question about varnishing

so i am finally at the point to begin varnishing my shearwater 16 that i have been building the past few weeks,  i have it all sanded down nice and smooth,  cleaned off with denatured alcohol,  ready to go.

but my question is, do i varnish the inside of the kayak as well as the outside?  this will probably get a few people (or many ) to laugh, but the directions dont mention it, but i assume the cockpit will be exposed to UV so shouldnt it have varnish on it as well?





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RE: question about varnishing

I didn't varnish inside my cockpit.

The kayak is garage stored or I am in it paddling.

If I was to bring it to work to paddle after work, I would put a cockpit cover on it.

RE: question about varnishing

Oh, Jonathon, I would like to see pics of your Shearwater.

Here is the link to mine...

- Joe

RE: question about varnishing


Regaurdless of storage you should protect the inside some way you have put a lot of time and care into building it why not make it LAST

we like to paint the interior a light color (your boat is color on a hot day) and add some interlux nonskid additve to the interior finish so it is not so slippery when you get in and out

C Fox Boat School 

RE: question about varnishing

cfox, do you have pics of different color interiors against a brightly finished exterior? The only interior paint jobs I have seen are on rowboats and the like. I am thinking maybe I will prime and paint with white after this paddling season while I am building another boat.

RE: question about varnishing


Most builders I know don't varnish their cockpits for the very reasons Joe mentions. Part of the problem with varnishing is - where do you stop? Unless you tie a brush to your pet python, there will always be a line at some point beyond which you can't reach. If you do go with a varnished inside, you may want to consider using no-gloss varnish for the last couple of coats. That will help mask the transition.

While some people do paint their cockpits, that kind of treatment is more usual for bigger undecked boats. Okoume is light enough that it won't cause a heat problem, especially since in a Shearwater you'll be plugging most of the cockpit with your body. The kayaks I've seen with white interiors also always looked scruffy. The normal wear and tear and dirt of frequent use left the paint job all scratched and stained in some parts and shiny in others. Epoxy seems to stand up to the rough treatment better, and when it does get dinged, the woodgrain underneath masks it better.

Non-skid is also another thing that is meant for larger boats, not kayak cockpits. It's meant to keep you from slipping while standing on a moving wet deck. You're also meant to be wearing deck shoes while you do that. Bare flesh in contact with any non-skid surface will be worn raw and bloody after a few hours. It's hard to think of a better torture device than a non-skid kayak cockpit. For that matter, a slippery cockpit is actually better for wet exits and re-entries. So even if you do end up painting, skip the non-skid. Your skin will thank you.

One thing that I've done in some of my boats is to leave the bare epoxy and line the cockpit with 3/4 inch thick closed cell foam held in place with velcro. This gives a comfortable resilient surface that also happens to protect the epoxy from UV and scratches. It's also a lot less work than varnish or paint and easy to replace when the foam wears out. It may not be right for all boats, especially ones with small cockpits, but it's another option.

Hope this helps,


RE: question about varnishing

thanks a ton everyone!

Joe, i have been looking at your blog build quite a bit,  the boat looks great.  i'll post some pictures when i get finished up.  i didnt take as many pictures during the build as i should have, but i will when i build another one!


thanks again



RE: question about varnishing

Opinions are interesting animals!!! maybe I should have been a little more specific  they all have good intentions If one thinks that Okoume vs a white interior is not much different he should try a surface thermometer on them side by side in hte sun,  our comment about color only relates to when the boat is unoccupied obviously when the boat is occupied,  we need to remember heat is your boats  enemy as much as UV depending on Epoxy type the heat begins to allow creep in joints etc above about 140F an if you do not think your boat could ever get that hot better get out that surface thermometer again   ,and paint is still FAR superior to varnish for UV protection as to nonskid paint additves you need to experience them !!!!!!! if it is placed only in the footing area it is a great help and in no way a hindrance or uncomfortable

RE: question about varnishing

How is non skid a great help in the footing area?  If your feet are in the boat your fanny pretty much has to be in the seat right?  I am not understanding the situation here.  As far as uv protection, I don't care how you tip the boat, you are not going to get much UV light where my feet go.  In fact, with my seat cushion in the boat most everything else in the cockpit is in the shade.  No doubt about it though the seat can absorb some heat.

RE: question about varnishing


Even better than the thermometer, I've tried my bare legs in my 14-ft, undecked bright-finished pirogue in the Maryland Summer sun. That's what I based my statement on regarding the differences in perceived temperatures. I'm willing to posit that white paint might be cooler, but not enough to really make a difference in comfort, and certainly not enough to be worth the trouble of painting the wood just for thermal control. I also find okoume, especially with a satin finish, kinder on the eyes in terms of glare than white paint.

That hairy bare leg of mine was also the instrument for the statement that non-skid is brutal on bare skin. I definitely experienced the non-skid, just like you said I should, and that was plenty for me.



RE: question about varnishing

To answer your first question:  Yes, varnish the inside of the boat that you can see.  I usually sand the last coat of resin on the inside of the boat which leaves it scuffy looking.  A single coat of varnish makes it all pretty again.  I guess I'm almost alone in thinking that good, expensive, really nice looking wood deserves lots better than a coat of paint, inside or outside.

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