Eastport Nesting Pram : Paint or varnish?

I'm in the process of building the nesting pram and I'm debating how to finish it.  The pram will spend most of it's time nesting on the foredeck of my sailboat.  I will be using her in the water when going ashore for supplies or for little joyrides around anchorages.  The means she is going to be getting some hard use - loaded with supplies, pulled up on beaches, etc.  I like the look of the bright work, but I'm wondering if I should invest that time, or just get her done and painted.  Opinions and maybe a pic or two of a painted pram would be helpful.  ( only pics I can find are varnished)



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RE: Eastport Nesting Pram : Paint or varnish?

   My first thought is to get it done and painted . . . but why not wait until you are almost finished to decide? If things go really well, builder's pride might make varnish a good choice. I think you could always start with varnish and switch to paint after the boat gets beaten up by a few years on the water.

RE: Eastport Nesting Pram : Paint or varnish?

I'm biased. I love wood grain, but I used up all my brjghtwork maintenance time at least 50 years ago --- so I have to survive using paint --- beautiful, durable, polyurethane paint.

In all seriousness, brightwork is lovely to look at but expensive in maintenance time. At age 70, the only external wood that I would leave bright is oiled (or not) teak. When we built my Peeler Skiff, About Time, I made a conscious decision to have no brightwork. I wanted to spend my time using the boat and as little time as possible maintaining her. So far, most of her maintenance has been with a hose, sponge, and occasionally a little automotive wax on the outside of the hull. She still looks like new.

Brightwork is a matter of personal taste. IMHO, sailboats require enough maintenance without having a high maintenance tender. If you must have brightwork, I'd recommend picking things like the seats, breasthook, or quarter knees. Interlux Brightsides is wonderful stuff to work with and can produce a hard, gelcoat-like finish with a little extra buffing.



RE: Eastport Nesting Pram : Paint or varnish?

A good quality varnish is basically paint with no pigment, so you should get equivalent results. What kills traditional varnish finishes and turns brightwork into a bottomless pit of maintenance is thermal expansion and water intrusion. The wood stretches and contracts under the varnish, the varnish cracks and water gets under the varnish and starts it peeling.

Sealing a boat with fiberglass and epoxy before varnishing it takes care of that. The glass's tensile strength controls the expansion of the wood so that ity stays within the limits of what the varnish can handle without cracking. I've had varnish finishes over glass go 7 years with no maintenance other than washing with fresh water and a sponge.

As far as durability, a linear 2-part poloyurethane paint with crosslinkers added forms a hard polymer that is much more durable than any varnish. But they are also available without pigment in a clearcoat version that will let you have a bright finish that's as tough as the colored version.

So, unfortunately, you can get equivalent results  with either and the choice is up to you :-)

Have fun,


PS - my personal fleet is 2 varnished, 2 painted

RE: Eastport Nesting Pram : Paint or varnish?

Lazlo makes an excellent point. Modern varnishes, like modern epoxy formulations, are far better than those I used in my younger days. That being said, I still contend that finishing wood bright, for all its potential beauty, requires more labor:

  1. Surface preparation for a good bright finish is far less forgiving than for a good painted finish. Many of the techniques one might use to obtain a smooth, fair base for paint would show through varnish. The times when I was able to use a temporary drywall screw in lieu of a clamp, or a little filler putty to fix a dent, or that nasty bit of wood discoloration, are just not acceptable for a bright finish.
  2. It is also easier to fix dings, dents, and scratches, on a painted surface than a bright one. There are many kinds of wear and tear that can be made to disappear from a painted finish that would require major woodwork to fix with a bright finish.

As Lazlo said, it's your choice and a matter of personal taste and priorities.



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