Varnish brush recommendations (brand, size and shape)


Beginner Canoeist
I am having problems locating decent varnish brushes locally, due to this I will have to place an online order. I am trying to find badger hair. What are your preferred brands, sizes and shapes? I know Epifanes are supposed to be good brushes, but :eek: pricey. I will be using them on our Old Town. Any help would be greatly appreciated.



I don't get to carried away with brushes on W/C.

I use a modestly priced painters bristle brushes on the inside, 2.5 in tapered. I use the same ones to tip paint after rolling it on.
I use the 2.5 in foam brushes for trim. (you need to order these, as there is no Menard's in SE MI. Jamestown has the correct brand, don't waste your time with the HD foam brushes.

Early on I bought a badger brush, but never could make it work right and don't use it anymore.

IMHO.... the quality of the finish is in the varnish, not the brush. I've told folks that you can apply Epifanes with a broom and come out with a great finish.
A new Menard's just opened in Davison, on Irish road. I've not been there yet but I hear it's a busy place.
Hey Dave W,

I sense a new favorite place to spend money. :)

Dave O.
Can't argue with that.
And I'd still like to see more pics. :)


ps, As best I know, Joe usually used McKosky Man-o-War spar varnish, just a box store varnish.
Not to hijack, but more pics comming, Dan......

There is nothing wrong with using box store varnish. It is inexpensive in comparison, ounce to ounce, to some of the of the high grade marine varnishes. For me, the number of coats to achieve the finish that I want is almost twice as many with the inexpensive varnishes, so the cost is equalized some as well as a reduction the total time to apply and sanding required.
I believe the same thing for canoe paints......
To complete the unintentional Jack. I can never remember what filler I use, or Primer, Or paint, Or varnish. Lucky for me I use epiphanes 99% of the time..

I use foam brushes. BUT. I don't use the made in china ones, I prefer the made in USA. They seem to work alot better. the China made foam brushes don't hold up, they've been too flimsy for me.

And I've been using foam rollers for applying paint. I've gotten away from all bristle brushes mostly.
Except that I use the round epiphanes varnish brushes for outwales and like them. They came free with a promo case of varnish.
I agree with the gentleman from the great state of Michigan on the brushes... The best I've used come from Jamestown Distributors.
Around here, Menard's carries the same brand of foam "brush" as Jamestown. Jenn something IIRC.
But you have to pick through the bin to get ones not deformed.

Ok, I appreciate the help guys. I'll order some of the "good" foam brushes for the future and maybe a round varnish brush as the outwhales are what I'm going to be varnishing for now. Any other suggestions on varnishing?
I'd suggest that you varnish the outwales all over. That is to say, Varnish the backside. I install the 'wales temporarily. that's how I steam them to fit. After they've set up I remove and sand/varnish all surfaces.
All this talk about brushes and varnish, I've got to chime in........I've been varnishing for years, but had never tried Epiphanes until my current project. Holy smokes this stuff is slow drying! I had to wait 1.5 weeks after my first 50:50 (using Epiphanes thinner) seal coat on the interior and have been waiting 4-5 days to sand and recoat subsequent coats and I'm still clogging sandpaper. It is plenty warm hare now, and it is also very humid, but I have not experienced such slow drying under these conditions with other varnishes. Is this the nature of the beast? Matt
That's not been my experience. it seems to cure at about the same rate as any other paint or varnish. Well, I think Minwax Spar cures alot faster, but something is not right if you can't sand after 48hrs, i think. Maybe you should contact the company consumer relations dept?
The only time I had to wait a long time for the 1st coat of varnish to cure, was on a canoe that I put a lot of oil/thinner on, ie, soaked in to get "spring" back into dried wood.

I had the canoe sitting in the sun for about a week before it finally cured.


I no longer put that much oil on, now no more than 2 qts/per side.
I've had the same issues with dry time on Epifanes. Now I add 1 ounce of Japan Dryer to each can and have not had the problem since.
Interesting comment about the thinner Dan...I wondered about that as each successive coat which has less thinner has dried a little faster. I applied a coat yesterday afternoon thinned 20:80 and it is tack free now. Still very soft and unsandable, but much better than the previous two coats.

I may try a little Japan drier Dave. Waiting several days between coats is slowing me down. I had hoped to use this boat on an early August trip and I'm starting to get anxious!

Thanks for your comments.

The only time I ever used Epifanes it was very slow drying when the can was brand new and first opened. Also a very funny looking almost purple color not unlike Royal Purple racing gas. The stuff in the can actually changed color to a normal looking amber as I used it up over a period of about a month. Also the older it got the faster it dried. By the time it was gone it was acting more like the Interlux I usually use. I am not sold on it because of the extra expense and that weird initial color. I even called Jamestown Dist about the color because it was so weird and was told it was normal.
Last two coats have dried much faster. I'm thinking that the thinner is the culprit as the last coat was only thinned about 10% and I was able to sand it 48 hours later. However, it doesn't flow particularly well when thinned only 10%.