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Thread: Waterlox Marine High Gloss

  1. #1
    Registered User Forestfloor1's Avatar
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    Default Waterlox Marine High Gloss

    Testing something out: going for the 20ís varnish the Loars had, which by all Scientific accounts seem to be Water dye, shellac sealer, phenolic linseed oil varnish (an old Benjamin Moore quick dry?), and some kind of spirit varnish via french polish as a topper. Behlen Rock Hard changed its formula to poly as many of you might know, leaving me searching for another good linseed / phenolic varnish option. Read about Epifanes gloss which is what Collings I believe uses (right?) on its varnish models. Welp, my local woodcraft had Waterlox Marine, which is phenolic, but itís Tung oil, but the way I see it, both are similar (Tung : Linseed as Tomato : Tomato) - the important ingredient being the phenolic. Then, on the hunt for spirit varnish, but Iím hearing some folks use tru oil as a ďFrench PolishĒ topper to make it nice and shiny. Any suggestions? What do you use for varnishes?
    Best,

    Jeff
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  2. #2
    Registered User sunburst's Avatar
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    Default Re: Waterlox Marine High Gloss

    Yeah, I went through all of that. Rockhard, Tru Value, Epifanes...
    Learn to use a finish and it either changes or leaves the market. Lately I've sort of settled on the Epifanes with a Tru-oil top coat. I decided I'd avoid some frustration and not be so picky about what oils and resins are in the varnish I use because I have no control over changing formulas and market trends.

    I once did a shellac FP over oil varnish and that mandolin now looks 100 years old with fine spider-webbing in the shellac. It looks good in a "distressed" sort of way, but it was not the look I had intended. TO stays glossy and I have yet to see it craze so I've continued with it.

  3. #3
    Registered User j. condino's Avatar
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    Default Re: Waterlox Marine High Gloss

    For all the time you'll spend searching for a commercial product that will inevitably change their formula, you are probably better off learning to make a good version of your own finish. Since Lloyd Loar was a known fiddle nerd and they universally worship Antonio Stradivari, my guess it that replicating the classic 1714 varnish formula is very close to what they were using. There are dozens of sites that cover making this.

    I spent the afternoon mixing up a batch for my own use: a bit of shellac, a bit of sandarac, a little mastic, frankincense, propolis, and lavender oil, decanted, and then cooked. The cooking is a major component that most people overlook. I'm not a chemist, but my understanding is that it creates a chemical reaction among the parts that polymerizes them and creates a more durable, faster curing, and centuries old proven formula.

  4. #4
    My Florida is scooped pheffernan's Avatar
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    Default Re: Waterlox Marine High Gloss

    Quote Originally Posted by j. condino View Post
    Since Lloyd Loar was a known fiddle nerd and they universally worship Antonio Stradivari, my guess it that replicating the classic 1714 varnish formula is very close to what they were using. There are dozens of sites that cover making this.
    Since you so often remind us of the realities of factory building, Iím surprised you expect a witchís cauldron of finish brewing in Kalamazoo. One of the most interesting threads in the archives here suggested a far more prosaic alternative:

    Click image for larger version. 

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  6. #5
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    Default Re: Waterlox Marine High Gloss

    I used Waterlox Gloss on a recent Torrefied Red Spruce over Brazilian guitar build. The look is fine, and it buffed out to a nice finish, but I feel like it is a heavy finish, something you may want on floors, but maybe not on tonewood. The guitar has a pretty dark sound. Of course, it's some very dense Brazilian, and the top is French Polish over shellac. I really like the look of the top finish, and will probably use it again. Not very durable, but I like the look. So my humble opinion is that Waterlox is not a great finish for musical instruments. Maybe better for mandolins than guitars. I will probably take James Condino's advice and (very carefully) cook up some 1704 Spirit Varnish and give that a try on the next archtop instrument I build, whether mandolin or archtop guitar. I can attest to the beauty of John Hamlett's finish, having owned a very nice F-5 of his, but I don't have his technique down and have little experience with Tru-Oil. All I know is that it looks great when John uses it.
    Jack C.
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    Default Re: Waterlox Marine High Gloss

    Pre-made 1704 varnish is available here:
    https://www.violins.ca/varnish/violi...sh.htmlhttp://
    Not recommending this, just posting the link.

    And a link to the formula and instructions on making it:
    https://www.violins.ca/info/docs/pdf/1704i_varnish.pdf
    Jack C.
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  9. #7
    Registered User j. condino's Avatar
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    Default Re: Waterlox Marine High Gloss

    The "witches brew" formula adds eye of newt and toad stool...

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  11. #8
    Adrian Minarovic
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    Default Re: Waterlox Marine High Gloss

    Quote Originally Posted by jackc View Post
    Pre-made 1704 varnish is available here:
    https://www.violins.ca/varnish/violi...sh.htmlhttp://
    Not recommending this, just posting the link.

    And a link to the formula and instructions on making it:
    https://www.violins.ca/info/docs/pdf/1704i_varnish.pdf
    Be carefull with these violin varnishes. They tend to be very temperamental. Both at application and then at drying and sometimes long after... The ingredients are not as simple as they seem and different vendors will sell you quite different resins under the same name. So it its formulation is unreliable right from te start. And it has short shelf life...
    Loar era mandolins almost certainly spotted oil varnish. I personally think they used it right over the color as sealer as it wouldn't smear the colors as spirit varnish would. FP was used to get the gloss.
    Adrian

  12. #9
    Registered User sunburst's Avatar
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    Default Re: Waterlox Marine High Gloss

    Quote Originally Posted by HoGo View Post
    ...I personally think they used it [oil varnish] right over the color as sealer as it wouldn't smear the colors as spirit varnish would...
    I believe there was a sealer of some sort. I've seen too many with finish layers showing in areas of wear to think there was nothing under the varnish.
    FWIW, I use shellac (with a little sandarac) as a sealer under oil varnish. I avoid disturbing the color by spraying the sealer. A couple of very thin wash coats of material.

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    Default Re: Waterlox Marine High Gloss

    Quote Originally Posted by j. condino View Post
    For all the time you'll spend searching for a commercial product that will inevitably change their formula, you are probably better off learning to make a good version of your own finish. Since Lloyd Loar was a known fiddle nerd and they universally worship Antonio Stradivari, my guess it that replicating the classic 1714 varnish formula is very close to what they were using. There are dozens of sites that cover making this.

    I spent the afternoon mixing up a batch for my own use: a bit of shellac, a bit of sandarac, a little mastic, frankincense, propolis, and lavender oil, decanted, and then cooked. The cooking is a major component that most people overlook. I'm not a chemist, but my understanding is that it creates a chemical reaction among the parts that polymerizes them and creates a more durable, faster curing, and centuries old proven formula.

    Iíve been following this thread with great interest and it has brought up two questions I have regarding finish.

    First, what is the purpose of french polishing shellac or Tru-Oil over the top of an oil varnish? Is there something about the oil varnish that doesnít look or feel ďrightĒ on itís own?

    Second, Iím considering doing some form of spirit varnish for my build and have been looking predominantly at the 1704 recipe variation from violins.ca that was linked above. Iíve added it here for reference:

    1704 Recipe Variation (violins.ca)
    45 grams seedlac
    5 grams gum mastic
    5 grams gum sandarac
    200 ml. alcohol
    5-7 ml. Lavender spike oil

    In addition to Mr. Condino's list of ingredients above, Iíve seen where other builders mention using some other resins in addition to or in lieu of some in the 1704 recipe. But I canít seem to find a resource that delineates what properties those other resins add to the varnish. Is there a book or site that discusses the pros/cons of various resins in instrument spirit varnish? For a first time user, are there any recommended adjustments to the violins.ca 1704 Variation that should be made to help ensure a good result? My plan is to wipe-on/french polish the 1704 Variation over a spray can applied seal coat of Zinsser shellac (I donít have spray equipment). I am open to any suggestions and insights you all may have.

    Thank you!
    Greg


    Properties added by resins:
    Sandarac - Adds hardness (per violins.ca)
    Gum Mastic - Aids adhesion between layers (per violins.ca)
    Frankincense - ?
    Propolis - ?
    Copal - ?

  15. #11
    Registered User sunburst's Avatar
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    Default Re: Waterlox Marine High Gloss

    Quote Originally Posted by Schneidly View Post
    ...what is the purpose of french polishing shellac or Tru-Oil over the top of an oil varnish? Is there something about the oil varnish that doesnít look or feel ďrightĒ on itís own? ...
    Oil varnishes do not "bite back" like lacquers and spirit varnishes. In other words, each successive coat of lacquer partially dissolves the coats beneath it so that the film of finish that is built up is essentially one layer of solid lacquer. Spirit varnishes do that too, though perhaps not to the degree that lacquers do.
    Oil varnishes do not redissolve so they are built up in layers. When level sanding and buffing, the edges of layers that are sanded through can be visible as "witness lines".
    With many oil varnishes, waiting long enough before buffing (or re-buffing) can eliminate witness lines, but instead of waiting (months in most cases) we can add a gloss top coat and not have to worry about witness lines. That is the purpose of FP or TO over oil varnish.
    Personally, I like the look and feel of a Truoil finish, but building a pure TO finish over a sealer takes many many coats and thus quite a bit of time, so I like to build with varnish before using TO.

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    Default Re: Waterlox Marine High Gloss

    Quote Originally Posted by sunburst View Post
    With many oil varnishes, waiting long enough before buffing (or re-buffing) can eliminate witness lines, but instead of waiting (months in most cases) we can add a gloss top coat and not have to worry about witness lines. That is the purpose of FP or TO over oil varnish.

    Thank you for explaining that John! That makes a lot of sense.

  18. #13
    Registered User Timbofood's Avatar
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    Default Re: Waterlox Marine High Gloss

    Quote Originally Posted by pheffernan View Post
    Since you so often remind us of the realities of factory building, I’m surprised you expect a witch’s cauldron of finish brewing in Kalamazoo. One of the most interesting threads in the archives here suggested a far more prosaic alternative:

    Click image for larger version. 

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    https://www.mandolincafe.com/forum/t...ibson-Finishes
    That was used at the factory quite regularly according to Al Lakey of Lakey art material here in Kalamazoo, Al has passed to the larger life some years back but, he said that every now and again someone would come over to the shop and get some. Al was pretty cool, lots of local history will never be known since he’s gone.
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  19. #14
    Registered User Charles E.'s Avatar
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    Default Re: Waterlox Marine High Gloss

    I was reminded of this article in GAL a few years ago......

    http://www.shellacfinishes.com/wp-co...y_RoyalLac.pdf

    Maybe Max and/or Andrew will chime in to see if they still use it.
    Charley

    A bunch of stuff with four strings

  20. #15

    Default Re: Waterlox Marine High Gloss

    This mandolin has Waterlox "high gloss" on it and nothing else:
    http://martinjacobson.com/id/project...tring-mandolin
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    I also finished a guitar in this same finish. Sprayed it on. It cured rock hard after only a couple of years.

    Great finishes! Just takes some patience. Also, your sanding and joinery better be finger-tip-kissing perfect.

  21. #16
    I really look like that soliver's Avatar
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    Default Re: Waterlox Marine High Gloss

    I finished my kitchen counter tops with Waterlox, does that count? ... in all seriousness, it's a great finish for that application.

    Marty did recommend it to me for a Guitar I refurbed... it worked ok for me, but I don't have any point for comparison.

    Click image for larger version. 

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    I am actually in the throes of my first build and thought it's still a good ways away from finishing but I have had finishing on my mind... I SO appreciate John Hamlett's description above!
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  22. #17

    Default Re: Waterlox Marine High Gloss

    Quote Originally Posted by sunburst View Post
    I believe there was a sealer of some sort. I've seen too many with finish layers showing in areas of wear to think there was nothing under the varnish.
    FWIW, I use shellac (with a little sandarac) as a sealer under oil varnish. I avoid disturbing the color by spraying the sealer. A couple of very thin wash coats of material.
    So John, just to recap your process....you begin with a couple of light coats of shellac with sandarac, apply Epifanes Gloss Clear Marine Varnish (with rag, I assume), and finish with Tru-Oil?

    I'm finishing a couple of flat top mandolins (my second and third-ever builds) and after many coats of Tru-Oil and the realization that I should have spent a little more time with the sandpaper beforehand, I'm ready to try your process on my next one.

    Thanks,
    Parker

  23. #18
    Registered User sunburst's Avatar
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    Default Re: Waterlox Marine High Gloss

    Parker, I spray the Epifanes, thinned with lacquer thinner.
    So, dyes rubbed directly on the wood, a couple of light sprayed coats of shellac, quick scuff sand, sprayed varnish to build, Truoil rubbed (rub it on/rub it off process). I hardly ever end the TO process at the same stage. Sometimes I can manage to rub to a nice, soft gloss, sometimes I hand buff with Novus 2, sometimes I re-coat after the Novus 2... whatever it takes to get the gloss I want.

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  25. #19

    Default Re: Waterlox Marine High Gloss

    Ah, okay. Not having a proper spraying setup at this point, I'd probably resort to applying the varnish with a rag, but I can certainly follow your sequence. Thank you!

  26. #20

    Default Re: Waterlox Marine High Gloss

    You'll probably want a spray can of shellac to lock in the colors. Or you could use a pre-val sprayer for this step using fresh mixed flakes. There's really no need to skip this step for lack of equipment.
    Richard Hutchings

  27. #21

    Default Re: Waterlox Marine High Gloss

    Okay. I'll look into that. I have a large enough compressor in my garage and a couple of small spray guns, but my workshop is a nearby converted one-horse stable, too small for a spray setup. I have thought about getting a K bottle of nitrogen and regulator to use with my small spray tent that I use with rattle cans. Guess I'm getting off topic. I'll have a look at spray cans or the pre-val. Thanks!

  28. #22
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    Default Re: Waterlox Marine High Gloss

    Don't apply varnish with a rag. You can probably pull it off with a foam brush. Or use a high quality brush that's probably going to cost $10-20, but cleaned after every use will last 20 years. Money well spent even if one has a full blown spray setup. IMHO.

  29. #23

    Default Re: Waterlox Marine High Gloss

    I guess I need to do some research on varnishing! I assumed (first mistake) that varnish could be applied like a wipe-on poly. I've applied spar varnish that way, but not on something where finish looks are really important. I don't mind the investment in a good brush.

  30. #24

    Default Re: Waterlox Marine High Gloss

    Brushing varnish scares me, I'm not that good with a brush. I should practice it on some shop tools. Epifanes sounds to dangerous to spray for me. That's something I want to get away from. I sure wish the waterborne stuff was up to par, I'm waiting for someone on this forum to give it the thumbs up so I can try it again. Finishing, bleh.
    Richard Hutchings

  31. #25
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    Default Re: Waterlox Marine High Gloss

    Some builders who finished instruments without spray equipment:
    Antonio Stradivari, Antonio de Torres, Manuel Ramirez, Santos Hernandez, the C.F. Martin Co., the Lyon & Healy Co., many thousands of violin and 'cello makers, and, oh yes, the Gibson Company.

    If you're not yet good with a brush, practice.
    Also, you might try using finishes that are intended to be brushed, such as violin maker's varnishes. It also does not hurt to study violin finishing techniques. There's loads of information available about what they use and how they apply it, including thinning and brush techniques.

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