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March 2007

Taking Some Of The Work Out Of Maintaining Varnished Surfaces

Well cared for varnish work, be it interior or exterior, definitely spruces up even the simplest yacht. A trick we have used on all of our boats (which by today's standards have a lot of varnish work on deck) definitely makes keeping it shiny far easier.
No matter how careful you may be, varnished surfaces on a boat will get scratched or scuffed. No matter how many coats of varnish there are, any scratch that breaks the surface will eventually allow water to stain the wood beneath it. To prevent this you need to sand and touch up the scratched area. But finding, then opening a can of varnish, cleaning a brush and finding sandpaper takes time and makes a mess. So a varnish touch-up kit is a must. We have cut all but one inch of the wooden handle off a medium-sized artist brush (soft bristles). Then we clean out a spice jar, drill a small hole in the plastic top and thread a pan-headed (self-tapping) screw through the lid and into the wood of the shortened handle on the brush. We fill the jar with varnish. A rubber band secures a piece of sandpaper to the bottle and the kit is kept easily accessible in the cockpit locker.
Once a week when we are cruising, we wander around with this kit, sanding and feathering any damaged spots on our varnished hatches and spars and brushing on fresh varnish, leaving an eighth inch sanded area at the edges to help us find the spot again. Over the next several days we sand the area again, going a bit beyond the previous patch to make sure the edge feathers nicely. Then we add another coupt of touch up varnish. If it is not time to varnish the whole hatch or cabinside when we do the fourth touch up we varnish right to the edge of the sanded area. Now the patch has a good thick coating that will blend in very well when we put the half yearly fresh coat over the whole hatch or cabinside.
If we catch the scratch before the wood beneath it has had a chance to discolor, you can barely see where the varnish patch up has occurred. If not, we find there is some color difference, but one only we notice. Visitors only seem to see that over-all the varnish looks shiny and the wood beneath is a rich lovely color.
This brush in a bottle system also works fine for paintwork. But for some reason it is more difficult to seal paint into a bottle than varnish. So we keep the paint and varnish touch up kit together in a sealed plastic box on Taleisin.


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