Varnish often.  Many people think their varnish will last forever.  It doesn’t. Varnish wears off from the sun and wiping.  Don’t wait.


Varnish early in the day before the wind comes up.  Your varnish will stay cleaner.


Whenever you can, varnish in the shade.  When you varnish in the sun, the varnish will not flow out properly and will flash, leaving visible brushstrokes.


Always clean the surface before sanding it. If you attempt to sand a dirty surface, you’ll be grinding dirt into it.


Don’t add too much thiner.  You want to apply a good, thick coat.


After you’ve opened the can of varnish, clean the inside of the lid.  Filter the amount you’ll be using into the bucket you will be dipping the brush into.


Don’t wipe your surface down with a wet rag.  Be sure the surface you are varnishing is clean and dry.  Prep it one day, varnish it the next.


Just about 90% of the time, you should sand with the grain of the wood.  Use the appropriate grade of sandpaper, heavier grit for your first sandings then progressively finer grit as you get to the later applications.

Anyone who’s tried to achieve a really beautiful wood finish

on their own knows that prepping and varnishing is tricky business. 

Here are a few tips from a master.

Use good, expensive brushes only for the final application.  Resist using them in the build-up stages simply because it is a lot of work to keep them cleaned properly.


If you’re rusty or unfamiliar with varnishing, practice on a test panel.  It will be time well-spent.


Prep the area around your project well.  Be sure to put plastic inside on seats, doors, carpets and outside around the wheel wells, etc.


Wear protective clothing – clothes you’re not afraid to get a little dirty.  Plan to get varnish on your clothes.


Keep varnish and sandpaper off the glass and metal.  Cover and protect all adjacent surfaces.


Drape the tires with drop cloths.  Keep plenty of drop cloths available.


Be careful what you tape.  Some surfaces, like car paint, don’t do well with tape.


Use a good marine varnish.