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Date: 26 October 2015. Rope Trim (stain and varnish wood)


Purists should turn around slowly. There is still time to move along before I ruin all your carefully crafted arguments on how to stain and varnish properly. My way is not perfect. The project is done however, and in less time than you might believe possible. And it is Good Enough.

The inspiration for my rope trim came from a previous project.

Down below in my cabin I have a DVD rack. I added a wooden rope trim years ago on the outside edges. I believe it looks nautical in an understated way. Plus, the trim hides the cut edges of the wood. It looks more finished.

Made by a Tom McArthur years ago, the DVD shelves are mounted above my bunk. The observant may notice the movies are stored in alphabetical order. I do like things tidy.

When it came time to hide the edge of the shelf above my refrigerator I knew I would like to use the same wood trim. That it looks like three-strand dock line is a bonus.

First I measured the depth of the shelf and the width. I wanted the piece of trim to cover the cut edges of the shelf. Actually I wanted it mitered (cut on an angle like picture frame corners) however I could not figure out how to do that so settled for Good Enough.

Because I had easy access to my toy dremel (a gift from my friend Mabe) I used it to make the cuts necessary. I call it a toy however it is actually a Harbor Freight or Northern Tools hobby version of the real Dremel. For the small projects I do it is perfect. Actually this is better than a real Dremel in that it is lighter/easier to control.

Dremel is the brand most famous for this tool. For many crafting items however the smaller light weight versions are the Best Choice. This is one of those times where choosing the correct too for the job at hand is important.

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Dremel 4300-5/40 High Performance Rotary Tool Kit with LED Light - perfect for grinding, cutting, wood carving sanding and engraving

My tool locker is now occupied by the new larger refrigerator/freezer. That's why I am having issues with finding my tools. They are stowed in a milk crate in the bilge and that is totally unacceptable in the long term. Remedying that is another item on the to-do list.

Cutting using the dremel:


Before starting with the stain, I wiped the wood with a cloth rag. This was to remove any bits of dust and sawdust. The experts will say I should have used acetone. If I'd remembered I had nail polish remover (which is a high priced low-smell version of acetone) I'd have used it. I forgot.


Next: Stain the wood.


I know I have some sponge brushes around this place. You would think with a 23' boat stuff could not disappear, especially if you are even half-way organized.

The only sponge brush I could find was hard at the end from a previous project. I cut off the part with hardened paint and had at it.

It was stiff and difficult to use. Finally I gave up and pulled out an old rag. I dipped the rag in the stain and then rubbed it on the wood.


The wood looked too dark. Still, I had used the same stain on the DVD rack and it turned out okay so I continued with the project.

I stained both the back and front of the rope trim.



Then I made another unsuccessful attempt to find my doggone sponge brushes. Nor could I locate any larger paintbrushes. Of course I could have gone to the store and bought more however I knew I had them some place on Seaweed. Plus, I am thrifty.

I still had on hand a cut off brush from when I used flat black paint on the galley stove a year or three back. It would suffice for the varnish.

I prefer gloss varnish. The shiny appeals to me. Others prefer satin finish or semi-gloss. For years I have used Polyurethane and I like it. That said, I do not go for the smooth finish others like.

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Polyurethane by MinWax - Gloss Qt

I bought a quart of clear gloss Polyurethane from Walmart. It is shiny and dries fast. The polyurethane works well inside. This polyurethane is not for exterior projects.

The brush I used was not the best. It did work though and the results please me.

The first coat of varnish is on the trim to the right.
The top half of the left trim piece also has the first coat.

The varnish lightens the stain a bit and brings out the golden tones of the wood.



Varnish is applied to both the front and back of the trim.


Because this trim could get wet I opted to stain and varnish both the front part that shows and the back of the wood.

I like that it's finished on both sides.

I painted the back first, then flipped the wood over and did the front. I was most concerned about coverage versus good looks, at least as far as the back goes.

The small cut off pieces of the cutting board [see Backing Plate Concerns article] are holding the wood off the work surface.


I could have waited for the back to dry before flipping over the trim to varnish the side that shows. That seemed needlessly time-consuming. This part of the project was governed by the Good Enough mantra versus perfection.



Here is a close-up of the varnished trim while I am applying the first coat:


I ended up with three coats of varnish on the trim. It looks pretty.


Then came Job Creep.


With the galley trim looking so spiffy, the *fiddle on the dinette sure did look sorry. As long as the brush was out, I added another coat of varnish to the dinette fiddles.

*Fiddles are small pieces of wood usually. They hold items in place when the boat rocks.

While I had the varnish can open I took a critical look around Seaweed. Much to my chagrin there were quite a few places that needed more shine.

This episode of Job Creep had a wonderful effect on my happiness level. I like things looking good, and now they do.

You can see a big difference in this photo


Finally, a bit of Gorilla Glue and my trim is adhered to the edge of the shelf.

Gorilla Glue is great stuff. There are a couple of caveats however. Number One is my humble suggestion to follow the directions on the container. There is a part in there that says to dampen what your bonding. I missed that the first few times I used the stuff, so mention it here in case you are like I was.

Also be aware the stuff foams up and oozes out the edges. You'll need to be careful and wipe it up while wet. Otherwise, like me you might have an "interesting" time trying to remove the excess.

I added a thin layer of the adhesive to both the trim and the shelf surfaces. A scrap of cutting board and three c-clamps held it all together while the Gorilla Glue dried. I used the cutting board so that when I tightened the c-clamps down I would not mar the surface of the shelf.

Later I will cover how I have secured the microwave to that shelf. Boats rock and I wanted to be sure the *nuker would not move from its spot. There is a four-point system to keep the microwave in place.

*Nuker: We nuke aka cook food in a microwave, thus a nuker is a microwave oven.

Finally, a project is finished. Almost.

For the record: as I put things away I found my new brushes. They were right where I put them when preparing for this project. I should have left them where they belong. Instead I moved them.  No doubt my gathering of goods must have seemed like a good idea at the time. Argh!

Do you have a hard time finding things you know you had yesterday?
And do you tend to replace or wait until you find whatever is missing?

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2015, 2023

Categories: Boat Talk, Characters, Galley, Gear,

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