Cedar Strip Canoe Finish


New Member
Hello All, I was hoping maybe some of you could help me out. I am building a cedar strip canoe and was wondering whats the best varnish or finish to use with West Systems Epoxy. Any help or input would be greatly appreciated. Thanks


Paddle Bait
Well, you will want a finish with UV filters in it to protect the epoxy from degredation in sunlight. AFAIK, the West System epoxies can use pretty much any coatings over a properly prepared surface. (See their web page for appropriate prep for the epxoy you are using.)

The traditional overcoat is Spar Varnish and there are also some Spar Urethanes out there. There are a wide variety to choose from. Some popular (But not all cheap...) ones include Epifanes, Interlux, then there's Pettit, McCloskey's, Behr, Z-Spar, Helmsman, etc... I think you get the idea. There are champions who will swear by all of the above. Some people even prefer 2-part concoctions of things like urethane that are more difficult to apply and probably not necessary.

For a stripper that will be stored in the garage and gets regular, but not really hard use, pretty much any of the above should work with your West System epoxy. Do a good job wet sanding, clear the dust off the boat, apply the varnish in thin layers with a good brush (or foam brush) in as dust-free an area as you can muster with good light. Avoid contaminating the hull with any sorts of oils before coating and between coats. (airborne, from your hands, etc...)

The thing most people tend to do is to rush the boat to water as soon as the last coat dries. If you let it sit for a bit (say, a week or so at about 70° F or better, it continues to cure and get a bit harder.

Todd Bradshaw

The only varnish that I would avoid is Schooner Varnish. There have been occasional problems reported over a couple of decades with Schooner not hardening-up properly over WEST. It doesn't happen every time, but there does seem to be enough evidence of problems to be cautious. I generally use Captain's Varnish over WEST epoxy. It is high quality stuff with a good UV absorber and I've used it for a long time with excellent results. I usually apply it to hulls in thin layers using a yellow Gougeon roller, followed by tipping it out immediately with a soft brush. I seem to get much better thickness control and far fewer drips or sags that way than I do with a brush.


Paddle Bait
If you'd asked about System 3 epoxies, I'd tell you to go buy their spar urethane - That and Interlux spar varnish are the only things I've found that cures over this particular epoxy. Has anyone else found something that works with System 3?