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Author Topic:   Epoxy Sealer under Varnish?
minimontauk posted 02-01-2003 02:40 PM ET (US)   Profile for minimontauk   Send Email to minimontauk  
I am refinishing my existing mahogany, and making two new side rails. I've read that one method is to use a penetrating epoxy sealer, then build up traditional varnish over it. Anyone done this sucessfully? I will be staining the new stuff to match the old. Advice appreciated.
minimontauk posted 02-01-2003 03:02 PM ET (US)     Profile for minimontauk  Send Email to minimontauk     
Yes, I did check the archives on this. The consensus seems mixed. I am not wooried about epoxy darkening the wood, as I am trying to match a replacement hatch cover. If the epoxy sealer will save me some time on yearly varnish, i'd like to try it.
OutrageMan posted 02-01-2003 08:45 PM ET (US)     Profile for OutrageMan  Send Email to OutrageMan     
I have never used epoxy for this. Instead, I thin my first 2 coats of varnish 50%. This penetrates very well.

A famous boat re-finisher, Peter Specter once said "I don't paint with glue and I don't glue with paint."


Montauk posted 02-01-2003 11:32 PM ET (US)     Profile for Montauk  Send Email to Montauk     
Penetrating epoxy over stain and then varnished with 6-8 coats of varnish is a great way to finish wood. A good grade of UV protecting varnish is neccesary to protect the epoxy as it does not have UV filters. If you want to cut down on your varnish time keep all wood covered from the sun unless you are using the boat. The penetrating epoxy helps stabilize the wood and acts as a sealer giving you deeper gloss on the varnish. I use Smith's CPES in my classic woood boat restoration and refinishing business and feel it is easier to work with than other epoxies.
New methods and materials have kicked it up a notch and there are always traditionalists who refuse to utilize what is available to them. Varnishing in the traditional manner is good, but I feel this is a superior and longer lasting application. As in any internet advice one must sort through and use what you feel applies to your situation. I believe there is an old saying; "there are those who write about it and there are those who do it".
ShrimpBurrito posted 02-02-2003 12:40 AM ET (US)     Profile for ShrimpBurrito  Send Email to ShrimpBurrito     
Under the advice of a boat-woodworker with 25+ years experience, I applied 2 coats of a 2-part epoxy sealer (Restor It) when refinishing the wood in my 15' SS. He told me not to even think about varnishing without first applying epoxy. I then applied 6-7 coats of a varnish called Crystal, made by a company called Detco, with about 30% thinner for the first few coats. According to this same guy, Crystal varnish has the highest content of UV inhibitors (metals) of any varnishes on the market. It's only been done for 6 months, but the boat has been out at least a dozen times (mostly crabbing), and it still looks like I just finished it yesterday.

One note about epoxy sealers, or at least the "Restor-It" I used. The woodworker above showed me a piece of wood so rotten, you'd expect to see insects. After it dried, he applied a few coats of Restor-It, and it seemed to "rebuild" the structure of the wood. It became firm, and most importantly, waterproof.

In my opinion, if you're going to go through all that work to refinish, why not do it? This particular epoxy sealer did not darken the wood.

minimontauk posted 02-02-2003 08:23 PM ET (US)     Profile for minimontauk  Send Email to minimontauk     
Where can I get the Smith's CPES? Is this available through West Marine or by mail order? Is there a website I can check out? Thanks.
Barry posted 02-02-2003 08:57 PM ET (US)     Profile for Barry  Send Email to Barry     
For info on Steve Smith check out this site .

Here is a distributor .

Montauk posted 02-02-2003 09:23 PM ET (US)     Profile for Montauk  Send Email to Montauk     
I buy mine direct from Steve Smith, a better deal that way. Buy the quarts or less if possible, it will be more than enough by far.
I have only seen it mail order so far.
John W posted 02-03-2003 10:29 AM ET (US)     Profile for John W  Send Email to John W     
I've seen CPES raved about on the WoodenBoat bulletin boards [] as a base for varnishing. A question for those who have used it (Montauk & others):

Can this stuff (CPES) be removed later if you ever wated to take the wood back to bare? Or does it permanently adhere to the wood like thicker epoxies (West System) would? I'm considering varnishing some teak trim, but I'd be reluctant to use CPES if it meant that the teak could never go back to being bare, if I or a subsequent owner of my boat wanted the look of raw (oiled) teak.

Side note: Shrimp burrito, I've heard very good things about Detco Crystal varnish, it's made by the same people that make Sterling paint which I've had great success with.

minimontauk posted 02-03-2003 11:43 AM ET (US)     Profile for minimontauk  Send Email to minimontauk     
Thanks, Steve. I'll check out the CPES link.
OutrageMan posted 02-03-2003 04:48 PM ET (US)     Profile for OutrageMan  Send Email to OutrageMan     
John brings up a good point about the use of epoxy. I would venture to guess that it would have to be mechanically removed not chemically stripped.

I have used and love Interlux Interthane Plus in lieu of varnish. It is a 2 part urethane that has tremendous UV and scratch protection. The problem is, that if you don't keep up after it, it can not be repaired, and must be sanded off. And that is a real bear.


Montauk posted 02-03-2003 05:02 PM ET (US)     Profile for Montauk  Send Email to Montauk     
You would have to sand to remove varnish completely from teak also. If there is doubt in your mind about wanting to go back to oiled teak do not varnish.
minimontauk posted 02-03-2003 07:33 PM ET (US)     Profile for minimontauk  Send Email to minimontauk     
I am going to strip the original bench seat using my thickness planer. Once I'm down to virgin wood, will the epoxy stick to previously varnished wood? I don't want to remove any more wood than I have to, don't know how deep the original sealing coat of varnish penetrates.
ShrimpBurrito posted 02-04-2003 01:24 AM ET (US)     Profile for ShrimpBurrito  Send Email to ShrimpBurrito     
After I applied my 2 coats of epoxy and 6-7 coats of varnish, I had to cut a piece of the wood [gasp!] as I was doing a modification. This did allow me a look at the cross section, however. For what it's worth, if I recall correctly, I'd say all those coats were no more than 1mm (~.04") in thickness.

I doubt you could strip the epoxy, but you won't have to remove that much wood mechanically to get it all off.

Barry posted 02-04-2003 11:12 AM ET (US)     Profile for Barry  Send Email to Barry     
I've never used CPES. Based on what I've read it was designed to penetrate the wood. Hence the name "Clear Penetrating Epoxy Sealer". According to one paper this product "will penetrate undamaged wood a significant distance (approximately 1/4" through end grain, 1/32" through side grain). Though distances and volumes vary according to specie..." Obviously there should be more penetration in damaged wood.

I've read (here ) that it may be possible to get similar results by thinning good quality, low viscosity epoxy 10% with xylene.

Others have suggested that thinning the first coat of varnish may provide results.

I assume that removal would involve sanding the wood down below the deepest penetration.

Here is another source of CPES

christims posted 01-17-2006 01:00 PM ET (US)     Profile for christims  Send Email to christims     
I am working on an mahogany boat, I've stained and now I am wanting to seal it.....I've been to told that i should use CPES to seal it but when I started the stain began to I just need to wait longer or will the CPES always lift stain?
Binkie posted 01-18-2006 12:20 AM ET (US)     Profile for Binkie  Send Email to Binkie     
For all those who believe that using a two part epoxy will make their varnish work bullet proof, and free of upkeep, remember there will come a day when your woodwork will have to be redone and you will be be sorry, unless you can take it all apart and run the boards thru a planer. Lots a luck with that.
JayR posted 01-19-2006 09:03 PM ET (US)     Profile for JayR  Send Email to JayR     
Clear Penetrating Epoxy Sealer is just that PENETRATING. It is not a top coat. It sinks in and goes beneath the surface and becomes one with the area it penetrates.

It will lock in the wood and stain beneath.

Varnish yellows.... a two part poly with UV blockers would be a much better choice.

This company sells all things epoxy and a few others at the lowest price anywhere.... very helpful CS too....

Site is not the easiest to navigate but it is a great resource.

HTH Jason

skiprobinson posted 01-21-2006 11:24 AM ET (US)     Profile for skiprobinson  Send Email to skiprobinson     
I grew up working in my dads refinishing shop, and I have stripped and finished more wood ( mostly antique furniture) then I care to remember! Last night I started stripping the bench seat and side rails that were on my 15' CC. The bench seat definitely has been epoxied and it is a total bee-hatch to get to bare wood. Whoever redid the brightwork on this bioat a few years ago did a shabby job and it is going to take a ton of work to get it into good condition again. I wish the epoxy base wasnt there and I am not going to screw over my boats next "keeper" if I ever sell it.I am a fan of marine epoxy having built a few stitch and glue canoes, but my whaler will be some form of varnish only, even if it takes me 10 coats to get it the way I want it.

just my .02 worth


LHG posted 01-21-2006 07:07 PM ET (US)     Profile for LHG    
I'd throw that piece of wood away, and start with a new one. Much cheaper time-wise, and better looking in the long run. Phillipine mahogany doens't cost that much.

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