PS Advisor May 1, 2005 Issue

PS Advisor: 05/01/05

Varnish Troubles
I have tried Epifanes varnish on several occasions and found it nearly impossible to get superior results due to its high viscosity. The instructions do not recommend thinning, so what am I doing wrong?

I'm not a professional, but I am a good amateur and I get excellent results with other good varnishes. I can't be the only one out here that would like to use Epifanes, but can't get the best results.

By the way, what is the proper pronounciation for Epifanes?

Jack Faust
Huntington Beach, CA


When PS long ago asked a company rep from Epifanes how to pronounce that name, the rep said it was prounouced EP-a-fanes, and said that the company didn't mind how it was pronounced just so long as you bought and used the varnish.

We consulted Julie Anderson of "Compass Rose Yacht Finishing," who specializes in varnish work in Port Townsend, WA, where they dote on wooden boats. We asked what her favorite varnish is, and she said Epifanes. It's our choice as well, and has been for about 10 years.

Anderson related a story about a quality of Epifanes that helps to answer this query. She said she recently varnished the entire side of a boat without taking breaks to stop and restart; she had to do it in one continuous shot. When half finished, she noticed a couple of sags—issued a choice epithet or two—but decided to continue and come back in a couple of days and do the whole blasted thing over. However, when she came back, the sags were gone!

Few people realize that varnish tightens down as it dries. About a half to two thirds of the bulk thickness evaporates in the drying process. As the driers and other chemicals disappear, the skin shrinks—almost like shrink-wrap. This shrinking is most apparent with a good, thick-bodied varnish.

What you should do is slap on the Epifanes, spread it very, very quickly, and ignore the bubbles (they pop in a couple of minutes), forget the brush marks (they flattened out in 4 to 5 minutes), and move on. Then look back at the previous area in 5 to 10 minutes and if there's a sag, brush it out with two or three swipes, no more.

The most common mistake in applying varnish is to keep brushing and brushing and brushing to get rid of the brush marks you're making over and over and over. Before you know it, the skin starts to form, the varnish starts to thicken, and the brush marks become permanent. Varnishing is a speed/skill operation.

Of course Epifanes won't reveal what's in their varnish that gives it such marvelous viscosity, yet flattens like glass.

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Radar Mounts
Do you have any information on the value and longevity of radar mounts? I favor the damped pendulum arrangement.

John Morse
Springfield, OH


Because radar transmits a relatively flat, horizontal beam, heeling the boat causes a gradual loss of the images you want to see. So, various companies have developed a number of solutions for correcting the position of the radome, including gimbaled mounts for the backstay and mast, and radar "masts" that typically mount at the stern and have tilting platforms. Some of the latter can be manually adjusted to compensate for the boat's heel, others have self-adjusting mechanisms.

The Questus is probably the best-known gimbaled system, though Performance Marine offers a less expensive alternative. Edson and others make a variety of radar masts.

In our October 1, 1998 issue, we tested three backstay radar mounts —the Questus, the Waltz RLS, and Radar on the Level. We ended up favoring the Questus, despite the fact that it was the most expensive.

Just a month prior that same year, we wrote about mast-mount radar brackets, and in that article we endorsed the Scanstrut as a Best Buy. We also liked off-the-shelf models from Kato, Edson, and Nautical Engineering.

The following year, in 1999, we evaluated radar poles (see PS Feb. 15, '99). We wrote that Edson's NAVCOM Tower System was the "most complete, high quality, adaptable line." But the best deal we felt was from Garhauer Marine, and cited its two-inch, polished stainless steel tube as a Best Buy.

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