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Old 14-09-2010, 22:28   #1
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Varnished Mast ?

My boat is out for the winter and among other things I am refinishing the mast. I have stripped off the paint down to the bare wood and am seriously debating varnishing it. The mast is 47' 3 piece laminated Sitka Spruce, essentially a solid piece of wood. When I varnished the part that goes in the cabin and it took very nicely. The varnish I used has a very high linseed oil and tung oil content and soaks into the wood. What is the best way to make varnish last on a mast, short of painting it. Are their UV protectant additives etc....One alternative that was mentioned was to use a varnish with a high oil content and no UV for the first few layers then use a varnish with high UV protection for the finishing layers.
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Old 14-09-2010, 22:41   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wolfenzee View Post
. What is the best way to make varnish last on a mast, short of painting it. .
Wolf, the only way known to man is to leave it in the paint shed, out of the elements and the sun. Masts, even more than other brightwork, will need renewal of varnish on a regular basis. We did run across a chap who had made a fabric "condom" that he zipped around his varnished spar whenever the boat was going to be stationary for a while. This seemed to be effective, but was a hell of a lot of effort. Also meant that rapid departure was difficult if the wx got stroppy. Not my cup of tea!.

It is too bad, 'cause a nicely varnished spar is a thing of beauty, and the clear finish makes the onset of rot easier to spot.

Cheers,

Jim
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Old 14-09-2010, 22:56   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim Cate View Post
Wolf, the only way known to man is to leave it in the paint shed, out of the elements and the sun. Masts, even more than other brightwork, will need renewal of varnish on a regular basis. We did run across a chap who had made a fabric "condom" that he zipped around his varnished spar whenever the boat was going to be stationary for a while. This seemed to be effective, but was a hell of a lot of effort. Also meant that rapid departure was difficult if the wx got stroppy. Not my cup of tea!.

It is too bad, 'cause a nicely varnished spar is a thing of beauty, and the clear finish makes the onset of rot easier to spot.

Cheers,

Jim
The varnish I am useing is Le Tonkinois, it has a high oil content and really soaks into the wood, also it is said to be very "forgiving" touch ups are very easy, just the place that needs touching up, I will check about adding UV protection and I have lots of time to build up alot of varnish before I go back in the water. It is such a beautiful stick, shame to cover it up....logic tells me no, but the desire to see beauty in my boat (and the fact I have a chance to do it now) says yes.
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Old 14-09-2010, 23:00   #4
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I have a spruce mast that was varnished; it's epoxied and painted now. Probably one of the best things I've ever done for it. If you really love being in the bosun's chair several times a year and you never drop a single iota of varnish down below, varnishing is great.

Especially at the mast head and a few feet down, there's really no reason to have it varnished up there.
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Old 14-09-2010, 23:04   #5
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Wolf,

I had varnished masts for about 18 years. And my view is if you have wood spars they should be varnished so you can see what is going on underneath. But as Jim says there is no better way to keep them nice than to keep them out of the sun. I was pretty much always on the equator so I had maximum sun torture on them. I have two theories when it comes to varnished masts have lots of a fairly soft varnish on them and add a coat every 2-3 months. We used to sand on the way up the mast and wipe and varnish on the way down. If you are in high latitudes i think that could be done a lot less. The thing varnish I used the last couple of yers before I swapped to aluminium was Bristol finish. It is loaded with UV and I found that I could get away with it for up to a year but soon learned that it was better to still hit it with a coat every 6 months. The problem with it is it is a quick drying 2 part and when hanging from the bosuns chair you need to get at least one refill unless you are super quick. But it really does last well. and after a few years it strips off pretty easily with a scrapper too.

We currently have aluminium mast and I do not miss the varnishing (probably beacause I have enough other wood to varnish) but I do miss the look of varnished masts. It will make your boat look infinitely nicer and you will enjoy the feeling of looking at them with pride. I changed not because of the work but because I kept seeming to chase dry rot around. My masts were boxes and not Sitka so after 25 years I kept finding one more spot that I needed to scarf a piece into.

If yours are in good shape I would recommend varnishing. I have no affiliation to Bristol Finish other than I talked with them several times over email nd found them quite helpful.

Cheers

Mark
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Old 14-09-2010, 23:21   #6
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As far as varnishing the masthead, everything above the where the forestay, running backs and second set of shrouds meet the mast (as well as where the steaming light) is painted white so only 2/3 of my mast will be varnished. Le Tonkinois is an old school varnish that really holds up well.
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Old 15-09-2010, 00:10   #7
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Talking Varnish

Varnish it. You only live once, why not spend your life creating and enjoying works of art? If you really think that you are not up to the task of putting a maintenance coat on in the spring and fall, call me up and I will come over there and do it for you. I work for cheap.
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Old 15-09-2010, 05:37   #8
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The key to any good varnish job is depth or number of coats. Here's why.

Varnish (alkyd ones anyway) erode from the top IF the base is protected from UV. The only way to protect the base from UV is to lay at least 8-10 coats. You wouldn't believe how many superficially gorgeous varnish jobs I've seen peel off or flake away because there was only 3-6 coats on. If the UV can get to the base of the varnish it WILL release and flake/peel away. If the depth is good enough, it'll erode away slowly, hence the need for two refresher coat per annum. Following this advice will get you 8-10 years of good service from a quality varnish job before ya have to wood it again.

Do it right, do it once....
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Old 15-09-2010, 05:38   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wolfenzee View Post
As far as varnishing the masthead, everything above the where the forestay, running backs and second set of shrouds meet the mast (as well as where the steaming light) is painted white so only 2/3 of my mast will be varnished. Le Tonkinois is an old school varnish that really holds up well.
Yes it is. I just wish their customer service was better...., then again, that may have been a fluke.... I do hear really good things about the product though.
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Old 15-09-2010, 19:51   #10
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Varnish it. When I acquired Favona her mast was painted & I repainted it when I hauled her out. Some years later, as I was fitting a cover for her, I found a place just below the gooseneck where the paint was lifting a tiny bit. I picked at it &, within minutes, I could stick my entire finger into bad wood. I was lucky I hadn't used my head as a boom crutch. I replaced several feet of mast and finished it in several coats of epoxy followed by several coats of varnish. Varnish your mast so you can tell what shape it's in before it falls on your head.
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