Vintage Race Boat Shop

  We maintain vintage wooden boats.


 

Stain & Varnish - how we do it !!!

 

This Webpage is a work in progress, started as part of our Varnishing Workshop for Zeke Bly and his students as the final class of their Wooden Boat Restoration Course sponsored by our beloved NH Boat Museum. This was a hands-on session at our shop, and the photos below show us enjoying an afternoon of sanding, prepping and varnishing our shop bathroom door.

As mentioned above, this Webpage is a work in progress and I welcome your thoughts and comments. Send an email to Bill John at John1948@metrocast.net

         

         

Introduction

I have been varnishing vintage wooden boats for over 30 years, beginning with my beloved Gar Wood Speedster Obsession in 1979, which I still own and maintain. Over the years I have read many articles and books on varnishing, used many different products and tried many different methods of applying varnish. Then in the Spring of 2002, I finally took the plunge, casting off my career in Corporate America and started my new, semi-retirement career with my own Vintage Race Boat Shop. It was time to follow my dream and my bliss, working on vintage wooden boats and specializing in stain and varnish work.

 

We prefer the traditional Interlux filler stains, hand rubbed and sealed with traditional Pettit Clear Sealer. The varnishing technique we use in the shop is called "rolling & tipping" and we use Epifanes varnish exclusively. In an effort to share the knowledge and the fun, the following text and photos follow our recent project as we stained and varnished Impulse. This is how we stain and varnish a vintage wooden boat. We love to varnish, it is our therapy, and by using thick, amber tinted Epifanes varnish, we are actually fairing the hull with varnish, and with each coat the surface gets smoother, darker and deeper. Again, lots of hours but the results are always well worth the extra time and effort.


Stain & Varnish - how we do it ???!!!

Interlux - Interstain - Wood Filler StainAfter the bottom of Impulse was detailed and painted, a stain test-board and final stain selection were next on our schedule. The owner, Bob Mueller was present for this special ceremony and of course, had the final decision on the stain color to use on hull. This is a very important decision, for once the stain is applied and under several coats of varnish, the color of the hull is set. We had a fun afternoon, sanding, staining, and varnishing our stain test-board and Bob did a great job of selecting the stain that we wanted - Interlux Red Mahogany Filler Stain.

 

       

       

   

 

After the stain selection was properly documented and witnessed, we spent several long days hand sanding the hull with 80 grit sandpaper. This was tedious work, but also great therapy as the hull was prepared for the application of the traditional Interlux Red Mahogany Filler Stain. The actual filler stain application is a two person job, Donnie applied the thick stain with a foam brush and after the surface began to dry, Bill followed with rags, rubbing cross grain to force the filler stain into the grain of the mahogany. Then the stained surface was buffed with clean rags to produce an even, red mahogany color. We did the deck and transom first, and were very pleased with our stain color.

       

       

       

       

       

   

After a day of rest, we then applied the filler stain on the hull sides. Donnie was the Stain-Meister and Bill followed as the Stain-Scrubber. This was pretty messy and tedious work, around six hours to stain the entire hull, but the results were well worth the effort. The dark, rich mahogany stain must then be sealed with two coats of Pettit Clear Sealer.

         

         

         

         

         

      

And special thanks to Ruth & Leo Croisetiere at R&L Engines for the donation of two 100% cotton R&L t-shirts. These soft cotton t-shirts worked great rubbing the filler stain into the rich grain of the  mahogany wooden hull. We got real messy, but we had a great time and had some fun taking the photo opt.

 

Pettit Old Salem 2018 Clear SealerAfter the Interlux filler stain was allowed to dry overnight, we lightly tacked the hull and then applied the first coat of Pettit Clear Sealer using our rolling & tipping technique. We were very careful not to disturb the tender filler stain and applied a nice, even coat of sealer. After the first coat of sealer was allowed to thoroughly dry, we lightly sanded the hull with Scotchbrite Pads and then applied the second coat. The sealer helps to bond the stain with the mahogany and prepares the surface for the many coats of varnish. We are planning for 12 coats of thick, amber tinted  Epifanes varnish.

         

         

         

         

       

       

boat varnish, spar varnish, marine varnish, varnish ingredients

After two coats of sealer, we scuffed the hull with Scotchbrite pads on our orbital sander and then we hand sanded. Lots of hours, but the mahogany hull has now been faired, hand sanded, stained, sealed and is now ready for varnish. We applied the first coat un-thinned and applied six initial coats of varnish. Then in the fall we brought the boat back in the shop for additional detailing and six more coats of thick, amber tinted Epifanes varnish, the only varnish we use in the shop !!!

         

         

         

         

We sand between coats with 320 grit paper followed by Scotchbrite Pads using our DeWalt 5 inch random orbital sander. The sander is connected to a Fein vacuum system that provides for near dustless sanding. After the first coat of varnish, we follow with at least six more build coats, followed with as many "final coats" as needed to get a pretty much dust-free final coat that just flows out beautifully. We are actually fairing the hull with varnish, and with each coat the surface gets smoother, darker and deeper.

And the varnish coats continued to build, twelve coats are planed !!!

     

     

And remember - there is always one more coat in the can.

And that is how we stain and varnish a vintage wooden boat. We love to varnish, it is our therapy, and by using thick, amber tinted Epifanes varnish, we are actually fairing the hull with varnish, and with each coat the surface gets smoother, darker and deeper. Again, lots of hours but the results are always well worth the extra time and effort. Here is the link for our complete project photos - Impulse

 

Here are the products we use, available at:

Jamestown Distributors

Fein Turbo III vacuum

DeWalt 5 inch orbital sander

3M 2080 masking tape

3M Tack Rags

West System foam rollers

Jen Foam brushes

Interlux Filler Stains

Pettit Clear Sealer

Epifanes retarder

Epifanes varnish

Interlux Brightside paints

 

For more information, we suggest:

Don Danenberg - Varnish

Phil Spruit - Varnish


For locals, please stop by the shop and join our:

Saturday Morning Gatherings

Some related vintage race boat links:


Return to Our Beloved Vintage Wooden Boats

   

Return to Home Page - Vintage Race Boat Shop