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Old 02-18-2013, 01:02 PM   #15
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Thanks for the detailed response! A lot of good info. I was thinking that I'd use the helmsman spar urethane too and that is what I used on the backs of things before assembly. But I kept reading that the true spar and marine grades are generally sold only at marine supply places so started considering stuff there. And that is how I ended up considering epifanes. It is more expensive and less convenient to procure so not sure if I will go that route. Epifanes does sound like it takes a lot of work out of the process, both according to marketing info and people posting about experience on the net.
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Old 02-18-2013, 03:21 PM   #16
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Epifanes does sound like it takes a lot of work out of the process, both according to marketing info and people posting about experience on the net.
That IS what they make it sound like. But, I did sand between the 1st & 2nd coats because it was very rough, plus, I put 5 coats on (it's outside), plus, I have places where I missed encapsulating everything & the wood turned grey (cause it's cedar). Not really happy with it & have done a lot of varnishing in my life. You'll be much better off with what you're using. Really!
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Old 02-18-2013, 04:25 PM   #17
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Epiphanes is a beautiful varnish but it's loaded with solvents and inside a closed space like a trailer is likely to destroy brain cells due to the fumes. Ventilation fans to remove the fumes will also blow dust, bugs and other stuff into your wet varnish so they're out. A better (and more beautiful) natural varnish is Le Tonkinois, the official varnish of the French Navy. It doesn't have the fumes issue and it's also more tolerant of less than ideal application conditions.
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Old 02-23-2013, 08:52 AM   #18
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I have some helmsman spar, and just got some epifanes rapid coat (the one that has the warm tint that I am hopeful will make it look aged) and I have been researching the le tonkinois brand as well. Hard to decide what to use! There are so many rave reviews on the epifanes and le tonk that I am very tempted to go in one of those directions. I guess the le tonk is very different and I am still trying to understand it better. I will probably do some tests but that would only give me an idea on the immediate factors such as application effort and aesthetics, not the longer term durability.

It is hard to dismiss the epifanes despite the warnings here as there is so much praise for the product. And I do really need to get moving on finishing this stuff so I may just go for it.
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Old 02-23-2013, 09:24 AM   #19
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I always use Epiphanes (original premium) for exterior varnishing due to it's superior UV resistance because I hate frequent recoating. For interior work I always use Le Tonkinois because it's beautiful in an old timey sort of way, easy to apply and the fumes don't leave me stumbling around strumming my lips with my fingers making motorboat noises.

Professional boat coaters often build up the bulk of a coating with Rapid Clear and then finish with three coats of the original premium for UV protection.

Learning to varnish to a thick, blemish free finish is a non-trivial exercise. There can't be any bugs or trash in the air when you varnish because your wet coat is where some of it will end up. The only remedy is to let that coat harden and then sand the blemishes out but runs due to a too thick coat will never harden enough to be sanded. Many thin coats with adequate hardening time between them (24 hours) gives the best results, so a 12 coat finish will take nearly two weeks to apply. You will need many tack cloths and some 320 grit or finer sandpaper for between coat prep, and an expensive very high quality paint brush that you always treat with near reverence.

If you like the satin finish, Wipe On polyurethane is much easier to apply and is very durable except that it has no UV protection.
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Old 02-23-2013, 09:27 AM   #20
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Some reading material related to this discussion...

http://forum.woodenboat.com/showthre...kinois-varnish

http://forum.woodenboat.com/showthre...kinois-varnish

http://www.cruisersforum.com/forums/...ish-30721.html
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Old 02-23-2013, 09:36 AM   #21
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Professional boat coaters often build up the bulk of a coating with Rapid Clear and then finish with three coats of the original premium for UV protection.
I've read this suggestion a number of places and have been thinking along these lines. Except I thought the rapid coat with the tint might help the woodwork look a little more vintage. (For those who don't know, the rapidcoat and rapidclear are identical except for a light tint in the former.)

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If you like the satin finish, Wipe On polyurethane is much easier to apply and is very durable except that it has no UV protection.
Doh! That was my dads suggestion at the outset! I was thinking the rapid coat/clear might be a similar proposition - both products are thin and supposedly easy to apply but the epifanes has the epifanes name and reputation so I was going the premium route. I also was thinking the epifanes might be better for moisture?
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Old 02-23-2013, 10:01 AM   #22
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The bottom line on all varnishes is that the more suspended solids a varnish has in it, the better UV protection it has. The darkest varnishes provide the best UV protection and Epiphanes premium is their darkest product.

Epiphanes is really way over kill for what you're doing. Inside of a trailer you don't need the extreme environmental resistance of it, and the application of it will be an experience that you will never forget. You don't need to protect the wood from hurricanes and direct sunlight, just normal household moisture.

Thinking about it some more, inside of a trailer I would use old time shellac flakes cut with alcohol. It looks great, protects the wood well, is easier and quicker to apply, and can be touched up at any time in the future by wetting a brush in alcohol and reflowing the surface. Shellac has been around longer than Epiphanes and has a good reputation too.
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Old 02-23-2013, 10:13 AM   #23
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I would use something other than shellac right around the bar, though - spilled alcohol does leave a mark .

I agree that using high end tropic-rated varnishes inside our trailers isn't necessary. With the possible exception of any wall area adjacent to the door, we just don't get UV exposure inside the trailer, so interior finishes work just fine.

Having finishes that are readily repaired is important for many; trailers get used, and sometimes finishes get damaged. I use a traditional oil finish on our 19' steam launch; it does mean at least yearly rubdowns with more oil, but it's readily repaired and easily applied.

We're just in the process of putting in butcher block counters in our 1971; those will have an oil finish since I want them to be food-safe.

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Old 02-23-2013, 10:40 AM   #24
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Epiphanes is really way over kill for what you're doing. Inside of a trailer you don't need the extreme environmental resistance of it, and the application of it will be an experience that you will never forget. You don't need to protect the wood from hurricanes and direct sunlight, just normal household moisture.
Oh my ... Now you've started to convince me that my assumptions thus far are off the mark quite a bit. Is rapidclear/coat really all that more difficult to use than wipe on poly? I thought I might get three or four coats down with it then decide if I want to go further with it or something else. With 6 hours between coats, I can do four coats in two days. And product info seems to indicate that may be sufficient to leave it like that if I want to (four coats or so). It is thin like wipe on poly, apparently, so I was thinking the effort would be similar but end result superior. And I felt like I might have more options to go further after the base should I decide to do that, or for future maintenance.

Are these assumptions incorrect?
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Old 02-23-2013, 10:45 AM   #25
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I would use something other than shellac right around the bar, though - spilled alcohol does leave a mark .
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Oh, that's right. I don't drink these days and that never occurred to me.
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Old 02-23-2013, 11:09 AM   #26
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I used gloss Minwax oil polyurethane on our house kitchen cabinets (hickory, no stain), 13 years ago. The finish is durable and still looks great through 2 sets of small grandchildren living here the whole time. In the Airstream, I used gloss poly in the bathroom (because I grabbed the wrong can), but satin on everything else (because I grabbed the right can). It's Minwax fast dry oil poly, and I am happy with the finish so far. It's a 4 hour dry time between coats, usually. I have done wipe on in the past, but I always reach for a brush nowadays. You can put the brush in a sealed ziplock bag, throw in the freezer between coats. Just let it thaw out before you use it for about 15 min. There's lots of options out there. Pick one you like!

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Old 02-23-2013, 12:01 PM   #27
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Sounds like you are planning to do your finishing inside the trailer.

Couple of thoughts:

Make up some sample pieces of wood in the different gloss finishes you are considering - so you can see what they look like in the trailer before you commit yourself. I prefer satin or semi for my trailer.

Cleanliness is super important - any little spec of dust will cause visible imperfections in your finish - so make sure that you wipe down your surfaces with a tack cloth and ideally also wipe down with a lint-free rag dipped in mineral spirits - it's important to do this both after your sanding and in between coats.

If you don't have too much surface area - one trick that may help is to use a spray can for your final coat. You can do as many brush on or wipe on coats as you want to build the thickness of finish you want, do a very light sanding with 800 grit paper to smooth out any last dust bunnies, wipe down, and then do a finish coat by spraying. This leads to as close to a perfect finish as you can probably achieve without removing your cabinetry from the trailer.

Spray cans of shellac, lacquer and polyurethane are available at the big box stores.

I find the new poly finishes to work well, and they are hard enough to use on horizontal surfaces like tabletops. I mostly finish cabinets with lacquer because of the very fast drying time, but I do this in my shop and spray using an HVLP setup - I wouldn't do this inside the trailer because of fumes and overspray. I use poly for areas that need to be wear resistant - like table and counter tops.
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Old 02-23-2013, 01:48 PM   #28
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I've heard a story of one extreme varnisher who builds a totally enclosed varnishing room out of plastic sheet complete with positive pressure entry air lock and a laminar flow downdraft air hepafilter system in the varnishing chamber, then enters the lock freshly showered and completely naked where he puts on a full clean room suit and varnishes only at night with no one else around and classical music playing in the background. Personally I think that's taking it much too far and I'm willing to accept some imperfections in my finishes in the interest of actually completing the project.

A problem with varnish is that those small bits of the world around us get trapped and show up in the finish if you look close enough. A really good varnish job looks slick and shiny, an eighth of an inch deep and beautiful but that comes with a significant amount of prep, attention to detail and a good technique. Le Tonkinois is more forgiving and easier to apply than Epiphanes, but polyurethane is easier still and I think the MinWax products recommended above are an overall good choice.

Varnishing vertical surfaces can be even more challenging because the varnish wants to sag until it hardens.
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