The sweeping motion of varnishing reminds us of the 'wax on, wax off' mantra whispered by Mr Miyagi in the 80s classic Karate Kid. Little did we think that over thirty years later we would have abandoned that 80s excess for a more frugal lifestyle, we don't even get to backcomb our hair and wear lace gloves anymore - though that was more a Madonna thing than the Miyagi wardrobe. That would have changed the whole tone of Karate Kid if Mr Miyagi had a backcombed his comb over and had donned lace gloves and a belt that said, Boy Toy. Anyone who didn't live through the eighties will now be scratching their heads and wondering where the hell we are going with this but watch as we gently and seamlessly segue into the next part of the post. Varnishing, eh? (look at the way we did that segue, bet you didn't even notice).
Andrew spent his time a few days ago on his knees (no, this is not a reference to Madonna's, Papa Don't Preach - again, if you didn't live through the eighties this means nothing to you) working in long strokes to individually stain one floorboard at a time. Why? We here you ask. Well, we don't hear you ask because this in the internet and you would seriously have to crane your neck as far out of your window as possible and bellow to the heavens for us to maybe hear. You'd understand what you were doing but your neighbours may look at you queerly the following day. You win some, you lose some. Why?! We heard you the first time. The simple reason is that when you are staining floors you don't do a two foot block and move onto the next two foot block because you will end up with a floor that will dry like a chessboard of two foot blocks. Stain is soaked up fast, dries fast and you will find that by the time you get to other side of the room those blocks you left behind have dried. Do one floorboard and you will see an even finish. We chose to stain our boards because our floor was made up of old and new pine, old pine is lovely when it is worn but when it's beside new pine the effect is somewhat garish. We want to keep our boards, old and new, we want to keep the patina in the old boards and bring the new boards up to some kind of age. In comes stain. In our case, dark oak. This means that Andrew had dark oak knees for several days because he tends to work in his shorts. This is not again a Madonna or Mr Miyagi thing, it is being on medication for his spinal condition and his blood pressure, he gets hot quickly. This is a man who wanders around in a t-shirt in a blizzard and doesn't feel it if he's working. Put him inside doing a simple task as varnishing in PROPER clothing, he'll be drenched to the skin in seconds. He has scared every neighbour we have, in every place we have lived with his shorts DIY approach. When he decides to become a naked gardener this blog will be pulled for public health reasons.
Now, we're varnishing and again we're using an applicator rather than a brush. These snappy applicators are easy to use and a top tip between coats is to put them in a plastic bag, don't clean them in white spirit or turps, they will disintegrate. The plastic bag stops them from setting solid and one applicator easily did our lounge which is over 18 foot x 14 foot. It gives an even finish and you don't end up with brush strokes. It also takes away any pooled excess. Also, use a paint roller tray so you can take the excess off the applicator too before starting a board. So says Mr Miyagi.
You can see from the finish a marked difference between the stain and varnish. The photo above is just the first coat of varnish and the whole floor is lifted. A good tip for varnishing over water based stains is to go with grain of the wood in one even stroke. You don't go back and forth, back and forth as you tend to with a brush, as this will lift the stain and you'll be back to square one. We went for varnish, and in our case we used Mann's wood stain and Mann's varnish because it is hard wearing compared to wax. It was also for the contrast too, we have a lot of waxed furniture, a waxed beam, a waxed lintel over the fireplace and if we'd gone for a waxed floor we would have literally been the wax museum. We know varnish can be more forgiving with children, though anyone who has seen this floor in real life has been told to take their shoes off, or face a quick death in the porch. Not much of a choice really.