Expert Varnishing Tips

Varnishing Guru

Think you have a pretty good handle on that badger-hair brush? Read on, Oh Gentle Do-It-Yourselfer.

Betty Jane
Betty Jane

When Bryan Hicks of Panama City, Florida, a veritable artiste with a varnishing brush, talks about his work, he often concludes with a quote from Vince Lombardi: “Gentlemen, we will chase perfection and we will chase it relentlessly, knowing all the while that we will never attain it. But along the way, we shall catch excellence!”

For Hicks, Lombardi’s words underscore a critical point. Even professionals like himself, with decades of their lives devoted to the discipline of varnishing, are bound to make a mistake or two, here and there. “So don’t feel discouraged if you see some imperfections at the end of the day,” he advises. “There’s no way around it really. There are no perfect jobs.”

Hicks has been doing the varnish work on my Grand Banks trawler Betty Jane for several years now. He began with Betty way back when by removing all traces of the finish on her exterior teak and then went on to administer his own mirror-like coating, which he continues to refurbish annually. It’s unusual for a varnish job to last through an entire year in the North Florida climate, a metrological mélange that includes wicked heat during the summer and freezing temperatures in the winter. But the job Hicks does indeed lasts. And he’s generously willing to share the essentials of his highly successful method with Power & Motoryacht’s readers:

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This article originally appeared in the August 2013 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.

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