Monday, October 3, 2011

Working with Bristol Finish

My wife read my post entitled A super model with shaved eyebrows and with a laugh, suggested that she liked a Hooker with Painted eyebrows better.  As Sojourn is something of a mistress, I guess I have to put up with some jealousy.  Either way, Sojourn's makeover is progressing.

I’ve started refinishing the bright work and selected Bristol Finish.

For those where I was a few months ago, there are basically 4 types of “varnish”.  The first is actually just oil.  Rebecca Wittman would tell you it isn’t an exterior finish and I agree with her.  The second is varnish.  It typically lasts a season, more or less depending on your UV exposure necessitating at least annual maintenance.  There are two formulations of this, interior and spar, the latter having UV resistance and generally a softer, more pliable finish.  It is easy to apply, easy to fix and easy to remove.  Some have suggested epoxy based finishes as a third, but I couldn’t find any evidence that its UV resistance was up to the challenge and it is more difficult to remove.  Finally, Urethane.  There are two categories, single part and two part catalyzing.  The first is often what you get when you buy varnish at the hardware store and aren’t paying attention. The two part is much like the two part urethane paints, but with very little pigment.

Why Bristol?  After spending almost a year reading blogs, reading Rebecca’s Bright work Companion and following Practical Sailor’s two year wood finish tests, I found a lot of conflicting information and even more conflicting options. In the end, Practical Sailor’s report that that it was the leader in their tests in New England, which should have a climate more representative of the northwest than Florida and the fact that the only derogatory comments I could find on the blogs came from 2005 and earlier and the prospect of going several years without re-doing made the decision for me.

After 2 coatsAnd the results – when they say Amber, they mean it.  I think it is beautiful, but I was shocked at how amber it is.  Ben, who coincidentally refinished some of Triumph’s bright work the same week said it is the same color as the Cetol, but much shinier. In three sessions, I put 6 coats on.  Between the second and third coats I sanded lightly, otherwise all coats were within 24 hours of each other.  I probably only have 5 hours into the actual application, and most of that was waiting. I was able to coat the combings, the companionway frame and engine panel frame. 

I found that vertical surfaces were somewhat difficult and tend to run.  Horizontal surfaces tend to come out amazing.  Foam brushes make for more bubbles, but less runs.  In the end, I’ll likely put the last coat on with a bristle brush, but I might try rolling and tipping. 

Port Combing and PanelMy biggest complaint at this point is that it runs pretty easily and runs build on runs.  If you look at it an angle it is full of runs.  I seem to recall the instructions giving the practical method of doing exactly what I did and then sanding for a final top coat.  In my case it will likely be a maintenance coat next year as I tackle the hand and toe rails.  One other complaint is that it is so shiny, I can’t tell dry from wet.  I had paint section by section, placing my cup at the end of each section to help make sure I got it all.  I suppose that is a good thing.

I washed the teak with a scrub brush and oxalic acid, let it dry then sanded with 180 grit and my palm sander.  I didn’t get to the root of the grain, which had a small amount of weathered gray, but would have had to remove a lot of wood to do so.  I then wiped with acetone and used a bristle brush for the first 2 coats, foam for the 2nd two and a brush for the final two.  The brush is easier to control runs with, but much more prone to bubbles.

Vinyl tape to see if I like red eyebrowesIn the final, (well, almost done, protected for winter anyway) analysis, I’m quite happy with the result.  From 5 feet away, it is fantastic.  Sojourn went from a tired old woman to mistress with a new lease on life with a few brush strokes.

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