Finishing a Boat – Paint/Varnish (Part 2 of 2)

Continued from “Finishing a Boat – Prep”


  1. 59(sm)Now you are ready.  The best thing to do with any paint or varnish is to follow the manufacturers instructions regarding stirring, straining, thinning, temperatures, etc. Otherwise, the application method I use is essentially approved for most single part products.  I have always used Interlux Schooner Varnish because of its easy application and quality and long lasting finish, but I have switched around paints frequently from anything like Oil-based Glidden Porch and Deck to Interlux Brightside.  On the most recent project I will be using Kirby Paint which I am very excited for as it has received some pretty rave reviews over the years and I always like to support my local businesses (New Bedford, MA). The method I use for both varnish and paint is roll and tip. I use an inexpensive Shur-line 4″ foam roller and tip with a good quality (Jen) 3″ foam brush.
  2. It is a simple process.  Roll on the paint or varnish in a small area 2-3 square feet.  Then go back and “tip” the paint with the foam brush.  It is also a very easy process to screw up, so you may want to practice it a bit.  I There are just a couple rules of thumb and they are as follows:
    1. Only paint small areas at a time so the paint does not have any time to set before going back to tip
    2. Apply the paint thinly.  Thick coats are more likely to sag and run.
    3. Tipping is simply dragging the brush over the rolled on paint as lightly as possible to knock down the bubbles and lines created by the roller.
    4. Only tip the paint once.  Working the paint too much will leave lines.  Leave it alone and let it flow.  If you have runs or sags, sand them out when it is dry and apply thinner coats next time.
  3. Once you are done rolling and tipping the whole boat, stand back, take a good look and admire your work, now get the hell out of your shop.  Each step you take is the potential for stirring up a little dust storm and each little flaw you see runs the risk of dragging that tipping brush over the finish one last time only to find that the paint has kicked to a gooey, chewed bubble gum-like texture.  Don’t return to your shop again until the following day where you can spend more significant quality time admiring your pro finish.
  4. Once you are 100% sure that the paint is 100% dry, wet sand in between coats with 400 grit.  If the paint balls up when you sand it, stop sanding and let it dry another day or two.  Give it another denatured alcohol rub down, and repeat steps 10-12 for the desired number of coats.  As a ballpark figure, I usually go with a minimum of 5 coats of varnish and 2 coats of paint depending on the boat, the paint, the temperature, the boating area and exposure to the elements and the amount of times I need to sand down any blunders before I am OK with the results.

Good luck and happy “finishing!”

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