Our obsession with varnish is simple: It looks so good. Never mind it is impractical; never mind that it is fragile; never mind it doesn't protect the wood as well as paint and completely ignore the fact it requires slavish attention to maintenance. The fact is, it is beautiful. Period. Full Stop.
I admit it. I like it. For me, the look is worthy of the time to maintain. Adagio's builder thought so too as he gave her a generous share of it - above and below deck. Teak rail caps, cabin top handles, hatches, blocks, drawers, sampson post, doors and trim and all the spars are finished bright.
|Main Hatch with Cetol Nat'l Teak|
Down below, Adagio will get real varnish as it is away from the elements - or at least it better be.
For the spars, I am trying something new (at least to me). Originally, these spars were finished bright with varnish. That's just not going to happen on my watch. However, I like the idea of a clear finish as it makes it easier to see what's going on with the wood.
A boatwright at the yard suggested LeTonkinois (pronounced La'tonk'in'wah). It is an organic "varnish" made from tung oil and linseed oil and God only knows what else, but it goes on like oil and will build up to a varnish-like finish. Best of all, it is not brittle like varnish, it moves with the wood and touch ups do not require building up the touched up section - it will blend in with the rest of the spar. There is no sanding between coats and it is unaffected by humidity. Again, once you've laid down six coats, a maintenance coat once a year should be all that's needed.
|Old dirty varnish on Boom and Gaff|
|3 Coats of LeTonkinois|
So, I have my own test lab going on here:For reasons I'll not bore you with, the bowsprit and the staysail club are varnished (Epiphanes); the mast, gaff, boom and sampson post are finished with LeTonkinois and the deck teak is done in Cetol Natural Teak.
We will see how each of these perform over time and report back, but for now they are ready for the elements.
Trevethen, Jim, Wooden Boat Renovation, International Marine, Camden ME,1993