My travails with General Finishes Enduro Conversion Varnish

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Blog entry by CTBlankenship posted 03-18-2015 12:18 AM 9854 reads 0 times favorited 3 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Endure Conversion Varnish

First, let me say this is great stuff … dries fast and hard. There are a few gotchas however.

My first experience was a disaster. I mixed the topcoat and catalyst in the proper ratio, in the cup, and excitedly began to spray. To my dismay, the varnish came out of the spray gun in a gooey glumpy mess. It took some work to find out all of the particulars required to make using this product a success.

First, the bottle of catalyst says “See part A for directions” ... alright then.

APPLICATION: Stir well prior to use. Add catalyst according to instructions per label. Once the product has been catalyzed DO NOT store in a sealed container to avoid pressure buildup. Pot life is 6-8 hours. Discard any unused portions of material properly. Filter material through fine mes strainer before spraying. Spray medium wet films at 3-5 mil thickness. Sand between coats using #320-400 grit paper or super fine sanding pads. Remove dust before recoating. A minimum of 3 coats is recommended. GF Conversion Varnish is self-sealing. However, you can use GF Sanding Sealer if needed.

OK … seems straight-forward enough … it “ain’t”.

“Stir well prior to use” really means:

1) DO NOT STIR BY HAND … as per Tom Monahan “This is the most critical mistake people make. You have to mix the catalyst with a drill and a mixer to effectiively avoid a clumpy finish. If people just hand mix the caatalyst you will not get enough agitation” ... (good to know).

I use small amounts of the product as I only finish at most two humidors at a time. The only mixers I could find at Lowe’s were quart size. As I was standing at the paint counter I cast my gaze upon those little metal things that painters use to open beer bottles (an occasionally paint cans). I cut the end off of one, put it on my drill and came up with one killer Conversion Varnish / Catalyst mixer.

2) Before adding the catalyst to the top coat … place that mixer into the varnish and start mixing. Add the catalyst as you keep the mixer moving. If you add the catalyst to a still varnish they will begin their chemical dance and you just lost the pot.

3) Mix for the entire 5 minutes

4) Prepare the mixture 30 minutes before you need it (the instructions say 10 minutes … Tom Monahan says 30 minutes). I trust Tom.

5) Once the product is sweated in … perform a viscosity test for your HVLP. I initially thought a #2 was OK … it wasn’t … the test proved I needed a #3 (Zahn seconds).

6) It says not to store the product in a sealed container. I initially considered the HVLP pot a sealed container … turns out the HVLP pot is OK to store the catalyzed varnish (for the duration of the pot life that is) since the pot is vented. This is how I can put on three coats of varnish (with two hour dry time) and leave the varnish in my pot for the entire time.

7) Do not mix the catalyst and varnish in the pot (which I did … by hand) ... mix it in another container and then strain the product into the HVLP can (they are pretty clear about this so that was my duh).

8) Tom said not to apply more than three coats per day … this works out pretty well since it takes two hours to cure (being safe) which puts me at the 6 hour pot life limit. Tom said that he was spraying with his mixture for 8 hours and he was still OK.

9) I topcoat mainly veneer (burls). Here are their recommendations for me:

a. Initially seal the burl with Arm-R-Seal (this is an oil product with really brings out the depth of the burl)
b. Apply one to two coats of General Finishes Sanding Sealer. This stuff is a bear to spray on vertical surfaces … too little and the finish is dusty … too much (which is incredibly easy to achieve) it runs.
c. Day 1) Apply three coats of Conversion Varnish (#320 to #400) between coats … remove dust.
d. Day 2) Repeat step c
e. Wait 7 days for CV to completely cure.
f. Begin my six step, proprietary, rubbing out process for a mirror finish on the humidor.

Ladies and Gentlemen … enjoy your CV experience.

I made an expensive mistake … I hope you can learn from my experiences.

3 comments so far

View Dave G's profile

Dave G

335 posts in 2651 days

#1 posted 03-18-2015 12:39 AM

Thanks for sharing. Will save somebody’s project, maybe mine, soon.

-- Dave, New England - “We are made to persist. that's how we find out who we are.” ― Tobias Wolff

View Arthouse's profile


250 posts in 3253 days

#2 posted 03-18-2015 11:34 AM

I love conversion varnish. I use Mohawk medium rub finish. Mixing is important but not to use a drill it puts to many air bubbles in in. I was taught by a professional finisher who uses this mix. 60% varnish 40 % xzlene and activator mixing and let sit for fifteen minutes before spraying . He said to use the xzlene to let it flow thru the gun. He is so right for the material has a honey consistency . He said to use the flat for all the underlayment coats and the medium rub or semi gloss for the final coat it will not” cloud’’ the finish . The best attribute is its durability it grabs the material and sticks forming a very hard finish. A sweaty glass can be put on the surface forming a white ring
take it off and it will dry clear. I have made a lot of money selling the client it is a special finish and charging for it. Conversion varnish works best over raw or stained wood only . It will bubble if it goes over laquer. All this and Heaven too.

-- "The hand is the cutting edge of the mind but the wind and sun are the healing factors of the heart

View CTBlankenship's profile


8 posts in 1811 days

#3 posted 03-18-2015 01:26 PM

I concur … I forgot to quantify how I used the drill … I do not use it as a whip but at about 1/10 speed so that it mixes properly.

Xylene … I’m going to have to talk to Tom about that. The GF CV does have a honey consistency once sweated in.

As for sweating in … I’ve heard 10 minutes, 30 minutes and now 15 minutes.

As for raw wood … the directions state that it is self sealing … it would appear you agree. I believe they had me use the Enduro Sanding Sealer so as to isolate the Arm-R-Seal from the water based top coat.

Mohawk Ultra-Clear Conversion Varnish ... is this a Mohawk equivalent of GF CV?

Thanks for jumping in … the more information the better.

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