DIY: Paint and Varnish Kit

As a wooden-boat owner I spend large amounts of time each winter and spring painting and varnishing. Slapping on a few extra coats will simply not do. Here’s my essential equipment for the best finish.
A. Paint thinner
Essential for thinning down some paints and cleaning brushes. Can also be used for wiping down surfaces prior to paint and varnish application.
B. Clean rags
Clean is the operative word here. Any contaminants transferred from one surface to another will mar the finish. Use for wiping down or mopping up spills. Always keep one handy.
C. Paper towels
Cheaper than clean white rags with many of the same uses. Make sure that you use high-quality towels—the kitchen variety can shed lint that will find it’s way into the fresh paint.
D. Tack rags
Worth their weight in gold. Tack rags will pick up the last vestiges of dirt from a surface.
E. Foam brushes
Great for applying sealing coats and oil finishes. You can use them for paint and varnish, but I only use foam brushes for non-critical areas.
F. Brush spinner
After washing out a brush in solvent, spinning the brush gets rid of any excess. Avoid wiping the bristles with a rag—this could introduce contamination.
G. Paint stirrer
Fitted into a rechargeable drill this mechanical aid makes short work of mixing heavy paints.
H. Paint trays
I like the disposable plastic trays that can be thrown away at the end of the job.
I. Strainers
Never paint or varnish directly from the can. Use a disposable filter each time to sift out lumps and bits.
J. Dusting brush
Great for preliminary dusting of the surface after vacuuming and before using a tack rag.
K. Foam rollers
Perfect for antifouling applications and some other paints; you will need to tip off the finish with a dry brush to smooth the orange-peel effect.
L. Abrasive paper
Comes in a whole range of grits and coatings none of which contain sand. An open coat paper is best and avoids clogging. A 320-grade wet or dry paper is great for surface sanding between coats.
M. Stick stirrers
You can get these free when you pick up the paint. Be sure to use a new stick each time.
N. Plastic cups
One of the most useful items in my armory. I strain into a plastic cup only what I will be able to use in 15 minutes.
O. Plastic buckets
These should be solvent resistant. Use them for cleaning out brushes and holding larger quantities of paint and varnish.
P. Latex gloves
They are essential to keep solvents and finishes off your skin. If you are allergic to latex use nitrile gloves.
Q. Dust mask
Wearing one of these when sanding could prolong your life.
R. Brushes
Buy the best brushes you can afford. Natural bristle is the highest quality. With proper care a good brush will last many years.
S. Masking tape
Mask off everything you don’t want to paint. Forget about the cheap white tape that delaminates. Use the blue painter’s tape or the green tape if you need to leave it on for more than a few days.
T. Paint stripper
Great for cleaning brushes that you forgot about and let harden overnight.
U. Paint guard
Protects previously painted surfaces when cutting in with a paint brush.
V. Solvent 
Many paints and varnishes require special thinners and solvents. Use
only those recommended by the manufacturer.
W. Japan dryer
Speeds up the drying process. Use
only as recommended and then only sparingly. Most of the time dryers are unnecessary.
X. Roller covers
Great for applying paint swiftly to


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