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wipe-on poly or other final wood treatment education request


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At this point in time the only wood treatment my Jolly Boat has received is stain on various parts and the only metal install are the gudgeons.  I was hoping to find a treatise, a when-where-how-why or just a general overview of this topic.  But after going thru all 20 pages in this folder I'm more confused than when I started.  Finding all kinds of various oils, shellacs, varnishes, wipe on poly (oil based and water based) and home recipes that people use.  And just as varied are the procedures - treat before you build-paint-stain, treat after you build-paint-stain, use a paint brush, use a sponge, use a cloth, apply sparingly and let it dry, apply generously and let it sit a while then wipe off with a clean cloth, apply generously and wipe off with a clean cloth immediately, the matte finish, semi-gloss finish, gloss finish, high-gloss finish, and the list goes on.  All I know is that in nearly all build logs whatever is used and however it is applied, makes things just pop.  There is a depth and warmth that wasn't present before.  Granted my little Jolly Boat is at the lower end of spectrum in cost, complexity and grandeur, but I still would like to give it that depth and warmth that I've seen in so many far more grandiose builds.  I can only assume that different products and processes give different affects, which are so subtle that an experienced master crafts person would pick up in a second but the casual viewer would never notice.  And probably that when all is said and done it really comes down to personal preference. 

 

Basically I'm looking for a "well if you use this you can't go wrong" type of thing, something inexpensive and easy to use.  Any suggestions would greatly be appreciated as I'm figuring something would be better than just letting it go as bare wood.     

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Kev,

This is not really a "one size fits all" thing.  Everyone has  their preferences because for that one works best for them.  For example, for me, wipe on poly is my go to but I also use others including spray on finishes.  Having said that, I'm not an expert on finishes but just a builder.  

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Poly urethane is a plastic.  I used it on my Walnut stained Oak kitchen floor in KY.  It looked good and held up well.  It certainly has its fans here for use on a model.  If you like a plastic look on a model on a vessel from 100+ years ago,  it is worth a look. It is simple enough to use.

 

Should you be more traditionally oriented, a simple, low cost, forgiving material is shellac.  More coats more depth.  Too shiny, Scotch Brite, steel wool, or bronze wool will dull it.

A low cost way is

Lee Valley shellac flakes 1/4 lb  -  choice of 3 shades for how warm and aged you are going for.

a can of denatured alcohol

for light 10% is enough (10 g in 100 ml)  the medium can probably be 20% , and the dark maybe 30%. 

Rag or brush to apply.

If you double or triple bag the dry flakes and put them in a freezer they should store for years.  just make sure that they are RT before you open the stored flakes.

It comes pre-mixed (avoid the silly aerosol version)  just be aware that the shelf life is limited.

 

A rule that learned in organic chem is that a reaction rate doubles for every 10 degree C temp rise.   Going from 20 C  to  -10 /20 C   is a 4-8-16 times longer half life for a compound prone to oxidation.

 

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What Jaager said. Shellac is relatively inexpensive. (I but the pint or quart cans, premixed and then thin with denatured alcohol as required.) Shellac can be applied by brush easily. Excess can be wiped off with a rag or paper towel, if you wish. It will soak into the wood without raising the wood grain (unlike water-based coatings.) Cleans up easily with denatured alcohol. It's also good for fixing knots in rigging, or holding rope coils in shape. (Move as desired as the alcohol dries and before the shellac hardens.) Shellac dries very quickly and is easily sanded or rubbed with bronze wood (steel wool leaves tiny bits that will rust eventually, leaving marks on the wood) or rottenstone or pumice. A single coat will dry to a matt finish. Additional coats will build up to a gloss. I use white shellac for everything. Amber or "orange" shellac will darken to a rich dark brown as successive coats are applied. 

 

Shellac can also be applied to paper and card stock, which will absorb it and become hard and stiff. It's useful for applying thin sheets of paper to flat surfaces, as well. 

 

Try it, you'll like it! It's been around for millennia and is proven to last forever. 

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As Mark noted there is not a one size fits all, as this string continues on you will see many options based on personal preferences, one is not better than another, it’s what finish makes you happy. 
 

For what it’s worth, I prefer Satin Wipe On Poly. The key for me is to wipe it on and wipe it off before it dries. My opinion is glossy, which many options create, is not a good look. But that is just my opinion, which is what the other suggestions are, opinions. Experiment with the basics and decide what your opinion is on what’s best.

 

Edited by glbarlow
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1 hour ago, VTHokiEE said:

some viewed it as a plastic or synthetic

Nothing plastic or synthetic about WOP. Anything, especially shellac, if done wrong can look bad. WOP isn’t generally available outside the US, so experience with doing it properly would be limited. 

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You ‘re building a model of an open boat.  Any sort of wipe on finish and to some extent brush on finishes require access to the surface to be finished (obviously!).  I don’t see how you can apply any kind of wipe on finish to the boat’s interior without either damaging it or leaving unsightly globs on inaccessible surfaces.

 

If you want an alternative to my Dulcote, I would suggest a thin coating of shellac.

 

Roger

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I have made fine furniture for many years and have used both,  On open grained timbers wipe-on-poly can look quite good if you wipe it off quickly and it is very durable so it is good on surfaces which will be subjected to wear and tear.  However,  in my opinion, there is no comparison to the patina of shellac.  As someone else said, it becomes richer over the years.  It is, after all, French Polish although you could not apply that technique to a model. In fact when I apply shellac to a model I  wipe it off quickly just like you would with wipe-on-poly,

If you do a side-by-side test on whatever timber you are using you will probably not see much difference.  I t will only be when you look at it a year or so later that you will start to see the difference.

 

John

Edited by bartley
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Again we’re all entitled to opinions informed by experience, or not. As I said earlier these types of posts incite all sorts of opinions posed as preferred methods. Ultimately the builder has to experiment, develop the necessary skills to do it well, and choose their own best course. Then later in your experience curve you can reply to posts like these with your opinion. 
 

Bottom line, as these type of posts prove over and over, there are as many options, methods, and opinions as there are model enthusiasts. A lot of them even work.

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Well, in the interests of full disclosure, I don't own any stock in Zinsser ("Bullseye Shellac") or Minwax (wipe on polyurethane,) but I'll add these two considerations to the discussion:

 

If, in some way that escapes my imagination, one botches applying a thin coat of shellac, the error can be easily corrected by diluting the shellac with denatured alcohol and wiping it off. On the other hand, if one botches a coat of wipe on polyurethane, you're going to be in a world of hurt trying to remove it from a model without risking doing some serious damage to the model.

 

For those in the rest of the world who are apparently less susceptible to the seductions of the advertising industry, Minwax's "wipe on poly" is nothing more than polyurethane varnish thinned with mineral spirits or the equivalent. In the US, it's sold with the thinner included for the same price as full-strength polyurethane varnish. Unless it doesn't bother you to pay pay full price for diluted polyurethane varnish, you'll be money ahead to thin it yourself to the consistency desired. Additionally, as wiping up the excess after the material has soaked into the wood surface guarantees a matt finish, I have no idea why Minwax sells "matt finish" version of the stuff. 

 

That said, polyurethane varnish is tough as nails and great stuff for bar tops and hardwood floors. 

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I seriously doubt a hull coated in shellac would survive a dunking in alcohol, that’s a bit silly. However, I look forward to seeing your Flirt finished in a hard coat of shellac once you start it. I actually don’t know how you botch something you wipe on and off with a cloth, that would take effort. 
 

A can of WOP, which will last for multiple models, cost $12.98 and is at the consistency I desire. Why would anyone waste time, energy or effort buying $14.97 pint of polyurethane and $21.95 quart of mineral spirits to mix their own. I can afford $13 every three models.  
 

I never understand why some feel compelled to convince others their way is the only way.  If we know anything it’s that there are many ways to accomplish the same thing, I don’t need to validate my choices by denigrating the choices of others. I’m moving on from this post, content in the lasting beauty of my WOP finished models and no plans to buy shellac. 

Edited by glbarlow
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1 hour ago, Jaager said:

produced much more durable clear finishes

I deleted that because I went and checked what was used, turns out it was neither shellac or varnish but something more high end. I also deleted it because it really wasn’t relevant, just frustration with so many my way is better than all other way comments. My edit better reflects my point. 
 

where are the links to your work so we can see your way in the form of results, my links are below?

Edited by glbarlow
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On 10/12/2021 at 1:42 PM, Peanut6 said:

Basically I'm looking for a "well if you use this you can't go wrong" type of thing, something inexpensive and easy to use.  Any suggestions would greatly be appreciated as I'm figuring something would be better than just letting it go as bare wood.     

It would seem that the Peanut6's question, which he titled an "education request," invited a comparison of pros and cons of the various options. As something of a "professional" yacht finisher myself once upon a time, I'm glad to hear that glbarlow's cabinet refinishers used something other than shellac or "satin" varnish, neither of which were the best option for the hard use kitchen cabinets endure. "Satin" varnish is best avoided altogether. It lacks UV filters and will degrade quickly in direct sunlight. It's often also difficult to keep the flattening agent evenly in suspension while applying it, resulting in an uneven flat/gloss level on the surface and the flattening paste (dust, essentially) obscures the wood below it. Clear "satin" finishes are made to mimic a real hand-rubbed finish and they do that poorly, at best. Shellac as a final finish on just about anything that will be handled is just wrong, other than on heirloom quality fine furniture, and then only when applied as "French polish," in which each shellac coat is hand-rubbed with oil, resulting in a finish that is a combination of oil and shellac.

 

A "satin" or "hand-rubbed" look finish is accomplished using a hard top quality clear gloss finish which is hand rubbed with pumice and rottenstone until the desired level of gloss or "satin" is attained. No coatings chemist has yet to produce a brushed or sprayed finish "out of the can" that equals a real hand-rubbed finish. The real hand-rubbed finish is like no other in both appearance and feel. It's clarity and smoothness is unlike anything else. When the nature of a hull lends itself to hand-rubbing, either to depict either a painted or bright (clear) finished surface at "scale viewing distance," a real hand-rubbed finish is unequaled for that application. 

 

If it makes the polyurethane fans feel any better, Hamburg-made Steinway pianos have been finished with a sprayed polyester finish for the last 30 years or so and have a deep high-gloss finish. New York Steinway pianos, an entirely different model with different tonal qualities, are finished with hand-rubbed lacquer and have a deep satin finish. Nobody knows fine finishes better than the Steinway company and even they find it useful to use two different coatings for different reasons to finish their pianos. You can be sure, though, that Steinway isn't using shellac or "wipe on poly" on any of its pianos!

 

For those wood finishing wonks, here's an interesting article on how Steinways are refinished: The Art of Refinishing a Piano | Steinway and Sons Piano Refinishing (chuppspianos.com)

 

 

Edited by Bob Cleek
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I believe that most successful and experienced model ship builders have a mental picture of what they want their model to look like before they start building it.  Very much like an artist with a painting.  Finishing decisions are, therefore, made early in the game.

 

Since the introduction of the European style POB models to the American market in the 1970’s  there seems to be a desire by neophyte modelers to finish their work bright (with a clear finish) to show their workmanship.  While a properly applied bright finish enhances the appearance of Dockyard style models, IMHO this finishing treatment benefits few of these kit models.  Most end up looking like toys.

 

The vast majority of ships were working craft whose owners did not wish to spend money on elaborate finishes.  Paint was the order of the day.  Even navy ships with their large crews to keep busy were by the Nelson era, painted, 

 

To me, therefore, obsessing about a bright finish for the average kit model is a bit like putting lipstick on a pig.  Wipe on poly, shellac, Dulcote, why argue? Git Er Done!

 

Roger

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Thank you to all who have commented, it is greatly appreciated.  And thank you Roger for taking the time to find that I am building an open boat.  I completely agree with you in the use of any wipe on/wipe off product at this point, as it was a concern of mine for the reason you pointed out.  Obviously I should have addressed this issue at various steps of my build but it is too late for that now.  I never thought it could/would be a problem, but what did I know as this is my first build.    I'm reluctant to use any type on spray-on product for fear of over spraying some surfaces while trying to get to the nooks and crannies which are visible.   I'm after a look of warmth and depth that enhances the natural beauty of the wood without any shine, gloss or reflection nor would it have a flat or matted look.  From what I've read here and other places, and based on my current situation/condition, I'm leaning towards some type of oil product.  I understand that certain types of oil don't need to be wiped off or rubbed in if applied sparingly, as it is absorbed into the wood.  I could use a lint free cloth for all the easily accessible areas and a small paint brush for the tight spots.  The only down side I'm finding is determining which one to use since it appears there is a never ending variety available.  I would like to select one not just for this instance but one that would be applicable/acceptable for future builds.  If I'm heading in the wrong direction by all means set me straight.  And in the off chance I might be headed down an acceptable path any suggestions would be most helpful.  I do apologize if my questions are too broad or vague due to lack of context.  I've taken to posting my questions in the tips/techniques section of MSW because when asked in my build log they don't seem to get answered.   

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Kev, just get a few pieces of wood and a few products and try. There will be some cost involved as Tung oil, Shellac, methylated spirits, sanding sealers, WOP, varnishes, sprays, brushes etc may not be prohibitely expensive but they do add up. However, experimenting will be the only way to find out what you like and how things work.

Also, not all woods work the same with the same finish so check the wood you are actually using. For example, pear wood works great with Tung oil, the beech I am currently using seems it does not.

All part of the same journey.

 

Vaddoc

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It may not be optimal, but I have yet to actually wipe-on wipe-on poly, I have only brushed it on. I have only sometimes wiped it off as well. I suppose what I'm really getting at is to be careful not to overthink it. I'm certain that you can find a way to apply any of the recommendations above and I'm equally certain that it will look nice when you're finished. You could give a few different options a try on some spare wood to see about how to best apply them, but I think (based on what was detailed here) is that anything one person recommends to fit the bill will likely be countered with a different product. I've also read about people having issues applying certain oils (staying tacky for a seemingly excessive amount of time) and then people applying the exact same oil wonderfully. Good luck with your choice, try not to get bogged down it in too much though.

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Was looking at build logs in trying to help me decide what my next build would be.  This build used the same wood as my Jolly Boat, ply for the frame, basswood for the hull and walnut elsewhere (I also have ramin according to the parts list but have been informed that it can't be ramin as it is an endangered species and no longer harvested, if so why would manufacturers still advertise it as being available?) and the builder used Danish oil to treat the wood . . . . . WOW, that is exactly the look I'm after.  Maybe that could be serious option.  Still need to decide though, don't want to miss any suggestions.

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Kev,

About which species your "Ramin" really is, now that it and its whole genus is unethical and short sited to use - it could be a lot of unrelated but similar looking species.  If your kit is a European one,  I would guess that it is an African species that has no catchy marketing name of its own.  In any case, you should not be surprised that the manufacturer might be a bit fast and loose with the truth in their advertising copy.

 

Danish oil is not an actual name of any single material.  It is a mixture of oils  - oils that are discussed here.  What is actually is varies between manufactures who use the gimmick name..   One would hope that within a particular manufacturer's product that the formula would be consistent.

On the serious level, there are two natural clear finish oils.

"boiled" Linseed oil - which seems to be consistent - when polymerized it does not have an especially hard surface - but a model will not be used as a table top, so this does not really matter all that much.

Tung oil - which is good stuff  IF you get the right stuff.   Just Tung oil as the name = it could be anything and may not actually contain Tung oil. Some name brands may be polyurethane.   100% pure Tung oil is the actual oil, but it can still be tricky.

If it is too old, or from a generic manufacturer or you do not use a proper primer coat and leave too thick a layer, it may not "dry" (polymerize) in your lifetime.  It this situation, it is a right awful mess to clean up.

Good quality and properly applied Tung will leave exactly the sort of finish that you are after. The more coats, the deeper it appears.  But each layer must be polymerized before you add the next.

 

Danish oil will probably provide a more predictable finish, and one that is harder than linseed but not as hard as Tung - provided that the can is within its useby date.

  

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A somewhat cynical view of finishes:

 

Kits are expensive:   You are paying for someone else's  intellectual property, which you should, but you are also paying a lot for marketing, and distribution.  Each organization between you and the manufacturer needs to be paid.

 

To offset these marketing and distribution costs, many "Hobby Shop Grade Kits" do not use high grade materials, and many use misleading descriptions to promote sales.  For example, genuine American Black Walnut is an excellent wood for high end furniture, but not so good for ship models, and the stuff marketed as walnut by some kit manufacturers is worse.

 

Trying to find a finish to enhance the appearance of low quality wood is a waste of time.  Although there are finishes advertised to turn any wood into a work of art, these are aimed at the DIY and Craft markets. Many of these contain fillers intended to hide defects, thereby covering up detail that we want to show.

 

So, realizing that not everyone has unlimited resources to devote to this hobby what are the alternatives.

 

Deal directly with a kit manufacture with a reputation for furnishing high quality materials:  By buying directly from the manufacture your money goes into the kit.  You are not paying for distribution.  Links to these quality kit manufacturers can be found here on MSW.

 

Use a finish appropriate to the quality of the materials:  As they say "paint covers a multitude of sins."

 

Build from scratch:  Today, information that can be used to build accurate ship models is widely available.  An hour's search on the internet will turn up dozens of public domain examples of prototypes suitable for all skill levels.  Howard Chapelle's work alone could keep an army of model builders busy for a lifetime.  Prints of his work are available from the Smithsonian at a reasonable cost (I think comparable to a couple of Starbucks Lattes).

 

With your prints in hand, go to the lumberyard and hardware store.   Buy a couple of chisels, coping saw, a quality pine board and carve a hull.  Buy other tools as needed.  Back in the 1930's, Popular Mechanics published articles on building ship models using just this solid hull modeling technique.  I have two such models built by my father that are between 75 and 85 years old that look like they were built yesterday.

 

Roger

 

 

 

 

 

 

Edited by Roger Pellett
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3 hours ago, Roger Pellett said:

Build from scratch:

While quality model kits, as Roger describes them, serve to inspire and educate beginning builders and those who, for whatever reason, want a model a particular kit yields, "going over to the dark side" of scratch modeling is the inevitable outcome of one's developing modeling confidence, if not skill. 

 

You don't need to be a Passaro or Tosti to build from scratch. As Roger sagely notes, there is an unlimited supply of plans for just about any type of boat and they can often be had for "beer money," if not for free. Freeing one's self from bondage to the kit manufacturers opens the entire world of nautical subjects to the modeler who is thereby no longer bound to building models of ships that have been built hundreds, if not thousands, of times before. Chapelle famously addressed this over fifty years ago (I think,): Nautical Research Guild - Article - Ship Models that Should Not be Built (thenrg.org)  and Nautical Research Guild - Article - Ship Models that Ought to be Built (thenrg.org).  

 

I think the question that should be asked by serious modelers more often than it seems to be is, "If, by some strange twist of fate, my model were to come to light two or three hundred years from now, would studying it tell people in that far distant future anything they didn't already know?" We don't have to build to the amazing levels of technical quality to which only a few are able to achieve, either. Some of the most academically valuable models we have today were actually quite crude, but they are all we have to see what ships of their times looked like. We are all capable of building "museum quality" models, if we just give them enough time!

 

 mataro_scale_museum_ship_model-main_view.jpg?w=630

 

Mataró – the oldest Museum Ship Model | Professional Model Making (wordpress.com)

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