Oil-based vs. water-based stuff

The two recent threads describing one person's travails with Thompson's Water Seal bring to mind something that's been bugging me recently concerning this. I recently refinished a friend's front door, an oak-veneered Craftsman (genre of architecture, not brand name) that was severely weathered. When I was buying veneer to patch it, I asked the people at the hardwood store what they recommended for varnish: they told me that their brand of water-based varnish was the stuff to use, and should last 10 years or so. (I forget what brand; maybe McCloskey?) It wasn't cheap.
Anyhow, I followed their suggestion. When it came time to varnish, I was really disappointed at the look of the varnish, both in the can (it was milky) and as it went on. It turned out OK, sort of: there were a few spots of old varnish I couldn't quite remove, and these showed through as blotches. It looks better than before I worked on it, but I have the nagging feeling that an oil-based varnish would have blended with the old varnish better.
I understand why states and counties are moving towards banning oil-based stuff: I know about VOCs, and as a human being, I appreciate not having to breathe photochemical smog. But I still prefer oil-based paint and varnish. It just goes on so much more smoothly than water-based stuff. It's too bad the substitute is so poor by comparison. (Except for clean-up, which is a lot easier with water-based.)
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David Nebenzahl wrote:

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On Thu, 21 Sep 2006 22:02:50 -0700, David Nebenzahl

Yeah, and water based raises the wood grain. You'd think they could come up with some sort of alcohol base. I dont think that produces near as much VOC and is still not water. The old shellac was alcohol based.
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snipped-for-privacy@UNLISTED.com spake thus:
> Yeah, and water based raises the wood grain. You'd think they could

Still is. Good stuff; unfortunately, not up to such a weather-exposed application like this.
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David Nebenzahl wrote:

I'm no fan of water-based paint or varnish on wood, but your prep is why the job doesn't look good. Old varnish should have been stripped with paint remover, and weathered wood sanded. Clear finish on wood that gets a lot of sun is like a "greenhouse" effect, as it seems to allow more heat and damage to the wood. Oil-based varnish on wood with remnants of old finish or uneven removal of old stain would also give less than satisfactory results.

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David Nebenzahl wrote:

Frankly your best bet is to find a good boat store and get a real marine varnish.
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Dia duit
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I hope you used a Marine-exterior rated varnish, but not removing all the old finish doesnt say much for your work.
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David,
We use water based finishes for 75% of the stuff we do. If you want a deeper look (oil based look) You can apply one or two coats of amber shellac and then finish with two coats of exterior clear acrylic. Water based exterior is still not as good as the Marine spar varnishes. Either way always remove all the old finish.
cm

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On Thu, 21 Sep 2006 22:02:50 -0700, with neither quill nor qualm,

Thompson does GREAT with their advertising. The problem is that their product is more like a Yugo while it's being marketed as a Rolls. I don't have a deck, but I've seen befores and afters with Thompson's and Penofin. I wouldn't use Thompson's if you -gave- it to me. My sister had a great story about that. She hired a guy to refinish her deck and bought the Thompson's for it. (we hadn't discussed it) A few minutes after he started, she was walking by the sliding glassdoor and saw the guy splashing it on like you would dump a bucket of water out. After she straightened him out, she said he could buy any additional product to finish the job. It would be coming out of his pay. After trying it once, she said she wouldn't buy Thompson's again. Their advertising is so pervasive (as is Wagner's) you'd think they were good products.

Yeah, both poly and acrylic waterborne finishes have a blue hue, while oil imparts an amber hue. For a Craftsman finish, oil varnish would have been more apropos, more true from a historic standpoint. Check out Waterlox Original sometime. It's a rub-on finish made from linseed and tung oils plus varnish resins. I buy their medium sheen and degloss with Johnson's wax on a 0000 steel wool pad. It's perfect for a Stickley finish. 30% ammonia is available at surveyor supply shops for $7-8 a gallon, if you're into fuming your own quartersawn white oak to make the look entirely original.

It would have, but it taught you a lesson, too. Next time, do take that extra time to prep better. Use an extension on your scraper and/or a methylene chloride based stripper if need be, but get those tough areas better. It's truly worth the extra effort, as prep work makes 90% of the finish.

I absolutely agree and use oil-based finishes everywhere possible. I haven't tried Waterlox outside, but I did refinish a front door in full California sun (but protected from direct rain) using Watco oil finish. It looked great, and took a 15 minute refinish every six months or so to keep it looking brand new. (5 minute cleaning, 10 minute dry time, 5 minute wipe-on, 20 minute catalyze/harden time, 5 minute wipe-off)
Waterlox will be going on some screen doors for my current house. One is full afternoon sun and direct rain. I'm looking forward to seeing how Waterlox does in the weather. I just love the stuff. (Original, NOT that trash with poly in it. I very much dislike polyurinestain. ;)
I'll buy oil-based finishes for woodwork for as long as they're available, and I'll fight for their availability!
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Larry Jaques spake thus:

I don't think this would have been appropriate treatment for this door; it's an entry door which is directly exposed to afternoon sun, as well as rain in the winter. (I'm trying to spare the homeowner, who's a friend of mine, having to renew the finish every 6 months or whenever.) Whatever goes on it has to be really tough.

In my defense, I tried to remove as much of the old finish as possible, but I was constrained by two things: working with thin veneer and not wanting to sand through it or make it peel off (I already had to replace or reglue large sections where this was happening), and trying not to turn this into a massive two-week refinishing job. In any case, the end result was more than acceptable to my friends.
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On Fri, 22 Sep 2006 10:38:20 -0700, with neither quill nor qualm,

Thin veneer on an -exterior- door?!? Oy vay.

I guess that's what counts. <g>
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