Varnishing at last

April 17, 2011 § Leave a comment

For the canoe builder, dust in the home is an occupational hazard, wafting from the shop into the home on unseen currents of air, depositing a thin film over absolutely everything. It is the stuff that causes the builder to shrug ruefully when his/her spouse/partner/significant other points it out all over the place. It is, after all, an unfortunate byproduct, a sneeze-inducing annoyance that is to be borne with stoic patience given the beautiful watercraft that is emerging from behind the motes.

However, that same dust in the shop at varnishing time is evil. Pure, unadulterated evil. It seem that no amount of cleaning and air-purifying is ever enough to banish it from whence it came.

At any rate, before varnishing, I vacuumed the shop several times and then reversed the shop vac to blow any remaining dust outside. And then I vacuumed again. My wife would have been impressed had it been the actual house.

My fear of dust prompted me to build a “redneck dust filter” (pictured below), which consists of a furnace filter and a box fan.

I’ve read of some builders who strip down to their skivvies or wear what looks like a hazmat suit in an effort to avoid having lint fall onto wet varnish. While I applaud their efforts and dedication to perfection, there are certain lengths to which I refuse to go, particularly when a neighbor might be watching.

And so, fully dressed, I and a friend applied the varnish (Epifanes high gloss clear varnish). I could have done it solo, but I’d wanted to maintain a wet edge on the middle of the canoe and having two brushes working from the middle and then down the sides allowed me to do just that. We used foam brushes to apply 2 or 3 brush-widths perpendicular to the direction of the strips and then ran the brushes in the direction of the strips, moving them from dry to wet.

One more thing about varnishing: get it right the first time. If you screw up and go back, you’ll only mess things up more. Not that this happened, of course, but one hears things…

All in all, things went well. A few specs of dust but that’s the cost of being fully dressed. The canoe is now looking shiny and just about ready for the water where it will get scratched and the varnish will never look as it does now.

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