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Old 28-12-2009, 12:34   #1
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Best Varnish for Mahogany?

I am getting ready to redo all of the bright work on out boat. I just got done stripping it down and man am I excited. Underneath all of the discoloration and uv damage is some really nice looking Honduras Mahogany. It is sort of read in hue. As I understand it different varnishes color a bit as they age. Is there a varnish that will look particularly nice with a mahogany? Do I need to stain the wood before I varnish it?
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Old 28-12-2009, 12:41   #2
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Staining is a personal preference but with good wood I would go natural. I am sure there are those that will have their favorite varnish but i have found Minwax spar varnish to be consistent and easy to work with. Might be others that are good but i like the ease to work with and low cost.

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Old 28-12-2009, 16:01   #3
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I am assuming this is inside since it is mahogany. I did my moms blackwatch in Epiphanes. I love the rubbed effect, gives a creamy rich look while really bringing out the beautiful grain of a wood. The down side is you have to buy the gloss to build coats then finish with 2 coats of rubbed effect, but boy is it beautiful.
For outside try to find Petit ultra gold, it is the best (IMHO)
Have fun,
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Old 28-12-2009, 18:55   #4
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Unbusted -
Welcome to the varnish argument. It's second only to the anchor argument.
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Old 28-12-2009, 19:45   #5
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Ha! I beg to differ I think that would be epoxy vers polyester lol.

And now we have something else to argue about lol

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Old 29-12-2009, 10:33   #6
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Ah yes! Another opportunity for sowing discord. First, please check out the following photo to establish bona fides: Warning! Boat Porn! Scroll down to #7.

The body is built of Honduran mahogany with Bubinga trim. Mahogany (and most other woods) changes color with exposure to ultraviolet light, getting much lighter with age. Also, the color will vary from plank to plank, even from the same tree. Hence the use of stain to establish a common color that isn't distracting. That's the choice of the builder/finisher. I achieved the color using a blend of oil-based wood stains, to get a hint of red and a base of brown. The surface was then rubbed with a dry cotton diaper to remove excess filler stain. Because this car was going to be actively driven in the real world (Scotland, summer of 2007, VERY wet!) I used a coat of West System 105 resin with 207 Special Hardener. This provided extra UV resistance and worked well with the wood stain color. While still wet, I aggressively rubbed the epoxy off the surface to achieve a more "natural", hand rubbed effect. It was then followed by several coats of Z-Spar Captain's Varnish (high UV protection), also aggressively rubbed off while wet, a technique essentially the same as French polishing. Two years later, it is even lovelier.

I then did a similar trick with my teak handrails, using the 207 hardener, but applying several coats of epoxy, alone, to check out the durability and longevity. A year and a half later, the finish has dulled, but lifting of the finish has occurred in only a few spots. My intention, after painting the cabin top for the final time, will be to repair the epoxy finish, then apply several coats of clear LPU, followed by one coat of white LPU to protect the wood while I go off cruising. Should I want to show off the teak in the future, it's just a matter of light sanding the top coat, then putting another layer of clear LPU (or even varnish).
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Old 29-12-2009, 11:12   #7
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Ah yes! Another opportunity for sowing discord. First, please check out the following photo to establish bona fides: Warning! Boat Porn! Scroll down to #7.

The body is built of Honduran mahogany with Bubinga trim. Mahogany (and most other woods) changes color with exposure to ultraviolet light, getting much lighter with age. Also, the color will vary from plank to plank, even from the same tree. Hence the use of stain to establish a common color that isn't distracting. That's the choice of the builder/finisher. I achieved the color using a blend of oil-based wood stains, to get a hint of red and a base of brown. The surface was then rubbed with a dry cotton diaper to remove excess filler stain. Because this car was going to be actively driven in the real world (Scotland, summer of 2007, VERY wet!) I used a coat of West System 105 resin with 207 Special Hardener. This provided extra UV resistance and worked well with the wood stain color. While still wet, I aggressively rubbed the epoxy off the surface to achieve a more "natural", hand rubbed effect. It was then followed by several coats of Z-Spar Captain's Varnish (high UV protection), also aggressively rubbed off while wet, a technique essentially the same as French polishing. Two years later, it is even lovelier.

I then did a similar trick with my teak handrails, using the 207 hardener, but applying several coats of epoxy, alone, to check out the durability and longevity. A year and a half later, the finish has dulled, but lifting of the finish has occurred in only a few spots. My intention, after painting the cabin top for the final time, will be to repair the epoxy finish, then apply several coats of clear LPU, followed by one coat of white LPU to protect the wood while I go off cruising. Should I want to show off the teak in the future, it's just a matter of light sanding the top coat, then putting another layer of clear LPU (or even varnish).
I just got back from West Marine and have, in hand, some West System Epoxy and 207. I think I will leave the wood o'natural though. I am going to give the interlux Schooner a try as I have had good results with it in the past. What is this wet rubbing of which you speak? Can you give me a step by step account of the process.

Sweet car by the way.
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Old 29-12-2009, 21:52   #8
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The original concept, called French polishing, relies on applying a thin layer of varnish with a cloth rag, which has a bit of cotton folded into a corner to hold more varnish in reserve. You rub the finish onto the wood, scrubbing at first to, in effect, wet sand using the varnish as a lubricant/cleaner/sealer. The slightest bit of thin varnish remains on a smoother surface. You then keep repeating this act after the varnish dries, without sanding in between, until the wood has the desired cover coat of varnish, but still shows the texture of the underlying wood. You can continue this as long as you wish, eventually the wood has a smooth finish with a magical translucence, with soft shine.

With epoxy, I did the same thing, but at the end of each application, before it hardened, I rubbed out the finish with a little lacquer thinner in another rubbing cloth to keep it as thin a coat as possible. Rub VERY HARD to keep the finish dull, but protected with a very thin epoxy coat. Several applications, as with the French polishing, leads to a most durable, yet soft beguiling surface. Use diapers or other good quality cotton rags or you will have lint in your epoxy. That's where the lacquer thinner really is worth its weight in gold.

Finally, apply several coats of varnish in the same way. Over time, each application of rubbed varnish will abrade the previous coat, removing the UV-degraded undercoat and replacing it with a fresh protective surface that doesn't really build up.

Finally, I would only recommend this technique for someone who is willing to roll rocks uphill, who appreciates the unique natural finish, and will reapply the varnish at more frequent intervals than most of us are willing to do for boats. This is something for the Empress's royal barge, not a seagoing vessel.
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Old 30-12-2009, 08:09   #9
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Finally, I would only recommend this technique for someone who is willing to roll rocks uphill, who appreciates the unique natural finish, and will reapply the varnish at more frequent intervals than most of us are willing to do for boats. This is something for the Empress's royal barge, not a seagoing vessel.
Although it sounds very interesting I don't think I will be doing that. It sounds like you get the same visual outcome with a satin varnish, no?
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Old 30-12-2009, 08:16   #10
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Nope, not the same but a cheap imitation that is still very pretty. You can also do this rub technique with tung oil and get a fab finish (we are talking interior right?).
Erika
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Old 30-12-2009, 08:39   #11
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No this is all exterior. I like your new avatar, very spiffy.
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Old 30-12-2009, 08:45   #12
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I'm so glad to see that cetol hasn't made it's way in here..........I'm still figuring out how to get that horrible stuff off of every surface in and out.
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Old 30-12-2009, 09:01   #13
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Ocean Girl: I tried out the tung oil as one option, early on, but ruled it out because of its vulnerability to UV. It's good stuff for interior finishes, though. But it isn't as durable as a varnish. The finish, itself, is beautiful, with a low luster that beckons you to run your hand over it. It's okay for a boat interior, but you have to do the maintenance more regularly than other finishes. This is where it's handy to have a butler with time on his hands. I'm still hoping for a trust fund from a previously unknown relative to suddenly appear so that I can explore this avenue of boat maintenance.
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Old 31-12-2009, 14:43   #14
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Thanks unbusted for the compliment on my wave avatar, I got a thing for waves...hmm there might be something freudian about it but maybe its best we not look
Roy you are absolutely right about tung oil, sorry I wasn't more clear and glad you pointed this out. I thought we were talking interior varnish. I do however rub tung oil on exterior wood for base coats, I then follow with the seven coats of varnish. Fills the grain beautifully and It gives the wood a rich dark color with incredible grain clarity and it really brings out the ribbons! Furthermore, tung oil loves to stick to oily woods and varnish loves to stick to tung oil...a match made in heaven My varnish jobs with tung oil base coats last longer than the varnish jobs that I used sealer base coat or cut the varnish for the base coat. Erika take a breath, sorry I get a little long winded when I start talking varnish. I haven't been a varnish lady for years but as they say -You can take the varnish can away from the varnish lady but you can't get the varnish lady out of the can...uh er something like that, yet another memorable OG quote
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Old 03-01-2010, 20:08   #15
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If we agreed on anything there would be no reason for a forum. I have used Interlux Schooner for 4 years, but it has been discontinued and replaced this fall with Schooner Gold. I live up north and brought home all of my hatches (mostly mahogany, but also teak, maple, cherry, oak and plywood mahogany). The new Schooner Gold killed me. I tried over and over, for about three weeks, sanded off my work and started again. Interlux was cooperative, but I gave up.

There is a thread on this forum from early 2009 about Le Tonkinois which is a French company, producing for the last 100 years a non toxic tung oil based spar varnish from Viet Nam. In the thread there are a number of people who also recommended Behr. (Ditto in the Wooden Boat forum). I bought a litre of Le Tonk from American Rope & Tar in Fairview, Ca and a quart of Behr from my local Home Depot. I am amazed at how easy the two are to apply, how well they lay down and how forgiving both are. My hatches are fantastic - never looked so good. In particular, I made a new tiller and the "African Mahogany" is like glass. I did not seal or stain or treat the wood, and I did not thin the first few coats like I always did with Schooner. I did not use epoxy. Better yet, my lazarette covers are solid Honduran Mahogany and they are gleaming rich red / orange - almost three dimensional. Behr is $15 per quart plus tax. Le Tonk is $45 per litre including shipping. Schooner gold is about $45 a quart. Le Tonk says their product is non toxic. Both of these varnishes apply nicely with Jenn foam brushes - something that the Schooner Gold cannot do. Le Tonk also says you can patch and spot varnish. I will find out about that next year.

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