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Any thoughts on Ace brand spar varnish.  Local hardware store has it for $25 a gallon.  Bought all the stuff to build a drain tube, next I need the go juice to fill it.    (Lee Orr)

    I've used it, haven't had any problems. I but the little cans and hand varnish / rub it on. Not sure about a drain tube set up.  (Pete Van Schaack)

    My advice is to go ahead and try it.  I have used all kinds of stuff and have generally had good luck with all of it.  Personally , I think that unless you go out and spend a fortune on the spar you use and by this I am referring to the Epifanes and others like it, you are probably not going to be able to tell much difference between one hardware store brand and another.  There are far too many variables that affect the varnish and how it goes on.

    I started using the Home Depot spar varnish, went to MoW, back to HD, then used some stuff I can get here at work that they refinish gym floors with, back to HD.  In the end I found very little difference between any of them.  The gym floor stuff was a poly and it worked well and dried very fast, but there is never any consistency in the product.  So back to the old standby.

    Give it a shot and let us know how it works.  (Mark Babiy)

    I've used the Ace product, and like them quite well.  They are a very dark amber, and a little thick.  You may want to doctor the Ace Spar up a little to make it suit your needs.  (Harry Boyd)

      Since a few are on the topic of finishes... Has anyone tried any on the upper end Marine finishes like Epifanes?  I purchased a 250ml can for initial wrap varnish...Seems as it has a lot of solids in it and would need to be reduced for use in a dip tank... Any experiences with this product?  I have been using Varathane 900 in my tank and am ready to replace due to contamination of the finish from leaving it in my copper turns green....olive green.  Now, I am looking at alternative finishes.  (Mike Hoffman)

        I've been using Epifanes (the only true Spar I could find here in Norway) for 3-4 years and are very happy with it. I've thinned it app. 10% with Epifanes thinner... It's also the only varnish that gives me perfect clear coating on wraps, full strength that is.  (Danny Twang)

        I have used International Goldspar now for years, and am very happy with the stuff.

        I doctor it with vegetable turps and some Penetrol to get the consistency right.  (Peter McKean)

        You can eliminate static problems and time if you use the water based spar Marine Shield by J E Moser. Sold by Woodworkers Supply.  (Lee Koeser)

    I have a buddy that has been rehabbing rods for many years and he loves the stuff. I have used it a little and I am impressed with it.  (Timothy Troester)

    Ace spar is what I use. I use foam brushes and thin the spar 4 parts varnish 1 part turpentine 3 coats works for me.  (Jerry Drake)


Last year I used Helmsman spar urethane as my finish, but after the stuff congealed, I am now switching to Ace Hardware marine spar. It's the only spar varnish I could find locally, so I am going a bit more traditional. I am ready to polish the rod, to remove blemishes that are much more numerous in the spar varnish than I ever had with the spar urethane.  But I very much prefer how the wraps appear with the spar varnish. They glow.

I've waited 9 days since the last dip. I have a very fine pumice powder, and rottenstone powder. I know that the pumice treatment is generally useful with wood finishing, but should I skip the pumice (I'm concerned it might be too aggressive) and go directly to the rottenstone to remove the imperfections and reduce the varnish glare from the cane rod?  (Paul Franklyn)

    After the final coat, I lightly sand with 1500 grit and polish with Novus Plastic Polish #2.  It's not as aggressive as rottenstone.  (Ron Larsen)

    For marine spar polishing I, and a bunch of others, use 3M products known as Perfect-it II (part number 051131-05973) and Finesse-it II(#051131-05928). Runs and specks can be sanded out before hand with 1200-2000 grit paper and with a bit of elbow grease, perfect-it II smoothes everything out. Even if you think you may have sanded through your varnish and hit 'boo, you will usually find (unless you have a really heavy hand) that there is still a coat of varnish there to be polished. Most people use thinner to wet the paper although I know of some who just use spit, to wet the paper. Finesse-it II is the only product I have found that really brings back the transparency of your wraps after using perfect-it on them. I love this crud.  (Mike Shay)

    I could not find Finesse-It, Flitz and the assorted other products recommended by various gentlemen of the list.  I tried the pumice and rottenstone from Lee Valley and eventually settled on toothpaste from The Second Drawer (SWMBO seems to store everything that I am looking for in The Second Drawer - only the room varies.

    I applied it with a piece of off-cut leather belt (you will have to lose some weight to cut off an inch or so of belt :) and I really liked the result.  A soft satin feel with all the runs etc. being buffed out.

    Now, I have only completed one rod, so take that for what it is worth.  (Greg Dawson)

      Many years ago we used Ipana Toothpaste to polish out scratches in plastic aircraft windshields. I have though about giving it a try on the rods but never got to it. I have been using Finesse-It 2. Good to know it will work in a pinch.  (Tony Spezio)

        You could also use unscented talcum powder mixed with a little oil or water  (Nick Kingston)


Have been having a bit of trouble with micro-bubbles in my finish on my last two rods. I am finishing with Epiphanes cut 50/50 with turps and brushed on. I haven't tried to sand out the finish yet (it's not completely cured yet). Any info would be greatly appreciated.  (Mike Givney)

    Had the same problem.  I use MOW & found that thinning it produced numerous bubbles.  Straight out of the can produced less when brushed & fewer still when dipped.  The final dip on my last rod had a total of eight bubbles.  Two flats had none at all.  (Ron Larsen)


Last night at the local Ace Hardware Store, I was looking over their varnish selection. Didn't take very long! Helmsman had changed their formula, now it says "to stir" before and during use. I liked their old formula because it said "not to stir". I always felt it would store longer/better in a dip tube.

Zar was the only other exterior polyurethane that said "don't stir" on the can. But then a company rep told me that if Zar did not spend a lot of time in direct sunlight, the UV absorbers would surface and look like a powder, but could be wiped off. I don't think that would go over very well on a customer's rod.

Then I was looking at the Ace Brand Spar Varnish. It's a Tung Based and they made the claim that "no stirring" is needed. I read on the "Tips" site, one had a problem with it pulling towards the corners. I would think that you wold want the corners coated good, but HOW much are the flats getting starved? How does one know if there is an uneven finish? Can you tell, when you are sanding, between coats?

What paint company makes this for Ace? Has anyone else tried it? How well does it hold up?  (David Dziadosz)

    I switched to Ace Spar Varnish after using Helmsman Spar Urethane. I like the varnish better because the wraps are more translucent and I can polish out the rod. I've had it in the tube for 7 months so far without it thickening. I don't have problems on the corners, perhaps because I dip the rod quickly up and down 5 or 6 times before engaging the slow motorized withdrawal at 5 rpm.  (Paul Franklyn)

    Are you sure it was the Helmsman clear or was it the satin finish that has to be kept stirred?  (Ron Grantham)

      I have an older can of the Helmsman Gloss. It says on the can, "No need to stir. Use right out of the can."  I also have a new can that says, "New and improved formula." On the back it says, "Stir thoroughly and occasionally during use."  (David Dziadosz)

    If it starts pulling towards the corners, add some Penetrol to it. (Mark Wendt)

      Thanks for all of the responses, on and off the "List". I was surprised on how many makers use this finish. Several mentioned how easy it is to polish. Does that mean it's  not as durable as some finishes? Also, when the subject is finishes, this one is never mentioned! Does anyone know what paint company makes this for Ace?  (David Dziadosz)

        Of the different finishes I've looked at, I've found only three that stated "no stirring". I thought this would be a good quality, because of the finish being stored/used in a dip tube system. It seems to be fairly difficult to stir while in a dip tube. The three that I found were:

        1-Old formula Helmsman

        2-Ace Hardware Spar Varnish

        3-Zar exterior.   This finish is almost clear, very pale amber color.  Makes a blonde rod almost too blonde! A Zar Rep told me the UV absorbers could surface and would look like a powder, that could be wiped off, on a stored rod. It needs to be out in direct light.

        I always assumed that spar finishes, with UV absorbers, had to be stirred occasionally. What makes these finishes so different? (David Dziadosz)


I am going to utilize Ace Hardware Spar in my drain tube to finish a few rebuilt Montagues and South Bends, and need to purchase two quarts.  Should I thin it with something like VM&P Naptha or Mineral Spirits, and how much?  (Ron Delesky)

    I used to mess with spar varnish. Now I don't. Straight up, room temperature, right out of the can. Maybe some Penetrol as it gets a bit older.  (Jeff Schaeffer)


I decided to utilize Ace Hardware Spar Varnish in a dip tube to refinish some rebuilt South Bends because it was available locally.  Also, 5% Naptha as well as 5% Penetrol was added. However, what has the approximate drying times been between coats for people with experience with this finish?  The weather conditions in my area have been in the low 80s with mild humidity, and it seems like it is taking longer than it should as compared to finishes in the past.   (Ron Delesky)

    I've never added anything more than Ace thinner to it when I varnish. Usually dry enough to sand for the next coat in 24 hours.  (Pete Van Schaack)


I'm using Ace spar varnish for the first time.  I applied the first coat on three rods last weekend.  It seems to be too thick, even at less than three inches per minute.  It was in the mid seventy degree range and 65 to 70 percent relative humidity when I applied it.  That's within the manufactures guidelines.  For those of you using Ace spar, are you thinning it?  If so, how much and with what?  If I don't thin it, I'm going to have to draw (drain) at about one inch per minute and stop with two coats on these rods.  (David Bolin)

    I use Ace and thin with turpentine 4 parts varnish, 1 part turpentine. I use foam applicators to apply. I do not dip.  (Jerry Drake)

    Varnish is one of the many things in the world that vary some from batch to batch. If what you have seems too thick, by all means thin it, you won't hurt it any. I would recommend turpentine from the artists supply store rather than hardware store turpentine because it is cleaner, the cheap stuff sometimes has crud of some sort  suspended in it and it messes up the finish, mineral spirits works OK too.  (John Channer)

      I always strain my turps through a ladies stocking as well as my varnish.  I don't care where it came from, I still strain it.  (Bret Reiter)

        Is that "don't care where the varnish came from" or "don't care where the stocking came from?"

        Very important distinction.  (Nick Kingston)

          The varnish & the turps.   I don't use the crotch either so I guess it doesn't matter where the stocking came from either.  I do wash them to take out the sizing too.  I do not dry them in the dryer either.  (Bret Reiter)

    I do not thin and only use 2 coats with good results. (Jeff Volner)

      I do 3 coats of tongue oil and then 1 coat of Spar unthinned. Works for me.  (Rob Clarke)

        I use tung oil too.  (Steve Weiss)


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