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Thread: Best paint for a wood mast?

  1. #1
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    Default Best paint for a wood mast?

    I know varnish is best but the mast has been painted and will be again. It is being taken down to bare wood now.

    The mast is 63' so I would like something that will last since taking it down is a pretty big job. The mast was painted with Awlgrip which overall held up ok. The paint was chaulky and had about 20% failing after 7 years. This isn't horrible but for the price I would want better.
    I used Interlux Perfection on the topsides (fiberglass) and it is doing pretty good after 5 years, I believe this would be similar to using Awlgrip?

    Options:
    Expensive house paint? I am guessing it wouldn't have good abrasion resistance?
    Brightsides?
    Perfection?
    Awlgrip?
    KIrby's?

    Would Kirby's be a good choice? what kind of life should I expect out of it?
    Any advice on sealing the wood(good or bad?) Primer? type of paint? Other brands?

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Best paint for a wood mast?

    I've heard spars are often subjected to some degree of movement and that spar varnish tends to be forgiving of movement since it is relatively soft. Which of those paints do you think would be the most flexible?

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    Default Re: Best paint for a wood mast?

    two pot finishes are superior, I would use an epoxy primer like interprotect and a two pot LPU topcoat. Cons are fiddlly to touch up the inevitable chips, pros are its by far the most durable system. Next step is a single pot polyurethane like Toplac, which is awesome paint and the one I prefer for single pack applications, next step is any alkyd or oil based paint. I would definitely use an epoxy undercoat on any system if it suited my budget.

    The paint was chaulky and had about 20% failing after 7 years.
    Does not sound like awlgrip which is a two pot LPU, perhaps its an application error? It should last much longer.
    whatever rocks your boat

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Best paint for a wood mast?

    Given the limited decay resistance of wood species generally used for spars, if your spars are wooded, I'd recommend dousing it well with CPES (Smith's "Clear Penetrating Epoxy Sealer" http://www.smithandcompany.org/CPES/ ) and then laying on a couple of coats of varnish. The varnish will make it a lot easier for the next guy who may want to finish it bright to get the paint off without it soaking into the grain. After that, I'd use any good quality marine enamel, such as Z-spar (https://images.jamestowndistributors...0/00002081.jpg) or George Kirby's great paint. These are what the pros use. You won't see the yards using Home Depot house paint on boats, that's for sure. I've had vertical surfaces exposed to the outdoors and painted with Z-spar gloss white that have lasted well for ten or fifteen years or perhaps even longer. It's important to remember that the longevity of a painted surface is probably 90% dependent upon proper surface preparation and sealing and 10% the quality of the paint. One has only to read the tearful posts about failing paint jobs on this forum to realize that most of the time it's the painter and not the paint that's to blame.

    Epoxy and urethane coatings may be tougher and longer lasting in theory, but they are expensive, tricky to apply, and sometimes difficult to deal with when refinishing. Compatibility and adhesion issues may arise when they are painted over later. They are also sometimes less flexible than traditional oil-based paints and varnishes and thus prone to cracking when the wood moves. The epoxies and urethanes are often designed for covering materials like metals and fiberglass, not wood.

    Pulling your stick makes sense when doing a total refinish, but re-painting can be easily done from a bosun's chair if the underlying paint or varnish job was done right in the first place. There shouldn't be a need to pull the mast every time you paint. Be sure when doing a major tear-down and stripping to pay attention to working CPES well into all the screw holes and any other exposed end-grain and be sure to bed all hardware well when reinstalling it after painting.
    Last edited by Bob Cleek; 06-09-2017 at 01:34 PM.

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Best paint for a wood mast?

    Quote Originally Posted by Bob Cleek View Post
    After that, I'd use any good quality marine enamel, such as Z-spar (https://images.jamestowndistributors...0/00002081.jpg) or George Kirby's great paint. These are what the pros use.
    I have never seen a professional boat painter use Kirbys around here. I believe it is the choice of amateurs that like the old tymey can labels. They do offer nice colors but any good paint place can custom mix.

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    Default Re: Best paint for a wood mast?

    I think it is critical to apply a good undercoat, starting with a sealer. Lots of times paint lifts off the surface due to moisture causing swelling in the wood and evaporating through the paint, hence 'flaking' and cracking line along seams.

    So, Maybe even consider giving your mast a once over with penetrating epoxy as a seal coat, then one or two coats of an epoxy or polyurethane undercoat. Followed by two coats of finish. For my money and application time, two part epoxy are a nuisance. So I generally stay with one part polyurethanes. Toplac is a good brand name, as mentioned above.

    Six coats of varnish will last you three years, maybe four before needing nenewal. Poly paint, easily 7-10 years, maybe more depending on your undercoat prep and region of the world you keep your boat. Epoxy +10 if you can stand the cost and application regime.

    glenn

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    Default Re: Best paint for a wood mast?

    I'm against varnish. It can't take the sun as well as paint and is harder to repair. I've gotten rather used to Marmalade's distinctive white mast. Right now I have a coat of Kirby's semi-gloss white I'm using as primer and I may just build with the white. Or some mast buff. But old time oil for me. Barring physical damage, it should be good for five to seven years and if white spot touch-up from a chair is easy.

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    Default Re: Best paint for a wood mast?

    Quote Originally Posted by pcford View Post
    I have never seen a professional boat painter use Kirbys around here. I believe it is the choice of amateurs that like the old tymey can labels. They do offer nice colors but any good paint place can custom mix.
    To a certain extent, you're right about Kirby's. The problem down here in La La Land is that it's getting pretty hard to find oil-based paint anymore due to local air-quality VOC environmental regulations. Even Penetrol is outlawed, so all of the old tried and true stuff has to be "smuggled in" from New Bedford! I've only rarely seen any of the pros I've known use Kirby's paint, and then, come to think of it, only on their own boats. Down here in Northern CA, Kirby's would be a "bespoke" order at the owner's request and would have to have been mail-ordered from George III. Some have an affinity for a particular color, it's true, but the pros I've known to use it said they favored it because of it's traditional finish. Z-Spar, Interlux/Petit and the rest of the "usual suspects" tend to have a very high gloss (which does dull a bit with age.) Kirby's has a bit softer gloss which the old guys say is closer to "what gloss paint used to look like." Or at least that's what they used to say. Most all of them old enough to remember have died off around here.

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Best paint for a wood mast?

    The previous owner painted the mast so I don't know how well a job he did in preparing.
    As far as UV in this area I have to add a coat or two to my varnish every 6 months or I will lose it, this is over a base of 8 coats. This is after 13 years of seeing what I can get away with.
    I have some CPES for the screw holes but probably not enough to coat the whole mast. I use to be against the very high gloss but now I feel like it gives you another couple years of wear.
    I have not read anything about Z-spar before, it looks interesting. They have a clear sealer and then a undercoat suggested for wood.

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Best paint for a wood mast?

    I put Brightside on my sticks a four years back, with the suggested primer. It has held up very well.
    I don't find Kirby's very durable, though it is pleasant to use.

  11. #11
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    Default Re: Best paint for a wood mast?

    I've never painted a big mast like that, but do have a few thoughts.

    I have no problem with putting a clear primer on the newly-wooded stick. In fact, I'd regard it as a public service. Allowing a future owner to switch to varnish later without potential 'speckles' issues. I'd be inclined to skip the epoxy products, and simply do a thinned coat of spar varnish followed by 1-2 coats of neat varnish. This makes a superior substrate over which to apply your paint.

    As far as the topcoat - I'd be consulting my suppliers about the issue. The key for me would be a 'long oil' formulation oil-based enamel. This means that the dried film - while suffering from long open times - dries with a bit more flexibility. Masts move and flex. That's why 'spar varnish' is also a long oil formulation. Which specific paint? My own approach is to choose a long oil oil enamel that one of my trusted pro suppliers represents as 'most durable' for exterior/marine use.

    Damn the cost - if what they recommend is $150/gal... don't blink. Durability will pay off by delaying the next episode of mast-yanking, prep, and re-painting.
    David G
    Harbor Woodworks
    http://www.harborwoodworking.com/boat.html

    "It was a Sunday morning and Goddard gave thanks that there were still places where one could worship in temples not made by human hands." -- L. F. Herreshoff (The Compleat Cruiser)

  12. #12
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    Default Re: Best paint for a wood mast?

    For a boxed spruce spar,
    CPES on bare wood.
    Epoxy primer ,built up by brush quite thick. interlux 2000, or 414/404.
    Any 2 part LP,2 coats brushed on thin .

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    Default Re: Best paint for a wood mast?

    Quote Originally Posted by wizbang 13 View Post
    For a boxed spruce spar,
    CPES on bare wood.
    Epoxy primer ,built up by brush quite thick. interlux 2000, or 414/404.
    Any 2 part LP,2 coats brushed on thin .
    yep but dont bother with the CPES, having a clear sealer underneath is pointless and more work. Even the thinnest solvent wont penetrate sidegrain very far and water gets in from the outside which is why you use paint in the first place, epoxy primer is formulated to adhere to wood extremely well and is waterproof but you must apply it as per the instructions, typically it has an open time which may be hours in which the top coat will chemically bond to it. With a big mast I would spray it to get the coverage and paint buildup required. The most important detail prior to painting is sealing endgrain which is best done using neat epoxy or overdrilling and backfilling with epoxy.
    whatever rocks your boat

  14. #14
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    Default Re: Best paint for a wood mast?

    Because it is SPRUCE, I would not skip the CPES.
    Most anywhere /anything else, I agree that CPES is overkill and or pointless.
    But this is a job that , done well , one should be able to fuggetaboutit for 12 years.
    Say the spar is a bit too "wet", we know Scott has had rain recently, and we see plastic on the spruce. Regular epoxy primer will not tolerate that as well as CPES.
    bruce

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    Default Re: Best paint for a wood mast?

    My only experience is with Mimi Rose (and our lapstrake dinghy.) Bill Page primed most of Mimi Rose's exterior surfaces with epoxy and said it grealy improved the longevity of the paint. We've seen 3-6 years longevity on EZPoxy and Epifanes. That includes 3 winters covered outdoors in Maine and one year sailing in the south, so much more exposure than regular seasonal use followed by boatshed storage. Kirby's is more like 3-4 years, but it seems more forgiving on prep and saves you some time with fairing due to its lower gloss. We know a professional boatyard or two that uses it for this reason. We like it for the topsides because we like to give them a fresh coat every year. Epifanes has slowly become my favorite of the lot, largely because its cans seal easily and the paint almost never skins over. It seems to settle out with a protective solvent layer on top. I had cans that were years old were like new when opened. A bit more expensive upfront, but saves me time, straining paint and paint waste. I've seen EZPoxy skin over in days sometimes. Mimi Rose's spars were originally covered in Awlgrip which lasted 20 years or so. I chose to replace it with Epifanes enamel because the spars hadn't been kept touched up properly and there was some minor corrosion here and there. Folks never seem to touchup Awlgrip. Also, I didn't want to deal with the hassle of its application at the time. I find enamels much more pleasant to work with. I'd rather apply Epifanes 4 times in 20 years than Awlgrip once. As for epoxy primer, CPES is my favorite so far.

  16. #16
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    Default Re: Best paint for a wood mast?

    If you are starting with bare wood I would absolutely prime with CPES. If you are going to use an epoxy paint I would hot coat with the primer.

  17. #17
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    Default Re: Best paint for a wood mast?

    Varnish is not all that hard to do for spars and allows one to see what is going on with the wood, a critical factor! My wife Anne does ours every other season. She likes the view from aloft.
    Jay

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    Default Re: Best paint for a wood mast?

    Have a look at my thread about Drake. http://forum.woodenboat.com/showthre...fluenced-ketch

    I removed all the old paint to get back to bare wood and then used Cetol 1, and many layers over the years of Cetol 2,3+ as a topcoat. 17 seasons now with this system.

    70 year old Sitka spars.

  19. #19
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    Default Re: Best paint for a wood mast?

    I road on an awesome wood boat last night with a guy that is paid to keep it pretty. I asked him how he does it and his response matched what I do, he said a coat or two before summer and a coat or two after. He said every time he tries to get away with skipping a time he will lose it. This is my experience as well. I am not going up twice a year to varnish the mast.
    Our mizzen mast is fiberglass so it would not match unless we faux painted it which I also don't want to do. We do have a lot of varnish to keep up with already. I love the varnish and I am going to include more pieces in my regular rounds soon.
    Right now I am leaning towards CPES, interlux 2 part primer then Perfection. The topside are done in Perfection so it will match and it went on easy. We have about 75% on the paint gone, it keeps raining so it is slowing me down.

  20. #20
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    Default Re: Best paint for a wood mast?

    One question, after reading a lot of the old CPES threads: I know it is not a waterproof sealer but how about the epoxy primer? Is there any issues with sealing a box construction mast? condensation inside?

  21. #21
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    Default Re: Best paint for a wood mast?

    I use either clear automotive lacquer or clear shellac. Both can be reversed as needed epoxy cannot.
    Jay
    Last edited by Jay Greer; 06-14-2017 at 01:57 PM.

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    Default Re: Best paint for a wood mast?

    The 2 part Awlgrip primer is part of what I am removing now. I did about 10' today before it started raining.

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    Default Re: Best paint for a wood mast?

    Quote Originally Posted by Trawler Scott View Post
    I know varnish is best but the mast has been painted and will be again. It is being taken down to bare wood now.

    The mast is 63' so I would like something that will last since taking it down is a pretty big job. The mast was painted with Awlgrip which overall held up ok. The paint was chaulky and had about 20% failing after 7 years. This isn't horrible but for the price I would want better.
    I used Interlux Perfection on the topsides (fiberglass) and it is doing pretty good after 5 years, I believe this would be similar to using Awlgrip?

    Options:
    Expensive house paint? I am guessing it wouldn't have good abrasion resistance?
    Brightsides?
    Perfection?
    Awlgrip?
    KIrby's?

    Would Kirby's be a good choice? what kind of life should I expect out of it?
    Any advice on sealing the wood(good or bad?) Primer? type of paint? Other brands?


    How did you maintain your mast? How often did you wash? How often did you wax? Or did you do nothing like most ? An Awl Griped mast, with regular maintenance should be good for 10 -15 yrs. I make my living doing this kind of work. Fixing boats than are not maintained on a regular basis are my biggest money makers.

  24. #24
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    Default Re: Best paint for a wood mast?

    There is condensation inside any hollow mast. Wood gains and loses moisture with season, temperature, sunlight and all. The more UV/IR reflective the mast coating, the less extreme that problem but it never goes away. That's why properly build masts have drain holes through any compression blocks and a drain at the butt.

    Traditional advice for New England boats with varnished sticks planing an islands year has been to paint over the varnish and remove when back north. That's more to protect the glue and wood than to fight inside condensation, puddling, and rot.

  25. #25
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    Default Re: Best paint for a wood mast?

    Ian speaks with the wisdom that is gained from personal experience. The condensation factor of a hollow mast is a reality and not speculation. This is why I always use several coats of amber/orange shellac on the interior of a spar before the final glue up. I do not use blocking in in my spars either as it can obstruct drainage and lead to having the mast rot from the inside out. Blocking also can cause a hard spot in mast bend making tuning more difficult than without it.
    Free swinging spreaders are the solution to fastening problems at the tangs.
    Jay

  26. #26
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    Default Re: Best paint for a wood mast?

    I showed a picture of the mounting studs, there was a 5th hole at the bottom that I guessed could have been a drain? Should I drill a hole back through under the bottom edge of the bracket?

    Can a jumper spreader be free swinging? with stays having opposing pressure I am not sure if there would be a reason?

    Would you use CPES, epoxy primer and a 2 part paint or is this asking for trouble with condensation?

  27. #27
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    Default Re: Best paint for a wood mast?

    Quote Originally Posted by pro from dover View Post
    How did you maintain your mast? How often did you wash? How often did you wax? Or did you do nothing like most ? An Awl Griped mast, with regular maintenance should be good for 10 -15 yrs. I make my living doing this kind of work. Fixing boats than are not maintained on a regular basis are my biggest money makers.
    I bought the boat in poor condition. When I bought it the paint was chalky and had some cracking, I did not wax it. FYI Awlgrip advises against wax for their paint.

  28. #28
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    Default Re: Best paint for a wood mast?

    Jumper spreaders need to be fixed. Most often a bronze or wooden connecting bar ties the tips from movement. Also helps keep the chute from fouling. As mentioned before, I do not put blocking in my masts. I have never used a drain other than at the heel of the mast.
    Jay

  29. #29
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    Default Re: Best paint for a wood mast?

    Quote Originally Posted by Trawler Scott View Post
    I bought the boat in poor condition. When I bought it the paint was chalky and had some cracking, I did not wax it. FYI Awlgrip advises against wax for their paint.
    I only use Awl Care of course.

  30. #30
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    Default Re: Best paint for a wood mast?

    Quote Originally Posted by pro from dover View Post
    I only use Awl Care of course.
    I thought you said wax, Awlcare is a sealer and of course it's fine. I just wanted to point it out so if someone reading this is not aware they won't go waxing or buffing their Awlgrip paint job and screw it up.

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