How to Varnish Wood the Right Way | Adventuress Luxury Catamaran

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How to Varnish Wood the Right Way

How to Varnish Wood the Right Way

Dec 26, 2018

Learning how to varnish wood is essential for any DIY practitioner. Whether you are looking to spruce up some tired, old furniture in your home, maintain your boat or complete woodworking projects, you’ll have to varnish the wood at some point. Adding a few coats of varnish can give the wood a smooth, lustrous finish that looks great and protects you from splinters. Here’s how to do it right. 

Set Up Your Work Space 

The first step is to set up the area in which you will be working. Varnish dries slowly, and it can attract dust and other debris as it hardens. Because of this, you’ll want to start with a clean workspace. Vacuum or mop your work area before you get started to get rid of any dust that could damage your project. 

Choose an area that is well-lit and well-ventilated, as the fumes from the varnish can be quite strong. Remember that dust will stick to unhardened varnish, so try to avoid using fans if possible, as they can stir up any dust you missed while cleaning. 

Finally, make sure that the temperature in your work area is between 70 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit. When it is too hot, the varnish will set more rapidly, resulting in tiny air bubbles on the hardened surface. If it is too cold, on the other hand, the varnish will take even longer than usual to dry, giving it even more time to attract dust particles. 

varnish wood

Gather Your Materials 

Next, you’ll need to ensure you have all of the tools and equipment you’ll need to complete your project. Of course, this includes the varnish itself. Some varnishes are better for specific applications than others, so be sure to ask the experts at your local home improvement or hobby store for assistance. They should be knowledgeable about their products and able to advise you as to which is best for your unique needs. Even if you already have several types of varnish lying around in your garage, it is best to start with a fresh batch. As varnish ages, it can get lumpy, ruining the appearance of your finished project. 

Make sure to choose a high-quality brush as well. The better the brush, the smoother your strokes will be, leading to better final results. If your brush is brand new, it is a good idea to give it a thorough cleaning before you get started. This will remove any dirt or debris left over from the manufacturing process. Be sure the brush is fully dry before you start applying your varnish. 

You’ll need to protect your skin and clothes while you work as well, so stock up on protective gloves and glasses. If you are sensitive to fumes or suffer from breathing problems, you may wish to wear a ventilated face mask as well. Wear clothing that you don’t mind getting ruined, as the chemicals in the varnish can lead to discoloration. Long sleeves are a good idea as well, as the chemicals in the varnish can harm your skin. 

Prepare the Wood 

To get your wood ready to be varnished, you may wish to remove any existing finish so you can start with a clean slate. Depending on the type of finish the wood already has, you can remove it by stripping or sanding. Paint thinner can help if the wood is painted. Of course, you may wish to keep the existing paint or finish. In this case, you can skip this step and get straight to varnishing! 

Apply the Varnish 

Check the label on your chosen varnish to see if it needs to be thinned before applying. Follow the instructions to get the right consistency. When stirring the varnish, move slowly to avoid creating any air bubbles. Be sure to use a clean stirring stick as well to avoid contaminating your varnish with paint residue, dust and other debris that could mar your finish. 

Using a brush or foam applicator, apply the first coat of varnish to the wood in long, even strokes. Work with the grain of the wood, and keep all of your strokes in the same direction. Use a light touch, and keep each coat as thin as possible to allow it to set properly. Once you have finished the coat, go over everything lightly with your brush to smooth out any air bubbles or uneven areas. Allow this coat to dry for at least 24 hours before moving on. 

Before you apply your second coat, sand the first coat down to smooth the surface. After you are finished, wipe down the wood and your workspace with a damp cloth to collect any dust that formed in the sanding process. Using the same technique as for the previous coat, apply another layer of varnish. After the second coat has dried, repeat this process for additional coats until you reach your desired finish. Do not sand the final coat. 

Depending on the type of varnish you have chosen, it could take anywhere from a few days to a month for the varnish to cure. Check the label on your varnish for the specific cure time. During this period, keep your project in a clean, dry area, and do your best to resist the urge to touch it, as you could leave fingerprints in the varnish. Once the varnish has fully cured, your project is finished! 

See Some Beautifully Varnished Wood in Action 

If you want to see what properly varnished wood looks like, we welcome you to join us for a cruise around the San Diego Bay. Here at Adventuress Luxury Catamaran, we do everything we can to keep our boat looking its best, including regular varnishing of all wood surfaces. We offer cruises for weddings, corporate events, funerals and other special occasions, and you and your guests will have the chance to experience all of the beauty San Diego has to offer. Reach out to us today to reserve your cruise!