How can I deal temporarily with varnish coming off plywood?

by Jed


I have just bought a fireball dinghy with varnished plywood decks.

Some of the varnish (a couple of patches each about 4 inches square) is coming off and the wood underneath is exposed and discoloured.

I would like to sail her 3 or 4 times before the season ends when I can do a proper varnish strip and restoration job.

Until then any suggestions for the best way to protect the wood?

Should I just put a coat or two of varnish on the affected areas which I'll then take off later?

Thank you.


Varnish on Plywood?
by: Mike

Ah yes, varnish, looks great when it is fresh and well maintained.

But it can drive you bananas when it goes wrong.

I’m not sure that there is a definitive answer to your question.

It all depends on what kind of finish you want to end up with.

I applaud you for wanting to use your boat, that is, after all, what boats are for.

On the other hand as you clearly realise her wood does need some form of protection if she is to remain useable.

My answer would be to treat the bare wood with an oil, teak, tung, whatever just to protect it until you have the time to do it properly.

However, you will only be able to use an oil base varnish on it in the future, but then I much prefer the traditional varnishes over the synthetic modern stuff.

The other caveat is that having weathered unevenly, it will be virtually impossible to get it back to a ‘pristine’ original finish.

Now that doesn’t bother me, in fact I prefer to see wood looking ‘aged’, knocked about, mature, lived in, caracterfull, (just listen to the ‘Antiques Road Show’ experts talking about patina to know what I mean).

But then Fireballs shouldn’t be treated as ornaments, they are fun boats with a thriving competitive following.

The original Fireball was built by Jack Chippendale of Chippendale Boats Ltd in Fareham, Hampshire,

The idea behind the design was to come up with a boat that was suitable for sailors of all abilities, while at the same time inexpensive enough to be within the reach of most people’s pockets, and designed to be put together by the amateur boat-builder.

In other words a boat to be used.


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