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Spar varnish problem.

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous' started by davelanthier, May 25, 2011.

  1. davelanthier

    davelanthier Wooden Canoes are in the Blood

    Now that solvent based spar varnish is no longer available what can be used as a good alternative? I cleaned out 2 cities last year when I purchased all the Behr Super Spar gloss varnish. I now need a gallon of semi-gloss spar varnish but none can be found. How do you feel about the water based products for marine use?
  2. Todd Bradshaw

    Todd Bradshaw Sailmaker

    I've used a lot of Varathane varnish (both oil and water-based) in my house and had very good luck with it. The floors, baseboards and trim (all oak) have the water-based stuff and it has done very well, including the floor I build sails on which gets pretty hard use. So, a couple of years ago I bought a can of what they call their "water-based spar urethane" to try on a boat and some snowshoes. In a damp environment a lot of it eventually peeled. I kind of get the feeling that if it's applied on a surface that is waterproof and very stable (like epoxy) it works reasonably well, but on a more natural surface that may experience more expansion and contraction with temperature and humidity/dampness changes it may not work as well. If moisture can get under it, it tends to turn whitish and peel in situations where previous oil-based stuff survived. For lack of a more scientific term, the water-based varnish just doesn't seem as "sticky" or as well adhered to the surface. Maybe somebody else has had better results with it, but for serious boat stuff, I'm sticking with Captain's Varnish which has always worked well for me.
  3. Dan Lindberg

    Dan Lindberg Ex Wood Hoarder

    My experience matches Todd's.

    I used several different water based finishes on our cabin paneling, a mix of cedars, pine and aspen.

    While they has different names, they all had that white, milky look, some were thicker than others.

    The stuff on the ceilings and walls look fine, BUT the window "threshholds" (the botton horizontal trim board) that get a lot of sun have peeled and need sanding and recoating. The areas that don't get the sun are fine.

    It was all applied between 10 and 15 years ago.

  4. SWS

    SWS New Member

    How sure are you that oil based marine spar varnish isn't available, at least in liters? You would never have found any decent marine spar varnishes at any of the big box stores, or local paint stores. These have always been carried almost exclusively by marine supply stores, and a Canadian marine store or two still has them listed in their on-line catalogs. You would be looking for brands like Epifanes or Interlux, Awlgrip, or Pettit Captains. Not Varathane, or Minwax, etc. Not cheap--think over $30 per liter plus shipping.
  5. Pete Mathews

    Pete Mathews Enthusiastic about Wooden Canoes

    To paraphrase Mark Twain, the reports of the demise of solvent based varnishes is greatly exaggerated. Interlux 96 Schooner is a tong oil phenolic varnish with a white spirits solvent, Pettit 1015 Captains is a linseed oil, phenolic varnish, Epiphanes gloss is a combination tong/linseed oil based phenolic varnish, and there are others mixed with one part urethanes. All are solvent based and readily available at any marine store that carries marine finishes. They will be more expensive than the standard hardware/big box store varieties, but that has more to do with the oil/resin ratio and is a whole different subject.

    My experiences with water based varnishes do not parallel the ones above, but I don't know enough about their experiences to be able to say why. I have used water based varnishes in my own home, tested them with yacht builders and in my own shop with generally good results.
  6. cwfrench

    cwfrench Enthusiastic about Wooden Canoes

    Even if you want cheap there is the Cabot line at Lowes. Would be similar to the Behr and about $12/qt.
  7. Pete Mathews

    Pete Mathews Enthusiastic about Wooden Canoes

    Beware of some of the inexpensive varnishes. They are fine for interior home use, their intended purpose, but may not be as good for exterior use. This refers to the oil/resin ratio in the coatings. You want a varnish with a high oil content for stability (called a "long oil" varnish). Most of the $12.00 varnishes are "short oil" varnishes with only 10-15% oil and a much higher percentage of resin. a long oil varnish will have up to 70% or thereabouts oil content and correspondingly lower percentage of resin. These will outlast the less expensive versions. Most marine "spar" varnishes are at least a medium oil, if not a long oil varnish, but you will pay for this advantage.
  8. Dan Lindberg

    Dan Lindberg Ex Wood Hoarder

    Hey Pete,

    What's going on with Interlux enamels? Did they stop making them?
    I looked at Jamestown the other day and they only had 2 or 3 colors, whites and ??

  9. H.E. Pennypacker

    H.E. Pennypacker LOVES Wooden Canoes

    Jamestown carries a wide variety of colors- probably everything Interlux makes. There are a couple they call "enamel", but that's just a generic term for a hard glossy paint. The Interlux Brightside (also an "enamel") comes in more than 20 colors; Jamestown carries them all. Good stuff too- I've used it many times.
  10. Pete Mathews

    Pete Mathews Enthusiastic about Wooden Canoes


    Yes, Interlux has discontinued the Alkyd enamels, including Malachy Green. They do still make the Brightside which is listed as a one part urethane, but is in reality an enamel with a urethane component added to it. But use caution. This addition requires the use of some different solvents so these should not be used over traditional enamels. These solvents can attack alkyd enamels if they're put on over them causing some lifting or mud cracking.

    BTW, Pettit has also discontinued their Ship-n-Deck enamel in favor of their Easypoxy, an equivalent of Brightside. Both Epiphanes and Kirby still make alkyd enamels.
  11. Dan Lindberg

    Dan Lindberg Ex Wood Hoarder

    Thanks Pete,

    I was hoping you weren't going to say that, but....

    Yes, I saw the Brightside stuff, but that's more $$ than I'd like to pay for a paint job that gets replaced after so many years.

    And to cancel the Malachy Green, the world is ending. :)


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