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Thread: Painting Gold Letters on Mahogany Transom

  1. #1
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    Question Painting Gold Letters on Mahogany Transom

    Hello. I am building a boat and plan to varnish the transom to keep the wood natural. I have gold letter paint to stencil on the boat's name. How should that be applied? To the bare wood before varnishing? Over the first several coats of varnish? I seek your sage advice!

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Painting Gold Letters on Mahogany Transom

    Definitely over several coats of varnish. Then varnish over the works, several times. But do a test piece along with the transom. Varnish and cure the test alongside, then apply the paint to it only. Then varnish the test piece. If you are satisfied with the process and the appearance, then go ahead with the transom. Yes, this will take a little bit of extra effort and time. But consider the hassle if you don't like the look, or the paint peels off under varnish, or ......

    Jeff

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Painting Gold Letters on Mahogany Transom

    Thank you. Good advice. I just wanted to make sure the paint would "stick" to the varnish.

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Painting Gold Letters on Mahogany Transom

    A sign painter partner of mine always masked around the letters, gently sanded with 220#, and used One Shot where she found some yellows, especially as with practice she mixed, held a gold look better that "gold" paint. Not like real gold leaf but nice.

    These colors do not contrast well with mahogany and some other woods. Consider a thin outline in some dark green or even black on the 6 to 12 sides of each letter and a thicker dark 12 to 6, like a shadow. Makes reading your boat's name easier and looks right.

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Painting Gold Letters on Mahogany Transom

    Thank you. I expect to try to find someone with experience in sign painting as I am the least artistic of any human that ever breathed paint fumes! ;-)

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Painting Gold Letters on Mahogany Transom

    Missing Jay Greer here.
    Steve Martinsen

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Painting Gold Letters on Mahogany Transom

    Be aware that varnish over paint may eventually get kind of splotchy looking as the varnish ages and yellows a bit. On some paint colors there will be enough variation in the thickness of the varnish topcoat (even when sprayed) for some spots to yellow more than others. After having one experience where that happened on one of my boats and looked pretty bad, I will never varnish over paint again. Combine that with the fact that the paint itself is likely more resistant to weathering, UV damage, etc. than the varnish is, then top coating paint with a more vulnerable material (varnish) seems rather undesirable.

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Painting Gold Letters on Mahogany Transom

    If one does not topcoat painted lettering on a varnished transom with varnish, then the only way to refresh the varnish (and that maintenance work is inevitable) is to mask off the painted lettering. A task that is painstaking at best.

    My personal experience is although the varnish does tend to obscure the painted letters somewhat, the effect is negligible. Emily Ruth's nameplate has sports lettering in real gold, top coated with Epiphanes. I've revarnished several times after a light sanding. The gold leaf is still attached and beautiful.

    Jeff

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Painting Gold Letters on Mahogany Transom

    Quote Originally Posted by Ian McColgin View Post
    A sign painter partner of mine always masked around the letters, gently sanded with 220#, and used One Shot where she found some yellows, especially as with practice she mixed, held a gold look better that "gold" paint. Not like real gold leaf but nice.

    These colors do not contrast well with mahogany and some other woods. Consider a thin outline in some dark green or even black on the 6 to 12 sides of each letter and a thicker dark 12 to 6, like a shadow. Makes reading your boat's name easier and looks right.
    What Ian said. One Shot yellow, plus a bit of white and just a touch of red will get you a good gold color. One Shot sign painters' paint is worth the cost. (Seal the opened cans carefully so it doesn't dry up in the can. A half-pint will last a lifetime.) It's loaded with pigment and you an get perfect coverage with a single stroke of the brush (i.e. "one shot"). Spring for a proper sign painter's "squirrel tail" brush or the equivalent, as well. That really makes a huge difference in doing the job. Sign painting is really one of those crafts where you've got to have the proper materials and tools to produce a "professional" result.

    Real "patent" gold leaf (with the tissue paper backing for use outdoors) looks great, but takes some practice and the stuff's gotten expensive. It was around $50 a book of twenty-five 3"X3" sheets, last time I checked.
    Last edited by Bob Cleek; 04-27-2022 at 07:45 PM.

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Painting Gold Letters on Mahogany Transom

    Storing pretty much any oil-based finishing product upside down will help the stuff left over stay usable next time you need some.

    Unless you happen to have a handy supply of Argon or Nitrogen to displace the Oxygen in the can before you put the lid on.

    Real gold leaf's the best for this but working with it's a skill that needs to be developed before you go crazy on that transom!

    And NOT on a windy day!

    https://www.dickblick.com/products/monastery-gold-leaf/

    https://www.dickblick.com/products/1...dry-gold-size/

    https://www.dickblick.com/products/1...ering-enamels/
    Last edited by sp_clark; 04-27-2022 at 08:52 PM.
    “Dwell on the beauty of life. Watch the stars, and see yourself running with them.”

    Marcus Aurelius, The Meditations

  11. #11
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    Default Re: Painting Gold Letters on Mahogany Transom

    LOL. Is it okay if I pass my own wind?

  12. #12
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    Default

    Paint?

    Call the best sign guy in your locale and have him gild it with proper gold leaf.
    You would not enjoy Nietzsche, sir. He is fundamentally unsound. — P.G. Wodehouse (Carry On, Jeeves)

  13. #13
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    Default Re: Painting Gold Letters on Mahogany Transom

    Give it a go with gold leaf.

    I had a crack at it on my boat a few years back on the basis that if it didn't work then I could just sand it off and either do it again or come up with another idea.

    The method I used was to first get seven or eight coats of varnish on the the transom, then sand it as if one was preparing for the next coat of varnish.

    I masked over the area where I wanted the name and drew/traced the letters onto the masking tape before cutting them out:

    Gold leaf 1.jpg

    I then painted on the sizing before pulling off the masking tape.

    Then the fun bit came with applying the gold leaf.

    I didn't use actual gold leaf. You can get 'fake gold' leaf from art shops which is far cheaper than the real thing, As it was going to be sealed under a couple more coats of varnish I wasn't too worried about the durability.

    Gold leaf 2.jpg

    Having laid on the (fake) gold leaf I brushed off the excess which gave an OK result, but with slightly ragged edges. I got some black acrylic paint and painted a small black border around each letter.

    Once it had all dried I added another couple of finishing coats of varnish and it was done:

    Gold leaf 3 (2).jpg

    As I say, it's got something of an aged, rustic look where I didn't manage to get the gold leaf properly flat (the bottom left of the 'D' for instance) but it looked OK from a couple of feet.

    I'd definitely improved by the time I'd got to the final letter. It was a fun little project.

  14. #14
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    Default Re: Painting Gold Letters on Mahogany Transom

    I prefer the looks of actual gold leaf also.

    But I saw 'paintish' solution recently that didn't look half bad. It was a British epoxy 'casting resin' (which usually means very clear and with added UV protection) apparently colored with a fine gold metallic powder. Then varnished over, per usual. Might have come from Veritas?
    David G
    Harbor Woodworks
    https://www.facebook.com/HarborWoodworks/

    "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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