Sunday, April 13, 2008

Brightwork Tips

Here are some tips on Brightwork

1) First determine (both interior and exterior) which wood on the boat can be finished with Teak oil, or Varnish. On most of the boats I have worked on I decided that any exterior wood that was mostly protected could be varnished. Wood that was exposed to a fair amount of sunlight, would be Teak oiled. This is usually the opposite of what a lot of Brightwork people will tell you. Remember Brightwork professionals are in the business of doing Brightwork, they want boat owners to hire them often. My idea of Brightwork is to get it up to speed, then spend as little time possible on maintenance. This CAN be done, however it is important to first determine what wood will be oiled or varnished.

The reason for using Teak oil to exposed area's is a simple one. This wood application is just to easy to do, takes very little time, and is very inexpensive. The up shot is also the beauty of the oiled Teak wood, it is hard to beat. Get a rag and a little oil, and simply wipe down the deck, takes only minutes. There are also new synthetic oils that are supposed to last a year without touch up. I still use standard Teak oil. Varnishing areas like Flybridges that are under enclosures, means that their will be less time in maintaining the wood once the varnish is properly applied.

If you are going to have a large deck area teak oiled and exposed to a LOT of Sun, a good idea would be to have a shade cover made out of canvas to better protect the area. A lot of boat owners use shade covers to protect decks, it is not that expensive, and works well.


A. Sand bare wood or existing varnish with 220 sandpaper. I have used a sander, and have also lightly hand sanded. Both results were fine. Wipe wood clean, try to work in a dust free environment if possible. If you are starting with bare wood, use a good cleaner to clean the wood. This will help better adhesion with the varnish application.

B. Before you even begin to varnish, first look at the local weather. You will want low humidity, light to no wind, and at least a 65 degree day. You will want to plan your day so that all sanding and any prep work is done no later that 9am. The first varnish application should be applied, and left to set up for the entire day. Varnishing in the afternoon is risky. Dew and moisture can set in during the evening before the varnish sets, leaving you with a heavy sanding job in the morning. Basically, just plan on varnishing during some good weather, and do it in the morning. Since it takes a full day and overnight for varnish to set, five coats would take five days. I usually just plan on doing a coat every time I LEAVE the boat, after several trips, it is done for the season.

C. Use a foam brush, and use a new brush for every coat. Be careful not to apply varnish to heavily. Use brush strokes leading into the last load. This will help to alleviate brush marks.

D. Sand lightly after every coat, make sure each coat is fully set and dried. Be sure to wipe clean each coat after light sand. I use a tack cloth, sometimes a damp towl. Make sure the last coat is totally dry before next application.

E. Try not to apply varnish in direct hot sunlight. The best seasons to apply varnish is Spring and Fall.

F. It is very important NOT to walk on the varnished decks for one complete day and night. Remove any chairs or rugs, and do not put them back on the boat until the next day.

G. Types of varnish: I have used Interlux with good results. This year I switched to Z Spar, and like it a lot. I find that Z Spar has the best leveling properties. A lot of restored boats have Z Spar and they look great.

H. Apply three to four coats of varnish. I do not use thinners with Z Spar, basically it looks so good, I have not tried any thinners. Next year maybe I will mess with it some, so far I have not found it necessary, the Z Spar finish is stunning.

I. Try to use painters tape where ever needed. Varnish droppings look very sloppy on a boat.

J. Follow manufactures saftey guidlines for all products used. Always work in a vented area and avoid contact with skin.


I have used many, many different teak oils and have liked them all. Try to use a Teak Oil that has UV protectors, especially for exterior wood finishes.

If you are going to use a lot of oil in the interior, you may want to go with a lighter oil so the wood will not darken to much.

Interior finishing tips

One thing thing you can try is to varnish only the trim, and oil the rest of the wood. This will give some separation and distinguish the trim lines of the wood finish.

boat, in a few trips, you are done!