Brightwork Update

7 May

Okay, you want an update; I’ll give you an update!

This brightwork stuff is more of a challenge than I anticipated. Even though I have read the Rebecca Wittman books (both of then – twice!) and purchased all the bits and pieces she recommended in the books, redoing a boat’s woodwork is not all daisies and lemon drops.

So, Boyd brought up a piece of woodwork from Bushranger that has seen better days. The varnish was bubbled in places, completely missing in others, and very discolored from too much UV from the sun.  After rereading Rebecca’s chapters on stripping varnish with a heat gun, purchasing a good heat gun, and watching many u-tube demonstrations on ‘how to use a heat gun’, I gave it a try.

My new heat gun did a not-so-good job at stripping the varnish. Time to hold off and talk to an expert…

Funny how the u-tube videos all showed the gents applying the heat from the heat gun to the wood and easily scraping the varnish into long, lovely curls, that just fall away from the boat. When I applied the heat gun, all I got was a bunch of flakes that stubbornly did not want to leave the wood at all. So, I decided that maybe I wasn’t holding the gun at the proper distance, or maybe I wasn’t keeping the heat on one spot long enough. Fair enough; I tried correcting these variables. All that resulted was a distinct smell of burning wood (not a good thing) and a definite darkening of the wood surface (sounds suspiciously like burning wood, doesn’t it?). Okay, time to reread the book before reattempting the heat gun.

So, maybe I should move on to other brightwork projects for a while. Boyd has brought up a couple of other pieces from the boat that do not need stripping – they just need a couple of ‘refresher coats’ of varnish. Shouldn’t be too hard, right? Maybe, or maybe not.

Okay, so the ladder and a couple of supports need a some of coats of varnish to ‘freshen them up’.

According to the experts (again, I am talking about Rebecca Wittman, the author of the brightwork ‘bibles’), the first step is to determine what varnish was used by the previous owner. So, down I go to the boat to help Boyd dig through all the old cans of paint/varnish that came with the boat (remember, the previous owners threw NOTHING away). Mixed in with the old paint cans were two cans of Interlux varnish (#96 and #95), two cans of Cetol (Natural Teak and Marine Gloss) and one can of Cabot semi-gloss varnish.

So, I wonder which varnish went on which bits?!? Right! Time to go to the internet and take a look at the Interlux, Cetol and Cabot websites.

From what I can tell, the Cetol was used on the exterior railings and panels of Bushranger (Cetol has a distinctive orange look to it). And (oh joy oh joy, something that is easy to figure out), according to the website, Cetol Natural Teak is used as a base varnish and is followed by a single coat of the Cetol Gloss (I love it when it’s easy). So, my only big constrain is that all the pieces that are currently covered in old Cetol cannot be removed from the boat (railings and walls), so I will be re-varnishing the pieces ON THE BOAT.

Unfortunately, the Cetol website says that you can only apply Cetol if the ambient temperature is between 50 and 95 degrees f. Additionally, you can not apply it when the wood is in direct sunlight, or when the surface is hot to touch, or when dew is present, or in wet weather, or when moisture is greater than 18%. So, given the fact that we are currently sitting on asphalt in a boatyard in Mississippi, and it is either blazing hot or raining, when do ya’ suppose I can apply the Cetol? I think I’ll put that project off until we get the boat back in the water and under cover.

So, I guess I get to play with the pieces that CAN come off the boat, like the stairs and supports. I can work on them up at the cabin! I don’t need to strip these pieces back to bare wood (thank goodness – no heat gun!). Now I’m back to my original question – which varnish was used in the past on each piece? I can tell that they are not covered in Cetol (they are not orange), but do ya’ supposed I can figure out which of the remaining varnishes were used? Nope.

So, after all this, looks like I need to ask an expert – I need a consult with our wood expert, War-Monkey. Questions to ask:

1. How do you REALLY use this heat gun?

2. Which varnish goes where?

3. Why am I doing this, again…

2 Responses to “Brightwork Update”

  1. jdepodwin May 9, 2012 at 15:15 #

    And so the story goes…hang in there.

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