Saturday, June 27, 2009
Varnishing is the least enjoyable process in the canoe build, but produces the most satisfaction. It is a constant battle against the forces of dust, fumes and drips. Dust is everywhere and I became obsessive about removing every last speck. That is a difficult thing to do when working in the garage of an old house, especially while Ben and Nicole (the other half of our duplex) are moving out. I swept and vacuumed repeatedly, including the walls and ceilings and the driveway outside. After sanding coats I would vacuum the hull and wash it with a wet towel and wipe it down with a dry one. Then before a new coat I would wipe it down again and then go over it a couple times with a tack cloth to remove the final specks. While applying a coat I would lower the garage door to about a foot from the ground and stuff plastic sheeting in the cracks between the panels to prevent dust from entering. Even doing this I had to wait until 8pm at night when the wind died down to keep dust from blowing in. Mostly closing the garage door brings up the next evil: fumes. An hour of leaning over the freshly spread varnish for an hour in the closed space could make me loopy in a hurry. I pilfered a desktop fan from work to exhaust air under the garage door for the first coat. Air could flow in over the top. This helped, but I grabbed a second fan from work for the final five coats and the two fans on high prevented me from getting high instead. The last scourge of canoe varnishing is drips or runs in the varnish. I found that the varnish would spread on nicely and evenly with no sign of drips until the coat began to skin over on the surface. Somehow at this stage it could still flow underneath and I'd get these wide sagging drips around the turn of the bilge. By the time these were apparent though, it was too late to do anything about it since the varnish was already half dried. The only way to prevent it was to ensure a thin coat to begin with. The badger hair brush was definitely the nicest brush I have used (it doesn't shed at all), but in the end I found it was easier to get a thin, even coat with the 99 cent foam brushes (and I didn't have to clean them!). Warmer temperatures also seemed to help because the coat would set quicker.
Well last night I finished the last of 3 interior coats and 3 exterior coats and I'm glad its over. The results will speak for themselves. Tomorrow I plan to wrap this project up - installing the seats and thwart and taking the victorious final photos! My Mom brought us a bottle of fine Champagne a couple weeks ago and I can't wait to pop the cork.