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Spar varnish brands
Post 12 Jun 2020, 12:23 • #1 
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Location: US-TX
I've been through a lot of threads on varnishes but have a specific question for those that have used multiple spar varnishes, one being the Ace Hardware brand spar varnish.

I previously bought some small quantities (vials) of the Man O War spar and used on a couple rods. I was satisfied but then have seen the good reviews of the Ace brand, and since it came in a quart I figured to try it. Seems fine going on but I'm wondering about the hardness at full cure. It seems like at the same stage of drying (a couple days), the Man O War is quite a bit harder and tougher than the Ace. I've got some Ace with several typical coats on a test wrap, and after about a week, it still feels a bit rubbery. The MOW seems to get tougher within a couple days, and I like the long-term results of it as it seems to get very hard at full cure.

Before I go putting the Ace stuff on a rod, wanted to get the thoughts of people who have experience with both. Thanks.


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Re: Spar varnish brands
Post 12 Jun 2020, 13:26 • #2 
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Location: Holly Springs, NC
All spar varnish gets harder with time.

You can't put spar varnish on too thinnly. Even freshly opened varnish may need to be thinned with mineral spirits.

Wait at least a day between thin coats. Don't rush.

If one or two coats of spar varnish go on too thick or too fast, it will take quite a bit longer for the varnish to harden. Weeks longer.

The more you open the can, the quicker the varnish thickens. Buy 1/4 pint cans if you can find them. A quart isn't a good deal if you only use an ounce before it goes bad.


Tom


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Re: Spar varnish brands
Post 12 Jun 2020, 13:39 • #3 
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Location: US-TX
Thanks Tom. Yep, I even went so far as to bottle up most of my Ace can into 10ml vials as I saw recommended here. Still all those things being equal, there seems to be a difference between the two varnishes and I'm wondering if anyone can comment on the long-term hardness of the Ace specifically. Even the MOW got harder after the 3 week cure time, so I'm looking to the collective experience vs waiting 2 months. I'm not comparing this to epoxy BTW. I understand the varnish won't be rock hard. Thx.


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Re: Spar varnish brands
Post 12 Jun 2020, 15:15 • #4 
Master Guide
Joined: 05/16/10
Posts: 701
Location: South of Houston, TX
Just as a data point about Ace spar. I used it to refinish the wood insert of a cap and band reel seat on a Montague bamboo rod. I then let it sit for a year before I got around to installing and using it. After attaching a reel and fishing, the band left an indent in the spar finish even after drying a year.

I like it for finishing wraps, but I haven't tried MOW. I had a bit of a learning curve on the first couple of rods, most of which I could have avoided if I took Tom's above advice to heart.

I did decant my varnish into 100 ml bottles. I have some premixed at different dilutions with turpentine as well. 10 ml bottles is an interesting idea. That's pretty little!


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Re: Spar varnish brands
Post 12 Jun 2020, 18:27 • #5 
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Joined: 06/23/05
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Location: US-MT
Since all I have used is Ace brand and I use it very thin and follow the directions on can and have excellent result and usually wait at least a week before using rod, I am not gonna comment because I haven't used MOW :)


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Re: Spar varnish brands
Post 12 Jun 2020, 18:30 • #6 
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Joined: 04/20/07
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Location: US-ME
If either brand doesn't harden well, it has been applied too thick, applied on a contaminated surface, or stored, applied/dried in conditions of temperature and humidity other than as recommended by the manufacturer.


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Re: Spar varnish brands
Post 12 Jun 2020, 19:10 • #7 
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Location: US-TX
It's not that it doesn't harden at all. It may very well be hardening exactly the way it's supposed to. That's the reason I'm putting it out there: it is not hardening as fast or as hard as the other brand. And I actually put the MOW on thicker because it was viscous from sitting around. Anyway how about we go with the "all things being equal"? What I'm asking for here is actual experience by people who have used Ace. Thanks to those who have replied so far. It sounds like jury's still out to me but I know there are a few others that use it. The Ace did seem a little easier to use, so I'm really wanting to use it and hoping it's just a time thing.

And yeah the bottles are pretty small. I went with the small vial (~1/3oz) because I didn't even use that much on two rods, and the idea being the fewer times you open/expose it, the better.


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Re: Spar varnish brands
Post 12 Jun 2020, 19:32 • #8 
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Whatever type you're using, temperature and humidity will both play a role in the curing process.


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Re: Spar varnish brands
Post 12 Jun 2020, 20:04 • #9 
Glass Fanatic
Joined: 07/05/10
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Location: Mid Hudson Valley of New York
I only use Ace spar varnish. I use it thinned with mineral spirits. I have used it on rods fished hard for 20 years without issue. I think you might be overthinking the whole thing. But use what you like and are most confident using.


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Re: Spar varnish brands
Post 12 Jun 2020, 20:17 • #10 
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Joined: 08/23/19
Posts: 125
Location: North Central Oregon
Most of the rods I've re-done I've used MOW, but I have used Ace in the past, both thinned with mineral spirits. I don't remember any issues with the Ace brand of spar both in appearance or curing. The only reason I used Ace for awhile was that my local store quit handling MOW for a period of time.

Bruce


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Re: Spar varnish brands
Post 12 Jun 2020, 20:32 • #11 
Guide
Joined: 02/13/16
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Location: US-TX
Thanks guys. That's good to hear. Picket, you were actually one of the people I was thinking of since I've seen that you mention it a number of times. Sounds like some more comparisons too, so I can go with that.

Funny though. I started this thread assuming it actually wasn't that complicated!

Thanks!


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Re: Spar varnish brands
Post 13 Jun 2020, 01:26 • #12 
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Joined: 11/06/17
Posts: 1637
Location: South of Joplin
The reason for using spar varnish is that it does not get hard, for hard varnish you'd pick an indoor varnish designed for table tops. Spar varnish and urethane are designed to remain flexible for outdoor use on wood. My guess is all phenolic alkyd varnish contains pretty much the same ingredients. Spar urethane might be more scratch resistant than varnish.
FWIW Sherwin-Williams owns Valspar which owns McCloskey and Valspar makes paint for Ace.
There are people that believe Epifanes is best spar varnish around, because it is tung oil rather than linseed.
Slow varnish cure is generally caused by thick, thin is better, thinner is best.


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Re: Spar varnish brands
Post 13 Jun 2020, 10:28 • #13 
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Joined: 04/07/18
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Location: Reston VA
What is the rule of thumb, right, ratio of mineral spirits to spar varnish?

Heddonist


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Re: Spar varnish brands
Post 13 Jun 2020, 10:50 • #14 
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Joined: 08/23/19
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Location: North Central Oregon
Im not sure about the "right ratio", but I usually thin 50/50.

Bruce


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Re: Spar varnish brands
Post 13 Jun 2020, 11:04 • #15 
Guide
Joined: 02/13/16
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Location: US-TX
Whew. 50/50. I would've never thought that thin. How does it ever build up? I think on my first one I was afraid to even mess with thinning. Varnish was brand new so pretty thin to me. And it still took 4 or 5 coats to get even a low buildup.

Trev, I was a intrigued by spar urethane from reading on here. The scratch resistance is the thing I was wanting. I might try it. Thanks for reminding me.


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Re: Spar varnish brands
Post 13 Jun 2020, 12:18 • #16 
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Joined: 02/12/16
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Location: USA-CO
For a urethane varnish, I've used this product with good results: https://www.systemthree.com/products/ma ... ar-varnish

Data sheet: https://cdn.shopify.com/s/files/1/1000/ ... 1591733415

It's expensive, but very easy to use and cures to a nice, tough finish. I apply four or five coats and do not thin. Instructions say that it can be thinned, but only to 10% with mineral spirits. Whether it's better than other urethane varnishes, I can't say.


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Re: Spar varnish brands
Post 13 Jun 2020, 12:49 • #17 
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Joined: 11/06/17
Posts: 1637
Location: South of Joplin
Preast, my friend the bamboo rod maker uses Minwax Helmsman Spar Urethane.
I don't want much build up of varnish, one of the disgusting things about modern fly rods is huge hard football globs of epoxy on the wraps, but if high build is what you want epoxy may be a better choice for you.
Back to thinning the oil based spar, 10%-30% mineral spirits is likely where I'd be with most varnish, but it is by eye when it gets as runny as I like it, the spirits evaporate off fairly fast and then the active ingredients begin to cure, but by applying that thin the cure will be more complete, it only cures in the presence of oxygen as I understand it, and thick applications insure that the innermost portions never get a full cure. Varnish is designed for wood, which is porous enough that some penetration takes place, fly rods aren't porous and thus the need for very thin coats.
Quote:
You can't put spar varnish on too thinnly.


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Re: Spar varnish brands
Post 13 Jun 2020, 13:27 • #18 
Sport
Joined: 11/28/18
Posts: 58
Location: US-WA
I would add that I too have used Ace brand. I never had much in the line of problems, but for some reason I like MOW better. Not sure why. I only use a 50/50 blend and thin and lots of coats as well. There seems to me a difference in the "hardness" , if you will, in the way it is applied. Multiple thin coats cure faster and seem to give me a bit more firm end result than fewer heavier coats. These have been my findings only. FWIW. and as stated above, humidity and temp play a role. To keep it simple I keep it thin, numerous coats, and patience.


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Re: Spar varnish brands
Post 13 Jun 2020, 13:49 • #19 
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Joined: 08/23/19
Posts: 125
Location: North Central Oregon
[quote="preast"]Whew. 50/50. I would've never thought that thin. How does it ever build up? I think on my first one I was afraid to even mess with thinning. Varnish was brand new so pretty thin to me. And it still took 4 or 5 coats to get even a low buildup.



Yup it can take more coats to get a decent build. And as was mentioned, multiple thinned coats appear to cure faster. Bruce


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Re: Spar varnish brands
Post 13 Jun 2020, 14:40 • #20 
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Joined: 04/20/07
Posts: 7745
Location: US-ME
Thinning: the manufacturer's instructions will recommend the thinner and the maximum dilution. Cleanliness and atmospheric conditons: the manufacturer's instructions. Clean hands and, thus, clean thread, are important.

Drying time and recoat time: the manufacturer's instructions. Varnish dries by solvent evaporation and a more gradual chemical reaction. A thick coat delays both. "Hard" (flexible and resilient) coats, as with most solvent-based finishes, are best when thin.

Spar varnish is a proven durable coating--people have their favorites--and any brand will protect wraps for decades; spar varnish sees far more severe use in the marine applications that render its name.

If spar varnish hasn't dried as described in the maker's instructions, something was wrong in storage or application. It is really just that simple. A brushed coat or one dipped from a stirred container will also make for an irregular finish, depending how much bubbling the brushing or stirring caused.


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Re: Spar varnish brands
Post 13 Jun 2020, 17:43 • #21 
Glass Fanatic
Joined: 03/16/08
Posts: 3333
Location: Upstate-NY
two things I do:

1. Heat
I heat up my varnish in a shot glass in the microwave for 40 seconds before appling
2. Thin
I thin about somewhere between a teaspoon and a table spoon of spar with about 3-4 drops of mineral spirits

this system works well for me.

My shop is in my basement -so pretty cool ambient temps 58-65 ish. I think the heating of the thinned spar helps with the cure.


Last edited by corlay on 13 Jun 2020, 20:07, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Spar varnish brands
Post 13 Jun 2020, 18:48 • #22 
Glass Fanatic
Joined: 02/12/16
Posts: 3696
Location: USA-CO
Looks like a good process. I have the same issue with a cold basement. Rodbuilding actually goes better in the summer.


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Re: Spar varnish brands
Post 13 Jun 2020, 21:22 • #23 
Guide
Joined: 02/13/16
Posts: 270
Location: US-TX
Definitely do not like the high build either. I try to do the lowest profile possible even with epoxy. Right now I'm trying new stuff and was testing with a new can of Ace.

Minwax Helmsman spar urethane instruction says 4hrs between coats, and can even be sanded? What's the longest you'd go between coats on that? Any issues with going 24hrs or does that mean sanding or roughing up for some tooth? Chances of me doing a coat in the morning is not good. Night owl here.


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Re: Spar varnish brands
Post 13 Jun 2020, 23:12 • #24 
Guide
Joined: 01/25/13
Posts: 282
Location: Avondale Az
I use nothing but the Helmsmans Spar Urethane when dipping all my inserts. I generally allow 24 hours between dips before I sand and do subsequent dips, all dependent upon how many. Sometime 2 will suffice, other times it may take 4 or 5 with sanding between to rule out any voids or imperfections.


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Re: Spar varnish brands
Post 14 Jun 2020, 13:00 • #25 
Guide
Joined: 02/13/16
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Location: US-TX
And on guide wraps, what would you say is the longest between coats for the spar urethane?


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