Varnish, Attaining “Depth”

By Don Casey

Revised by BoatUS editors in April 2012

Using a less expensive varnish for the build-up coats is optional for gloss varnish. This ploy typically has no measurable effect on the durability or appearance of the finish but saves you money if the job is large enough to require more than one can of varnish anyway.

However, if you are applying a rubbed-effect (satin finish) varnish, you will get noticeably better results by using a high-gloss varnish for the build-up coats. This is because the rubbed-effect varnish contains pigments, and the more coats of rubbed-effect varnish, the “muddier” the finish will look. Build up the coating with clear varnish, which highlights rather than obscures, then apply one or two coats of rubbed-effect varnish to remove the gloss without removing the depth.

Don Casey has been one of the most consulted experts on boat care and upgrades for 30 years, and is one of the BoatUS Magazine's panel of experts. He and his wife cruise aboard their 30-footer part of the year in the eastern Caribbean. His books include Don Casey's Complete Illustrated Sailboat Maintenance Manual, and the recently updated This Old Boat, the bible for do-it-yourself boaters.


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