Brightwork is finiky work.   As an offshore sailor who is pretty rough and tumble, I consider my varnish protection first, perfection second. As a wooden boat owner I am aware not only of the movement of the wood on the boat but also the area’s that take the abuse. Therefor I do things like coat all rounds and surfaces that lay flat to the sun several times. A typical cabinside will get two or three coats on the waterways and eyebrows- to one coat on the horizontal grained cabin wood. Some places will get three cost while others will get one.

Here are a few tricks I have learned over the years that make it a but easier.

  • Clean your surface ( after Sanding ) 3 times. Once with a vacuum, then with a rag with spirits on it and lastly with a fresh tack rag.

I use to tell the people that worked with me doing brightwork in the tropics ” it is all about cleaning” and i would tell my clients “your paying for more then a seasonal coat. Your also getting a complete wash down to your openings including screens, tiles and walls. ”

  • Wait until the pollen has passed and there is no wind

Everyone is in a rush to get evrything knocked off there list for boat season. It pays to do your brightwork on the perfect day with no wind, early in the morning but not so early that dew is around.

  • Always buy and use a new brush.

I now charge one new brush to each job for the last coat. After someone has spent good money on sanding and cleaning they should not have a problem paying 12-18 bucks extra for a new brush, with no dust.

brightwork on an S- Class Boat


varnish hatch
varnish on an alden hatch
varnish, brightwork
at urbanboatworks we restore and refinish all matters of wood. On land or sea.

As  owner’s of a wooden boat, Julien & I understand varnish and the stable surface that needs to exist below the varnish. We address the under lying cause of varnish failure. ( caulk seam gone bad, bad bung, leaking port lights, not enough build up) When perfection is not required, we know how to lay on for protection. Prepping and painting wooden hulls – cold molded, plank on frame or strip construction is our pleasure. We work with Awlgrip, Kirby Paints and Fine Paints of Europe. Varnish is always Epifanes.

varnishing Allegro an s class boat
brightwork on an S- Class Boat
varnish on an alden hatch
varnish on an alden hatch
door varnish
epifanes matte varnish to a west village New York Door
Paint on Hope a q class wooden boat

Late fall is always a time for me to work on my own boat. The build up on TIGER MARU was thick. It had been 8 years since the last strip. I use an  inferred heater to strip large surfaces. The build up was thick but it only took a half hour to strip the cabin sides. Next I cabinet scraper the wood back to a uniform red color. If not done properly yellow oxidized wood will remain. The scraper ( when sharp) levels the wood out to an even plane. When the sun hits the varnish the rays will bounce off. If the surface is not fair then the rays will absorb into the wood. After the scraping I check to make sure everything is fair. You can run your hand over the surface with your eyes closed. I promise you will feel divits, high and low spots. Scrape away until it feels even. Then I sand with 150-180 to make sure all marks are out. Next comes the varnish which is played on across the grain and thinned for the first 3 coats. This ensures all the pores are filled. Full strength varnish is played on and sanded back with 320 sand paper until the build up looks right. Round eyebrows and the top of coamings gets more coats and is sanded back with a 400 grit sponge.

I really am obsessed with Finish’s. I love the glossy mirror look of High Gloss paint as well as the dry flat matte of chalk. lime and milk finishes.

milk paint wall finish


These walls are lime plastered. I painted them out with Black Milk Paint. I love the way you can layer milk paints to get different depth’s of color. I wash it on with a big lime wash brush. Some area’s get more then others. It drys quick so you must move fast. I go back over some area’s and leave some with just one coat. This wall I wanted flat and I wanted it to look old. Often I will apply wax over it to give it a darker color and to add more protection to the wall. This wall I wanted matte.

Falun Black Finish


This is an outside wall painted out in Falun Black. I love this stuff. It must be applied on raw new wood. Falun black is a pigment that comes from the Falun mine’s of the Baltic region. The paint comes dry. You mix it with linseed oil and water. People say it last s 20- 50 years. I love it for its flat matte quality and its easy application.

High Solid Water Stain


High solid water based stains are easy to apply and they wont peel off. When I see the grain or knots of the wood poking thru I lightly sand with 180 grit and then slap on another coat. This paint like stain lasts 5 years on my pine planks.

Marine Paints


High Gloss Marine paints are not so easy to apply but they sure look great. High Gloss finishes need to be sanded to perfection. Dust is another problem that needs to be avoided. Marine paints are my go to for kitchen’s, bathrooms and front doors. I love them for their durability and classic look.

Painted front door

rabbit skin glue and pigments

Rabbit skin glue mixed with hand ground pigments give a saturated natural  look. The skin is melted in a double boiler and to that i add ground pigments. It is then brushed on in layers. This table received 8 coats brushed on over one another. Its another finish that dry’s fast. As you add more coats some areas get darker while other may not. Brushing is fast and furious. I love the look because of the striations. Rabbit skin distemper needs to be coated with a clear coat other wise it will wash off.  Here I used a water based clear coat that seemed to work well.

Lime Paint

Lime Paint with Indigo Pigment. This finish is made with lime soaked in water and left for three months. Pigments are added the day of painting. Typically it is used on stone, brick and plaster walls. It allows water to escape walls. This finish has a matte look. It’s beauty is in the years of built up coats that create various shades of color. Corners become rounded with build up. This finish is applied yearly in many country’s. Lime paint can be painted on open grain woods and then rubbed back to create a natural washed look.

pigments suspended in lime

This wall from India shows the look of pigments mixed with lime putty.

nepal rustic kitchen

This wall (nepal) shows the look of lime wall paint. Do you see the various shades. I love the imperfect living wall look.

oil paint

Old fashion and hard to get oil paints. Woodwork almost always get oil paint for me. Classic hard-wearing finish.


Classic Varnish.


Marine Paint

Marine Paint at the Brooklin Boat Yard

We restore & refinish all matters of brightwork for yacht and home.
We restore & finish all matters of Bright Work for yacht and home.


Most of these paints can be created with common ingredients. There are many recipes on the web. You can start by looking at 

Blog at

Up ↑