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Thread: Brightwork Advice for a Noob

  1. #1
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    Question Brightwork Advice for a Noob

    Hello all,

    I am about half way through my Sommes Sound 12 1/2 project and I am getting ready to apply paint to the hull just before turnover. The planks are plywood laps that were coated in epoxy before installation (although much of it has been sanded off during filling/fairing). I plan to coat the planks and keel in 2-part epoxy primer before applying TotalBoat Wet Edge above the water line and TotalBoat JD Select ablative below.

    My question is with regard to the transom and later on the other bright work (rails, seats, spars, etc.). My current plan is to use TotalBoat Wood Sealer on the transom, then TotalBoat Marine Wood Finish. My *initial* thought was was coat it in epoxy, but I understand it lacks UV protection.

    Is Wood Sealer followed by Marine Wood Finish a good plan?

    Is there perhaps a better option to coat over epoxy?

    The transom is a very nice mahogany and I'm looking for durability.

    Thank you!

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Brightwork Advice for a Noob

    An epoxy coating will need to be covered with either paint or a UV protective varnish.
    On my boats, all brightwork is just varnish, no epoxy. But, all my boats are under cover on trailers when not in use, never exposed to lots of sun. I've never used TotalBoat Marine Finish but have used TotalBoat Gleam Varnish which is a very thin varnish requiring lots of coats.
    If the boat is to be left in the water and partially immersed, I would epoxy before varnish.
    I was born on a wooden boat that I built myself.
    Skiing is the next best thing to having wings.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Brightwork Advice for a Noob

    Thank you. It will not be left in the water. It will "live" on a trailer and will be covered. So varnish over epoxy is an option (i.e., they are not incompatible)?

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Brightwork Advice for a Noob

    My favored combination is System Three Varnish over their own epoxy, either SilverTip or Clear Coat. I trust System Three products above Total Boat, which was developed well after System 3 developed their products. I like to go with proven, it is what I use and what I ship to my customers (I also use MAS products) but for your application, I have had crazy success with Sys 3 varnish over either SilverTip or Clear Coat epoxy.
    Clinton B. Chase
    Portland, Maine

    http://tinyurl.com/myboats

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Brightwork Advice for a Noob

    Thank you Clinton. Have you any experience with West System products? There is a West Marine near me so I've been using West System epoxy for the entire build and have plenty of it (read that: I would prefer to coat with it since I have so much of it). OTOH, I can be talked into System Three for my bright work if that proves to be a good system.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Brightwork Advice for a Noob

    West is fine, just wash the cured epoxy with soap and water after a week of curing. I'd then use a varnish that is somewhat designed to go over epoxy, like the System Three. Merton's fiberglass in Springfield, MA carries it in gloss and satin.
    Clinton B. Chase
    Portland, Maine

    http://tinyurl.com/myboats

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Brightwork Advice for a Noob

    Perfect. Thank you!

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Brightwork Advice for a Noob

    Quote Originally Posted by Clinton B Chase View Post
    West is fine, just wash the cured epoxy with soap and water after a week of curing. I'd then use a varnish that is somewhat designed to go over epoxy, like the System Three. ...

    What Clint said. Especially the part I "bolded". I struggled for a number of years with my bright-finished cabinsides, lots of checking and degradation of the underlying epoxy seal coat. Looking back I'm reasonably sure I grabbed a can of hardware store varnish that just wasn't up to the task. (I finally gave up last summer and painted the whole cabin, I rather like the way it looks now). Brightwork that I know was done in "real" marine grade varnish hasn't had anything more than light maintenance over the same span of years.
    Steve

    If you would have a good boat, be a good guy when you build her - honest, careful, patient, strong.
    H.A. Calahan

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Brightwork Advice for a Noob

    Awesome. Thank you! I'm definitely looking into the System Three product Clint mentioned. Also, West System has a nice post on surface prep: https://www.westsystem.com/instructi...-surface-prep/

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Brightwork Advice for a Noob

    Or you can seal with TotalBoat CPES and Varnish with TotalBoat varnish. They are compatable. CPES seals the wood without the thick epoxy coating. More forgiving and easier to work with.

  11. #11
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    Default Re: Brightwork Advice for a Noob

    Thank you. Based on all the responses so far it looks like I'm going to go with epoxy under varnish, and a clear penetrating epoxy sealer (either System Three or TotalBoat) seems most appropriate. I wish I was put on to these clear sealers when I was sealing the planks up prior to install, but that will go on the experience pile.

  12. #12
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    Default Re: Brightwork Advice for a Noob

    Do people realize what a hassle epoxy will cause when it comes time to recoat? And the time will come when you will have to recoat.
    Last edited by pcford; 01-06-2022 at 10:18 PM.

  13. #13
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    Default Re: Brightwork Advice for a Noob

    Quote Originally Posted by pcford View Post
    Do realize what a hassle this epoxy will cause when it comes time to recoat? And the time will come when you will have to recoat.
    He'll be fine if he maintains the boat. Either system requires maintenance - but I have seen enough cases where a properly done epoxy coated plywood has allowed the varnish to last much, much longer than otherwise.
    Clinton B. Chase
    Portland, Maine

    http://tinyurl.com/myboats

  14. #14
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    Default Re: Brightwork Advice for a Noob

    My Starboat had the topsides and transom veneered with sliced 3/32" mahogany, stained with alcohol stain then coated with WEST 105/207 epoxy, sanded smooth and varnished with Captains Varnish for UV resistance. It sat outside under a Sunbrella cover for the following six years that I owned it with no visible deterioration of the finish. When we moved here I removed the old registration numbers and there was no visible fading, etc. at those spots. It still looked great - except for the big hole blown out of the bottom where it had suffered a direct lightning strike while sitting in a mast-up storage area. Oops.

    I don't know what it is. Mother Nature doesn't like me restoring boats. I totally rebuilt an original Simmons Sea Skiff for a buddy once and while tied to a big pier on Lake Michigan a storm came in, destroyed the pier and dropped it on top of the skiff, destroying it as well. These days I always check the weather carefully before we hop into my restored 1975 Boston Whaler, just to be sure.....

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  15. #15
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    Default Re: Brightwork Advice for a Noob

    Lots of good advice here. Always nice to have pros lean in and give us some guidance! Just to note, West Marine and W.E.S.T. System epoxy are not related, although it sounds like West sells W.E.S.T.. Wood Epoxy Saturation Technique is where the acronym comes from; developed by the brothers Gougeon a few decades ago and justifiably featured in many WB articles on cold-molded construction. They argued that the epoxy they used and sold had the ability to saturate wood to a certain depth (depending on grain), and cure to create a layer of wood-epoxy composite that was integral to the piece.

  16. #16
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    Default Re: Brightwork Advice for a Noob

    I used a similar paint schedule on my glued lap Coquina (awlgrip 545 epoxy primer and Kirby's gloss) and has worked out really well over 7 years of steady use.
    I did straight varnish (Epiphanes) and varnish (Epiphanes again) over epoxy (Mass) on different parts of the bright work. My thinking in the brightwork was that the areas that were most likely to get dinged (transom, sheerstrakes, decking) would benefit from a more flexible finish and would need to be touched up regularly and it would be easier to maintain a homogenous finish that could be touched up with a little jar of varnish I keep in my tool kit.
    Meanwhile the areas that get the most constant abrasion (sternsheets and thwarts) would benefit from the protection of the ultimately more durable epoxy film under the varnish.
    I refreshed my brightwork last winter and I think my plan was pretty sound: all the dings on the varnish only areas had been touched up repeatedly over time so I was able to level that finish and apply 3 more coats to return to like new condition. Same thing for the varnish over epoxy work. The main difference I observed is just how much long oil varnish like Epiphanes shrinks over time: All of my brightwork (13 coats) was rubbed out originally and in both cases the grain was totally filled with finish; after 7 years the varnish only areas were showing grain where the varnish had shrunk into the pores. I don't think this is a bad thing but interesting to observe and makes me think that the varnish is well married to the wood. No evidence of shrinkage in the epoxy/varnish areas, no failures of either.

  17. #17
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    Default Re: Brightwork Advice for a Noob

    Yes, it can be a bit confusing, no? But, yes, West Marine does supply WEST System epoxy and I've had tremendous success with it. I even used their G/Flex product to make some very small fillets at the lap joints and that came out beautifully as well. I did order some TotalBoat Clear Penetrating Epoxy Sealer (CPES) to put under the varnish for the transom and, presumably, the other bright work as WEST System does not have a similar product available. And, yes, very good advice. I don't mind making mistakes with wood as they are easily corrected (usually), but I don't want to make mistakes with the finish and these posts have provided me with plenty of confidence. Thank you!

  18. #18
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    Default Re: Brightwork Advice for a Noob

    Do be aware that there are some of us here with a fair bit of epoxy experience who consider CPES and similar solvent-diluted epoxy products to be on a par with snake oil. One of the reasons that real epoxy resin seals as well as it does is that it contains no evaporating solvents, which would tend to make it porous. Real epoxy resin does not need any sort of primer or undercoat to improve its bond or sealing ability to or on raw wood, and solvent fumes bleeding out from underneath it would be about the last thing that real resin ever needs to do its job well.

    If you want to use diluted epoxy as a "primer" of sorts just under paint or varnish, there are those who claim that it will make them last longer - at least in terms of resisting peeling from the wood being wet under the coating. As far as paint or varnish damage from the outside (U.V. in particular) the primer coat won't do squat to prevent it. Should the time ever come though, when you need to strip and refinish a CPES coated varnished surface you are likely to wind up very sad that you used it and now can't get it all off.

  19. #19
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    Default Re: Brightwork Advice for a Noob

    10 coats of Epifanes gloss varnish will do the job nicely. Put a couple of coats on every year and touch up any nicks immediately and it will last a LONG time. Dilute the first coat 25% with quality thinner, 2nd and 3rd coats 10% and then apply the varnish undiluted for all other coats.

  20. #20
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    Default Re: Brightwork Advice for a Noob

    Quote Originally Posted by bogolese View Post
    Thank you. Based on all the responses so far it looks like I'm going to go with epoxy under varnish, and a clear penetrating epoxy sealer (either System Three or TotalBoat) seems most appropriate. I wish I was put on to these clear sealers when I was sealing the planks up prior to install, but that will go on the experience pile.
    Good luck with your build, bogolese! Be forewarned that the Total Boat CPES blushes a whole lot. I have no experience with any other kind, but am beginning to see the wisdom of those who think it is snake oil. Most likely I will use MAS low viscosity from now on for any parts I want to seal. And I also see the wisdom of John Welsford's recent comment that the best varnish is "the white paint kind."
    "George Washington as a boy
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  21. #21
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    Default Re: Brightwork Advice for a Noob

    Suggestion from someone with forty years of professional boat refinishing experience...primarily mahogany runabouts:
    Follow the instructions on the can!
    Do not use epoxy or "CPES" as an undercoat. I have never seen one professional do this. It is asking for trouble with inevitable later refinishing. You will regret it.
    Use Epifanes or other marine varnish. They all have different characteristics. Epifanes is popular at the moment.
    For paint, I like Fine Paints of Europe; it is very easy handling.
    There has been a terrific amount of misinformation on this subject. Step carefully.

  22. #22
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    Default Re: Brightwork Advice for a Noob

    I follow Patís recipe. From bare wood, straight varnish out of the can. Four coats to start, then a coat every year. I use Petit Captains 1015 varnish.
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    Default Re: Brightwork Advice for a Noob

    Quote Originally Posted by nedL View Post
    I follow Pat’s recipe. From bare wood, straight varnish out of the can. Four coats to start, then a coat every year. I use Petit Captains 1015 varnish.
    I don't count coats. You go until the the grain is full then one or two more. There are many determinants for the total number of coats. Environment, applicator, etc. For me it was typically around ten. Nobody has mentioned stain under the first coat, by the way.
    The most important determinant to the life of the varnish job is how much time the surface spent in direct sunlight. I once did a varnish job for a client; he left it outside bare at his dock. The deck was back for another strip and varnish at the end of summer.

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