Mailport December 2011 Issue

Mailport: December 2011

Varnish Q&A

Macintosh 47

Reader Bill Streep reports good long-term results from using Minwax Spar Urethane on his Macintosh 47.

We’ve been long-time users of Minwax’s Spar Urethane, which gets decent, but not great reviews in your varnish reports. We use the Minwax at four to five coats, touch it up with a new coat regularly, and get great results.

In reading the articles’ “How We Tested,” one would gather that when you “applied per manufacturer’s instruction,” you applied three coats of the Minwax. What might the test report show if you applied seven or eight coats, like the Epifanes calls for? Applying three coats is way easier than applying seven-plus coats; how is that not reflected in the “Ease of Application” rating?

Three coats of Minwax compares fairly well in cost-per-use with the Ace (requiring four coats), and it’s one-fifth the cost of the Epifanes per use.

Bill Streep
Merlin, Macintosh 47
San Antonio/Corpus Christi, Texas

You surely would get longer-lasting results applying seven-plus coats with many of the exterior wood finishes we tested, but most do not call for that. Our previous long-term wood finish test (2001-2002) included 20 varnishes, each applied with two, three, five, and seven coats. The final results appear in the Oct. 15, 2002 issue, and found that after two years, and with all coatings applied with the same number of coats, Epifanes, Pettit Hi-Build, and West Marine Skipper were the top varnishes. Minwax was not included in that test.


For our current round of testing, we opted to follow maker instructions for each product as that’s what most users do, and we sought to rate the application in terms of real-world usage. The ratings of products with more application steps—additional coats, sanding between coats, etc.—reflected the added effort. Epifanes ( was among those products: It was rated Good for ease of application while MinWax ( was rated Excellent.

Our tests do not include regular maintenance coats, so the coatings won’t last as long on our panels as your boat.

Next: No Discharge Zone Redux

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