Minwax Helmsman Spar water-based urethane? Anyone with familiarity?

brownvan

2017 4X4 HR 144"
I am closer to finally putting a clear coat on all the birch plywood interior panels I've done and I am currently in the testing-phase of figuring out which finish to use.
I am going to buy a quart of Minwax Water-Based Helmsman Spar Urethane Clear Satin and do some testing with it this week.
I also have a quart of the Minwax Polycrylic Water-Based Clear Matte that I was gonna test out too on some pieces of ply.
I bought the quart of Polycrylic a month ago and then I phoned Minwax recently with some questions and they told me the Polycrylic might get small cracks over time due to temperature shifts (and it is not very flexible) and so I might not get good results for my application (which I explained). They suggested the Minwax Water-Based Helmsman Spar Urethane Clear Satin as a good alternative that is flexible and good with temp swings (and doesn't have a glossy finish).

- Does anyone on this forum have first-hand experience with Minwax Water-Based Helmsman Spar Urethane? If so, I welcome any wisdom you may be able to provide and I have a few questions as well.

Thanks in advance~
 

Boathik

Future van builder
The main difference between regular polyurethane/varnish and the “spar” variety is how hard it gets and the amount of UV inhibitors in it. While the finishes from a marine store are certainly better than Minwax, I do not find it different enough to justify the enormous jump in price for indoor, non-marine work.

I have had good results on some small general-use projects with Minwax Fast Dry Polyurethane, a good brush and proper technique. Don’t shake the finish! Stir it carefully, pour what you’ll use into a separate container so not to contaminate the can. Blow off the parts with compressed air. Do your finishing in as dust-free an area as you can. Set up a light at a low angle so you can see how the finish is spreading and if you left any holidays. Lightly sand between coats with some 320 stearated paper on a sanding block for flat areas and a fine 3M Scotch pad for curved surfaces. After your final coat is cured (minimum 1 day) you can use pieces of a brown paper bag to rub the surface lightly to remove any remaining dust nibs.

Having said that, on the cabinets I’m currently building, I am spraying them with General Finishes High Performance Satin. Water-based finishes are more sensitive to temperature and especially humidity, so follow label recommendations.

https://www.woodworkingshop.com/pro...reA4Xg6RoyTp3txJTfsbgXe8azMG-fg0aAkNbEALw_wcB


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
 

marklg

Well-known member
If yellowing is OK, Ive used Arm-R-Seal Oil and Urethane for a nice finish on tabletops.It is a wipe on finish and can get smooth if you are very careful. It's hard to not have drips on the other side if you are finishing two sides of a table.

https://www.rockler.com/general-finishes-arm-r-seal-urethane-top-coat-gloss

I have used Minwax Polycrylic water based spray for stuff that needs to be protected, but the finish is not that smooth. I had it lying around. It doesn't yellow, but seems to last fine.

I've used Minwax Helmsman Spar Varnish spray and it works but the finish is not that good either.

For ultimate protection and no yellowing, I've used Ellis Pinnacle, but I am not sure if it is available any longer. It is a two part, catalyzed finish. You mix it and spray it. It is about $100 a gallon and requires application with an HVLP sprayer and full protection (gloves, real respirator, eye protection, bunny suit, none of which you can find now). Spraying with an HVLP sprayer will get you a much nicer finish, but is a lot of effort. It is on my stairs and they use it outdoors in the sun and rain.

See these reviews sites, which have to be taken with a grain of salt and they all seem to link to Amazon to buy what they review:

https://www.google.com/search?&q=best+finish+table+top

Regards,

Mark
 
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GSWatson

2013 144
I used Deft spray satin laquer on the bamboo of Valerie’s van, and have been very happy. No need to sand between coats, dries in 20 minutes between coats, and has been pretty durable. Best of all, scratches can be lightly sanded and sprayed without having to do the whole surface, as the solvent in the spray lends the edges. Are use the spray version, but it’s also available for brushing on.


Cheers,
Greg
 

HarryN

Well-known member
My wife is allergic to oil based finishes, so we don't use those.

I have had decent results with polyurethane, but the one short coming is that at least the one that I used on my work bench gets tacky if rubbing alcohol gets on it, and I use that stuff all of the time.
 

ECU

Well-known member
I've used it. My favorite for cabinets is floor urethane. Smooths easy and dries quickly.
 

brownvan

2017 4X4 HR 144"
Update on the Minwax Water-Based Helmsman Spar Urethane Clear Satin:

I took a piece of 1/4" birch ply and made a test swatch. Sanded it first with 220, then wet wiped with a rag to raise the grain, then after drying I sanded it again and prepped it for paint. Blow off and tack cloth just before spraying.
The first coat was allowed to cure 24 hrs and then resanded lightly for proper subsequent adhesion of layers. I did 4 coats total per the mfr instructions for unfinished wood while sanding lightly after each coat cures, blow off, tack, repeat.
I was able to get a pretty nice, smooth finish overall but at a micro-level it didn't fill-in completely-glass-smooth ...probably because I wasn't trying to do heavy coats with the spray gun. I waited the recommended 72 hrs for the 4th coat to fully cure before I did some performance testing today. I had my concerns on how the material would actually perform based on reviews posted about it on the minwax site https://www.minwax.com/wood-products/clear-protective-finishes/interior-exterior/minwax-water-based-helmsman-spar-urethane so I was gonna do some performance testing before committing.

Performance-wise this coating is not very impervious to water. I did a "wet glass" test for 2 minutes sitting on the plywood and it left a pretty significant mark that took awhile to disappear. If you drip water on the wood and leave it for 1 minute it wipes off fine without marring the finish. Same with coffee - no staining if wiped off relatively quickly.
So now I'm thinking about not using this material and open to other materials/suggestions.

My basic criteria: 600 sq-ft to cover, water-based polyurethane preferred for easy cleanup, sprayable preferred for speed & finish, clear low-gloss finish, does not off-gas nasty chemicals forever and can be used indoors, resistant to water, UV, temp-changes, yellowing & stains once cured. If there's another type of polyurethane out there let me know. Also I'm gonna need 4 gallons of the stuff so something that's not ridiculously expensive (i.e. > $50/gal). Thanks for any suggestions.
 

marklg

Well-known member
Update on the Minwax Water-Based Helmsman Spar Urethane Clear Satin:

I took a piece of 1/4" birch ply and made a test swatch. Sanded it first with 220, then wet wiped with a rag to raise the grain, then after drying I sanded it again and prepped it for paint. Blow off and tack cloth just before spraying.
The first coat was allowed to cure 24 hrs and then resanded lightly for proper subsequent adhesion of layers. I did 4 coats total per the mfr instructions for unfinished wood while sanding lightly after each coat cures, blow off, tack, repeat.
I was able to get a pretty nice, smooth finish overall but at a micro-level it didn't fill-in completely-glass-smooth ...probably because I wasn't trying to do heavy coats with the spray gun. I waited the recommended 72 hrs for the 4th coat to fully cure before I did some performance testing today. I had my concerns on how the material would actually perform based on reviews posted about it on the minwax site https://www.minwax.com/wood-products/clear-protective-finishes/interior-exterior/minwax-water-based-helmsman-spar-urethane so I was gonna do some performance testing before committing.

Performance-wise this coating is not very impervious to water. I did a "wet glass" test for 2 minutes sitting on the plywood and it left a pretty significant mark that took awhile to disappear. If you drip water on the wood and leave it for 1 minute it wipes off fine without marring the finish. Same with coffee - no staining if wiped off relatively quickly.
So now I'm thinking about not using this material and open to other materials/suggestions.

My basic criteria: 600 sq-ft to cover, water-based polyurethane preferred for easy cleanup, sprayable preferred for speed & finish, clear low-gloss finish, does not off-gas nasty chemicals forever and can be used indoors, resistant to water, UV, temp-changes, yellowing & stains once cured. If there's another type of polyurethane out there let me know. Also I'm gonna need 4 gallons of the stuff so something that's not ridiculously expensive (i.e. > $50/gal). Thanks for any suggestions.
I hope you find something that meets that criteria, but it may not exist. That is why I went with the Ellis Pinnacle as recommended by a second generation professional finisher who showed me how to use it, but it is not anywhere near easy to safe to use without full protection. I was very lucky to find someone who was willing to share their experience. They did, and got paid for some of the job on large pieces and showed me how to do the rest of the job on the smaller pieces that take more time.

Maybe you can find a similar expert near you, but old fashioned craftsman willing to share their knowledge with newbies are hard to find. This forum is a great place to look.

I've found this for floors:

https://www.bobvila.com/articles/8-hardwood-floor-finishes/

It kind of says that water based polys just can't tolerate standing water. The Pinnacle I used qualifies as an Acid Cure Finish I believe. Maybe look at Moisture Cure Urethanes if you can wait to air it out for a few weeks.

Please continue the followups though.


Regards,

Mark
 

brownvan

2017 4X4 HR 144"
Overall my main critique with the Helmsman Spar Water-Based was how it behaved with respect to standing water left on the finish. The water-glass marks ultimately went away almost fully but there is a faint change in the reflective-sheen. Maximum length test I did was 10 minutes of a wet glass on the test-sample. After wiping off the surface water, the mark went away almost completely after 2 hours.
As far as stain-resistance it's really good. In addition to coffee, I've tested it with soy sauce, olive oil, and coconut oil and it all wiped off cleanly after being left on the surface for 1 minute without leaving any residue.
It's likely I won't find a water-based polyurethane out there that can handle routine water exposure. I am interested in some of the varieties that are suitable for floors but it appears they are just harder (less flexible) variations of the same formulation.
I've also read some issues with Minwax products and am open to other brands and I'm also approaching this from what is readily available at hardware/paint stores (CARB compliant too).
 

marklg

Well-known member
Overall my main critique with the Helmsman Spar Water-Based was how it behaved with respect to standing water left on the finish. The water-glass marks ultimately went away almost fully but there is a faint change in the reflective-sheen. Maximum length test I did was 10 minutes of a wet glass on the test-sample. After wiping off the surface water, the mark went away almost completely after 2 hours.
As far as stain-resistance it's really good. In addition to coffee, I've tested it with soy sauce, olive oil, and coconut oil and it all wiped off cleanly after being left on the surface for 1 minute without leaving any residue.
It's likely I won't find a water-based polyurethane out there that can handle routine water exposure. I am interested in some of the varieties that are suitable for floors but it appears they are just harder (less flexible) variations of the same formulation.
I've also read some issues with Minwax products and am open to other brands and I'm also approaching this from what is readily available at hardware/paint stores (CARB compliant too).
Are you always in N CA? There are two suppliers in the LA area that could be of help. There is Annex Paint in Reseda and MC Crystal with a few stores. They have a store in AZ and that is where I got stuff. They were very helpful too. Rockler also has some experts in woodworking. You might need to look beyond the big box stores.

I do hope you find something. Everything I've used that doesn't cost $100 a gallon and needs a bunny suit to apply has had something I didn't like. I guess you do get what you pay for.

Regards,

Mark
 

Graphite Dave

Dave Orton
I used Minwax polyurethane clear satin. Label missing from the can but it required thinner to clean the brush so not water based. Have no complaints with the finish after 5 years. It does fade some with sunlight over time.

A trick that worked for the edges of the cherry plywood was painting the edges. Took a piece of finished plywood to the paint store and had them match the color. Looks acceptable.
 

dynaco1

Member
Epifanes (sounds like epi-fawn-us)

Pricey. Love the stuff on Mahogany and Teak. Apply to horizontal surface. More coats are better. Time consuming but rewarding. Make it like the Mona Lisa.
 
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thecoast1

Member
I've had pretty good luck with Osmo. It's a floor finish but gets used for furniture and other things, you'll see it a lot on baltic birch or europly with the ply edges visible and finished. Some may not like the look but I do. It goes a long way, I did an entire kitchen worth of cabinet doors and drawer fronts both sides and the floor of my van (2005 158) with one gallon. It may not meet your criteria (spendy 150$ ouch, no spray) but it goes on like honey and the finish is non toxic and really durable. Not going to help you now, but you can also get pre-finished birch ply and the finish on that is tough as hell.
 

Aqua Puttana

Poly - Thread Finder
...

It kind of says that water based polys just can't tolerate standing water. ...
Regards,

Mark
That's my experience. Because I had it on hand I used water based poly on some inflatable boat parts. It was a disaster in that it began to bubble and peel pretty much right away after the boat hit the water.

Without standing water I'm sure it's fine for van interiors. I do like the traditional polyurethane better for durability.

:cheers: vic
 

brownvan

2017 4X4 HR 144"
Update:
I finished the polyurethane spraying 4 weeks ago. I used a Wagner Control Stainer 150 and it worked great. I made a large easel out of 2x4 lumber to spray the panels vertically and then had lots of folding tables and sawhorses to move the panels on to after spraying. It took a long time to do this project - 5 days of sanding and 4 days of spraying. I had to spray about 500 ft'2 (both sides of the 20 individual birch panels) and I did 4 coats total on everything - I used about 3.5 gallons on the Minwax Water Based Helmsman Spar Polyurethane Satin Finish.. I'd spend about half-day spraying and then let the coat cure overnight and then sand all surfaces the following day, then repeat on the next day. All of the sanding and spraying yielded a nice super smooth satin finish. I did have some tips for anyone else going down this path:
1) The Smell is Real - it has been 4 weeks and the wood is still offgassing. It's fully cured but still has a smell which has diminished alot with time but it is still apparent. I read alot of internet horror stories of people refinishing their wood floors in their houses only to make their place unlivable. Read these stories and consider this before you start finishing wood in your van and know what you are using. I am slightly sensitized to the smell so it is abit more triggering for me. I am estimating it will take several months to go away. In the meantime I am venting things and hoping for sustained warmer weather to accelerate the offgassing. I would recommend doing some test sprays like I did to see if the smell of your polyurethane is really bad when cured. Or maybe seek out pre-finished wood for your build. There are a multitude of wood finishing options and I chose but one path of many out there.
2) A sprayable Epoxy would be nice - I didn't go down this path but a sprayable epoxy might have been another option worth looking into. Or at the very least maybe something I could apply with a roller. My experience with epoxies is that they fully crosslink and they don't offgas too much isocyanate, mostly amines which I can handle. I probably could have done it in one coat too.
3) Spraying Polyurethane takes significant skill. Too light of a coat and it will look spattered in the finish. Too heavy and it will droop.
I recommend that you spray in the vertical position with good lighting and then try to get the board flat on sawhorses as soon as possible. This will mitigate any droop if you apply too heavy a coat. Otherwise you can sand the droop down when it dries and learn to do better on the next coat!
4) Hand Sanding was good for between coats and I like the feel of hand sanding. Machine sanding was good before the first coat.
5) Prior to paint (like 5 minutes before) Vacuum each board with a Hepa shop vac + brush attachment and then wipe with a tack cloth. This gave me a super clean surface to apply poly to every time. Also sanding was necessary between coats for this material in order to have good adhesion between the coats.
That's about all the thoughts I have so far. I'll update on the smell offgassing in another month.
 

monoloco

Member
Unless one is planing on parking the van in the lake, water based poly is plenty durable. I applied 4 coats over a coat of wipe on oil finish, on each side of my paneling with a HVLP system, lightly sanding between coats with a purple abrasive pad. It looks great, and has had zero durability issues, and no out gassing. I used the same water based poly in my shop on work benches and shop fixtures, and it's been surprisingly durable, even on work surfaces.
 
As a builder for over forty years I have never been a big fan of water base polyurethanes. The one I like the most is Last N Last. I think Fine Woodworking did a review on it years ago. Especially for any darker wood, mahogany, walnut, cherry the water base just gives the wood a lackluster appearance and doesn't look nearly as rich as an oil based product. We use Helmsman or Epifanes......a quart goes a long way!!!
 

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