Two Schooner varnish questions

I am finally ready to varnish deck and sides!  But have a couple of questions:

What do you use to clean brushes after use of Interlux Schooner (not "Gold") varnish?  Besides Interlux brushing thinner which is too expensive.

Is it okay to use denatured alcohol to clean sanded areas between coats of varnish?

Thanks a lot for any advice.


8 replies:

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RE: Two Schooner varnish questions


Use foam throw-away brushes.  No cleaning and they do not leave bristles in your varnish.  You can get them from CLC, or from Lowes / Home Depot. 

After sanding, I wiped my boats down with denatured alcohol and then followed up with a tack rag.  I have seen lots of warnings on this forum about residue left by tack rags, but I have had no problems on two boats with rags from Lowes.

On my first boat I wet sanded after each coat of varnish (except the last of course).  On my second boat, I roughed up each undercoat with a Scotch-brite pad and only sanded after coat number 3 out of 5.  The pad takes off less of the previous coat and gives the varnish enough tooth for the next coat.  If, however you have drips, you will need to sand as the Scotch-brite will not take them off very well.

This is an exciting stage of the build.  You finally get a hint at what the final product will look like and your shop really smells great.  Good luck.

Paul G.

RE: Two Schooner varnish questions

I'm about to embark on my varnishing efforts (1st timer) as well.  Paul, can I ask you to elaborate on what type of "scotch-brite" pads you used on your second boat?

RE: Two Schooner varnish questions


They are the green kitchen scouring pads you get at the grocery store, or WalMart.  Small ones come attached to the back of a sponge.  the larger ones are just the rough pad.  They dull the varnish and give it tooth for the next coat without removing a lot of material.  The risk with wet sanding every coat is that is is very easy to take off all the varnish you just put on.  They may, or may not be labeled as "Scotchbrite".

Good luck, Paul G.

RE: Two Schooner varnish questions

Thanks Paul! I have lots of experience with ship models, but this is my first "real" boat. My last model was a challenging 1941 mahogany barrel-back Chris Craft, and the finish came out great. Of course, the model was only 17" so it was a lot easier to varnish. Your advice was very helpful. And, how about that Schooner aroma - by the time I am finished, I will probably be divorced! I am painting the bottom sea green (dark color) with a 1/4 inch white boot top between the bottom paint and varnish on the sides. Cedar planks on deck already look good even before the varnish. Rich

RE: Two Schooner varnish questions

I can second using scotchbright instead of sanding.  It dulls each coat just enough for bonding without removing previous coats.  Plus, you don't need to worry about accidentally varnishing a still-wet hull... just hit it with a tack rag and apply the next coat...


RE: Two Schooner varnish questions



I also agree regarding 3m Scotch Brite Pads but not with the green ones used in the kitchen. As reported/published elsewhere by "professionals" the green stuff is not produced to uniform specs and is generally more aggressive than you need. Use the ones from the auto-body supply store #07447 is equivalent to a 180 grit and the #07448 220 grit, they are also available for hook and loop for your random orbit sander and that works very well (fast)l for larger areas.

More Importantly and the reason for my post is your  comment about the "schooner aroma", by strong bias is for the Epifanes product, and I have ranted elsewhere on this forum about problems with Interlux products (Gold and Compass) and we can all debate the relative quality of the final results, but I did not mention what I now think is one of the more serious issues with the Interlux/Schooner products and that is the VOC (volatile organic compounds) levels. I was asked to use some of the schooner varnish on a recent project and found the "aroma" level to be remarkably higher (I use full respiratory protection and am in a ventilation controlled paint room) even three or four hours after application, than that of Epiphanies Clear Gloss that I am using on a current project. Checking the MSDS sheets it seems the Interlux product has some additional components, and the recomended brushing thinners have a distinctly different smell, the Epifanes having a light mineral spirits aroma.

Any Scientist/Chemists on this forum who might be able to elaborate?



RE: Two Schooner varnish questions


I think your comments are extremely valuable.  Sounds like you use a lot of varnish and thus probably need to be more careful than most of us.  Still, it is good information.  My comment above regarding the smell in my shop comes from my experience with ZSpar Captain's varnish which I have used on both of my boats.  I varnish in my garage, with the door open, but the odor does build up during the drying time when the door is closed to protect the product from the neighbor's leaf blower.  The new varnish seems to give off the odor for a couple of weeks.  Word here from a chemist would be great as would any info on the relative health hazards of all the chemicals we use in this building process.

Paul G.

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