No Sand Varnish & My Redemption
No Sand Varnish & My Redemption

Bill Peterson

CATEGORIES: Refit & Upkeep


Log Entry : 16 Feb, 2021

Between Coats

GGuilty! All I can do is confess. That’s my takeaway from the how-to blog video I watched during lunch today. They seemed to know all my excuses for not posting, and I hate being so like their usual suspects.

Half admonished and half cheered on for 15 minutes, minus the time for the usual encouragement to hit like, ring the bell and post comments, I hit the like button but don’t think I want to hear from them again for a while at least. 

A short list of my excuse sins would go something like this:

  • I’ve been really–really busy working on our side hustles (that’s millennial cool talk for business ideas).  We aim ours at a business plan that approximates the ole “have your cake and eat it too approach.” It looks something like this:
  1. It has to be something I/we want to do, because who wants to do stuff by themselves.
  2. The work has to be able to happen from aboard Colony II, at least 90%.
  3. Preferably it doesn’t have any formal clients, actors, ad agency involvement, shipping, product handling, in-house employees, etc. In short, delicious like cake.
  4. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention deadlines! Had my fill of those during the real production years. So that’s that excuse.
  • Next, apparently typical excuse, I haven’t much new boat stuff important enough. Who wants to bore readers?  No, they say, tell them what you think or what you’ve been up to, big or small. Really? Yes, really, who are you to decide what people don’t want to hear about? 

…who are you to decide what people don’t want to hear?

Now they have me wondering. Am I wrong to go quietly about doing boat stuff and deciding what’s ordinary and what I ought to share? I’m thinking, I don’t want to be that guy that thinks I should share my peanut butter and banana sandwich procedure just because I put it on a wheat free bread… wait, you will not believe this, go search YouTube for “peanut butter and banana sandwich.”  Well, knock me down! That sucked the wind out of that argument. I’ll save you the time. The first result has four hundred and forty-five thousand, yes thousand views!

I have been doing something new for the past couple of weeks

So I could be wrong.  Ok, I may be wrong.  I have been doing something new for the past couple of weeks that might interest the brightwork people–varnishing.   No, ha-ha, varnish is far away from being a new thing aboard Colony II, but the varnish I’m using is. And yeah, it is a bit bigger deal than peanut butter sandwich procedures, so it can be worthy of some words.

I’ve used Captain’s Z Spar exclusively for decades, so a change is not just a choice, it’s a decision! I doubt if it holds true these days because of the small amount of teak showing on the bulk of modern boats, but traditionally which varnish you use was always a thing. Opinions about your varnish choice and application methods were easy to come by and different camps could be quite rigid. And that could roll easily into the subject of brushes and snickering anecdotes about people who use foam brushes. 

No sanding…scoff-scoff-scoff

Label me an ole dog trying new tricks… again! I’ve been toying with the idea for at least a few years now, ever since I first heard about this new varnish that doesn’t require sanding between coats.

No sanding… scoff-scoff-scoff. That can’t work! And yet the enticement siren of an easier for me approach to the chore grew louder.

This “new” varnish has been around for a dozen years now. Still new to us ole varnish dogs, but it has a quality major brand backing I couldn’t just scoff away. And the idea of laying on coats without the labor of sanding and cleanup for the next coat was more than I could resist. Forgive me Captain’s Z Spar. 

The new can on board sports the label Epifanes Woodfinish Gloss and I think I’m in love.  I’m 10 coats in now on a project and liking the way it looks.  And it has saved me about 10 hours at least, but instead of a no sand project, a better description for me is to call it a sanding optional project that I’ll talk about in a minute. First, one of the things to consider is that you need to wait at least 24 hours between coats, but not more than 72 hours.

So weather can disrupt your no sand advantage. Second, the degree of sanding you do… it’s a decision thing about how glass smooth you’re going for. Lay on a few coats and smooth out with 220 or better, add more and repeat for the Bristol yacht finish if that’s the way you like your glossy things. Colony II has a bit too much topsides teak for that methinks 🙂

I’m more about protection and a “good enough” looking finish these days. So I did a thinned sealer coat, 180 grit sanded that and then laid on 6 full, no sand between coats. Here I opted for a smoothing sand with 180 grit paper, and red scotch brite general purpose hand pads for rounded edges. Then I laid on 3 more no sand coats.

Just before coat number 10, I machine sanded with 220 grit and red pad and called it good.  And another first for me, I used foam brushes for the first six coats before switching to my varnish brushes. Worked just fine and saved at least an hour in brush cleaning time.

Conclusion: I’m gonna do it again next varnishing project.

It seems quite reasonable to me to be able to skip the sanding, cleanup and wash down between coats. And the pressure to get the wash-down done early enough to be sure of a bone dry surface and still early enough in the day to allow tack up before sundown, well that goes out the window if your working area stays mostly clean overnight. I’m thinking about the big bonus to this for belowdecks projects!

The outcome matched my brightwork standards quite nicely. The only small question is if the Woodfinish Gloss is as tough as the High Gloss Clear. Epifanes mentions that some prefer to finish the no sand job with a couple of coats of the clear. I’ve decided to wait and see before worrying about that.

And hopefully you found this little post a tad bit more interesting than a peanut butter and banana sandwich. If so, I’ll consider myself redeemed and encouraged. 🙂


  • Scraper plus 80 grit to strip old finish
  • 120 grit to smooth raw teak
  • 60/40 thinned Z Spar for sealer coat (I didn’t have thinner for Epifanes when I started the cap rails. Epifanes recommends 50/50 with their thinner, which I did for the hatches and dorade boxes)
  • Sanded sealer coat, 180 grit, wash down plus alcohol wipe down.
  • 6 coats of no sand varnish progressively thinned a bit and full strength when conditions were primo, alcohol wipe down between coats. Applied with foam brushes (I like this Jen Mfg. brand the best of the ones I’ve used, I mostly used the 2″)
  • Smoothing sand, 180 grit, red scotch brite pads for edges, wash down plus alcohol wipe down
  • 3 more coats of no sand varnish
  • Smoothing sand with 220 grit, wash down plus alcohol wipe down.
  • Final coat of Epifanes Woodfinish Gloss


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Sail Away Home © 2020. All Rights Reserved

Follow Us

Sail Away Home © 2020
All Rights Reserved
Traditional sailboat anchored during a dramatic golden and blue sunset in Abaco Bahamas. The sailing Ketch Colony II off Powell Cay


Don't Be Adrift

Receive an email when there's a new post on the blog.

Welcome Aboard!

Pin It on Pinterest