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Anyone ever used Le Tonkinois varnish ?


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I'm just trying to create some activity on this forum so we don't go another month without a post. To help me decide which varnish to use, I made wood samples of mahogany and ash and varnished them with Benjamin Moore Impervo 440, Epifanes, Pettit Captains, and Le Tonkinois original. I put them outside for three years. It took about three years for the Epifanes and the Pettit Captains to peel. The Impervo peeled in about 2 years. All three lost their gloss in about 2 years. The Le Tonkinois never did peel but it lost its gloss in about a year and the surface was checked badly by three. Shortly after I started the test, Benjamin Moore discontinued Impervo 440. I think they still sell the same formula under the Lenmar name. 

    Woodies came from the factory with oil base spar varnish like Epifanes and Pettit. However, in the last 10+ years all of these oil base varnish products have been reformulated lower the VOC (harmful fumes) so the identical varnish to what came on the car originally is not available. 

I plan to write a story about my varnish test for the Woodie Times but I keep procrastinating it. 

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You wouldn't want the original stuff. I have had several opportunities to speak with Chris Smith, grandson of Chris Smith, founder of Chris Craft. Chris the younger worked for Chris Craft most of his life. According to him the mahogany boats were typically varnished in the spring before the boating season started (he is talking about Michigan) and again in mid summer becaues the spring coat was already worn out. Kinda funny, he said they wouldn't even take them out of the water, just varnish them at the dock in the morning and be using them again that afternoon! He was quite the character, doubt he's still around. Varnishes, as they were then, are still mostly tung oil based (excepting the polyurethanes) it's the resins, driers, UV filters, etc that have benefited from the advances in chemical technology. Even so, people that live in a climate where they can keep their boats in the water year round tend to varnish the woodwork annually. In the case of a car like yours that is going to see very little outdoor exposure, a properly applied varnish job with any name brand spar varnish should hold up well for many years. Your test is interesting but think about how often your car will be outside and how long it will take to accumulate a full years worth of outdoor exposure. I suspect that you will not live that long. Not wishing you any misfortune...of course.

 

I applaud your effort by the way. I have never been able to understand why the NWC forum doesn't catch on. The greater AACA site stays busy, Lots of other clubs have active discussion forums. You go to the meetings and shows and they love to talk about their cars, just don't want to do it here. Go Figure.....

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I decided on Petitt Captains and Flagship a long time ago. I just need to build the doors on mine to complete the wood. I agree with you about limited sun exposure on collector cars. That is the conclusion I came to so I decided in the end the brand does not matter. 

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If we are trying to gin up activity, I have a question about screws to mount side mirrors. My newly acquired 1941 Buick estate wagon had truck long mirrors on it because it pulled a long house trailer. I want to replicate the mirrors. They are Arrow mirrors, commonly used on trucks.  I have found old ones on eBay.  I am cobbling together parts of several mirrors. 
 

So here is the question—what screws should I use to mount it on the door. Are there good wood screws to use and how long is long enough but not too long. Want diameter?  Slotted or Phillips?  Flat head, round head or oval head?  
 

Thanks 

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Posted (edited)

Good question. I have dealt with this because my 1940 Lasalle woodie required a complete nut and bolt restoration. 

1. Slotted. All wood screws back then were slotted. The only phillips on my car holds the interior windshield molding on. (metal to metal)

2. My observation is that hardware on woodies is attached with oval head wood screws. Most hardware has a countersink around the holes to accommodate an oval head screw. On my car, most screws attaching wood to wood are flathead, slotted. If the holes in the hardware does not have a countersink, use a round head slotted or an oval head with a finish washer. 

3. Head diameter and length?  To determine head diameter, I just use whatever size fits the hole and countersink in the hardware the best. As to length, There is probably a rule of thumb out there somewhere but I just guess. Remember, the wider the screw the more gripping power. So wide and short screws have good gripping power whereas a narrower one would have less. For a side view mirror I would go with 1" to 1  1/2" long. I guess long enough for the maximum grip without risking going through the other side of the wood. 

 

Use traditional wood screws. Drywall screws, deck screws, and sheet metal screws are not traditional wood screws. 

 

Traditional slotted wood screws are still made but getting harder to find. I have better luck at small mom and pop neighborhood hardware stores. These will be steel with zinc plating. Probably not used on the outside of the car from the factory due to limited rust resistance. Stainless steel slotted traditional wood screws can be found online and is a good choice. I think www.restorationspecialties.com has them. Originally from the factory in 1941 the exterior wood screws were probably steel with chrome plating. The only source for these I have found is www.gardner-westcott.com.

 

A Woodie Times story about wood screws is another good idea I can procrastinate writing. 

Edited by Tom Boehm (see edit history)
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I used Epifanes on my '46 Ford Station Wagon and it's holding up well after about 50K miles. As far as mounting the mirrors, I'm always leery about drilling holes in any Station Wagon, but this is what I would do if it was mine. As other's have suggested I would use stainless steel, slotted, oval head, wood screws. McMaster-Carr has any size you need. I would drill a pilot hole first and use a thread lubricant made for wood, especially if you are going into wood such as Maple.  The size of the screw is governed by the thickness of where you are positioning the mirror's and the size of the hole in the bracket, most people tend to use screw's that are too long. Thank's Tom, I'm with you as far as generating topic's for this forum, sometimes it's dormant for week's.

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Thanks guys for the screw responses. I was thinking stainless also. in Northern California West Marine is a source for boating stuff including stainless steel wood screws. My bracket is not countersunk so I think a round head slotted stainless steel screw might be best. Thomas Schuttish aka Shootey. 

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My personal preference for any screw head that shows is stainless slotted oval heads. In a lot of cases that's not what was used originally, but I don't care. Albany County Fasteners, Lightning Stainless, both have Ebay stores with anything you want at good prices, plus what's been mentioned above. For mounting something like your mirrors I would use a sheet metal screw because it has a full thread and will hold better than a partially threaded wood screw. I would also probably countersink the holes and use an oval head instead of a pan or round head, unless the metal is very thin. #10 screws would be plenty strong for your mirrors, 12s would work, bigger than that is overkill.

 

I did a test a while ago to determine the holding power of wood screws. I wouldn't have believed the results if I hadn't done the test myself, I was amazed by how well even a rather small screw would hold. Maybe I'll do a write up on it.

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N.O.W. on your test of holding power of wood screws. That's exactly why I mentioned that most people use screw's that are way too long. I was working on a "Woodie" once and removed a screw from a door handle that was about 2" long. It was phillip's head so I knew it was replaced at one time. I started using a screwdriver and switched to a drill after about an inch. The stock screw was 1" so I guess the previous owner thought "the longer the better". 

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For "thread lubricant" I use an ancient piece of beeswax that was in with my Grandpa's tools. I rub the threads over it and the screws go in easier. People may use the wrong size screw for a repair just because that is what they have laying around. Have you guys even heard of Le Tonkinois varnish? It is a tung/linseed oil varnish that does not have solvents in it. Made in France. I wrote and submitted to Roddy my story on varnish today. I was procrastinating something else. 

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Tom, I once read that one should not use wax or soap as a thread lubricant on steel screws. The reason given was that wax and soap are both hygroscopic and will cause rust stains on the wood. Indoors is not an issue, wax and soap are ok, but not for outdoor use, such as on Woodies. Can anyone add to this?

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Again, thanks all for the screw discussion. Because my woodie previously had the truck mirrors there were remnants of the holes in the door. I have found a bracket that fits the holes perfectly. I opened up the holes to do a test mounting and I find that the holes are roughly deep enough for a 1” screw. The screw gets a bit tough to get it entirely in. Would it be ok to use a 3/4 inch screw instead?  They are a number 10 screw. The mirror and bracket is a probably 15 Inches long and made of iron so there is a fair amount of weight. The original owner would, I think, swing the bracket out horizontally when pulling the trailer and the push it back up vertically when no trailer. I would have it just horizontal enough to mimic a standard side mirror. 
 

The old mirror has a rat rod flavor but I really like the history of the car having been equipped to haul a lengthy house trailer, actually used by the doctor owner as his traveling examination room in remote upstate New York towns. 

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Tom, I don't think there is a right or wrong answer to your question. If a 3/4" screw holds tight then it is OK. I would probably take a small drill bit and make the hole deeper for a 1" screw. 

 

46, I knew soap was not good but I did not know wax did the same thing. 

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Tom, it's something I once read about in a woodworking magazine. I use a wood thread lubricant from a company called Lloyd's by the name of "Akempucky" (don't ask me) and it works great on maple. 

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On 5/29/2022 at 10:19 AM, Tom Boehm said:

I'm just trying to create some activity on this forum so we don't go another month without a post.

 

Congratulations Tom, this is more activity than I've seen in months.  We've strayed quite a way from your original question though, there are several topics being covered here that would have made wonderful stand alone discussions. Not complaining mind you, just that when you bury discussions on screw lube or attaching mirrors under a question about varnish, your subjects will not get the attention they might as stand alone posts.

 

But since we're all here, I never use screw lube. I drill a pilot hole of the root diameter of the screw in hardwood, a size smaller in a soft wood and a clearance hole of the full diameter of the screw in the outer layer of wood, or whatever else i'm screwing through.

 

If they were my mirrors I would probably drill a 9/64 pilot hole 1" deep and use a 1" screw. A 3/4" screw in a new hole would most likely hold just fine but in an existing hole the extra 1/4" cant hurt, as long as you have the wood to work with.

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It is all original wood. The car previously belonged to the late Craig Johnson who was a prior president of the National Woodie Club. He restored it around 2003 having dug it out of a Glendale Arizona horse pasture. It spent its early life in upstate New York and was moved by the original family to Arizona in 1977. It sat in the horse pasture, albeit covered by a minimal lean-to, until Craig  extricated it in the late 1990’s. Craig respected its history and did not over-restore it. My mirror choice tries to continue the historic preservation theme. 

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I guess it is safe to say that none of the 5 people who follow this woodie forum has heard of Le Tonkinois. It is a tung oil/linseed oil varnish made in France. It does not contain petroleum solvents. The oils are highly refined instead. It dries to an amber film just like spar varnish with mineral spirits. It is a good choice if you want to limit your exposure to fumes. In my durability tests, it came in second to name brand marine spar varnishes like Pettit Flagship and Epifanes. I think Le Tonkinois would provide adequate protection for a woodie because it spends so much time in the garage. The Le Tonkinois was the most self leveling of all I tried. There are two versions, Original and an improved one called No.1. 

Here is info and a source www.tarsmell.com  and  www.letonkinoisvarnish.uk   

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I am well into doing a 48 chevy and chose to use McCloskey "Man O' War" Marine spar varnish. It claims to have maximum UV protection. With 8 coats on it looks great and exceeds my expectations. It really leveled nicely, can't wait to do frame and rear quarter. I did go with the Satin finish, still trying to decide if it should be gloss. But I'm very happy with the results to date. Hope to be installing doors in next few weeks.

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23 hours ago, firecars said:

I am well into doing a 48 chevy and chose to use McCloskey "Man O' War" Marine spar varnish. It claims to have maximum UV protection. With 8 coats on it looks great and exceeds my expectations. It really leveled nicely, can't wait to do frame and rear quarter. I did go with the Satin finish, still trying to decide if it should be gloss. But I'm very happy with the results to date. Hope to be installing doors in next few weeks.

 

Do you have 8 coats of satin on it? Normally if you want a non gloss finish you build the varnish up with gloss then do the last coat in satin, semi, flat, or whatever non gloss finish you want. Too much non gloss will start to look foggy.

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Interesting, all 8 coats are Satin, did not see that anywhere. but I have noticed it beginning to look "foggy" with last coat. I was thinking of stopping at 8 due to look.

 

I guess the question is which should it be gloss or satin?

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Sorry guys-

 

I am an idiot about the finishes. I have always just used marine urethane coating, which seems to work well. I have four woodies (working on one now) and have never had problems with the marine urethanes, but the cars have always been garage kept and don't spend much time in the sun. So I can't help you with the multiple different finishes you are trying. I've always used a gloss finish, not satin. 

 

I've always tried to apply at least ten coats of the marine urethane, with progressive sanding as coats go on. I know it's easier to spray it, but I've always applied it with poly brushes, which seems to work okay. 

 

Do you guys brush or spray your finishes? I have usually placed everything flat to avoid runs. I have done some of the existing wood frames in situ on the vehicle and just take my time with multiple very thin coats, so I haven't had problems with runs. 

 

I'm sure you guys probably have better finishes, but I like to do most everything myself, so I will accept some imperfections that might drive others crazy. 

Edited by blind pew (see edit history)
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I brush mine on like you. I use an oxhair brush available from Purdy and Corona. I am happy with the results but it is not spray quality like the cars with automotive clear coat on it. 

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I am brushing each coat on mine as well. in the beginning coats I used a sponge brush and disposed of it when done. Now using a Purdy nylon/polyester brush, to date it works well. But I am second guessing my choice to use Satin finish, I do like the look a lot better when its wet, nice and shiny.

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Well.............................. you can always put coats of gloss over it. 

 

I was toying with spraying the car I'm doing currently. I have sprayed panels before- I guess it is a little more smooth, but I always sand the crap out of finishes anyway. 

 

I have used tons of foam poly brushes. It is convenient, as you throw them away frequently. Maybe I'll try a high grade brush too. 

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12 hours ago, firecars said:

After sanding it down, could I switch to gloss? If yes that's what I'm going to try.

 

Yes, would be the short answer. As far as the varnish is concerned it's just another coat, gloss or satin makes no difference. At this point you will be looking at the wood through a fairly thick layer of satin varnish, and the only way to change that is to sand it back off. Since you started off with satin varnish it would seem that you wanted that look, so maybe the effect of the satin under the gloss wont be so bad. I've never heard of anyone trying satin under gloss, always the other way around, would be curious to see what it looks like.

 

One other rarely mentioned effect of gloss vs flat is that a fair amount of UV protection comes along with any gloss finish just because it reflects more light than a flat finish.

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