Marine spar varnish/wood grain filler question

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Forum topic by woodpig posted 07-12-2020 04:05 AM 234 views 0 times favorited 5 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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5 posts in 165 days

07-12-2020 04:05 AM

Hello All—I’ve been a lurker on here for a while, and I now have cause to post my first finish question.

So I’ve been building these landing nets for fly fishing—like the small nets stream fishermen carry clipped to their fishing vests while wading. I recently built a net with a mahogany hoop and a handle of cherry with stabilized maple burl accents.

With some help from the internet, I got it into my head that I needed to apply wood grain filler to the mahogany, so I bought some clear water-based grain filler. When I went to apply it, without really thinking about it I just applied it to the handle as well as to the mahogany hoop.

I’m now in the finishing stage with this net. My normal process is to thin marine spar varnish 50/50 with mineral spirits and wipe it on. This has worked fine with a number of other nets, but with this particular one, the stabilized maple burl accent pieces have persistent dull spots where (it appears to me) the varnish is refusing to adhere, or something. (See attached photos)

So, two questions:

1. Is this happening because I applied the grain filler to the stabilized burl, and it’s now somehow not playing nicely with my thinned spar varnish?


2. Does anyone have any ideas about how I can fix this?

I would greatly appreciate any help I can get. I’ve applied probably 4 or 5 coats of the thinned varnish at this point, and the rest of the net looks fine, but those dull spots on the burl accents persist.

Thanks in advance -


5 replies so far

View Aj2's profile (online now)


3178 posts in 2603 days

#1 posted 07-12-2020 04:18 AM

Too me it looks like you closed out the wood cells with glue. Maybe you or someone wiped whatever glue that was used. Epoxy will do that.
That’s my guess from a thousand miles away.
Good Luck cool looking nets.

-- Aj

View DebraLee's profile


16 posts in 98 days

#2 posted 07-12-2020 04:34 AM

Was it a wood grain filler or grain sealer?
My understanding and experience is many fillers shrink months later and can take months to cure.

-- Debra Lee®️ “Where the spirit does not work with the hands, there is no art” - L. DaVinci

View woodpig's profile


5 posts in 165 days

#3 posted 07-12-2020 04:39 AM

Thanks DebraLee and Aj2. I suspected it was something like that—wood grain filler closing up the pores of the wood or something.

If I sand that part back down to bare wood and re-finish will it work, or am I stuck with this mistake?

View John Smith's profile

John Smith

2510 posts in 968 days

#4 posted 07-12-2020 12:36 PM

aside from the finish issues, you did an excellent job on the frame.
very nice craftsmanship. now, put the net on and go fishing.
(if that were my project, I would strip the whole thing and start over.
you waste more time trying to fix one small area than doing the
whole thing over again – correctly).

the only grain “filler” that I have ever used was like a colored talcum powder
in a petroleum oil base and wiped on with a piece of burlap or cheesecloth.
like Debra suggested, there is a big difference between “fillers” and “sealers”.


-- there is no educational alternative to having a front row seat in the School of Hard Knocks. --

View DebraLee's profile


16 posts in 98 days

#5 posted 07-12-2020 11:32 PM

I agree with John, sorry there isn’t a better solution. It’s a learning experience! ( love the quote John)

I have Halcyon Clear ( rugged clear gloss varnish-mostly for boats) I can wait to try it but can’t find filters for my respirator! Everyone is sold out!

-- Debra Lee®️ “Where the spirit does not work with the hands, there is no art” - L. DaVinci

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