets tacky and stiff. (practice on a sample board to get the hang of it) rinse the rottenstone goop off, wipe it down with spirits once or twice until you no longer get a "cloudy" look, and wax with a good quality wax, and buff. I use Goddard's cabinet maker's wax. It's much easier to use than "Butchers". and smells better too.
If you still need assistance, give me a ring, and I'll pop over and advise from my perch at the Jolly Sailor.

Paul Scheuer
11-30-2003, 07:44 AM
What Mrleft8 said. A coarser grit does a better job of mechanical leveling and the "tooth" does something with the surface tension of the wet stuff. I try several grits on the way up to the final finish to see if any of the tool marks telegraph through. I have fairly good luck with a final, light buffing with wool, before the varnish sets up hard. It seems to pick out the inevitable dust specks, that arrived after tacking, and in spite of my best efforts to shield and shelter the work zone.

11-30-2003, 09:17 AM
Hot coat if you can schedule them and do not sand between coats until you get the build up you want. Then be fussy about the last two coats. Thin the last coat to restore the shine from the final buffing, and leave it alone. (I think that is a synthisis of all I've filtered from what has been written here over the years. Not all will agree.)

Bob Smalser
11-30-2003, 10:33 AM
I can't add much, 'cept Constantines.com and other suppliers sell a couple grades of pumice and also rottenstone.

Pumice in a medium or fine cut first in a baby-oil slurry rubbed with a hard felt pad followed by cleaning and rubbing again with a rottenstone slurry will make your varnish feel like a baby's butt.

Harder interior varnish like Behlens Bartop rubs out better than softer spar...you can try it where you don't need as good UV or water protection.

And the longer the varnish cures before rubbing...as in months...the better it rubs out.

This hard-used rubbing varnish finish is 25 years and three babies old...and just as perfect as the day it was completed...6 coats of Constantines Bakelite Rubbing Varnish (220 grit wet sanded 'tween coats with weeks of drying time each) similar to Behlen's....but it took 6 months to complete. Wish you could feel it. Never waxed...only cleaned with lemon oil on a soft diaper.


You can also rub high-quality enamel paint....Uncle Paul the boatbuilder, who grew up in his father's carriage-making shop rubbing black enameled woodwork with fartblocks, built and finished his house cabinets and interior woodwork in 1928 with an expensive, hi-solids/high-lead white enamel...and in 1991 when he died, that enamel was still almost perfect....and also still as smooth as a baby's butt.

[ 11-30-2003, 11:43 AM: Message edited by: Bob Smalser ]

John Blazy
11-30-2003, 12:26 PM
Norm is onto a good principal - hot coating to allow melt-in of final coats so that when you flatten and wet-sand, you don't burn through the layers leaving a line.
All the methods mentioned above work, but modern compounds are faster. As a professional finisher whose tried all methods, the best I've found is razor scraping nerds, sags, and bugs, then wet sanding with 1000 or 1500, then machine pad buffing with heavy duty rubbing compound (3M Perfect-It), then follow with machine glaze (swirl mark remover).

Nothing more glass-like.

Bob Smalser
11-30-2003, 01:07 PM
A "fartblock" is a brick of pumice or other abrasive bound together...an old sanding technique used by carriagemakers and the early auto body coachmakers.

As you use it, it wears and conforms to the curve you are abrading. It also stinks as it wears....hence the nickname.

And rottenstone is just that...a soft abrasive much finer than pumice. Almost as fine as wood ashes, which also has an application in french polish repair.

[ 11-30-2003, 02:08 PM: Message edited by: Bob Smalser ]

Scott Rosen
11-30-2003, 07:39 PM

It sounds as if you are looking for a semi-gloss finish. Frankly, I think you're making way too much work for yourself. Use gloss varnish and leave it be. Contrary to popular prejudice, gloss varnish in the cabin looks great.

Spar varnish is very soft and if you take the surface of the film off with polishing, you will hasten the demise of the film. If you are absolutely determined to get a hand-rubbed finish, then use apply three to five coats of the spar varnish of your choice, with the final two coats being a clear gloss two-part LPU. Then, after the LPU has cured for at least a few weeks (I'd wait a season), rub it with pumice and rottenstone per Bob's post.

11-30-2003, 08:55 PM
Ah - the search for the Holy Grail continues ;) I'll bite. :D

A while back when I had problems on a rubbing project, the WBF diagnosis was that Epifanes with its long-chain molecules or what not (per theChemist I think) was a product intended to be elastic and flex and thus not suitable for rubbing. There was someone who had successfully rubbed Epifanes, but I went with the overall vote (and logic) and haven't used Epifanes in that context.

Also, I had to reach a personally painful point and admit that if our project is going to get completed, I've got to notch the speed up by several gears. My best estimate is 1200 loose pieces of individual wood removed from the interior. We're 3+ years into this and if 200 pieces belong in the head and will be repainted, and I've got 400 done, then I can't spend the next five years nurtuing every cabinet knob, drawer pull, and trim.

Back to topic - right now I've got 30+ pieces on the table that comprise the forward storage and water tank covers, and I sealed with CPES, disguised any problems with my box-o-magic-stain, and sprayed three coats of Minwax Satin Polyurethane. :cool: Looks as much like hand rubbed as hand rubbed.

Now that still took a week with work and weather and what not, but the time savings is at least 300%.

Wild Wassa
12-01-2003, 03:21 AM
I put Deksolje on masts and spars with my hands, it is already hand rubbed by the time it drys. A one shot process, per coat.

One thing about Deks, I find is, it needs a bit of time to harden up.


[ 12-01-2003, 04:34 AM: Message edited by: Wild Wassa ]

12-01-2003, 06:07 AM

I'm just in the process of restoring my recently acquired Corio Vertue (see posting) and was advised by a local boatbuilder that the best way to get a good finish for varnish was in the timber preparion. His solution was to fine sand the timber, and then to wash it down with a warm solution of oxsalic(?) acid. The warm solution opens the pores in the timber, and when dry, allows better penetration of the varnish INTO the tinber, rather than on it.

Although I haven't tried this yet, I'm assured that this treatment, given sufficient coatings, increases the longevity of the coating.

Ian Wright
12-01-2003, 07:13 AM
Thanks people, all useful advice, some of which I shall take. smile.gif
The original finish was International Blue Peter gloss varnish. The standard varnish of choice at the time, fifteen years ago.
I have put on a couple of new coats since then and also hand rubbed a few of the easier bits a couple of years (5?) ago just to see which I liked best and if it would stand the wear.
So onward and upward,,,,,,,
Do I use '0' and then '00' pumice and then rottenstone or skip the pummice and get straight to it?
Best oil for mixing with the Pummice/Rottenstone ?
Will the varnish gods punish me if I work where I can with the new electric power,,,,,,,,? Felt pad, slow speed, RO sander,,,,, Eh?


12-01-2003, 07:46 AM
Interesting thread! smile.gif I'll just add a comment about the use of steel wool on any boat near salt water. DON"T!! You will forever be amazed where you find little rust streaks & stains showing up. Bronze wood is fine, but I would really stay away from steel wool.

Bob Smalser
12-01-2003, 07:50 AM
Do I use '0' and then '00' pumice and then rottenstone or skip the pummice and get straight to it?
Best oil for mixing with the Pummice/Rottenstone ?
Will the varnish gods punish me if I work where I can with the new electric power,,,,,,,,? Felt pad, slow speed, RO sander,,,,, Eh?
Skipping a grade of pumice is how you produce a matte finish, so depends on how much gloss you want. Test all for the effect you want...because depends on how hard the varnish, too.

Baby oil, lemon oil, orange oil...all the same stuff, just depends on your perfume preference.

Power produces heat...so be very careful. I've never tried it with power tools, but John B. does it that way every day.

While I like his and Norm's "hotcoating" technique and certainly use it with epoxy paint....I suspect it telegraphs each coat's imperfections into the next coat...requiring a real thick coat on at the last for rubbing out those imperfections.

So be careful you don't rub thru your topcoat of varnish.

[ 12-01-2003, 08:56 AM: Message edited by: Bob Smalser ]

12-01-2003, 07:56 AM
From all I've heard and read, using oil as your lubricant for polishing with rottenstone gives a matte, or satin finish, and using water gives a gloss finish. Can't tell you why, just what I've been told....

Bob Cleek
12-01-2003, 08:55 PM
Hi Ian! Well, just about all the right answers have been given, but sorting the fly **** from the pepper remains the task at hand. A quick summary, and yea, I been there and done that...

Those who got the answers (partly) right can score their own papers.

1. Use a basic gloss varnish with good UV protection (yea, some light does get down there), like... Blue Peter! or Z-Spar Captain's (same thing on this side of the Pond.) True, the fancy "soft" varnishes don't rub well. Sort of like trying to sand rubber on a smaller scale.

2. Lay the varnish down as usual, however many coats you feel is just. I now use Scotch Brite pads between coats just to skuff them up. These remove dust bumps and don't create a dust thick enough to mess up the next coat. Just tack quickly and away you go! After you have a few coats built up, and HARDENED well (like at least a week) you can use sand paper to remove major blemishes. Then put on a couple of finish coats or so, using the Scotch Brite between them. This should give you a good gloss varnish effect.

3. I presume you want a "satin rubbed" effect, as they CLAIM you get with "satin" varnish, which is just cheap varnish with a bunch of dust in it, which they sell for more. If so, you can use a fine Scotch Brite pad, and then follow it up with rottenstone, or use pummice (more work) and then rottenstone.

4. I'm not going to check the box, you can do that, BUT, if memory serves, you use oil with the pummice/rottenstone if you want a high GLOSS finish and water if you want less glossy or matt finish. In any event, you sure don't want to use oil if you can avoid it, because it is a major league mess maker. Keep in mind that all those books on hand rubbing contemplate a piece of furniture on a workbench, or a table top. Vertical surfaces on a boat are much more difficult to rub... and it takes a LOT of rubbing to do right.

5. Do NOT wax it! Wax has no place on brightwork on a boat. Someday you are going to have to refinish the stuff. It is very difficult to get the wax off and the next coat of varnish will NOT stick to it. No need for it anyway, if you do the finish right.

6. I'm with Scott... If you do a good varnish job with decent quality gloss varnish, it will look great, particularly if you are talking primarily teak trim, rather than a whole accommodation (which could get a little glaring, all bright). In any event, give the stuff a year or two and the gloss will wear away anyhow and look fine. Don't make yourself crazy. Build up a little jewelry box or the like and varnish it up and rub it down to finish. That ought get the mood out of your system. Smooth as velvet, but a LOT of elbow grease.

12-02-2003, 11:25 AM
Hey Margo!
When are you going to post some new pics of Concordia 41? I'd like to see some of those finished parts and how you made out.

JFH smile.gif

G.J. Stanton
12-03-2003, 04:47 PM
I think hand rubbing a lot of interior varnish is too much work. Better to use a satin varnish and be done with it. However, leveling a finish with fine sandpaper then rubbing with rottenstone with give a beautiful result. I sand gloss varnish with 400 then 600 paper. I then polish with rottenstone and boiled linseed oil. I think the oil works better than water and with enough work, the finish can be anything from satin to shiny, depending on how much you rub it. I have finished gunstocks and furniture this way with fine results. I actually prefer to finsh gunstocks with straight linseed but don't tell Bob Smalser-he hates linseed oil.

Bob Smalser
12-04-2003, 05:37 AM
...but don't tell Bob Smalser-he hates linseed oil. :D Not entirely accurate, G.J.....I just haven't figured out how to do a linseed finish without it darkening.

The gent who built this '03 80 years ago used linseed....problem is, he took his secret to the grave with him: