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Okay, so you spent countless hours placing every little bit of wood on your hull planking. Spent another bunch of hours and pour some centiliters of sweat scraping, sanding and making those little pieces of wood look like an even flat smooth surface.

Great!!! What's next?

What do you use over the wood once the smoothing work is done?

My choices are: Boiled Linseed Oil, this I know enhances the look of the wood; Tung Oil, not completely sure what it does on the wood; Plain flat or satin wood varnish, how many coats? how often?

What other choices of products do you use? A combination of all the above and/or others?


I think many people will benefit with your answers. :)


Best wishes.



Edited by Ulises Victoria
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BLO and tung oil are both natural polymers that will harden over time.  They look really good if you let each coat dry and rub it down with 0000 steel wool before doing the next coat.  3 coats is usually enough but you can get a glass like finish with more work.  Wood varnish is more of a hassle to apply than oil finish but three coats with sanding between coats gives a very good finish.  Satin polyurethane works very well applied the same way but the fumes can be a problem for some.  I have been using clear satin water based acrylic paint with good results.  Three coats with light sanding between coats.

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Hi Ulises


I have been using Testors Dullcote Lacquer  for finishing on my hull,decks and other wood surfaces on my ships. You can leave it flat finish as brushed on,or you can sand and buff it with a paper towel to get up to a shinny finish. 

I have had nothing but good results as long as you do the following.


If painting it over prior finishes,test them out because the lacquer can soften up and make the other paint bleed into the clear lacouer.m Always test it out with samples.

It dries fast and you can make multiple coats in one day as long as you let it dry for a couple of hours in between coats-again test it out to make sure your local temp and humidity doesn't effect the drying times.


And if you will be painting over this clear coat,test out what you will be using first.


I like it because it dries hard and can be sanded and then buffed out to any degree of flatness to gloss. I have used it over swiss pear,boxwood,basswood,walnut,mahogany. It brings out the color in the wood without adding ant itself.


Try it out.


The photos are of my 1/80 Mary Rose from Jotika. The hull is planked with boxwood and has 4 coats of brushed on Testors Dullcote Lacquer,which was lightly sanded and rubbed out with just a paper towel sheet.


Boxwood used is from Jason at Crown Timberyard. Great wood and FAST shipment.





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I like the look of tung oil on natural wood.  On my Badger build, I thought it really brought out the walnut areas.  I also used it on my tanganyika deck, where I used bamboo for the treenails.  I thought the tung oil brought out the treenails a little better, though over time, my test pieces using tung oil and wipe on poly looked about the same.  For the painted areas on my Badger, I used wipe-on poly.  It's a very close second for me to tung oil in terms of finish.


I bought some danish oil which I tried out on some test planking, and I noticed that it imparts a little more of a yellow color, particularly on lighter wood like maple.  It might be good in certain circumstances, as I've seen others on here use danish oil to good effect.


Redheart is another story.  With the grain, tung oil gives the wood a gorgeous finish.  End grain, however, turns very dark, almost black.  For end grain, I found that varnish tends to keep the natural color of the wood:



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  • 4 years later...

What about painting? For example The USS Constitution has several contrasting colors if most pictures I have seen. How are these colors determined? Do we just try to emulate what we see in photos or is there a guide of some kind available to help select colors and their placement on a vessel?

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Work off good color photos, if available. For very old ships, who's to say who is correct on colors. Can't show anyone a good color photo of the Santa Maria, can you?;)  Kits may include painting instructions, but sometimes they're incorrect. Do some Internet searches for color ideas.

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The best reference that I know of is an NRJ article by Eric Ronnberg about historic paint colors.  An edited version is included in the NRG published Shop Notes (I think Volume II) and was at one time included on the NRG website.


You can also occasionally find references in old specifications.  For example, an 18th Century longboat specification required the interior to be painted “drab.”  Looking up drab color on the Internet I found it to be a mixture of burnt umber and white lead that I mixed from acrylic artists colors.



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