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Discussion Starter #1
What type of finish should I use for an ACX plywood seat? Will Thompson's water seal, or a similar deck finish product work? Thanks!
 

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Renaissance Redneck
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Spar varnish every few years is what I use. I've had the same dance floors for as long as I've had my boat = 8 years. However I have been known to use interior clear waterbased schwag in a shortterm pinch. Then go over it again with spar varnish after the trip. Works fine.
 

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Thompson deck seal might not last for a 7 day trip, especially if any of the wood spends time below water line.

Use true marine spar, like Man-o-war brand in the red can. Most wood oars are finished in spar varnish. I use it on bamboo fishing rods. The spar urethane will not last nearly as long and tends to peel as it fails.

True spar is a fantastic finish for wet environments but it is more difficult to work with. For good results you need to do many coats, sanding between coats. At least 4 coats are needed on raw wood. Spar takes a long time to cure between coats, 24 hours at temps averaging 60 F but maybe over a week if it gets below 50 F. So that means it takes over a week to apply a good finish and another week more for it to really setup hard. Commercial outfits accelerate the cure by baking at 100 degree plus temps.

If you want a durable finish in less time consider exterior alkyd enamel house paint. (regular exterior enamel house paint, the stinky kind) The plywood floor I painted in enamel has lasted 2x as long as the varnished one. The enamel only needed two coats and it dried in less than 5 hours. It was also cheaper.
 

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Renaissance Redneck
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Any preference on brand for Spar varnish?

Also, is 'Spar Urethane' the same as 'Spare Varnish'?
I just grab something that says Spar on it. Probably used a different brand every time.
 

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I used behr deckover, it's a deck restoring product. It won't get great reviews from painters and I can't speak yet for longevity but its supper nice on my decks. Its a lightly textured finish, feels like very fine sand paper and it hasn't caused any road rashes yet. I put it on top and an acrylic porch and deck paint underneath for a smooth surface. I used to have a wood drift boat that was mostly spar varnish. All I'd use was man-o-war, but I had to use it a lot!! No thanks for me on a raft, I'll stick with paint...

FWIW there are several deck restore paints. The rostoleum product gets horrible reviews, behr - good and olympic gets the best. I just had a gift card and know I'll be rebuilding the decks as my rig changes this year so I went the Behr route.

Also wood boat people will generally tell you to put a sealant on non-exposed/non-visual wood, but not to paint all of it as it will trap moisture and promote rot. This is to prevent most moisture frome entering the wood while allowing that that does to easily dry. I wanted to have smooth sides against my rubber and don't plan on them needing to last so I forwent that advice but just know it's generally best to not try and encase wood in paint/varnish.

I totally agree about Thompsons, pure crap!
 

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Minwax Helmsman satin finish (Home Depot- green can) worked great on my forward deck/seat. Two coats. First one didn't look so good..... it mostly soaked in and sealed the grain. Gave it a light sanding with 220 grit on my random orbital....second one is beautiful. Easy to apply- just do full length strokes once you've laid it down and it evens right out. It will run off the edges and create drips there- so go over it with a dry brush to catch those before they dry. VERY pleased with this product.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
If you want a durable finish in less time consider exterior alkyd enamel house paint. (regular exterior enamel house paint, the stinky kind) The plywood floor I painted in enamel has lasted 2x as long as the varnished one. The enamel only needed two coats and it dried in less than 5 hours. It was also cheaper.
Now this sounds interesting. I am really not trying to win any woodworking awards for this one, so a paint sounds really appealing to me.

You think paint will hold up as well as Spar varnish to straps being cranked down on it and such?
 

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Now this sounds interesting. I am really not trying to win any woodworking awards for this one, so a paint sounds really appealing to me.

You think paint will hold up as well as Spar varnish to straps being cranked down on it and such?
I know you're not asking me specifically but IMHO paint will hold up much better and be way easier to maintain in the process. If you have issues with checking or cracking, you'll likely end up doing a complete refinish with varnish vs a simple sand and recoat with paint and if your using ACX its almost certainly doug-fir faced so it will check no matter what you do (except maybe epoxy impregnating). If you don't really want a bright work finish, paint it - you'll be very happy you did.
 

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The painted wood on my boat has lasted 2x as long as the varnished stuff. I also store my frame outside over the winter and the painted plywood casting platform has made it for 3 seasons with nothing but a little touch up. Seems to hold up well to cam straps, sand and other river abuse.
 
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