Hand Tools Archive

First batch of varnish *PIC*

david weaver
Two things from today.

I started to varnish the cherry telecaster body with epiphanes, just rubbing it in with fingertips rather than brushing on a heavy coat. If it dries OK, I think I could get along with it without ever making varnish - but it stinks!! and if you rub it on with fingertips only, you won't be washing it off - turps to the rescue. So, gloves from now on, because I'm sure it's full of stuff you shouldn't absorb.

I also made a batch of pine and dammar resin and linseed oil varnish.

There is a video on youtube of the process, so I followed it. Nothing special, just copied the method, though my electric hot plate had trouble approaching 300C.

The picture is the jar of varnish straining slowly through microfiber. I don't have any paint strainers in the house, so the slow microfiber cloth will be the way.
The process itself was pretty easy, though there is a dangerous period when you combine the oils and resins, the whole mix bubbles way up (and if I was at higher temperatures, I'd figure it would do it very quickly). Absolutely not a process you would ever do in the house no matter what (the smoke from burning the BLO and then the smoke from the final part of the varnish making is pleasant smelling, but I'm sure it's bad for you because it's past the smokepoint of everything in the mix).

George told me that he's had mushroom clouds making finishes when they bubbled over, and watching the oil and resin mix go off into a foam before it settled makes me certain I never want to do this over an open flame (not because of danger, which is certainly present, but because I'd be afraid of losing the batch).

Anyway, I covered the mix at the end out of desperation, and it got up to about 290C and then quickly passed the string test (which is confirmation that the oils and resins have bonded).

When finished, I believe it will fill the quart jar about 1/3rd full, and I think the final cost per batch with good ingredients (turps that smell like pine, food grade flax oil) will be about $30-$35. To brush this, it needs to be thinned further with 1 to 1 turps, so you get about 2/3rds of a quart of brushable varnish for about $55 (a pint of turps from europe is about $20 - the US suppliers are $35 or so). It doesn't stink at all like the commercial stuff does, and apparently there is some sort of homeopathic movement that uses turps in a bath so there is a supply. No thanks on using it for personal care, though!

George suggested japan drier, but very little - only a drop or two or the varnish will overharden and crack - if it has trouble drying. It shouldn't if it passes the string test - which is letting a drop of the batch cool on a stable surface and then putting your finger in it and then pulling away and seeing how long of a string you can form before the string breaks. 5cm is the threshhold from the video.

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