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Thread: Multiple coats of varnish per day?

  1. #1
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    Default Multiple coats of varnish per day?

    There's another thread going on about a particular topcoat product (see http://forum.woodenboat.com/showthre...e-spar-varnish), which raised a question in my mind, namely under what conditions is it acceptable to apply more than one coat of varnish without sanding in between?

    For example, I've heard it said that two coats of conventional varnish (e.g. Schooner, Epifanes...) can be applied, if the second is applied within a day of the first coat. The idea is to build the layers quickly. I suppose that the theory is that the first coat is still 'soft' enough to allow a chemical bond with the second coat.

    As it is, if I am applying 8 coats of varnish, and have to wait to sand between each and every coat, I'm looking at a varnish schedule that stretches out towards a month or more. And that's if I'm right on top of it and get started on the next coat as soon as the prior coat has cured.

    I've been doing this lately (limiting myself to two coats at a time) with what seem to be decent results, but I'm curious if I'm making a mistake that is hard to see. For example, does that practice lead to premature failure of the coating?

    Any thoughts on this?

    -Paul

    s/y PickPocket

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Multiple coats of varnish per day?

    I don't think you're committing brightwork apostacy. Or if you are, you're in good company.

    At least one Epiphanes product specifically allows for what you're doing --"Rapidcoat"? Something like three coats per 24hrs, no sanding. I just this spring picked up a small can for in-season "scratch and patch" repairs, but I haven't tried it yet.

    I have no idea how the Rapidcoat UV protection compares to their basic Gloss Finish, but you could always do your build coats with Rapidcoat and then give it a final coat or two with the Gloss. Epiphanes "tech support" recommended that when I asked about building with Woodfinish Gloss, which doesn't offer quite as good UV protection as the Gloss. (I was then in Lake Tahoe, where the UV damage can get insane.)

    I have also had good luck "hot coating" (wet on wet) both their basic Gloss finish (officially 1 coat per/24hrs, sand between coats) and their Woodfinish Gloss (wait at least 24 hrs between coats, but no need to sand if you get the next coat on within 72hrs). I'll let the first coat tack, then hit it with a second coat. I watch my weather, though, since if it's too hot out the varnish can "alligator", and then I've set myself back more time than I saved. It can also get a bit tricky getting an even finish --no curtains or drips-- since the second coat needs to go on a bit heavy to avoid marring the tacked-up first coat (which I try and lay on thin). So for me it's a narrow temperature window, and with the use limited to certain areas.

    For instance, on my dinghy, I hot coated the breast hook and quarter knees, since I knew I could do them without the second coat sagging, but I didn't hot coat the rubrails, where the vertical surfaces and poor visibility meant I was more likely to goober it up. And that was in the past week, temperatures in the low-70s. I'm now finishing up the rubrails, and with temps in the mid-80s/low-90s I wouldn't try it. Instead, I'll skimp on the 24hrs between coats; cut back to 22 or even 20, depending on how it feels under the sandpaper.

    I haven't yet had problems with bad bonding, so long as the first coat is still definitely tacky. In general, though, I like to give whatever varnish I use the full 24, then sand it between every coat (even if it doesn't officially need it). The end result *is* better, and the sanding lets me see what I'm doing better as I'm applying the next coat.

    Alex

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    Default Re: Multiple coats of varnish per day?

    I hot coat varnish and paint. Only two coats at a time though.

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    Default Re: Multiple coats of varnish per day?

    A month is a long time. How much varnish are you doing? You don't need to much sanding for each coat. A quick scuff with a scotchbrite pad is enough.

    I've tried this a bit on objects that are meant for indoors, where I'm not as concerned about excellent adhesion. when I've done it, it's always turned out looking pretty crappy. Without sanding in between coats, I always end up with way too much dust stuck in my finish. Also, I've found that the "orange peel" effect gets really pronounced without a bit of leveling in between coats.

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    Default Re: Multiple coats of varnish per day?

    I have used Minwax Helmsman spar polyurethane. It is very fast drying and can be sanded and recoated in about 3 hours on a warm dry day. I use it on parts that are likely to get dinged (e.g., oars, paddles, small spars, floor boards) so they can be quickly repaired during the season.

    I know some people might look down their noses at this stuff, but it offers decent protection and appearance when you don't have a lot of time to wait for each coat to dry.

    Brian

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    Default Re: Multiple coats of varnish per day?

    Quote Originally Posted by johngsandusky View Post
    I hot coat varnish and paint. Only two coats at a time though.
    Yes, this.
    David G
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    Default Re: Multiple coats of varnish per day?

    Quote Originally Posted by OldDominionWB View Post
    A month is a long time. How much varnish are you doing? You don't need to much sanding for each coat. A quick scuff with a scotchbrite pad is enough.

    I've tried this a bit on objects that are meant for indoors, where I'm not as concerned about excellent adhesion. when I've done it, it's always turned out looking pretty crappy. Without sanding in between coats, I always end up with way too much dust stuck in my finish. Also, I've found that the "orange peel" effect gets really pronounced without a bit of leveling in between coats.
    For eight coats, a month isn't as long as you might think. Spend a couple of days masking, initial thorough sanding and prepping, then a day varnishing, then three or so days waiting for that to cure, then another day sanding (even if it's only a scuff coat which doesn't seem adequate to achieve leveling) vacuuming, tack clothing and varnishing, then another three or so days waiting for the cure....rinse/lather/repeat. You get the idea. Wrap into that the idea that those three days waiting for it to cure usually turn into four or five days because there's other stuff going on, and pretty soon a month begins to look optimistic. :-)

    The vessel is an Eel, so the rub rails, cabin sides, bowsprite, boomkin, handrails and other miscellaneous pieces of deck furniture get treated. But usually not everything in any given year. Last year I did the entire cockpit...bench seats, forward bulkhead, centerboard trunk and so on.

    I used to have problems with dust stuck in the finish until I finally figured out that most/all of the dust wasn't ambient dust flying around. It turns out that it was coming from dried varnish stuck in the brush. That led me to develop a method for thoroughly cleaning the brush so that doesn't happen (there's a thread on that topic somewhere). Since then I have had zero problems with dust and can routinely get glassy smooth finishes - most of the time.

    The major reason for sanding between coats, IMHO, is to level the grain. But to do that requires a pretty substantial build up before sanding between coats. It's always seemed to me that when sanding between every coat, you're building the finish veeeery slowly, taking off a substantial portion of the build between each coat - three steps forward, two back. Even if sanding carefully with high grit paper.

    Hence, my schedule has been:
    - Do a pretty thorough sanding (this is for old work...not new wood), apply two hot coats. It looks a little rough after this, but I have faith...things will get better.
    - Wait a few days then sand to ~150 grit removing any curtains that have appeared and apply two more hot coats. Things are starting to look a little better but some grain still showing through.
    - Wait a few more days then sand to ~220 and apply two more hot coats. That gets me to six coats - looking pretty okay, I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.
    - Wait a few days, sand to 220 and apply one more coat, with a reasonable amount of care and attention. Undoubtedly a few curtains will appear after this step.
    - Wait a few day and sand carefully to 320 grit and apply a veeery, veeery careful final coat, payiing very careful attention to avoid holidays and fix any curtains that appear.

    All those intermediate coats aren't exactly slopped on, but there's room for error here perfection isn't the goal in the early/middle steps - what I'm trying to do is to asymptotically approach 'perfection' (whatever that means) until the final two coat looks pretty good.

    This is working for me, but my only question is if those hot coats are causing me any long term distress in terms of adhesion problems. It doesn't seem so, but I'm just really not sure. I also don't know where I got the idea that it's okay to hot coat two coats, but not, say, three.

    Thanks to all for your thoughts and suggestions. It's how we all learn, eh?

    -Paul
    s/y PickPocket.

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    Default Re: Multiple coats of varnish per day?

    Why "eight coats?" Shouldn't the look of the job govern the job? I do build coats...one on one, scant sanding until significant coats...maybe five or so; then more intense sanding until satisfied. 320 before final.
    In a nutshell: Follow the instructions on the can.

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    Default Re: Multiple coats of varnish per day?

    Quote Originally Posted by pcford View Post
    Why "eight coats?" Shouldn't the look of the job govern the job? I do build coats...one on one, scant sanding until significant coats...maybe five or so; then more intense sanding until satisfied. 320 before final.
    In a nutshell: Follow the instructions on the can.
    In a nutshell, that's essentially what I'm doing. It just so happens that it gets to the point of looking like I expect it to at about...wait for it...eight coats. Except I'm doing two coats between the 'scant sandings', where the point of those sandings is to level the building coats such that when I get to 320 grit, right before the final coat, there's very little left sanding left to do...mainly just to scuff the surface.

    There was a discussion on a Facebook group about a year ago about the number of coats needed, where all agreed that the number is more or less arbitrary. So they all agreed that anytime in the future when anyone, especially a newbie, asked, "how many coats?" that the answer from anyone in the group would be 'seven coats'. A bunch of practical jokers, those fellows are.

    -Paul
    s/y PickPocket

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    Default Re: Multiple coats of varnish per day?

    Used "rapidcoat" when finishing a 70ft main and 55ft mizzen mast. Number of coats really dpends on the film thickness you can apply, and that will be different with each product, and how its applied and the operator. A tiring job, but got on 6 coats on top of several polyurethane base layers. Been holding up excellent im told, but the SW of the UK is not exactly tropical.

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    Default Re: Multiple coats of varnish per day?

    In a nutshell, that's essentially what I'm doing.
    I don't know why I chimed in so quickly (hopefully not pedantically), since it certainly sounds as though you have more experience with it than I do. I suppose, really, if the process you outlined is what you've been doing for a while, and you haven't seen anything terrible happening, it is *we* who should be asking *you* about the pitfalls of hot coating.

    Have you had much trouble with "orange skin" or "alligatoring"?

    Alex

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    Default Re: Multiple coats of varnish per day?

    The problem with "hot coating" is that it retards the drying of subsequent layers. When doing mahogany runabouts, I hot coated the first couple coats a few times. I found no significant overall improvement in overall time it elapsed to do a given varnish job. It would take a couple months to do a runabout. First month absorbed in minor repair, (for example, rebunging,) fairing and progression through the grits. The second month was varnishing...only takes a couple hours to put on a coat...and waiting for the varnish to harden up to allow sanding. With runabouts you have some tedious work at the end doing the seams (filling and painting them) and finally replacing the hardware.

    Moral to the story: Follow the instructions on the can. There is no free lunch; it sold out.

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    Default Re: Multiple coats of varnish per day?

    Quote Originally Posted by pcford View Post
    The problem with "hot coating" is that it retards the drying of subsequent layers. When doing mahogany runabouts, I hot coated the first couple coats a few times. I found no significant overall improvement in overall time it elapsed to do a given varnish job. It would take a couple months to do a runabout. First month absorbed in minor repair, (for example, rebunging,) fairing and progression through the grits. The second month was varnishing...only takes a couple hours to put on a coat...and waiting for the varnish to harden up to allow sanding. With runabouts you have some tedious work at the end doing the seams (filling and painting them) and finally replacing the hardware.

    Moral to the story: Follow the instructions on the can. There is no free lunch; it sold out.
    True.

    And knowing that one can get two coats on in a day gives one flexibility at times. If one hotcoats just before being out of the shop for a few days... it's one day gained when you return. Do that a few times in the course of a job... and it makes a difference.
    David G
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    "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)

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    Default Re: Multiple coats of varnish per day?

    Another vote for Epiphanes Rapidcoat. Alex (Pitsligo)'s post is excellent. Lots of tricks like hotcoating can work but why not use a product designed for ahhh Rapidcoating??? Moe

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    Default Re: Multiple coats of varnish per day?

    Quote Originally Posted by David G View Post
    True.

    And knowing that one can get two coats on in a day gives one flexibility at times. If one hotcoats just before being out of the shop for a few days... it's one day gained when you return. Do that a few times in the course of a job... and it makes a difference.
    That's kind of the reason I was asking. If I'm hot coating, I can fit two coats in roughly the same time window that would normally have consumed one coat.

    To pcford's point, yes, I know how to read the can and I have done so; I'll keep that in mind when lunch time comes around. My question was simply whether others have had practical experience with this, and if so, what it was.

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    Default Re: Multiple coats of varnish per day?

    Quote Originally Posted by Pitsligo View Post
    I don't know why I chimed in so quickly (hopefully not pedantically), since it certainly sounds as though you have more experience with it than I do. I suppose, really, if the process you outlined is what you've been doing for a while, and you haven't seen anything terrible happening, it is *we* who should be asking *you* about the pitfalls of hot coating.

    Have you had much trouble with "orange skin" or "alligatoring"?

    Alex
    I haven't had a problem with orange skin or alligatoring. Once, several years ago, I tried to apply a hurried coat in full sun and it wrinkled in a few spots, but that's never happened again.
    ps - I'm just interested in learning from others' experiences, and willing to share mine in exchange.

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    Default Re: Multiple coats of varnish per day?

    I normally go for double coating when building up from bare wood. Two coats is safe. If you have a good brush, you can go for three. But that is often "iffy" as you stand a chance of ending up with a ropey looking job! All you are seeking is build up but you need to keep the work smooth.

    We wooded "Bright Star's" rails and king planks last week end. We bleached, sanded with 120 and gave the mahogany rails and king planks masked all of it off and put on a single coat of clear acrylic sealer followed by a staining using Interlux 573 Chris Craft filler stain. This stain is dead nuts on for matching the color of Honduras Mahogany. I used to mix my own but they now are putting it out pre-mixed. We wiped it off as soon as it flashed and let it set over night.

    Next morning, before breakfast, my wife Anne and our son Jamie laid on the first coat of turpentine thinned Behr Spar Varnish. The turps adds to the penetration and gives a smooth flow. Then we went for breakfast at the Galley Cafe, pancakes, bacon and eggs for the crew. OJ and a poached egg plus one sausage for me as I am losing weight. We cleaned up our gear and played and sang some Hawaiian Music on our Ukuleles, swapped yarns, and tested the tack on the varnish job as two hours and change had passed. The tack was good so we laid on another coat that was, this time, full strength. Two foggy days followed and we sanded with 220 this AM. and now have the third coat on as of today, courtesy of Jamie, who added in the hatches. Five more coats and we be ready to go sailin!. Next time we double coat again after sanding with 220. Yes we use a lot of tack rags too!
    Jay
    Last edited by Jay Greer; 06-23-2017 at 06:28 PM.

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    Default Re: Multiple coats of varnish per day?

    Jamestown has a product in its Total Boat line called Lust High Gloss Marine Varnish. It is suppose to allow an up to 5 coats a day without sanding. The additional coats are applied after 1 hour curing time. I have had mixed results which I attribute to operator error. I redid the varnish on my main mast with good results although I don't think the varnish lasted quite as long as the Behr varnish I have been using. I redid my rudder and had problems with the varnish not curing properly. My rudder is now painted white. Again I am not a skilled varnisher and others' results may vary. As I am about to redo my mast again, I would be interest in others' opinion of and/or experience with the Jamestown product.
    Last edited by Bill7254; 06-23-2017 at 07:51 PM.
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    Default Re: Multiple coats of varnish per day?

    I've never had any real adhesion problems when I've done this, so to answer your question, no I don't see any real problem with it. Like Jay Greer, I will sometimes put on two coats in a day when I'm building up layers. It doesn't seem to go on quite as evenly when I do this, but I level it out later. However, I've found that when I layer it up quickly really quickly, say 4 coats in 2 or 3 days, it can take a much longer time to cure. So I usually just let it sit for a week or so before I level everything out and lay down a finish coat. But for me, I've found that one coat per day is about right. It just seems like when I give it a full 24 hours, I get the best results. But often I'll get impatient and put down two coats, and the results are usually perfectly acceptable for body coats, but never quite nice enough to be a finish coat. I must admit, I do so much tedious finishing at my job, when it comes to my boats, I keep my own varnish work relatively sparse.

    Don't mean to change the thread, but how do you like your eel? I dream about those at night. When I get the time and money, I think I'll build one of those for myself. One of the prettiest boats ever drawn, IMO

  20. #20

    Default Re: Multiple coats of varnish per day?

    Quote Originally Posted by PaulGrun View Post
    and have to wait to sand between each and every coat, I'm looking at a varnish schedule that stretches
    Depends on whether you are the proverbial tortoise or the hare. Thick fast coats often result in a soft finish.

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    Default Re: Multiple coats of varnish per day?

    I am aiming for ten coats on the International Fourteen. We are at five at the moment and I want to get another five on over the next fortnight and then give her a week to harden before turning her over. We are using Epifanes Gloss Varnish - first four coats were thinned and the fifth coat had some Owatrol added - from now on, we will be using it neat, but with Owatrol. I am "old school" and believe in allowing two or three days between coats and rubbing down between them. At the moment, this is working, but if the weather cools it may get more difficult.

    Epifanes say eight coats is enough, but I am aware that the watertightness of these boats depends in part on the varnish... after five coats there is still a discernible line along the seams either side of the wych elm garboards.
    Last edited by Andrew Craig-Bennett; 09-05-2017 at 10:06 AM.
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    Default Re: Multiple coats of varnish per day?

    I usually only thin the first coat. It acts as a sealer and a base for the following costs. I'd say 8 is a minimum over bare wood.
    The comings on my Kmiclerbocker had 8 over epoxy. Held up well over 3 seasons of GA sun.
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  23. #23
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    Default Re: Multiple coats of varnish per day?

    I have found that, when sanding between the later coats, one can sand with wet and dry paper used wet, and get away with sanding a little sooner than if you were sanding dry.
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    Default Re: Multiple coats of varnish per day?

    I made a living doing varnish work for many years! I did learn the hard way that more than eight coats of varnish, when starting from bare wood, can cause a phenomenon known as "Varnish Sickness"! This results in blistering of the varnish and the misery of having to strip and re-varnish the job!
    Jay

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    Default Re: Multiple coats of varnish per day?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jay Greer View Post
    I made a living doing varnish work for many years! I did learn the hard way that more than eight coats of varnish, when starting from bare wood, can cause a phenomenon known as "Varnish Sickness"! This results in blistering of the varnish and the misery of having to strip and re-varnish the job!
    Jay
    Amen. While it isn't going to keep a customer happy if it's an "I want it all now." job, I prefer to put down three or four coats and let it dry for a while, week or more, even a month, and then another three or four coats, and so on. If you put more varnish on top of varnish that isn't fully cured, the negative effects are cumulative. "Dry to the touch" isn't "fully cured," particularly if you are using a good tung oil based varnish. I think the out-gassing that occurs as the "encapsulated" coats cure is what causes the phenomenon Jay describes. It ain't pretty! I try to think of varnish as a "process," not a "job." It's pretty much an ongoing thing unless you have a covered berth or good boat covers and even then...

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    Default Re: Multiple coats of varnish per day?

    What Messrs Cleek & Greer said. Varnish is a reactive finish. For the varnish to cure/dry/harden, two things have to happen:


    • The solvents have to evaporate, and
    • The oils and resins in the varnish have to polymerize. That is an oxidation reaction.



    Both of the above are inhibited when layer coat on coat without adequate time in between coats. The thicker the film, the harder it is for the solvents to evaporate, and, the longer it will take to fully polymerize.

    Better to give each coat time to cure and just scuff in between coats with scotch brite pads without worrying too much about appearances. Shave off any really egregious drips or sags with a razor blade ('cause they'll stay soft for quite a while) and get the next coat on. When it gets sufficiently ropey that you can't stand it, then block it out and level it with fine sandpaper. And keep going.

    The only coat that counts is the money coat at the very end. You probably want to block it out before you put on the money coat.
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    Default Re: Multiple coats of varnish per day?

    Well, here we are after five coats of Epifanes on the Fourteen - two coats thinned 50% with Epifanes brush thinner, third coat thinned 25%, fourth coat thinned 15%, fifth coat unthinned but with say 8% Owatrol:

    From a distance, not bad:





    However, you will notice that the heads of the nails are still standing proud:



    The bronze keel band is removed forward for access to the spot where I need to fit a graving piece into the keel and in way of the centreboard case in order to fit the new slot gasket.



    And there are seams between strakes - most notably in way of the wych elm garboards - which are still "gaping"





    That coat was applied on Monday evening in about 18 degrees C ambient, if dry enough tomorrow will get a rub down with 320 grit in a "palm" sander.

    I want to do two things - first, get the heads of the nails well coated, second, get the remaining open seams closed up.

    I don't want to build coat on coat; my routine is coat, three days, rub down, tack rag, coat...
    Last edited by Andrew Craig-Bennett; 09-06-2017 at 09:43 AM.
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    Default Re: Multiple coats of varnish per day?

    I'll bet your wrist got tired doing all that alone. Beautiful job!
    Jay

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    Default Re: Multiple coats of varnish per day?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jay Greer View Post
    I'll bet your wrist got tired doing all that alone. Beautiful job!
    Jay
    Thank you! The Owatrol is a great help. And it is so much nicer working in an open shed with an earth floor. That's three litres used up so far.
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    Default Re: Multiple coats of varnish per day?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jay Greer View Post
    I'll bet your wrist got tired doing all that alone. Beautiful job!
    Jay
    I suspect the younger guys may get a lot more "wrist exercise" than we old fharts!

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    Default Re: Multiple coats of varnish per day?

    Is Owatrol similar to our Penetrol?

  32. #32

    Default Re: Multiple coats of varnish per day?

    I learned this from CLC when building their kayaks many years ago - to set the bronze ring nail heads flush, so they are not proud and the wood is not dented by the hammer, when it comes time for the final strike of the hammer, place a metal putty knife over the wood and nail head then strike the final blow onto the putty knife.

    It worked great and 15 years later the bright-work wood with flush nail heads are still bright and pretty under the epoxy and varnish.

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    Default Re: Multiple coats of varnish per day?

    Three litres! Wow.
    She looks gorgeous.

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    Default Re: Multiple coats of varnish per day?

    Quote Originally Posted by JimConlin View Post
    Is Owatrol similar to our Penetrol?
    I suspect it may be very similar indeed!
    IMAGINES VEL NON FUERINT

  35. #35
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    Default Re: Multiple coats of varnish per day?

    Quote Originally Posted by Mo 'Poxy View Post
    I learned this from CLC when building their kayaks many years ago - to set the bronze ring nail heads flush, so they are not proud and the wood is not dented by the hammer, when it comes time for the final strike of the hammer, place a metal putty knife over the wood and nail head then strike the final blow onto the putty knife.

    It worked great and 15 years later the bright-work wood with flush nail heads are still bright and pretty under the epoxy and varnish.
    That's a good idea. I did briefly think of doing such a thing as part of the refit, but that would have meant dollying up to each and every turned nail, and since she still feels "tight" and not at all "floppy" I decided in favour of leaving well alone.
    IMAGINES VEL NON FUERINT

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