Walk along the docks at any marina and there’s sure to be several boats that catch the eye, standing resplendent above their neighbors. Glistening in the sun, the perfect brightwork draws your eye to the gracious sheer. You wish you could get your own varnish work to look that good.
Well, you can — with a little effort and know-how.
Want to be the envy of the marina? Here’s how to add a breathtaking finish
to your brightwork. Plus, a product roundup
What Is Varnish?
Varnish, simply put, is paint without the
pigment, and it protects wood from sun,
sea, wear, and tear. If it makes the wood
look good in the process, that’s a bonus.
My first attempts at varnishing were poor
to the point of embarrassment, but they
did the job of protecting the underlying
wood. With each application comes an
opportunity to do better than last time;
practice really does make perfect.
Varnish is a mix of resins, oils, and
solvents (see the sidebar), although newer
varnishes often have synthetic materials
blended in to improve flow characteristics. Choose one type of varnish and
stick with it. Don’t dismiss a varnish too
quickly just because you’re not getting
the finish you desire; it could be your
technique or such other outside factors
as temperature, high humidity, and dust.
Tools For The Job
The one essential tool is a decent brush.
While modern varnishes are somewhat
forgiving in terms of technique, they’re
very unforgiving of the
wrong brush. Never
use an inexpensive synthetic brush to apply
varnish – the bristles
will come out, and it’s
unlikely to have sufficient body to hold
enough varnish. Many
pro varnishers like to
use high-quality bad-ger-hair brushes; these
have excellent flow
characteristics and can produce spectacular results. However, I’ve become a big fan
of foam brushes, and I know some pros
who use them almost exclusively. They
DO IT YOURSELF
By Mark Corke
Varnish on a
warm day – early
in the morning, if
you can – and the
varnish will have
a chance to dry
before the evening
dew can damage
reduce airborne dust.