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Monday, February 22, 2016

Canoe Building: Varnishing!

One of the most harmful things to a cedar strip canoe is ultraviolet light breaking down and discoloring the epoxy.  A good UV blocking varnish will prevent this.  It also will add a gloss and bring out the warmth of the wood.  Before I varnished my canoe, I did a little bit of internet research into what varnish I should use.  Lots of builders like Epiphanes.  I didn't have a local supplier and I didn't want to ship some in.  A test of different varnishes really jumped out at me.  The Minwax Helmsman varnishes were the best on the test, and easy to find at Home Depot, so I bought a couple quarts. I chose the glossy finish.

I have a friend with a cabinet shop and he let me borrow his paint room to varnish the canoe (Thanks Larry!).  Before I started, I put on my respirator, then wiped everything down with an epoxy solvent one last time.  Doing so removes any epoxy dust, fingerprint residue, or anything else that would interfere with the bond or the finish.  I then stirred a can of the varnish, and started varnishing.  It really reminded me of when I was epoxying the canoe, but the varnish was a lot thinner than the epoxy.  I varnished the inside first, then turned the canoe over and varnished the outside.  I let it cure for 4-8 hours, then came back and gently shaved away with a razor blade any drips or runs.  When the drips and runs were removed, I put on the next coat.  You don't need to make thick coats.  Thin coats will give you coverage, and will also reduce the chances of drips and runs and save you time in the end.  More cure time, then on with another coat.  Then repeat.  I put three coats on, and could have put on four, but it would have been more weight and more expense with out much benefit.  Three coats is great, and then after I've had the canoe out and used it for a while, I can always add another coat to make it shiny again.

I finished and picked up my canoe on December 21.  Strapping the canoe to the top of the car sure felt great!  I had permagrin the whole drive home.  So close to being done!

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