Helmsman brand varnish

Discussion in 'Sailing Talk' started by Alan Glos, Mar 17, 2010.

  1. Alan Glos

    Alan Glos Active Member

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    Has anybody out there used Helmsman brand gloss spar finish for marine purposes? It is a polyurethane and not a true varnish, but I have used it for other outdoor applications and was impressed, especially with its quick dry and recoat times even in less than ideal drying conditions.

    Comments?

    Alan Glos
    Cazenovia, NY
     
  2. Alcort59224

    Alcort59224 Member

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    I used Helmsman on my Sunfish rudder and dagger board last spring and after one summer of use it has started to peel and chip in places. It didn't really hold up well on the boards at all and I'm going to re-do them this spring with a good marine varnish. I wouldn't recommend Helmsman for rudders or dagger boards.
     
  3. Wayne

    Wayne Member Emeritus

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    Practical Sailor Magazine does real-world evaluations of paints and "varnish", maybe there's a comparison in one of their recent back issues.

    In comparing data sheets, furniture varnish has less solids (the part left after the solvent dries or the catalyst completes the curing reaction) and less UV protection additive than those labeled true marine.

    Minwax's Helmsman appears to have more solids and UV inhibitors than other household "varnish", still slightly less than marine varnish. There-in lies the debate. Is Helmsman's lower price (~50% lower) worth taking a gamble on.

    So much of the long-term success for a finish is based on the underlying preparation. Even the best finish will give out prematurely when applied over old paint or varnish, oily wood like new teak or mahogany, or dry-cracking or dry rotted wood. All of these issues need to be addresses separately before a top finish will adhere successfully. This is doubly true where the finish must endure long periods of immersion during its working life. The qualities of a finish speak to it's resistance against elements at its outer surface, the preparation establishes the adherence durability.
     
  4. pez

    pez Member

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    I used the Helmsman Spar varnish on my vintage Laser's grab rails. The rails were in very good shape, I used a citrus based stripper to remove the old product, then sanded several grits and tacked off the dust.

    I applied two coats of helmsman with light sanding in between and it lasted two summers. I dont think I would use the same finish on the boards, but I would do the grab rails this way again. Wayne's point about the cost in this case is well taken.

    Add to that the convenience of being able to pick it up at a home center vs ordering... and you can use the helmsman for other stuff as well.
     
  5. Wayne

    Wayne Member Emeritus

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    For comparison, I have one set of blades I did with 6 coats of Z-Spar and they have lasted over 10 years with only touchups where they occasionally get nicked. Granted this set is used by an adult and is well cared for, but they do go out for at least an hour's sail, 3 - 4 times a week all summer.

    The general finish condition is just now declining (dulling and ever so minute crazing within) so I'll strip, prep, and refinish this year. I'm curious to try transparent epoxy this time, like the canoe builders use, but if I can't find the time to do some learning curve practice to master the new material first I'll probably go with Z-Spar again.


    [​IMG] [​IMG]


    If only marine varnish came in pints at a reasonable price. Gosh, they charge a lot for little metal cans ... never mind the contents.

    My Blade... (a couple of years ago)
     

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  6. powergroove

    powergroove Member

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    it cracked and peeled on top of a west systemed carbon for me.
     
  7. Alan Glos

    Alan Glos Active Member

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    Thanks for all the comments. I put 4 coats of Helmsman finish on a bare-wood Sunfish rudder. Looks great. Guess we will see how it holds up. I am sticking with Interlux for stuff I really care about.

    Alan Glos
    Cazenovia, NY
     

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