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Brightwork; Give one weekend, get years of beauty. ©
Written by: Steve Ray

Step 1: Bedding and Caulking

All glue joints must be fully sealed, and wood attached to hull or deck surfaces must be properly bedded to prevent moisture intrusion and rot. If joint bedding is suspect and cannot be replaced, we recommend caulking all edges of the piece. If you can insert a piece of paper between the wood and the mounting surface, there will be a problem with moisture intrusion.

Clean the joint with a knife, razor blade, or sandpaper, and flush thoroughly with acetone or lacquer thinner or use CPES™ to dry and ensure a bond. Allow solvents to completely dry. Mask both edges of joint to be caulked. Add a few inches of tape each side since caulking is very messy . Caulk the entire edge with 3M 5200, forcing into the joint as far as possible with a gloved fingertip, and wipe up all excess with a dry rag, then with a paint thinner wetted rag. Remove masking. Allow curing according to the manufacturer's instructions.

Step 2: Masking and Removal

Mask all areas not intended to have Bristol Finish applied to. When you are applying tape, back the tape away from any joint by 1/32" or so, to insure that no wood is left bare. Temporarily cover bedding with additional masking tape to avoid softening from the stripper. Remove the old varnish using the Ready-Strip""&"reg; Marine brand of paint and varnish remover. This stripper changes color to signal removal time and is specifically designed to remove paint and varnish up to 5 layers thick in one application. It is applied as a blue and turns light blue when the paint is ready to be removed. Ready-Strip Marine will not damage the gel coat or any surface. Apply and sit back for a few hours or overnight. Removal is easy with scraper or putty knife finishing with a Scotch Bright pad. Once the varnish is removed wash with water and let dry thoroughly. Remove masking over newly bedded joint.

Step 3: Prepare and Seal the wood

Allow the wood to dry completely for a minimum of a few hours. Sand as required, starting with appropriate grit and progressing in steps. Use a hard sanding block a first, a soft block for the fine grit. A progression of 80 grit, 100 grit, 150 grit, and finally 220 grit is suggested. Do not stop sanding with the 80 grit paper until the wood is completely smooth. The finer grits are only used to minimize the size of sanding scratches. Any ridges or high spots that are not sanded down will cause thin areas in the coating, which could suffer premature failure. Remove all sanding dust with a brush and lightly damp rag. Allow any moisture to dry.

Apply Clear Penetrating Epoxy Sealer™ (CPES) over the freshly sanded wood. Varnishing over semi-cured CPES will molecularly glue the paint, primer or varnish to the wood and prevent the oils in the wood from interfering with the bond of the varnish. Allow solvents in the CPES to completely evaporate before applying coating. Surface should be dry to touch. Keep moisture like rain and dew off the surface during the evaporation time.
If staining the wood for color is desired, allow the CPES to fully cure. Sand along the grain with 80-120 grit papers to scuff surface but not deep enough to remove all CPES treated fibers. Apply stain along the grain and wipe across grain to remove excess. Allow stain to dry for three to four days. Recoat with CPES. Allow solvents in the CPES to completely evaporate before applying Bristol Finish. Surface should be dry to touch. Keep moisture like rain and dew off the surface during the evaporation time.

Step 4: Apply the Bristol Finish .

Do not sand the CPES before applying the Bristol finish. Apply Bristol Finish over the CPES treated wood and the caulked joint as described in the Bristol Finish application procedure. Once all of the Bristol Finish is applied your Brightwork should last years with minimal or no maintenance.


As you can see preparation is of paramount importance. Survey the task in steps to minimize refinishing duration. First analyze the scope of the project. Re-bedding or caulking is the first item. When using 3M-5200 allow a week for full cure. If you are in a hurry use 3M-5200 Fast Cure or 3M-4200. Once the bedding and attachment issue is solved here is the general time frame:

Friday Day 1; Mask & Strip. Allow stripper to stay on overnight.
Saturday Day 2; Strip, Sand and Seal. Apply CPES early enough before dew settles.
Sunday Day 3; Apply Bristol Finish as described in Application Procedure.

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The author, Steve Ray, is President of Star Distributing and has over 30 years in classic boat restoration.

This article written by Steve Ray 2003, All rights reserved.

Bristol Finish, CPES, and Ready-Strip® Marine products listed in this restoration guide are available from:

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Ready-Strip® Marine is trademarked and manufactured by Back to Nature Products, Englishtown NJ
Clear Penetrating Epoxy Sealer™, CPES™ is trademarked and manufactured by Smith & Co. of Richmond, CA.
Bristol Finish™ is trademarked and manufactured by Endurance Technologies.
3M-4200, 3M-5200, & 3M-5200 Fast Cure are trademarked and manufactured by 3M corp, St. Paul MN