Looking for paint advice

Tom Wiarda

Curious about Wooden Canoes
I am getting ready to paint my first restored canoe and need some advice. How much paint do I need for each coat for a 16' canoe? Will a quart do more than one coat? My local West Marine store recommended Interlux Brightside but it is called a topside paint. Will it work for a canoe? Are there any less expensive paints that will work as well? Is a primer recommended? I can use all the advice you can give about paint. Thanks, Tom
Depends how large a canoe you have. A quart will do more than 1 coat anyway if you are diluting the paint as you should.. and you will most likely need to use more than a coat.

My favorite paint so far is Epifanes Yacht Enamel. It's provided me with outstanding finishes, and I have no major complaints.

What you will need to do is roll and tip. Search for rolling and tipping on this site and you will get a billion answers. What you do is take a small foam roller, and a foam brush, and roll in the longitudinal direction across the hull, then brush across your rolling strokes in the opposite direction.

what I do

I have used Valspar tractor enamel. It's under ten bucks a quart at the local tractor supply store (tsc). You can just barely get three coats on with one quart for a 15-16' canoe. I brush on and then tip. I also use two coats of primer. The current project is getting TSC paint, with no thinner or conditioner and one quart unthinned covers twice for my 16'er. By the way, the primer goes on first.

On the other hand, Kirby paint is much better. Costs more but you get what you pay for and it's worth it. I use Kirby about half the time. From what I hear, topside paint is no problem for a canoe that is taken out of the water when not in use. You're lucky to have a West Marine store near you. Porch enamel is not unheard of even. Depends on your standard and the type canoe. For me, the first coat doesn't look all that good and it's usually the third coat before I am content. Which means; two coats filler, two coats primer, three coats color. seven coats total with sanding. whew. So, are you far from Lapeer?
There is no reason to "dilute paint as you should". You dilute paint if it makes it apply better in the conditions you happen to be painting in. The manufacturer went to great lengths to try to formulate a paint that goes on well, straight out of the can if possible. By automatically diluting it, you are assuming that you know more about paint than the folks who developed and manufactured it, which is very seldom the case. Diluting it with paint thinner lowers the paint's viscosity (makes it thinner or more watery) and in some conditions, allows you to spread it more evenly or keep a wet edge better. This can certainly be helpful at times, but it also makes it more prone to runs and drips. By far, the best advice is usually to follow the directions on the can, where they will usually mention the options for thinning the paint and exactly what product to use to do so, if needed. You do sometimes run into a situation where they are selling you a rather overpriced solvent mixture as their "special thinner" for a particular paint, but considering the labor involved in doing a good paint job, it's usually worth it to stick with the factory-suggested thinner unless you have first-hand knowledge that something else works just as well. If the paint is going on evenly and allowing you to get the desired results straight out of the can, do it - and save the thinner for days when the brush seems to be dragging and you think a bit more flow would help.

There is generally nothing magical about most one-part primers. They don't usually stick any better than the paint itself. Their function is mainly to give you an additional sandable layer between the surface and the final paint finish, so that you have a final chance to get a very smooth surface to paint over. In cases where the color of the surface may not be uniform due to the fairing process, they may also give you a nice uniformly-colored base for your final coats. With some shades of enamel, you might be able to see color variations under the paint and primer may be a good way to prevent that in those situations. So whether it's to help even out the surface texture or to even out the base color, primer can be your pal. Whether or not you need it on a particular job depends on how well you were able to prepare the surface.

For wood/canvas boats, I like the idea of adding just a little bit of the paint to the primer, just to color it slightly. If, for example, the dried canvas filler is light grey, the paint is dark green and the primer between them has been tinted to a light green, then if I hit something and scratch the bottom, it's pretty easy to tell how deep the scratch is and decide what to repair it with.

If you use Brightside enamel over primer, it's probably smartest to also use Brightside Primer. It's a microballoon-based mix that puts down a fairly thick layer of sandable stuff on the surface. Unless you are awfully good at applying it, you can count on being there for a while sanding it smooth after it dries and before painting, because it's gonna' need it. It does offer excellent hiding characteristics for small surface flaws, but the process adds another, fairly substantial, round of work to the project. If I'm using Brightside and can get my surface smooth enough to paint without priming, I'll generally skip the primer. The paint job itself will still stick just as well and last just as long.

As for the paint itself, Brightside is excellent stuff, and unless you're really good with a brush, or have spraying equipment and know how to use it, rolling and tipping is the way to go. The reason that paint drips and runs is because it is applied unevenly and is too thick in some places. The more diluted the paint is, the more prone it is to running. The thicker it is, the harder it is to get it applied in a thin, even layer - so what you are looking for, and what the paint manufactirer is trying to supply you with, is some sort of happy medium that can be used straight out of the can, or if needed, diluted slightly to meet the weather conditions.

Rolling on the paint (or varnish) with a thin, fine roller and rather vigorous strokes is the best way to lay down a thin, even coat that won't drip. The best rollers that I know of for this are the Gougeon Brothers yellow foam rollers made for epoxy work (West Marine sells them - not cheap, but they work great). The drawback with rollers is that in the process of rolling the paint out to a thin, even layer, the roller introduces a lot of tiny air bubbles to the surface. Left alone, many of these bubbles would dry that way. To fix this, we "tip" the paint immediately after rolling. This just means that we take a soft paint brush (some folks use foam brushes, I generally like bristle brushes better, but use whatever you like best) and we drag the tip of the brush over the freshly-rolled paint, using just as little pressure as we can possibly manage. You are not trying to move paint around at all. All you are trying to do is knock down the bubbles. Since you are not moving the paint, you can tip in any direction you want. I generally roll up and down and tip up and down. Some folks do either or both in other directions. If you roll the paint out well enough and tip lightly enough, it should make no difference to the quality of the final finish.

Timing is critical. Thin, rolled-on paint starts to dry quickly and the time window for tipping out the bubbles before the paint surface starts to get sticky is quite short. For this reason, you need to roll a small area (like maybe 24"x24" or less on a canoe), tip it quickly and move to the next area before the edges of the painted area get tacky. Obviously, some prior planning as to where you plan to start and how you will proceed to cover the entire hull is a good idea. Two people, with one rolling and a second following right behind and tipping is the best way to go. When I roll and tip by myself, I have a roller in one hand and a brush in the other, which looks pretty funny, but works with practice. No, I don't do the two steps simultaneously, but it eliminates some time when switching back and forth.

Thin and even without leaving bubbles is the name of the game. If you apply the paint thin enough, the first coat of Brightside usually looks like crap and leaves you wondering whether the whole procedure is a big mistake. Fear not - it's supposed to look like that. If it looks even and glossy, you probably put on too much and are risking drips. Between coats, I usually go over the dried paint with a Scotchbrite pad and it seldom needs more abrasive measures (like sandpaper).

The second coat, rolled and tipped, will suddenly start to look awfully good. Whether or not it needs a third coat depends on the conditions and how thick or thin you applied the paint. In any case, three rolled and tipped coats is usually thinner than two brushed coats, so you don't need to worry about glopping up the surface with extra, unneeded paint. A quart of Brightside (or most enamels) will yield 2-3 coats on a typical canoe. If I have any complaint about Brightside, it would be that it sometimes strikes me as maybe being a bit too glossy on a wooden canoe (looking a bit too much like fiberglass gelcoat) but that depends on what the builder likes. Other than that, it's excellent paint and can generate a stunning paint job.

The sailboat below is Brightside (two coats, unthinned, no primer, rolled and tipped without help out in my driveway). I used dark green and mixed in a little black to darken it. When this photo was taken, the paint job was three years old. The boat had been outside, uncovered all that time and was being cleaned up after a season on the water, hooked to a mooring buoy. We used 3M "One-Step" cleaner/wax for cleanup on the paint. It's a boat wax with just a bit of polishing compound in it and another excellent product. The red bottom paint is made for constant immersion, topside enamel is not, thus the color switch down low. The canoe is also rolled and tipped, but using Ace Hardware porch and floor enamel, specifically because it has somewhat less gloss and doesn't go on quite as smoothly and gel-coat-like as Brightside (pretty cheap, too and lots of colors available).


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Well Todd. If I remember correctly Epifanes suggests that you dilute their paint. The last time I was tempted to use undilute, I got striping and brushmarks.
As I said, read the directions and follow them. If a specific manufacturer suggests that you dilute their paint, you would be wise to do as directed. That does not, however, mean that it should automatically be done to any paint and in many cases, you may be compromising the quality of the finish and/or making more clean-up work for yourself by doing so.

Other than the painter himself, nobody wants a nicer paint job on that canoe than the guy who made the paint. He wants that same painter to like the results well enough to use the same stuff on his next canoe and to show and tell his friends what a great paint it is - so that they will use it on their canoes, too. It's simple economics, and the paint manufacturers will do everything they can to guide you through the process to a great paint job. Following the directions and working carefully will nearly always produce the best results.
Well I was just saying... because you seem to indicate that paint should not be thinned as the manufacturers make paint to come straight out.

Anyway let's just say that you sounded a little more critical than you perhaps meant to be.

From what I understand you thin the paint to match the conditions as you mentioned earlier. The more humid, the more you thin.
No Victor, I said what I meant and meant what I said. The man asked a question and you gave him a blanket answer, stating in your second sentence that he should be diluting the paint. I have considerable experience using the exact paint he mentioned. It's worked beautifully on numerous occasions with no dilution whatsoever and I have photos to prove it. Obviously, it can work just fine without needing to be diluted, so there is something fishy about any statement saying that says "...if you are diluting the paint as you should....".

I didn't say that it can't be diluted, or should never be diluted, or that I never dilute it. I took my time and did my best to explain what the reasons might be for diluting it in certain conditions - and where to get information on how to do it properly (the manufacturer's instructions). You are free to call my reply whatever you want, but I believe that incorrect blanket statements don't help folks who are looking for information and should be corrected. This is, by far, the top spot on the entire internet for gathering information on wooden canoes. What good is it if the information presented isn't accurate? There were no personal intentions in my reply to your original post. I just call them as I see them and believe that folks deserve the most accurate replies to their questions that the rest of us can possibly give them.
Honestly this is the last place where I would have expected to get into an internet dramafest.

I think that my original statement is fine. Epifanes does suggest that you dilute their yacht enamel. That statement is right in my recognizance and I don't find it misleading at all.

I guess Todd by your recognizance, I should just stop posting as a relatively recent canoe restoring person (only been doing this for a year or two). After all, there's obviously no way that I have the kind of knowledge you have, so therefore I should just not reply when a see a post going unanswered.

If I run the risk of getting castigated every time I post, then screw it.

All I am saying is that. You may be right (although this time I'd disagree), but you ought to think of what kind of community you want to have here.
Thanks for the advice. I didn't mean to start an argument with my question but I really appreciate the collective experience found in this forum.

Dave, Rockford is located on the Rogue River just north of Grand Rapids.

Thanks again, Tom
Victor, it's only a dramafest if you choose to make it one. However, if you post advice on a forum like this that isn't accurate, somebody may come out of the woodwork and correct you. The paint in question in the original post was Brightside, not Epiphanes. Brightside is made by Interlux. This is what Interlux says about it on their website:

"A ready-mixed one part linear polyurethane topside finish that has the ease of use of an enamel with the high gloss of a two part polyurethane. Superior self-leveling properties that yield that "sprayed on" look when brush applied in thin coats."

And this is what they say about thinning it:

"Thinning: Thin if necessary with Brushing Liquid 333 to improve brushing characteristics."

In the very first line of my first post on this topic, I said:
There is no reason to "dilute paint as you should". You dilute paint if it makes it apply better in the conditions you happen to be painting in. - and I went on to explain the conditions and symptoms that might indicate that thinning might be needed. I don't know why you have a problem with this, but the factory instructions clearly do not state that you should automatically dilute Brightside before application.

I don't claim to be a painting expert. In fact, I hate painting boats and find it horribly tedious. But if somebody brings me a canoe and a can of Brightside, I can consistently turn out results like those in my photos - mostly by simply following the directions on the can, and that includes being very careful about what I do or do not add to the paint for the specific conditions.

What kind of community do I want to have here? Gee, how about one where posters can get detailed accurate answers to their questions from people with first-hand experience, so that they have the best possible chance of ending up with, and preserving, a really nice canoe?
OVerthinking this

I got a fantastic finish on my 1914 Octa using Rustoleum Marine paint. It's about 7.99 per quart. Got it off the shelf at Menards. One Quart will do it. No thinning, just roll and tip. She's a real beauty! Lots of compliments without all the mindbending issues aforementioned.
Todd Bradshaw said:
Victor, it's only a dramafest if you choose to make it one. However, if you post advice on a forum like this that isn't accurate...

"Thinning: Thin if necessary with Brushing Liquid 333 to improve brushing characteristics." ....

In the very first line of my first post on this topic, I said:
There is no reason to "dilute paint as you should".

What kind of community do I want to have here? Gee, how about one where posters can get detailed accurate answers to their questions from people with first-hand experience, so that they have the best possible chance of ending up with, and preserving, a really nice canoe?

Well I don't know Todd, you're the one printing miles and miles of text after misreading what I said or at least inferring into it more than is there. I would just sit back, relax, take it easy, and remember that you're not saving the world here. Canoes are important yes, civility is more important than that.

Once again for effect, I simply said "thinning as you should" in order to help someone, only to get your diatribe about how I'm supposedly being so horribly inaccurate. If you feel that my answer isn't enough, then feel free to add more, but don't reference mine if unless it's blatantly wrong (which it is not, as even Brightside has instructions for thinning). "Thin as you should" could mean no thinning at all if the situation demands it or it could mean lots of thinning. One thing is for sure, thinning paint is done and should be common knowledge right?

I don't care if you're the authority on the subject, wrote a book on it (I know you did), or are the god of canoe refinishing, if you're needlessly critical, you're still a tool and people tend to have a hard time listening to tools even if what they say is right. You look like you have something to prove. I know that there are many many experts here, most of which know how to be polite, and non abrasive. People who tend to be cocky, with a false sense of importance. Ah them. They're the ones who have stopped learning. They will jealously guard and hoard their knowledge, even if it's wrong. Some people believe that their knowledge is a license for them to do whatever they want, however they want. As a high school teacher I'd say that this is a quick recipie for disaster.

By and large people post because they want to help. Even if they are wrong (which I am not), remember that they still want to help. If you stick it to them, you might be right (which you are not), but noone really wins, because the person who posted won't want to post again, or will be reluctant to post again which is bad enough as is.

I agree that this place is an excellent place for information about canoes, however most of my generation don't know about wood canoes, and don't really care. Perhaps it's because of the so-called self-proclaimed experts who lord it over others. In short, you want a community that will sustain itself. and spread. Looking at the pictures of the gathering. I'm not seeing many people who are actually doing the building and restoring, who are under the age of 35. Coming out and blasting others for their supposed ignorance when it isn't even there, isn't civilized and it does not make this place a welcome place. After seeing some of your other posts, I sensing that it might be a pattern here.

In my mind, wood canoes are wood canoes. They're warm, relaxed, and smell nice. They're not the fastest things on the water, nor the slowest. They'll carry your stuff. They have personality and soul. What personality and soul? I don't know, but 90% of the time, I'd say that canoes have a relaxed personality. After all if you wanted to go fast you would use a kayak. Honestly I was expecting people to be laid back like their canoes. Obviously not.

I'm not even sure whether you've used Epifanes. It's an excellent paint, I've refinished my canoe multiple times with it.

To the forum, apologies for all of this. This is a silly conversation, because honestly, I shouldn't be wasting the time with this. As a veteran of many internet dramafests I know where this is going. I guess I'm in shock because I never thought I'd see this here.

Good Day.
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Here comes the hijack

Hey Splinter,
nice tuque! I was way too slow with my pie plate and before i knew it the auction had ended; what a tool. Well there's always next year;)
Andre Cloutier said:
Hey Splinter,
nice tuque! I was way too slow with my pie plate and before i knew it the auction had ended; what a tool. Well there's always next year;)

You're in Muskoka right? Do you have a shop up there? I forgot to add that I'm in Toronto.
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So Victor, now we're supposed to believe that rather than being wrong, your opening statement was merely vague or misleading? I can live with that. Still, when a specific question is asked, an answer that even its author says "could mean" this, or "could mean" that isn't an awful lot of help. One of the reasons that I tend to write "miles and miles of text" is to avoid giving answers like that. As a teacher, I'd think that might make sense to you, but aparently not. I'll do my best to give short, poorly thought-out answers in the future. The folks who run this board know where to find me. If they think I should shut up and stop answering questions, all they have to do is give me the word and I'll be gone in a heartbeat.

I'm still not sure why, when the original question was specifically about Brightside paint (as were my answers to it) you continue to support your position with references to Epiphanes paint. It doesn't make sense to me, considering the sometimes finicky nature and/or individual characteristics of some types of paint (the differences between using something like Kirby's vs. using something like Brightside, Easypoxy or LP systems, for example) but it's neither the first, or likely the last, time I've read advice on the internet that doesn't make sense to me.

As to helping people on forums and/or hoarding knowledge, I'm not terribly worried about that one, despite the fact that you don't care for my delivery. I've made 379 posts on this forum and nearly 5,000 on the WoodenBoat Forum. I don't tend to be particularly chatty, but I think the amount of helpful, accurate information per post that I have offered stands up pretty well with those of other members of both forums.

You can call me a tool if you want, although I find namecalling on internet forums to be rather childish and it generally says more about the poster than it does about the person he's aiming the name at. Fear not. In the end, we're probably all tools. Some tools are simply sharper than others.

I think I've made my points clear on this one. If you want to continue to drive them home, feel free - but unless somebody actually has a paint question, I'm moving on to other topics.
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As I said before, I'd suggest that you just relax and take it easy. This is a waste of your time, and mine. Do you have something to prove?

Like, the opener of this thread said that "West Marine recommends" meaning he probably hasn't bought the paint yet. Other than that, it was a rather general question. I don't know if Epifanes is the best. I do know that I have used Brightside on my old fiberglass canoe, now rid of. But after using Epifanes, I would say that this stuff is awesome and I will not go back. Flows and finishes like nothing else (unless you don't dilute). Creates a tough, shiny finish. My canoe always gets great comments. Add their varnish... No, now I just sound like and Epifanes salesperson.

I think that your post speaks for itself Todd. I get it, I get it. You're famous on the internet.
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Toque Hijack Continued.....


Glad there was so much interest in the toque. I took me about a year to find the pattern for that thing. I made one for my darling new husband out of a red Alpaca yarn which he loves. I had wanted to make one for the Auction that included the clay pipe and tin for tobacco (as used by fur trade "associates") but, alas never found either to include. Jay thought I should do another for next year and I think I will. If anyone knows where to find a clay pipe and a little tin for tobacco, I would love to know where so next year it can be a real complete offering. Gosh, that's something I would even bid on!:)
nice clay pipe on eBay


in other words (with less gobble-dee-gook) item number 280373187284

That would probably fit the bill... except for "the bill"!