I've finished putting the final coat of Helmsman on my bar top and it
looks absolutely stunning! (this is my first 'serious' project, so
excuse me if I seem to be more than just a little proud!). After
reading various posts and websites, I thinned the first coat 1:1 with
mineral spirits, then put the remaining three coats on full strength,
sanding lightly with a 220 grit before each coat. The finish is now
like glass! However, there are occasional bits of something that
easily come off with a fingernail. I'm speculating that they're
bubbles - not too ugly, and they'll probably wear off in time. My
concern is that people will not resist the temptation to remove them
for me and, in so doing, potentially damage the finish. I've read
that my next step should be to wet sand with a 400 grit, then hit it
with an automotive polishing compound. Will this eliminate the
'problem', such as it is? Frankly, I'm reluctant to take this last
step because I just know I'll screw it up. The Helmsman seems a bit
softer that most finishes (it supposedly can accommodate temperature
expansion/contraction of the wood), so I don't know how it will take
to this final step. How about a paste wax? Will these bits be eased
off while buffing? Is a wax product good for a spar urethane finish
or will I be creating other problems?
Any other suggestions/recommendations?
Congrats on the new top!
Beware of any advice you get on the processes you are asking about
No one knows how thick you put the finish on. Less finish means less
material to sand off and polish. If your final desired thickness is
somewhere around 3 - 4 mil, you may only be a little thicker than
that now. Hitting it with sandpaper, then buffing it out through the
grades of polish to get out the scratches left by 400 grit could
easily take the coating down to a thickness top that is too thin to be
useful as a bar top. Bar tops take a pretty good beating.
Just my 0.02 here, but an exterior rated varnish wouldn't have been my
first choice for the project.
"Spar varnish" was developed to be water resistant as its first task,
and UV resistant as its second. Unfortunately most UV inhibitors make
finishes softer when cured. This is good for the boat guys and for
your outdoor furniture that is exposed to the elements as this
flexibility will help keep it from cracking off, exposing the wood
below. You can polish it out to make it really shiny, but it will
never have the durability of interior rated finishes. Typically these
have no UV inhibitors or only tiny amounts so you can put your piece
by sunny window without disaster.
If you piece is outside by the BBQ pit, good choice. Inside, there
are probably better choices, finshes that are selected based on their
Before you get in the middle of buffing out the top, you will probably
need to let the top hard cure for about 30-45 days after your last
application of finish. Green time cure time on these finishes is
about 15 days or so, but on this particular finish you should contact
Be careful in what you do, and if you are 95% happy with your finish I
would leave it alone. You know where all the faults are, so you see
them when you look at them. Others won't, and you will move onto
If it turned out the way you wanted that's the best thing. Even
without the abrasion resistance of a harder finish this one should
last a long time with some care.
Agreed - that's why I didn't simply jump into the wet sand/polish
I went to various manufacturers websites to research the available
products (granted, advice from the manufacturers can also be
suspect). Minwax specifically recommends Helmsman for bar tops. My
primary concern was water and chemical (alcohol) resistance. This
product seems to address that issue. And the gaudiness of the high
gloss is absolutely perfect for a bar top, IMO! That's exactly the
look I was shooting for. I used their 'Fast Drying' polyurethane for
the sides and knocked the gloss down with steel wool. That also came
out just right, although I'd probably simply buy the satin finish if I
had to do it again. The difference in the 'feel' is obvious, though.
The top definitely feels 'softer' than the sides, though not
disturbingly so. I'm confident that I can address any issues that
come up an a few years, though.
Good point. My satisfaction is actually a bit higher than 95%, so it
looks like it's going to stay just the way it is.
Actually, the inherent characteristic in spar varnish is flexibility.
That is because it was/is meant to go on - surprise - spars. And
spars bend. The flexibility is achieved at the expense of hardness by
a greater percentage of oil, lesser of resin.
I don't know much about finishes, so
I'll just pat you on the back and tell
you that I envy you at your stage with
your first real project.
I'm sure you did a great job, and we'd
love to see pics.
1" is impractical with any finish. If you really must have 1" thick,
you're probably better off looking at glass or acrylic (lexan) or some
other clear material.
Btw, this is an old thread. You're welcome to start a new one and lay out
the specifics of what you're trying to do. Homeowner's Hub is actually
rehosting content, most of us are actually using Usenet readers.
Not really. Your next step is to wait. Any finish will buff out better when
fully cured. The can website says 24 hour dry time, but it will continue to
cure for up to a month.
Patience is your friend. Maybe you will choose to buff it out, maybe leave
it alone. Either is fine.
I suggest some "beer resistance" testing in the interrim :-).
Posted via a free Usenet account from http://www.teranews.com
Skinover, maybe? That green spar varnish is like pudding.
Since it cures by oxidation, the surface cures way faster than
the base. This is worse with long oil (spar) varnishes. Try
Behlen's Rockhard (or a similar short oil phenolic) next if you
Let it cure for at least a month before wet sanding, or you'll
completely strip off the hardened skin. The gummy base
layer won't shine up with the finest sandpaper made.
Satin finish instead of gloss. Rub out with 0000 steel wool and wax
cure. Until then, use coasters under the beer, sheets of butcher
the pretzel bowl if you absolutely can't wait to use the bar.
I noticed that it feels much different (less 'soft') after only a
week. I'm assumming that this is what I'm witnessing.
Well, the 'damage' is done, so to speak. But I'm happy with the
result, so life is good :). When you say "if you like varnish", do
you mean as opposed to a poly? My limited lifetime experience has
led me to think of the word 'varnish' as a generic term to refer to
any protective coating on wood.
I've gotten that bit of advice from a number of people this week.
That was my reason for asking the question before blindly jumping to
that step. (Thank God for usenet!)
Would that have given me the gaudy gloss that I wanted? My wife made
the observation that "It looks like an old VFW bar". I took that as
a high compliment, though I'm not sure that that's how she intended
it. I even considered adding some multi-layer finish scratches and a
few cigarette burns to dress it up a bit, but then I thought that
that might be just a bit over the top. Plus, without the heavy stale
beer and smoke aromas, it would seem like only a half-a$$ed effort,
so I chose to leave it looking like something new. Actually, the
simulated damage was originally an idea that I cooked up to mask the
expected rustic appearance of my first project. As it turned out,
there's nothing rustic to be found, so I left these touches out.
Would the spar benefit from the steel wool/wax step - after the
requisite cure time? Or should I just leave well enough alone? What
about periodic maintenance to the finish?
Indeed, I absolutely can't wait to use it! However, I've got other
things to finish up before it's working, so it'll have some time to
cure before I put it into actual use. I hope to finish the
plumbing/electrical work this weekend, kegs/taps/lines have been
ordered, I'm picking up a chest freezer and a 50 lb CO2 tank next
week. Then I start researching yeasts, malts, and hops. (I'm really
going to miss my family!)
Varnish consists of a resin, oil and a vehicle.
There are many different resins, some dating from antiquity...damar,
alkyd, urethane et al. Oil is usually linseed. Vehicle is normally
paint thinner or mineral spirits nowadays.
Lacquer is also a clear, protective coating but contains no oil and
the vehicle is lacquer thinner into which is dissolved nitrocelluose.
Could be other plastics. The big advantage is rapid drying.
A third is shellac which is a secretion from an insect dissolved in
alcohol after it has been refined. It too dries rapidly.
No. You *could* achieve a high gloss by rubbing out with still finer
materials such as rottenstone after fine pumice but the resultant
finish is like a piano rather than the gaudy gloss with which you are
Only if you want a finish that has more of a soft glow instead of a
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