1959 Chris Craft Sportsman: How to Buff Varnish (the SMB Way)

Gloss is about flat, which may seem incongruous, but the flatter the surface, the more uniform will be the gloss. Think of a cheap mirror compared to a high-end one. Your reflection in the cheap mirror tends to be wavy, while it is absolutely unwavering in the high-end one.

Why? The surface is uneven in the cheap one and absolutely flat in the high-end one, hence the truer, more consistent reflection of the light hitting it.

Gloss is about flat, and Snake Mountain Boatworks strives for as flat a surface as we can create. The process begins with wet sanding by hand using a rubber sanding block and 1,000 grit wet/dry paper, followed by doing it again with 1,200 grit, and finally with 1,500 grit.

We used to sand with 2,000 grit as well, but discovered that switching to Mequiars buffing crème 101 and 205 instead both saves time and delivers a much deeper, more uniform gloss, which means it helps us get to flatter sooner.

Yes, I have heard the folklore that buffing varnish destroys, or at best dramatically lessens UV protection on the dubious claim that it resides solely in the topmost portion of the varnish film.

To have any validity such a claim would require that each additional coat of varnish somehow bleeds UV protection out of the prior, already partially cured, coats of varnish. Are we to believe that coat 10 somehow liquefies the previous 9 coats, each of which delivers the UV protection “cooked” into the varnish we are using?

Alternatively, if the buffing process employed dramatically “washed” film thickness away, yes, the final UV protection achieved by having applied 12 coats would decrease proportionally were buffing to reduce film thickness to, say, that offered by 9 coats.

Sorry, I cannot get there. UV protection builds with each additional coat increases the film thickness. When we begin with the film thickness delivered by the 20 coats we have applied and allowed to cure for at least several weeks, the buffing with 1,000 and progressively higher grits that follows polishes and flattens the surface. It does not remove significant amounts of film thickness in the process.

Snake Mountain Boatworks will continue buffing and delivering results to our owners that translate into winning most of the shows they enter SMB-preserved boats in, which is the case.

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