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Discussion in 'Wood and Canvas' started by Ron Bedard, Aug 4, 2019.

  1. Ron Bedard

    Ron Bedard Curious about Wooden Canoes

    I'm working on the restoration of a 1944 Old Town Guide 18, and the varnish needs more than sanding before new coats. I know how much work it would be to strip all that old varnish, and I hate that whole process. I also want to preserve that beautiful dark patina that really can't be duplicated.
    I've done quite a bit of furniture restoring, and often use a product made by Homer Formby. It's a solvent that rubs into the finish with fine steel wool. The original varnish "re-activates", and dries again when you're satisfied that scratches and flaking are corrected. You can then sand and add more coats if desired.
    This has worked really well, and I figured I'd pass it along.
    Sorry if I'm reinventing the wheel.
    JimT likes this.
  2. Rob Stevens

    Rob Stevens Wooden Canoes are in the Blood

    In canoes, any residual thread of steel wool will rust.
  3. OP
    Ron Bedard

    Ron Bedard Curious about Wooden Canoes

    Hello Rob
    I’ve varnished what seems like a million acres of sailboat brightwork over the years and 4-ought followed by vacuum and mineral spirit wipe down has never given me negative results.
    Anywhoo, I was posting about the use ov the “finish reactivator” as an alternative to stripping. I suppose one could use a 3M scrubby pad if there were concerns about rust from steel wool
  4. Rob Stevens

    Rob Stevens Wooden Canoes are in the Blood

    I hadn't heard of "reactivator" but it seems like a good idea if you want to preserve patina. That obviates the need for colour matching of replacement parts with stain or shellac.
    Ya, lots of people prefer "Scotchbrite" pads to steel wool or sand paper. The draw back of sandpaper is "sawdust" and possible inhalation of minutes amount of silica dust.
  5. Todd Bradshaw

    Todd Bradshaw Sailmaker

    Standard procedure in the wooden boat building world is to use bronze wool instead of steel wool to avoid the rust problem. It's available from the places selling marine supplies. The green Scotchbrite pads are also good, though there may be some solvents which either dissolve the fibers or let loose the abrasive particles that they are coated with. It's a good idea to do a little testing with one before attacking full speed with a new substance.
  6. Greg Nolan

    Greg Nolan enthusiast

    Thirty-odd years ago I refinished an old arm chair with Formby's Furniture Refinisher. The old varnish was mostly sound, but badly chipped ans scratched in a couple of small places. ThrFormby's constituents include the volatile solvents acetone, toluene, methanol, and polyethylene glycol. It seemed to work by softening and liquefying the old varnish, after which the resulting slurry of old varnish and solvent was scrubbed and rubbed around with steel wool, removing some of it but leaving a uniformly colored coating on the old wood which dried evenly and smooth. As I recollect, I wiped on one or two light coats of an interior varnish, and the resulting finish is still smooth and sound. The Morris-style chair has flat arms, and they have survived unmarked after many instances of wet glasses being left on them, so the resulting finish seems pretty water resistant. I’ve not had occasion to use the product since, but I would not hestitate to use it again on furniture where I thought it might be appropriate.

    I have not heard of anyone using this stuff on a canoe, but I would guess that I would work well with old varnish in a canoe’s interior, and could be easier and more effective than stripping. It might even be a way of matching the color of new replacement wood (new ribs, repaired seat frames, etc.) to the old varnish. I would use something other than steel wool -- a Scotchbrite pad might work, but also might be disolved by those solvents, in which case I would try a stiff natural bristle brush or bronze wool. And certainly a few coats of good marine varnish should be applied after using it, to get UV protection.

    Ron, if you do use this on your canoe, can you let us know how it turns out?


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