After varnish what will it look like?

I've read that some woodworkers after sanding swipe some alcohol on the wood to get a sense of what the wood will look like after a clear finish is applied.   Needless to say I want to sand just enough that it looks good but not one bit more.  

Does this trick work for epoxy coated wood after sanding? 



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RE: After varnish what will it look like?

It absolutely does work.

I've built boats with finishes that ranged from bumpy epoxy to varnish that won prizes. The amount of sanding is entirely up to you. You can always skip it and throw on some paint. A lot of people who are more impressed by the outer 0.020" of a boat than the rest of it combined will look down on you and give you all sorts of pious guff about pride of workmanship. So what? It's known as the workboat finish. The vast majority of boats in the world have that kind of finish, ranging from fishing boats to naval vessels that could literally take out an entire nation. The smooth shiny boat is an artistic affectation and/or a demonstration of affluence, depending on whether you sand it yourself or hire someone to do it.

It's your boat, and if you'd rather use it than sand it, that's your choice. The finish is not going to make it float any better or worse and it's certainly not a reflection on anyone's character or work ethic. So do what makes sense for you now, you can always go back and refinish it later if you decide that you want a museum piece after a season on the water.

Enjoy the boat and the build,



RE: After varnish what will it look like?


   Ditto what Laszlo said.

I, like a lot of other people, tend to finish their boats this time of year. I don't obsess too much about the varnish work, Just so it looks good from 5 feet away. Then I take it out and scratch the heck out of it for the rest of the year. The next winter I'll wet sand with 400 grit and give it few more coats. I find they actually end up looking better than new this way.




RE: After varnish what will it look like?

   Laszlo and Dan are entirely right! All of these CLC boats are beautiful, but be sure to build it so you can use it!

Don't be afraid to leave your hull "bright" (i.e., varnish over the epoxy). Personally, I love the variations in the grain of wood, and I find that minor flaws in the finish are nicely concealed by that variation. A good 5 or 10-foot finish is easy to achieve. 

RE: After varnish what will it look like?

Using alchol or mineral sprits will give one an idea about how the wood grain will appeat with a clear finisth. Fiber glassing may change the color but fiberglass deterates when exposed to UV, think sun shine, so one needs to block the UV rays of the Sun. Varnish or laquare with Uv inhibators is used for this task. Depenting upon what product you use, you may get a tingt from the finish. You might want to glass some scrap wood of the type you used to build your boat and then try different finishes to see what happens.   

RE: After varnish what will it look like?

Hi George, 

I understand your remark about tint and it's a good one.    I'm told that when you apply varnish it really highlights any epoxy drips or blemishes in the epoxy coating steps.  I'd like to get an advance "peek" at whether I've sanded it down enough that those mis-steps are not magnified or highlighted by the varnish.  It seems to me that if a drip or smear of epoxy has an edge between it and the underlying film, then it becomes very visible through the varnish. So my sanding effort has been to remove the drip or smear so there is no edge, but must admit that film thickness of the epoxy coats varies somewhat over the surface.   I guess my goal is for the varnished bright finish to look good at a distance of two-three feet.  

Of course I don't know how to do things until after I've done them.  So this forum has been great help in avoiding the common potholes and tips. 

To date I've tried to learn in places that dont matter, so learn "filleting technique" on the bottom inside edge of the transom as an example .  It will never be seen unless someone opens the deckport and checks it with a flashlight. 

RE: After varnish what will it look like?

The trick works with bare wood and with epoxy coated wood. Sanding should show ridges and drips.  You can also shine the hull horizontally with a strong light and see ridges, drips, low spots, etc.


Your subject was how will it look after varnish. This mineral sprits trick won't work on varnished surfaces. You can use the light though.  You will see the dings, drags, drips etc more than most people. Just keep quiet and 98% of the people will think it is beautiful.  Deck rigging, water, etc hide a lot of descrepancies.  Only the wood workers will notice . 


Above all remember that as John says in his videos, "Sanding is fun."    Say it over and over.

RE: After varnish what will it look like?

   As noted one can use very fine grit sand paper. Another tool to consider is the Cabinet Scraper. This is use in fine funiture making to remove tool marks and cleanup dirps and run. Using the tool is a pratice art and it requires a different sharpening technique using a mill file and and burnisher. With this tool one keeps or creates the bur edge. The bur edge does the very fine cutting to remove a very fine layer of material. There a special holders to help shape the tool for use and specail sharpening tools that incorportate the file and bunisher aong withholding the tool at the correct angle for sharpening.

RE: After varnish what will it look like?

   I also learned about epoxy as I went while building my Wood Duck.  I had used cabinet scrapers before, but the tool I used the most on the epoxy drips and runs was a single edged razor blade.  I would go out to the garage, turn on halogen lights set at angles and use the blade like a scraper and "draw" it over the drip, not "cutting" the drip off.  Some times I would do this for 5 to 10 minutes and walk away; or I'd be out there until my fingers hurt.

 This was a slow process but I feel it payed off in the end.  I bought a 100 blade dispenser and changed blades often.  I also used the cabinet scraper and got "OK" at sharpening it.


RE: After varnish what will it look like?

 The back of an old hacksaw blade works amazingly well and seems to hold it's edge for a long time.  The rounded end is great for scraping any bumps in fillets.  

Hooper Williams - Brevard, NC 

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