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Thread: For non-professional work how does oil-based Spar Urethane compare to varnish?

  1. #1
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    Default For non-professional work how does oil-based Spar Urethane compare to varnish?

    I've noticed that the big box stores have stopped carrying varnish and instead only offer various flavors of Urethane. I've only finished a chair with the stuff, coated over cured BLO, and it came out very nice.

    So, for small boats and non-professional clear coating, how does the oil-based Spar Urethane compare to oil-based Spar Varnish -- assuming the overall quality of the products is roughly equal. Not talking 12 coats on a Tahoe runabout or megayacht, just a few layers to protect and beautify wood on small craft.

    I'm interested in both how it wears as well as protects against UV, and how it recoats and/or removes for subsequent recoating. Thanks!

    "The enemies of reason have a certain blind look."
    Doctor Jacquin to Lieutenant D'Hubert, in Ridley Scott's first major film _The Duellists_.

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    Default Re: For non-professional work how does oil-based Spar Urethane compare to varnish?

    My experience with urethane is limited, nevertheless: It always used to be said that because urethane dries to a harder surface, re-coating is difficult. Urethane simply doesn't like sticking to its dried self. I don't know if this still applies to the newer finishes. In my experience, the urethanes tack more quickly than Epiphanes, which is the varnish I've been using. So it's more difficult to maintain a wet edge. This might only be important if you're doing the topsides or transom.... large surfaces.

    It's overall hardness makes removal more difficult.

    I had really poor results many years ago with a Varathane product. As a consequence, I shy away from that brand. Probably an overreaction. I do like Deft and the Minwax brands in general.

    Jeff

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    Default Re: For non-professional work how does oil-based Spar Urethane compare to varnish?

    I've long used Minwax helmsman spar urethane. No complaints, it remains pretty flexible. Tried the water based version and wasn't impressed, though.
    -Dave

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    Default Re: For non-professional work how does oil-based Spar Urethane compare to varnish?

    I do not believe that urethane contains UV filtering agents. If not there is nothing to prevent the wood from bleaching under the skin of the coating.
    Jay

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    Default Re: For non-professional work how does oil-based Spar Urethane compare to varnish?

    I think Home depot just stopped carrying Minwax,so I'm switching over to Varathane. I can not tell the difference.
    I've used many gallons of it, mostly inside my houses and boats, but I coat my speed boats with one part poly, Minwax,over WEST 105/207. It dusts up easily without jamming sandpaper.

    My wifes dingy oars get polyvar. They get beat up ,polyvar resists dings better .

  6. #6
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    Default Re: For non-professional work how does oil-based Spar Urethane compare to varnish?

    Ditto to what Jay said. Urethane is great for bar tops, counters, and the kitchen table, but it seems to be nothing but grief on a boat outdoors. It does break down in the sun. It's a bugger to sand and it isn't any fun to try to lay down flat, either. (I'd suggest spraying when you do use it.) It's definitely not a replacement for traditional UV-resistant quality oil-based varnish. Unfortunately, and particularly in CA, it seems it's getting nearly impossible to source any paint or varnish with any measurable VOC content. You can still get it in chandleries as a 'specialty application" exception to the VOC regs, but you pay and arm and a leg for the picture of the boat on the can. Somebody could probably make a tidy retirement income on the side smuggling real paint and varnish into California these days. You'd think the professional painters would be up in arms about the VOC regulations, but they're not. The water-based junk (although it is slowly getting better) only lasts about half as long, if that, which means more work for the painters.

  7. #7
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    Default Re: For non-professional work how does oil-based Spar Urethane compare to varnish?

    As with most things you get what you pay for. For example, International Goldspar is a urethane-modified varnish, which I find to give excellent results, International Schooner is a traditional varnish which may give slightly better results but costs more. Both are a lot more expensive than non-marine varnishes. The cost (to me) of stripping and re-doing a failing finish is far higher than either.
    (FWIW I'm now using Awlwood MA, a modified acrylic varnish from Awlgrip/International - MUCH better longevity than the other products and not too bad to apply.)

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    Default Re: For non-professional work how does oil-based Spar Urethane compare to varnish?

    Since I already bought a quart, I'm using it on the floorboards of my Caledonia Yawl, after unscrewing them from the frames and floors, beltsanding all the paint off, and coating with BLO and MinWax Gunstock stain. We'll see how they hold up, but the boat is stored under cover and the floorboards will be easy to take back to bare wood if all else fails.



    "The enemies of reason have a certain blind look."
    Doctor Jacquin to Lieutenant D'Hubert, in Ridley Scott's first major film _The Duellists_.

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    Default Re: For non-professional work how does oil-based Spar Urethane compare to varnish?

    They need about 8 coats to give a fair test.
    The first coat is slow to dry, but on a nice day in the sun, you can put on 6 in a day.

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    Default For non-professional work how does oil-based Spar Urethane compare to varnish?

    A previous owner of my boat went urethane. Recoating is not all that cool. Where the urethane has worn or lifted stays obvious. To get a good recoat looks like a full strip back, touch ups look shoddy.


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    Default Re: For non-professional work how does oil-based Spar Urethane compare to varnish?

    Quote Originally Posted by gypsie View Post
    A previous owner of my boat went urethane. Recoating is not all that cool. Where the urethane has worn or lifted stays obvious. To get a good recoat looks like a full strip back, touch ups look shoddy.


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    That is probably the biggest drawback. Varnish coats burn in to the previous coat while most urethanes do not. Makes varnish easier to repair than urethane.(nitrocellulose lacquer does the same thing)
    Tom

  12. #12
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    Default Re: For non-professional work how does oil-based Spar Urethane compare to varnish?

    real varnish has been about for what, 100 years??? - long before folks like the EPA decided how coatings should be made. Note that technically real spar varnish is illegal to sell in the USA due to high VOCs (so says the EPA - and california folks). 49 states have 1 quart exception rules (no gallons of varnish anymore - some manufactures quit rather then switch to quarts only). There is also a reason why folks still 'varnish' their boats and don't "polyurethane" them. Also home owners quickly find that urethanes don't hold up outdoors. I hear from them on a regular basis.

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    Default Re: For non-professional work how does oil-based Spar Urethane compare to varnish?

    Thanks for all the good responses, I'll use varnish for the rest of the work.
    "The enemies of reason have a certain blind look."
    Doctor Jacquin to Lieutenant D'Hubert, in Ridley Scott's first major film _The Duellists_.

  14. #14
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    Default Re: For non-professional work how does oil-based Spar Urethane compare to varnish?

    Rustoleum says that their oil based Varathane Spar Urethane contains a high level of UV absorbers.

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