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Thread: Mast Refinishing

  1. #1
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    Default Mast Refinishing

    Hello again WoodenBoat Forumers' (is that a word)!

    Got a question about my 38' wood mast for Fiberglass BCC. Going to strip and re coat here soon and wanted some input on techniques etc.

    First the mast is in excellent condition but the varnish is lifting in some areas and there are a few minor dents from halyard shackles etc. I plan on completely stripping, coating with CPES until it no longer absorbs and then 4-5 coats of varnish... Sound right?

    Any thoughts or suggestions on how to make it easier to maintain? I've been turned away from paint because you cannot see through it to notice any damage etc.

    Any materials or techniques you prefer over others?

    Thanks,

    Bryon
    www.picasaweb.com/idon84

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Mast Refinishing

    I don't, myself, think that the CPES will add anything. It would be better to use some well thinned soaker coats.

    I do think that you need more coats. Four coats is nowhere near enough. Think eight.

    Be sure to remove all fittings.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Mast Refinishing

    I'm sure that Andrew has far more experience than I do with this, but as the English say, "I'm afraid I disagree with my learned associate".

    I've seen CPES add a bit of surface stiffness to spruce and fir, and many consider it a good primer/sealer under varnish -- as long as the varnish has a good UV protection rating.

    I'd go for a few layers of CPES, then hot-coat the final layer with some thinned epoxy in the areas where the hardware is denting the wood. Once that cures, then varnish, varnish, varnish...

    ;0 )
    "The enemies of reason have a certain blind look."
    Doctor Jacquin to Lieutenant D'Hubert, in Ridley Scott's first major film _The Duellists_.

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Mast Refinishing

    We have no experience with CPES. Last time we started from scratch, we did about five coats of Schooner. We do 2-3 coats annually, and the current finish is about 10 years from the last time it was stripped. While stripping, rebedding the fittings is worthwhile.

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Mast Refinishing

    Quote Originally Posted by Bryon View Post
    Hello again WoodenBoat Forumers' (is that a word)!

    Got a question about my 38' wood mast for Fiberglass BCC. Going to strip and re coat here soon and wanted some input on techniques etc.

    First the mast is in excellent condition but the varnish is lifting in some areas and there are a few minor dents from halyard shackles etc. I plan on completely stripping, coating with CPES until it no longer absorbs and then 4-5 coats of varnish... Sound right?

    Any thoughts or suggestions on how to make it easier to maintain? I've been turned away from paint because you cannot see through it to notice any damage etc.

    Any materials or techniques you prefer over others?

    Thanks,

    Bryon
    www.picasaweb.com/idon84
    Here in Maine, regular spar varnish applied the traditional way still is the most popular.

    This is usually a first coat thinned 25% or more, the next 10 or 15%, then onto unthinned. It really takes at least 8 initial coats to hold up. Then an annual maintenance coat. Some even skip every other year for this coat.

    Our sun is pretty kind so spars. Vertical surfaces like spars seem to last the longest under varnish. My 50' hollow spruce spar went around 14 years before it needed wooding.

    But wooding is inevitable (no matter what you use). Varnish is a very easy coating to remove with a heat gun. You're not likely to damage the spar as you may with more aggressive tools. You don't want to loose its shape.

    It's the whole system, on and off, that makes varnish hard to beat, especially on spars.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Mast Refinishing

    Thanks for the info.

    Varnish, Varnish, Varnish. I defiantly get that and I'll be sure to put on at least 8 coats.

    So pre varnish:

    Would you prefer just going with thinned varnish on bare wood for the first coat thickened up after that.

    Or do you recommend a coat of epoxy before the varnish? Overkill? Not enough penetration with epoxy vs thinned varnish?

    On penetration, I guess that's why I mentioned the CPES stuff. CPES soaked into the mast with epoxy over and then Varnish Varnish Varnish is what I was thinking of doing.

    Thanks again

    Bryon

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Mast Refinishing

    I think the point is that epoxy, while it adds more work and expense, may not add much to the life of the job and could/will make wooding more difficult to do when the time comes.

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Mast Refinishing

    Quote Originally Posted by Bryon View Post
    Thanks for the info.

    Varnish, Varnish, Varnish. I defiantly get that and I'll be sure to put on at least 8 coats.

    So pre varnish:

    Would you prefer just going with thinned varnish on bare wood for the first coat thickened up after that.

    Or do you recommend a coat of epoxy before the varnish? Overkill? Not enough penetration with epoxy vs thinned varnish?

    On penetration, I guess that's why I mentioned the CPES stuff. CPES soaked into the mast with epoxy over and then Varnish Varnish Varnish is what I was thinking of doing.

    Thanks again

    Bryon
    Hi, Bryon,

    We haven't done our masts yet--they're in about a month. But, regarding CPES--we used it on new wood and old all over the boat--literally the entire hull has CPES inside and out (3 coats both sides).

    We also INITIALLY used CPES on all our wood that was to be finished bright. Sadly, we had to remove all that CPES down to bare wood (sand, sand, sand) because we didn't like the look/finish we were getting with varnish over the CPES. Though it LOOKED like the CPES was applied evenly, when we put on the varnish, we could see subtle variations in wood color associated with the CPES and how it went on. Also, The CPES darkened the wood a bit (we were using teak, mahogany, sapele, and fir on various things). We're now quite happy simply using varnish, varnish, varnish...on all things bright and I'd suggest you skip the CPES if you want an even finish on the mast(s).

    My two cents worth!
    "If you are going to do something, do it now. Tomorrow is too late." -Pete GossWhat we're doing now--with the boat and then with other stuff and you can Follow us on Twitter

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Mast Refinishing

    My experience is the CPES does not extend the life of a varnish job.

    I use it extensively under paint and for repairs. It's especially good for sealing plywood endgrain, including fastener holes.

    I'd apply eight coats of varnish.

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Mast Refinishing

    12 Coats of varnish, I find that 5 coats will lift the year you put it down, you have to go to eight, and four more is insurance.

    Then you can do one or two additional coats a year, or even miss a year if you must.
    Yachting, the only sport where you get to be a mechanic, electrician, plumber and carpenter

  11. #11
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    Default Re: Mast Refinishing

    My own objection to CPES under varnish is that if and when the seal is pierced either by abrasion or age, the resulting dark stain under it is either difficult or impossible to remove. In my own opinion, CPES adds nothing but uneccesary expense to the job! Over the years, I have developed my own techniques that have proven to be both simple and effective when stripping a spar and refinishing it.
    When I build a new hollow mast or other spar, I find that shellac is the most ecconomical sealant that can be used on the interior. Shellac has the unique property of allowing the surface to breath a bit but also prevents the intrusion of moisture from the inside out. Of course, glueing surfaces must be carefully taped off prior to the two coats of orange shellac. The first coat is thinned a bit and the second coat is applied directly from the can with no sanding required.

    Stripping an old mast, after the hardware is removed is really a simple matter if one will be patient. The job is most effectively done using chemical stripper. I like Star 10 as it is potent but less irritaing to the skin and lungs than other brands. The secret of successful removal is time and knowing when the remover has done its job. I start by painting a heavy coat of stripper on the entire mast. Depending on how fast the remover will dry out, I may have a cup of coffee. The secret is to not allow the remover to dry out as it penetrates the surface of the finish, which will begin to bubble up. Then, a second coat is applied, allowed to work and is followed by a third or even fourth coat until the entire surface is dissolved and litteraly falling off. Then it is an easy matter to scrub the surface using a high pressure hose and 3M pads. Using this method, I can usually strip a forty foot stick in less than an hour. Stubborn spots can be cleaned up with the application of more remover or the carefull use of a hook scraper. Once the stick is dry, then hot oxolic acid is applied to remove stains and even out the color. The surface is then washed clean using more water and a fine 3M pad for scrubbing.

    Again, the spar is allowed to dry thoroughly before finish sanding. I use an air powered sander known as an air file.
    The long reciprocating shoe makes fast work of the job. Unless the work is really rough, I will begin with eighty grit paper. Incidently I buy the paper in sticky back rolls. The cost being compensated by the speed of paper changing.
    I work through 80, 100 and 120 grit, dust off, tack and apply the first coat of varnish which is Interlux Jet Speed that has been cut about 25% with turpentine. Once tacky, a hot coat of full strength Jet Speed is applied followed by a hot coat of the favorite spar varnish of the owner. You all know my own personal preference. Once the surface is dry, a light scuff with 220 grit and five more coats are applied, adding up to a total of eight coats of varnish. I do not add more coats than ten as this prevents the surface from becoming varnish sick. If weather permits, a job, such as this, will take me four to five days to complete.
    Jay
    Last edited by Jay Greer; 09-11-2008 at 09:23 AM.

  12. #12
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    Default Re: Mast Refinishing

    Jay, why do you bother with the Jet Speed, as it has no UV protection?

    You could hot coat three coats of just about any spar varnish in one day, especially if the first coat is heavily thinned and seeps into the grain.

  13. #13
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    Default Re: Mast Refinishing

    Great Info!

    I'll ditch the CPES and epoxy and just work on many coats of varnish.

    Cheers,

    Bryon

  14. #14
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    Default Re: Mast Refinishing

    That will be best. Buy a good varnish for this, as you won't want to do it again next year. I've been happiest with Epifanes (last took the mast back to bare wood 7 years ago) but other people will have other recommendations, which I am sure are equally good and may be better suited to your conditions.

    You do have to slow down quite a bit, in terms of allowing more drying time, with the later coats, as the volatiles are evaporating, and the oils are oxidising, from the surface only, in the later stages, whereas at the start the process is happening at top and bottom of the varnish film, so to speak. It is the oxidation of the oils that really matters.

  15. #15
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    Default Re: Mast Refinishing

    Near me just varnish lasts a couple years. A coat of epoxy (I use MAS) with overcoats of varnish lasts a decade perhaps.

  16. #16
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    Default Re: Mast Refinishing

    Quote Originally Posted by Scott Rosen View Post
    Jay, why do you bother with the Jet Speed, as it has no UV protection?

    You could hot coat three coats of just about any spar varnish in one day, especially if the first coat is heavily thinned and seeps into the grain.
    I use Jet Speed because it is just that, very fast drying! By the time I have varnished the stick from one end to the other, the surface is, usualy dry enought to hot coat with a full strength coat of Jet Speed, followed by the first coat of spar varnish. If the weather is good, a second coat of spar varnish can be laid on without sanding on the first day. Granted, Jet Speed has no UV quality or weather resistance. It is not intended to be used for more than the first two sealing coats. What does follow, with the next six coats of Spar Varnish is, sufficient coverage to provided ample protection for the first season of use.
    I do find that varnishing from a boatswain's chair is easier and faster than varnishing a spar that is laid out flat and must be constantly turned. The yearly fresh up job consists of a light sanding on the way up and tacking and varnishing in on the way down. In this way, two coats of best spar varnish can be applied in two days. Using this method usually results in a spar that does not have to be fully stripped and redone for fifteen to twenty years.
    Jay

  17. #17
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    Default Re: Mast Refinishing

    Quote Originally Posted by Jay Greer View Post
    I use Jet Speed because it is just that, very fast drying! By the time I have varnished the stick from one end to the other, the surface is, usualy dry enought to hot coat with a full strength coat of Jet Speed, followed by the first coat of spar varnish. If the weather is good, a second coat of spar varnish can be laid on without sanding on the first day. Granted, Jet Speed has no UV quality or weather resistance. It is not intended to be used for more than the first two sealing coats. What does follow, with the next six coats of Spar Varnish is, sufficient coverage to provided ample protection for the first season of use.
    I do find that varnishing from a boatswain's chair is easier and faster than varnishing a spar that is laid out flat and must be constantly turned. The yearly fresh up job consists of a light sanding on the way up and tacking and varnishing in on the way down. In this way, two coats of best spar varnish can be applied in two days. Using this method usually results in a spar that does not have to be fully stripped and redone for fifteen to twenty years.
    Jay
    I use Jet Speed too Jay. When I did my main spar several years ago, I was able to get two coats of Jet on (thinned as you said) in the first day, and another Jet the second, then the first full varnish in that same afternoon. I was doing it outside so this was a real plus.

    Jet Speed is just a nifty fast filler for me, it can't stand alone and needs plenty of varnish on it.

    I put these coats on before re bedding and applying all the hardware. From there, I don't bother to tape, I still see varnish as a protective coating even though people oh and ahhh.

    My method though as I take the spar out every fall (I can't cover a boat well enough with it in to make me happy) is to lay the spar on it's sail track on three horses. I stabilize it with a couple uprights at the winches, and that's it. I don't move it again for quick sanding, varnishing. I do this every spring and can quick sand and apply a maintenance coat in a couple easy hours.

    I agree, spars are pretty easy to care for. My two are nearly 50 years old now and I see no reason the won't last another 50.

  18. #18
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    Default Re: Mast Refinishing

    Quote Originally Posted by Tom3 View Post
    I use Jet Speed too Jay. When I did my main spar several years ago, I was able to get two coats of Jet on (thinned as you said) in the first day, and another Jet the second, then the first full varnish in that same afternoon. I was doing it outside so this was a real plus.

    Jet Speed is just a nifty fast filler for me, it can't stand alone and needs plenty of varnish on it.

    I put these coats on before re bedding and applying all the hardware. From there, I don't bother to tape, I still see varnish as a protective coating even though people oh and ahhh.

    My method though as I take the spar out every fall (I can't cover a boat well enough with it in to make me happy) is to lay the spar on it's sail track on three horses. I stabilize it with a couple uprights at the winches, and that's it. I don't move it again for quick sanding, varnishing. I do this every spring and can quick sand and apply a maintenance coat in a couple easy hours.

    I agree, spars are pretty easy to care for. My two are nearly 50 years old now and I see no reason the won't last another 50.
    Sounds like you have found the magic formula of easy spar maintenance. Trial and error were my own teachers.
    Jay

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