Varnish question


All, About three weeks from having a new doug fir bungelow style front door delivered. It's a North facing door and I'm thinking varnish might be the best finish for it. I'm more of an oil, shellac and poly finish guy so any suggestions for brands of Varnish, thinning or any other hints on getting a good finish?
Happy Friday
Allen
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A north facing door *might* see some weather, so a good spar-type, marine varnish would be suggested. Like you would buy at a boating supply shop, perhaps, if they have such things where you live.
I used a thinned spar varnish as a wipe-on for my master bath cabinets & shelves, but then, the weather and UV aren't too bad in there very often. Thinned at about 30% with naptha, and given maybe 4 coats, the maple & cherry have been holding up pretty well, and additional coats are easy to apply, if needed.
Spar varnish is flexible (softish), and has UV inhibitors, if you buy a good one. Thinned, the finish cures somewhat quickly, although not as fast as a WB poly. Two coats in a day should be easy to accomplish. Three, maybe. Give it time to cure well before installing.
Now fancy, modern finishes, well sprayed, seem to be a specialty from nailshooter. See if he chips in an idea or three...
Patriarch, whose front door is fiberglass, and painted red...
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Allen wrote:
>About three weeks from having a new doug fir bungelow style front door >delivered. It's a North facing door and I'm thinking varnish might be >the best finish for it.
If you talk to the wooden boat guys, they all seem to like Epifanes.
Jamestown Distributors or a local West Marine.
Lew
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I have been varnishing boats for at least 40 years; here is my input on a varnished an exterior door. Plan on maintaining the finish by light sanding and two coats of the best varnish (more later) you can find annually. If the varnish has been dinged during the year, that area must be scraped back to good wood and then treated as follows for new work. I thin the first coat with about half thinner. After that it takes 6 coats to build the finish. These should not be thinned unless it is especially hot or cold where you are varnishing. In either case, Penetrol is great for both hot and cold application. If the weather is too hot, the varnish solvents flash off too quickly and it is hard to get a smooth finish. In cold weather, the higher viscosity makes sags common especially on vertical surfaces. Sand between coats with 320 paper, remove dust, let stand for an hour or so and tack rag before recoating. I use International products, also available from Jamestown. Their Flagship is very high in UV filters. Epifanes, the darling of some, has never worked well for me, takes forever to dry and is very viscous. Others may have better luck with it. Would I have a varnished door on my house, NO, but others may differ. I'll save the varnish for the boat. Dave

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Excellent info all. I'm in the Baltimore area so a decent marine shop is no problem. From what you say Dave it seems like it's a bit more maintenance than other finishes but I suspect that the results may be worth it. I'll go ahead and do the finish in the workshop so it's cool (basement) as opposed to the garage where it's hot (but it's a moist heat) so hopefully that'll control the flash-off issue.
Just use a good quality brush or do you all recommend something special?
Allen
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Allen wrote:

Be careful with this--spar varnish in any of its forms is an exterior finish--the single component _may_ be OK to brush in the basement with windows and hatch open and a fan going (pull the material safety datasheet, read it, and make sure you understand it), but for two component you want all the ventilation you can get.

Good quality brush works fine. HVLP will in principle give you a better finish but you need a honking huge compre$$or or a purpo$e-made turbine and you are likely to run into toxicity issues--I would _not_ spray any marine varnish in a basement unless I had a proper spray booth set up and the two-component I'd be nervous about in the garage.
--
--John
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Understand and thanks for the warning. The USN gave me a lot of experience with MSDS reading. While I'm always looking for the opportunity to for another tool can't see buying a spray set-up. The basements a walk out so I may end up doing the work under the covered porch in the early morning if additional ventilation is needed.
Allen
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To answer the question about brushes: I have used all kinds of brushes, badger hair, throw-away chip, foam and lots in between. The badgers are great but are really expensive. Foam gives a nice finish but they don't hold much liquid, thats why a lot of people use a roller in one hand to get the varnish on and tip it off with the foam. Disposable brushes can do a good job if you epoxy the bristles into the socket; otherwise there will be bristles all over the work. My latest kick is to use a $10 sash brush, it holds lots of varnish and the bevel on the working end is helpful for getting into corners. Dave
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Thanks Dave, I've got a couple good sash brushes I've been using on interior door refinishing so those should work well. Good point someone else made about being sure to seal ALL the edges.
Allen
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A heads up on foam brushes. Wooster foam brushes, sold at Lowe's, are a premium quality foam brush. Yes there are different quality foam brushes. These brushes hold a ton of liquid. I can usually cover between 1 and 2 square feet with a half dip into varnish with a 3" brush. These brushes are also VERY EASILY cleaned with paint thinner. I have Wooster foam brushes that I have probably cleaned 8 to 10 times after varnishing and they still work like new. These brushes have a cream colored plastic handle and ferrule as opposed to a wooden stick poked into a piece of foam, and as expected they leave a very nice finish.
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Patriarch wrote:
SNIPPAGE OF GOOD INFO:

I actually agree with a most of what has been said here, and as usual, a lot of good info on tap.
I DID get a laugh out of your remark about the "fancy, modern finishes". That is EXACTLY what I was accused of using today by one of the Coronado reps who came back to the finishing area. Although in many parts a lot of what I use is common place, not so here in sunny S. Texas. I catch a lot of teasing from some of my cohorts, but then out of earshot of others they usually have some good questions. Can't look uninformed in front of the troops, you know. I don't know as much as I would like about finishing, but I do spend a lot of time and money experimenting.
I think any clear finish you put on an exterior door will be problematic; it will absolutely need maintenance, and it will need probably need to be stripped off from time to time.
Right now the main finish I am putting on all exterior doors is a conversion lacquer with a great deal of UV inhibitors added at the factory. It works great with a little practice, however like almost all lacquers it can only be sprayed. The good news is that the finish is renewable if you don't wait too long, and recoating is really easy.
If you are not wanting to spend a lot of money on a spray gun, take a look at this:
http://www.harborfreight.com/cpi/ctaf/displayitem.taf?Itemnumber
It has really low air requirements, and it sprays fine if you know how to set a gun up. I put a 1 qt cup on mine (an additional $7 at HF) and use it to spray doors with industrial finishes. I have also used it to spray polyurethanes and enamels with great success. This will run on a two horse compressor just fine, and a well sprayed door will make a brushed door look pretty rough. Especially if the door is new as you state.
But if you insist on a brush job, get a good brush made for the type of finish you decide to use (ask your paint store guy) and try out your finish thinned and unthinned on a piece of board with a similar texture to what you are finishing on your door. Check out how much pressure you need on the brush and the drying times on your finish.
I have not found the varnishes I use to be renewable or particularly maintainable. That doesn't mean there aren't some out there, it just means I haven't found them. I am not fond of polyurethane as the clear stuff is nothing more than plastic resins waiting to happen.
If I honestly KNEW I would maintain the door (and conversion lacquers or paints weren't available to suit my tastes) then I would use varnish. Get a well known brand so your can buy more of your original formulation and figure on a tune up every 18 months or so. I am not a fan of spar varnish as I have found the finish too soft, and too prone to wear and damage from normal handling and use of the door.
If I was pretty sure that I didn't want to (or was honest with myself and realized I just wouldn't!) fool with maintenance, I would use polyurethane. Not too high in the VOC dept, sprays, brushes or pads well, and is eay to use. The last time I sprayed some poly on a front door I used Defthane Pro somethin', somethin'... I don't remember exactly what it was called besided the Defthane part.
It worked great and the clients were really pleased. No matter whose finish you use, you should call the manufacturer and ask them about a primer or sealer to be used as a conditioner before applying the finish to new wood. Some like a shellac wash, some want some of the newer sanding sealer/high build conditioners (especially with soft, porous woods like Doug fir), and some like no conditioners or sealers at all. The stuff I am using now is recommended to be used as the primer and conditioner without any other product.
You should also find out what the max recoat time is for the product. For example, a quick call to DEFT revealed that they want all build coats on in no more than 12 hours apart. So if you put a coat on one night, then go to work the next day, when you get home you will be too late. Yes it will go on, but you won't get the same bite or adhesion as if you followed the instructions.
You got some good posts here, but feel free to ask with anything else.
Robert
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