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Thread: Spar Urethane

  1. #1
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    Spar Urethane

    I enjoy making mostly outdoor projects (right now, at least). Nothing I make (yet) is really fancy, and it's all been made out of lumber I can purchase at my local Lowes Depot. Even though nothing is fancy, I still like to protect what I'm making as well as I can. I've been using Spar Urethane for most of my last-step finishing needs, and have been fairly happy with it. I like the amount of gloss it adds, and when I rap my knuckles on the project, it feels like the spar is thick enough to actually protect my work.

    I have two complaints about spar, though. First is that once I use a brush to apply it, that brush is pretty much ruined. No matter how well I think I'm cleaning the brush, the truth is that it'll never be the same. My other compliant is that I tend to end up with some pretty obvious brush strokes in the finish. I know at least part of that is just my "painting" technique not being practiced enough, but I also can't help but wonder if a brush really is the best tool for this job.

    So on to my actual question. What do you, the far more experienced woodworkers, use to apply spar urethane? If you're not a spar user, what do you use, and why?

    Thanks,
    Nathan



  2. #2

    RE: Spar Urethane

    Nathan,

    I like to use Helmsman Spar Urethane.

    I will most likely get rotten tomatoes thrown at me here - but I use the cheap throw away brushes that cost about $1.29



  3. #3
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    RE: Spar Urethane

    Nathan,

    More than likely it's a combination of technique and type of brush...You'd be amazed by the results in using a quality china bristle.

    Most common problem folks have when laying down varnish/poly is "overworking" the area. The "trick" is to let the varnish flow off the brush, working into the previously varnished area, then "tipping" the varnished area, this is a very light stroke in one direction where just the tips of the brush is in contact with the varnish. You must work quickly and never "lip" the brush (unloading by pressing it against the lip of the can), you'll get bubbles in the varnish and trap air in the brush which can result in "nibs". When brushing on varnish, it really does help to think of it as laying down, not painting. On larger projects I use two brushes, one always in some turp or mineral spirits.

    As to clean up, I really don't know what to tell you, I've got brushes that are over 10 years old and are still like new. I generally use turpentine, I'll let the brush soak for an hour or so then clean with warm water and mild soap. I store them in their covers, they all have their original shape. "Whacking" the brush against something is a real good way to loosen the ferrule and the bristles...

    I'll also say that the varnishes vary greatly by manufacturer both in terms of performance and how it goes on (read "quality"). Bottom line is the varnishes you get at the box are crap. If you want to have a truely enjoyable experience and outstanding results, go down to your local marina or chandelry and get some "real" spar varnish. Goes on like silk and yeilds far better results. FWIW.

    Dano



  4. #4
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    RE: Spar Urethane

    I do exactly whay Leo described. I usually put on three coats (in three days) I'll put the "brush" in a baggie after each coat. After three coats, the brush is tossed.






    Dave, from Indiana

    I am a great believer in luck. The harder I work, the more of it I seem to have.

  5. #5
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    RE: Spar Urethane

    >I like to use Helmsman Spar Urethane.

    You and I are using the exact same stuff, it seems.

    >I will most likely get rotten tomatoes thrown at me here -
    >but I use the cheap throw away brushes that cost about $1.29

    On a whim, I tried applying a coat with one of those foam brushes, and was fairly happy with the results. I just bought a back of 50 foam brushes for a few dollars, so maybe that'll get me through a few more projects.

  6. #6
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    RE: Spar Urethane

    >Most common problem folks have when laying down varnish/poly
    >is "overworking" the area. The "trick" is to let the
    >varnish flow off the brush, working into the previously
    > ...
    >"nibs". When brushing on varnish, it really does help to
    >think of it as laying down, not painting. On larger

    Sounds like that may be the core of my problem. I've been applying this stuff like I'm trying to get as thin of a coat of paint as possible, rather than letting it flow where it needs to go. Thanks!

    >new. I generally use turpentine, I'll let the brush soak
    >for an hour or so then clean with warm water and mild soap.
    >I store them in their covers, they all have their original
    >shape.

    That may be where I'm going wrong. (Also, I tend to use the cheapest brush available.) I've been soaking my brushes for far longer than an hour, and haven't been following that up with the soap/water routine. I'll have to try that the next time.

    >the box are crap. If you want to have a truely enjoyable
    >experience and outstanding results, go down to your local
    >marina or chandelry and get some "real" spar varnish. Goes
    >on like silk and yeilds far better results. FWIW.

    Do you have any web sources that you can recommend for the high-quality stuff? To my knowledge, there isn't a chandlery anywhere nearby, and the nearest marina does good to stock gasoline...

    Thanks,
    Nathan


  7. #7
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    RE: Spar Urethane

    Are you cleaning that brush at all before you put it in the bag overnight? And if not, has it not set up to be hard as a rock by the third day?

  8. #8
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    RE: Spar Urethane

    I use Helmsman, too... usually with a women's nylon stocking (true story) but sometimes with a (good quality) brush. You really do need to lay it on; the practice of spreading it as thin as it'll go while leaving the surface barely wet will GET ya. You want it righteously thick, just short of the "drips and runs" stage.

    For (brush) cleanup, I'll work it in mineral spirits for a long time, then use dish detergent to really thoroughly wash it again. Last, I take it outdoors and whack it against a porch post or something similar until I get NO more fluid out of the brush - it's totally dry by that time. That whacking not only dries out the brush, it helps to drive any residual polyurethane down to the tips, and softens the brush in the process.

    I sometimes use the baggie storage, too, for short overnights. Since the brush head is sealed away from air in the baggie or in Saran wrap), it won't harden. Works even better if you drop it in the freezer after it's wrapped. The next day, you're ready to go right out of the box.

    -- Tim --

    Passion is the weather;
    Love is a climate.


  9. #9

    RE: Spar Urethane

    No-No NOT a foam brush --- I HATE those things.

    I am talkin about the cheap chinese bristle brushes. I actually use those things a lot.



  10. #10

    RE: Spar Urethane

    No cleaning needed. Just stick it in the bag and use a twisty to seal it.

    It will not harded overnight, for that matter even a few days.

    You can do that with oil pased paints, water based paints, paint rollers, etc.

    Save a bunch of cleanup when you know you are doing a second or third coat.


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