Water-based varnish: yuck

Just did a job with some water-based Varathane, not because I wanted to use it, but because my client demanded it. As soon as I saw what the can of stuff was, I said "I hate it", but I went ahead and used it.
Now I remember why I hate the stuff. It's milky-white; that's an unnatural color, in my book, for something that's supposed to form a clear film. It's awful to work with: dries too fast, difficult to brush on smoothly, so thin it drips off your brush, just makes a mess.
So my question is, is anyone out there doing quality work with this stuff? I guess I'm old-school in this regard; give me good old oil-based (or solvent-based) varnish any day. Just refinished a desk of mine with oil varnish and it looks bee-yoo-tiful. Finish lays down flat as a midwestern road.
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It doesnt yellow or stink like oil. I can make oils look like I sprayed them, Top quality is not possible , passable is with water base.
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David Nebenzahl wrote:

I think you have to spray it with an HVLP spray gun to have much chance of a good finish. It should dry clear just fine. I'm sure the manufacturers site has some application recommendations and tips.
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Fine Woodworking has had numerous articles on selection, comparisons between and to solvent-based, and application of water-based finishes over the years. One of the finishing gurus is Chris Minick a professional finishes chemist who writes fairly frequently and has a comparison chart of a number of finishes that is at the link below.
A couple of issues have some very useful articles I happen to have laying around -- if you're lucky and have a library which keeps them on file, they're invaluable; otherwise I think the CD is worth the price if do work regularly or there is a fee-based web access to the archives (I don't know the fee, I've been subscriber since Vol I, Issue 3, but there's an free trial period that allows for at least some access, you'd have to explore the limitations/caveats).
Anyway, the following are useful articles Issue #187 - Chris Minick Issue #194 - Jeff Weiss
http://www.taunton.com/finewoodworking/ToolGuide/ToolGuideArticle.aspx?id=27115
One of the most critical things w/ using water-based finishes and perhaps a problem if you're used to solvent-based is the choice of brush. Natural bristle brushes work best for solvent-based but not so much for water-based. You need a very good quality synthetic bristle brush to make it flow and it does not brush out like solvent-based finishes; you need to lay it on and move on.
It is possible to do very fine work with them with practice and the right tools. But, they are different and need some changes in techniques.
Also, need to be sure the finish chosen is intended for brushing as another poster noted--some are, some aren't. A very nice benefit is that one doesn't have the vapor problem when spraying from either the exposure or fire/explosion standpoint that can be a problem w/ the solvent-based products.
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I go over oil-based stain with the Minwax water-poly version with good results. Without applying some kind of oil-based stain or conditioner to the bare wood, the water-based poly raises the grain too much. The milkyness disappears. I do prefer oil for something like furniture building. But having lived with varathane wood floors for 10 years then in a second home lived with water-poly floors for 10 years, I'll take the water-poly floors over the oil. For quick jobs I can get 3 coats on in a day with water-poly (including the between coat sandings), with oil this would take a week. I did a whole buch of dooors that came out fantastic with water-poly (minwax).
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On Mon, 12 Jan 2009 22:21:10 -0800, David Nebenzahl

I have had very good results using Varathane, but never the water-based stuff. I think California outlawed oil-based finishes, among thousands of other things--don't regret leaving there.
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On 1/13/2009 8:28 AM Phisherman spake thus:

Not true. I can still buy oil-based stuff here. Bought some Kilz oil-based primer the other day.
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wrote:

Seems to be a funny state. As soon as you cross the state line with many products, they start causing cancer there. Fortunately, labels warn you not to take it to California.
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