Finishing touch

"Our boat was built in the Far East, and the interior has a beautiful lacquer finish. I have a photograph of a worker brushing on the lacquer, and I can see he is using a 1-inch brush. I’ve tried a thick brush, a thin brush, short strokes and long strokes, and I can’t get a finish that looks like the original. Any suggestions?"-- Duane Ericson, Oceanside,
Author:
Updated:
Original:

"Our boat was built in the Far East, and the interior has a beautiful lacquer finish. I have a photograph of a worker brushing on the lacquer, and I can see he is using a 1-inch brush. I’ve tried a thick brush, a thin brush, short strokes and long strokes, and I can’t get a finish that looks like the original. Any suggestions?"

-- Duane Ericson, Oceanside, California

Don Casey replies: The word “lacquer” is often used to describe any high-gloss finish, particularly one that is applied by spraying. In my experience, a hard-gloss coating on interior wood on a sailboat is usually varnish. I should add that some boats made in the Far East could be exceptions.

If it’s really a lacquer finish, you have a hard task ahead of you. The reason is that lacquers are typically composed of resin—usually they are synthetic in the U.S., but could easily be natural in the Far East—and nitrocellulose that is dissolved in a volatile solvent, such as alcohol. Because most lacquers are extremely fast drying, they are hard to apply with a brush; the lacquer doesn’t stay fluid long enough to flow out.

If your lacquer was applied with a brush, it was probably buffed to the polished finish you have. Lacquering in Asia is often a family craft going back generations, so there’s a good chance that the person applying the lacquer in your photo may have been perfecting his or her technique since childhood.

You can try buffing the lacquer to get the finish you want, or you can replace it with a varnish finish, which has better flow characteristics. Sanding the lacquered surface should eliminate adhesion problems so that you can put varnish on top of the lacquer. To be safe, test first in an inconspicuous spot. Rebecca Wittman’s book Brightwork contains good information about getting a varnish finish that is comparable to lacquer.

Related

CONNECTING-SHROUD-2048

Experience: Wild Ride

My Hartley 38, Moet, is pounding into massive Pacific Ocean seas. One week of continuous storm conditions has taken me 700 miles south of Fiji, heading for New Zealand. Every few seconds the bow lifts out of the water and hangs in midair for a moment while I tense my muscles, ...read more

01-LEAD-nSterling-ProCombi-S-2

Know-how: Inverter, Charger Combos Offshore

With solid-state inverters and domestic AC devices becoming increasingly efficient, it only makes sense for many sailors to install the necessary 120V AC power for the many appliances now finding their way onboard: including washing machines, TVs, microwave, laptops, chargers ...read more

IMG_5308

Chartering in the British Virgin Islands

Not for nothing are the BVI known as the “nursery slopes” of sailing charters. There simply is no better place to ease yourself into a first-time sailing vacation; for that matter, such is the appeal of these islands that many charterers return year after year. The islands ...read more

IMG_7831

Racing and Bareboat Chartering in the BVI

If not all who wander are lost, then not all who charter are content with sailing between snorkeling spots and sinking a few Painkillers at beach bars. Some want a dose of hard-sailing action blended in with their sunshine and warmth—the kind of action you can only get from ...read more

01-GMR19FP45_1194

Boat Review: Fountaine Pajot Elba 45

With new catamaran brands springing up like mushrooms, France’s Fountaine Pajot is something of an oak tree in the market, with a story that goes back to its founding in 1976. It is also one of the largest cat builders out there, sending some 600 boats down the ways in 2018. The ...read more

TOTW_PromoSite

SAIL's Tip of the Week

Presented by Vetus-Maxwell. Got a tip? Send it to sailmail@sailmagazine.com Take no Chances This is my stern with the engine running slowly in gear against the lines. We all know that when we’re charging batteries this lets the engine warm up thoroughly. However, I have a ...read more

190910_ROSS_PORTSMOUTH_0187-2048x2048

Cup Boats Hit the Water

Emirates Team New Zealand may have been the first to launch a new-generation America’s Cup boat, but it was the New York Yacht Club’s challenger, American Magic, that had the last (first?) laugh. Just a few days after ETNZ’s radical-looking AC75 hit the water in mid-September, ...read more