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Old 10th Aug 2020, 1:33 pm   #1
OldTechFan96
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Default Varnishing Help and Advice Sought

Hello,

Learning how to varnish something properly is something I'd like to learn as it would be useful for finishing the odd project and cabinet.

I have a nice hardwood tabletop to practice on which has been stripped of its original finish. The varnish is Wilko's fast drying gloss. I also have a cat bowl holder that would benefit from a few coats.

I have read and watched a lot of guides online but this has added to the confusion. Sometimes I think that the information is contradictory or does not yield the stated results.

I tried a few times earlier in the summer and was disappointed with the results that I was getting. More practice is needed.

The biggest challenge is avoiding brushstrokes and achieving a smooth finish. I know that you need to sand between coats but sometimes I think that too much varnish is coming off.

I am ready to start again with the help of the forum.

Any advice would be much appreciated!
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Old 10th Aug 2020, 7:01 pm   #2
Audio1950
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Default Re: Varnishing Help and Advice Sought

In my experience, fast drying varnishes, which are usually water-based, will not give a smooth finish, and tend to remain sticky. Polyurethane based varnish, either applied by brush or spray can gives far superior results. Just my opinion....

Barry
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Old 11th Aug 2020, 9:07 am   #3
lesmw0sec
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Default Re: Varnishing Help and Advice Sought

Quote:
Originally Posted by Audio1950 View Post
In my experience, fast drying varnishes, which are usually water-based, will not give a smooth finish, and tend to remain sticky. Polyurethane based varnish, either applied by brush or spray can gives far superior results. Just my opinion....

Barry
I tend to agree, but to confuse the issue, there are some water-based varnishes which claim to be poyurethane based!
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Old 11th Aug 2020, 1:02 pm   #4
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Default Re: Varnishing Help and Advice Sought

Yup, it's confusing, because the varnishes that you're referring to are actually water-borne, rather than water-based. This website explains the difference and how it works.

Like Barry, I don't personally like water-borne varnishes, although they are improving. My method (not original, by any means!) is to take a good old-fashioned PU varnish (I like Ronseal Hardglaze, or look for one that tells you to use white spirit for cleaning your brush), decant some of it into a large clean coffee jar and add the same amount again of white spirit (ie a 50:50 cut), put the lid on the jar and shake well. (Any remains in the jar after the job seem to last for ages.)

Apply it evenly with a lint-free cloth (old worn sheet or pillowcase, wet rather than damp, but not dripping), and store the cloth in the coffee jar when you're done. Allow it 24 hrs to dry (somewhere warm and dry), lightly sand with the grain using fine sandpaper, perhaps 400 grit, dust off with a tack rag (see car painters suppliers), then repeat as many times as you need to build up a fine finish. Many thin coats, rather than one thick sticky one. Or you could spray it if you have the kit.

Yes, it's time-consuming, but there will be no brush marks and it's pretty much foolproof on a well-prepared surface.

Last edited by frankmcvey; 11th Aug 2020 at 1:15 pm.
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Old 11th Aug 2020, 1:46 pm   #5
stevehertz
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Default Re: Varnishing Help and Advice Sought

Listen to me, the voice of experience! I have used Ronseal and other polyurethane type varnishes for years. I have obtained good results, but that has always been against a backdrop of intense, lengthy effort and a practised, deft touch, not to mention tears and tantrums. Having discovered it a few years ago, I now use Wilko quick dry varnish (like the OP has) that looks like thin cream when you open the tin. And guess what? it spreads like cream, no pulling on the brush, no brush marks, no uneven build up - no 'nothing' ! It is easy to apply, self levels, dries quickly and results in a truly excellent, clear finish without much effort or skill. If you have skill, all the better. And it sands much easier than polyurethane; no 'sticky' pulling and clogging of the sandpaper. Those are facts! My opinion is, do not mess about (mess being the operative word) with traditional polyurethane varnishes, I speak from decades of experience of using them and always being frustrated at the results. Yes, I did manage to get a good finish with them but that invariably involved many hours laborious sanding between coats and much cutting back of the final coat etc etc. This modern formulation that Wilko sell (I'm sure others sell similar stuff) is nothing short of wonderful and transforms a messy, sphere aching, hit and miss job into a pleasure. I use a synthetic brush with feathered ends to the 'bristles'. Load your brush regularly with a reasonable amount of varnish and aim for a constant thickness of coating; not too thin, not too deep. I say to anyone, buy a small tin, try it once, you'll be converted I can assure you! And apologies for my bullish, somewhat 'know all' approach, but I'd like others to experience the revelation that this product has made to finishing and re-finishing wood for the hobbyist. Here's just one project on which it was used: https://www.vintage-radio.net/forum/...d.php?t=130650
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Old 11th Aug 2020, 6:00 pm   #6
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Default Re: Varnishing Help and Advice Sought

For small (less than a couple of square feet) areas I use car acrylic spray. With a bit of practice you can put down one very thick coat and keep the sprayed object moving long enough to have no run marks while it dries sufficiently (all but a couple of minutes). Once you see a run you have to catch it and turn it around, a bit like hovering a helicopter.
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Old 11th Aug 2020, 6:25 pm   #7
OldTechFan96
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Default Re: Varnishing Help and Advice Sought

Thanks for the advice so far, especially from stevehertz for sharing is experience with Wilko's gloss.

I applied a thin coat to the pet feeder this afternoon. What would be the best way to apply varnish to the edges of the feeder without drips? Thin coats I assume. I usually brush any buildup away.

I noticed that the Wilko tin does not mention sanding in between coats. I'll soon apply another coat.
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Old 11th Aug 2020, 10:35 pm   #8
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Default Re: Varnishing Help and Advice Sought

I've taken to using a small gloss paint roller for most applications. It's quick to use and get an even coat on most surfaces. If the paint/varnish starts to dry a little too quickly, a swift light brush over smooths out the slight orange peel effect that might appear. Recently did a table that is almost 8 feet long and 4 feet wide and it took less than 30 mins to complete. Gave it a second coat next day and just a light rub down. Easier to get an even coat that the variable density of overlapping brush strokes.
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Old 11th Aug 2020, 11:24 pm   #9
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Default Re: Varnishing Help and Advice Sought

I have never been able to get a good finish using water based varnishes compared to PU varnish.

I also use the method mentioned in post 4, using good old smelly PU varnish and a cloth.
It takes time using many thin coates, then leaving the item for a couple of weeks to allow the varnish to thoroughly cure/dry whatever. Then I use a fine cutting paste followed by a car type dry wash/wax to remove the residue and give the cabinet a polish. Here is a bush vhf64 cabinet I am working on.
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