Category Archives: Coating

Sparks is a great example of good sealing and priming.

Sealing and Priming

Lesson 4 in our series on Strip Planking

By Ted Moores

Sealing and priming a surface prior to applying the final finish affects how it ages, and how it ages has everything to do with the way the finish is anchored to the wood. Sealers and primers are often taken for granted; we simply read the can and follow directions. There are so many reasons for using a sealer and many methods for applying them. Let’s look at what we learned while sealing Sparks, the electric launch I built. Continue reading

Bubble-Free Epoxy Coating

By Mike BarnardDon Gutzmer

WEST SYSTEM® Epoxy has long been a popular choice for clear coating tabletops, and for these applications, you’ll want a bubble-free epoxy coating. Epoxy works great as a buildup coat and a moisture barrier. It also showcases the beauty of wood grain and fiber weaves. Formulated with boat building in mind, WEST SYSTEM Epoxy is not intended as a final finish coating. You may find it a bit more difficult to achieve a perfect surface with epoxy than with a coating formulated specifically for final finishing, such as varnish. Here’s how to make sure your epoxy coating is bubble-free.

However, WEST SYSTEM offers some distinct advantages. It builds up quickly: a single coat of 105 Epoxy Resin® with 207 Special Clear Hardener® offers about four times the thickness of a typical coat of polyurethane varnish. WEST SYSTEM epoxy is also an excellent moisture barrier, stabilizing the surface so your final finish coat will look beautiful longer.

When coating a surface that will be used outdoors, it’s important to put a UV-resistant clear coating over the epoxy. While 207 Special Clear Hardener contains a good UV inhibitor, it will still need additional UV-resistant coats to withstand the degrading effects of sunlight on epoxy.

Since you will need to sand down the epoxied surface and coat the epoxy with varnish, getting a perfect coating isn’t strictly necessary. But the better shape it’s in, the more easily you will achieve a beautiful, bubble-free finish. The key is creating the smoothest, flattest epoxy surface possible. This will save you a lot of sanding later.

Last summer here at the Gougeon shop, we laminated a 35-year-old conference table with carbon fiber and WEST SYSTEM 105/207. We experimented with different methods of achieving a smooth, even, bubble-free epoxy coat to reduce the need for sanding prior to the final finish coating. (Editor’s note: 10 years after this article was written, that carbon-fiber conference table still looks terrific.)

Prepare the surface

Proper surface preparation is one of the most important steps in using epoxy. Make sure the surface is clean of contaminants such as wax and paint. Sand the surface smooth. Avoid using solvents immediately before applying the epoxy.

Eliminate dust

Getting a perfectly smooth surface starts with clearing the air of small particles. These particles may seem harmless, but once they are on a glossy surface it will not look nearly as good as it could. Avoid using tack rags. Vacuum the surface before coating.

Understand outgassing

Before coating bare wood, heat the wood and apply the epoxy while the wood is cooling. During cooling, the air in the wood contracts, drawing the epoxy in for a bubble-free epoxy coating. The opposite happens if you coat wood as it’s warming (such as in the morning, in the sunlight, near a heater or anytime ambient temperature is rising). The air in the wood will expand and “outgas” while the wood’s temperature is rising, resulting in bubbles in the curing epoxy coating.

Applying over stains

Be careful when using WEST SYSTEM Epoxy over commercial stains. Some stains prevent epoxy from penetrating into the wood. The result can be epoxy that fisheyes or peels off after final cure. Always perform a test before using epoxy over a stain.

Avoiding blush

It’s easy to avoid the inert, waxy residue that is sometimes a byproduct of the curing process and is commonly called “blush.” Simply use WEST SYSTEM 207 Special Clear Hardener. It cures blush-free. It’s also formulated for excellent wet out and self-leveling. It cures extremely clear and without color.

If you are using WEST SYSTEM 205 Fast, 206 Slow, or 209 Extra Slow Hardener, blush might develop on the surface, depending on working conditions. It’s easily removed after the epoxy cures with plain water and a light scrubbing with a Scotch-Brite™ pad. These hardeners are not normally recommended for clear coating.

Rolling and tipping

The only recommended way to coat vertical surfaces with epoxy is the roll and tip method. Roll the epoxy on with a foam roller, then “tip” by dragging another roller across the surface to smooth the epoxy layer.

Tip off wet epoxy with a roller cover brush using long, even overlapping strokes. This will leave a bubble-free epoxy coating.

Tip off wet epoxy with a roller cover brush using long, even overlapping strokes. This will leave a bubble-free epoxy coating.

Flow coating

This is the best method for encapsulating items in a bubble-free epoxy coating. The fewest bubbles result if epoxy is poured from the bottom of a container. A word of caution: Never pour a single layer of epoxy thicker than ¼”. Thicker amounts can quickly overheat or “exotherm” during cure, resulting in quite a mess on your lovely surface. If you want a final thickness greater than ¼”, wait until the first layer is cured to the point where it’s firm and about as “tacky” as masking tape then apply the next coat on top of that.

If encapsulating items such as coins, medals, bottle caps and photos on a flat surface, affix them in place with decoupage glue such as Mod Podge® (readily available at craft stores). It’s compatible with epoxy and will prevent your items from floating around. Use it to pre-seal photos and other paper items.

Propane torch

This method of achieving a bubble-free epoxy finish has been used for years by technical advisors at Gougeon Brothers. Not only is it effective for removing air bubbles from the surface, it also lowers the viscosity of the surface and flattens it out a bit. Be very careful when using this technique because leaving the flame over one spot for too long could cause bubbles to appear. We don’t recommend using a propane torch over epoxy-coated bare wood. Doing so may cause outgassing into the epoxy layer.

A thick coating of epoxy with bubbles in the coating.

A thick coating of epoxy with bubbles in the coating.

Pass a torch flame quickly over wet epoxy to warm the surface, reduce the surface tension, reduce viscosity slightly and release air bubbles, resulting in a bubble-free epoxy finish.

Pass a torch flame quickly over wet epoxy to warm the surface, reduce the surface tension, reduce viscosity slightly and release air bubbles, resulting in a bubble-free epoxy finish.

After a quick pass with a torch, the bubbles are released and the coating begins to flow out.

After a quick pass with a torch, the bubbles are released and the coating begins to flow out.

Denatured Alcohol

Spraying a fine mist of denatured alcohol over the surface will pop air bubbles as well as lower the viscosity of the surface and flatten it out. There is little risk in this method because denatured alcohol evaporates fairly quickly and does not cause air bubbles to propagate. A fine mist is critical. To get the fine mist we purchased a bottle of hair spray with a push button pump (a Windex™ sprayer is not fine enough) and replaced the hair spray with denatured alcohol.

A fine mist of denatured alcohol will reduce surface tension and release air bubbles, resulting in a bubble-free epoxy coating.

A fine mist of denatured alcohol will reduce surface tension and release air bubbles, resulting in a bubble-free epoxy coating.

An S hook will save your foam roller frame.

Saving Your 801 Roller Frame

by Captain James R. Watson

Photo at top: How a simple S hook can save your 801 Roller Frame.

When you’ve completed a coating task using an 801 Roller Frame and 800 Roller Cover, what next? The frame is reusable. But if you leave it resting in the pan while the residual epoxy cures, you‘ll probably ruin both the reusable pan and the frame. If you lay the roller and frame on a workbench, it will be stuck there the next day. Here is a simple solution to this problem that will allow you to reuse your frame again and again.

Continue reading

Comparing Surface Prep Techniques

For Paints and Primers

by Joe Parker

Above: Surface prep testing using ASTM D3359. This calls for a single-edged razor blade to score a pattern through the coating. Applying a strip of masking tape diagonally across the pattern, then pulling it slowly back over itself will reveal the relative degree of adhesion to the substrate or primer.

Before you begin a project, it is a good idea to consider all of your options. Information about products or methods you may want to use is often available on product labels, from manufacturers, or your own experience. However, many times the information you need to make good choices is just not available. Then your best option is to test. In our most recent sailboat renovation, we had to figure out what to test for and how to do it. Continue reading

Varnish over epoxy

Testing House Paint Primers

By Tom Pawlak — GBI Technical Advisor

Gougeon Brothers, Inc. regularly engages in testing to support those who use our epoxy in architectural applications, both in new construction and repairs. In the past, we have tested the compatibility of house paint primers over WEST SYSTEM® epoxy and found that a variety of primers worked well. Latex primers especially performed well when applied over cured epoxy, even when the epoxy was marginally prepared prior to painting (Epoxyworks 7, Spring 1996). Continue reading

Porch Railing Coating Analysis

By Tom Pawlak — GBI Technical Advisor

My porch railing at home was badly in need of painting even though I had painted it the summer before. After just one Michigan winter, the paint had cracked and lifted. I wondered to myself if coating the top rail with WEST SYSTEM® epoxy would improve this poor situation and decided to turn the top rail into a small R & D project. Continue reading

varnish over epoxy

Getting the Clearest Fiberglass Finish

by Jim Derck—GBI Technical Advisor

If you are using the strip planking method to build a canoe, kayak or even a telescope, you already appreciate the beauty of wood. The following tips will help you achieve the clearest possible fiberglass coating to protect and reinforce the wood and show off your handiwork. Continue reading

primer performance

House Paint Primer Performance

By Tom Pawlak — GBI Technical Advisor

In the past, we’ve recommended applying an alkyd base primer over well-cured, clean, and sanded epoxy surfaces. We wanted to know how this primer compared to the newer, fast drying primers now available. We recently did a study of various house paint primers over epoxy to support the growing number of customers using WEST SYSTEM epoxy for building restoration. Continue reading