The Varnishing Monologues
(For Ladies Only)

If you are building your own home or doing part of the work yourself this is a must read for women. You may be asked to varnish.  Before this happens you must become intimate with varnish, varnish vernacular and “the varnish brush.”  Now don’t mistake any brush for The Varnish Brush.  I made that grievous error once and it spawned a lengthy diatribe about the history of brushes, their types and usages.  Some bristles are for latex based paint, (which by the way is what?) and some are strictly, and I mean strictly, used for varnish.  Don’t screw this up because then the brush you used will be forever ruined and another safari to Home Depot will ensue and we all know what that means… more power tools.  Imagine that…a brush dedicated just to varnish. Hmmm.  Apparently the well trained varnish technician can tell the difference by the shape of the handle and the type of bristles. A brush for latex paint has nylon bristles while a varnish brush has hog hair.  Rise up you animal rights people!!  Alert PETA!!!  Hogs lose hair so that we may varnish!!!

Then there is the varnish itself.  Varnish for boats, varnish for inside and varnish for outside. Apparently the application varies with the amount of solids in the varnish. Who makes this stuff up? Solids? You can’t pull the latex over my eyes. I know varnish is clear.  Of course don’t forget the types of finish, semi-gloss, satin or just plain gloss.  What happens if you use satin marine varnish on your woodwork?  Will your house look like a shrimp boat?  Or if you use the outside varnish for inside what could possibly happen?  I say if it is good enough for outside then let’s use it for everything.  Or better yet let’s only use marine varnish and we will never have to worry about barnacles.

Then there is the “Right Wing Varnish Conspiracy Theory.”  Do not read the directions on the can.  I am told paint thinner should always be added to the varnish because the manufacturers make the varnish too thick.  The reason? that it globs on and you end up doing it over or you just plain use more varnish and therefore buy more product.  Sorry, I can’t find anyplace on the can that says add paint thinner.  That would be like adding more liquid to a cake to make it go further and look better. All women know that this will compromise the end result.  If you receive directions to add paint thinner (notice they don’t make varnish thinner), to the varnish from the Mr. Toolbelt, do not question the rationale under any circumstances.  This has been known to cause instant discord among married people of all ages and should be avoided.

We also need to talk about the application of the varnish itself. The word is out that less is better.  The thinner the coat the nicer it looks (ah another reason to add the paint thinner).  Well girls, since when is less better?  So understand this… you must be very careful not to load your brush and only apply varnish from a dry to a wet surface.  What if that isn’t left to right?  I work better left to right and if the wet ends up left then I say go with it.  Geez.  What is the big deal?  And don’t even bring up the issue of “skips.”  Do not, and I repeat do not, skip a place!  The horror of it all.

Then there is the varnish brush grip itself.  Get an athletic stance.  Allow yourself ample room to go from can to wood and wood to can avoiding all construction debris, beer cans and warped TBS lumber.  Address the hog hair varnish brush (Hi, brush!)  If you are right handed use your right hand and hold the HHVB, not nylon, firmly like a pen. Dip the brush into the varnish to a depth of no more than a half inch.  Gently squeegee the brush on the side of the can and kiss the rest of your life goodbye…this is going to take forever. Apply varnish to the wood.  The position of the HHVB must be such that the now thin varnish NEVER, and I mean never, gets into the roots of the brush proper.  This is propaganda.  Whoever thinks all this stuff up must not have enough to do.  Let me tell you how I do it but you must promise never to divulge this info to any male Power Tool Lord.  First, put as much varnish on the brush as you can.  Drip it down the board for future use; you can pick it up later. Then let the varnish run down the brush into your hand and as it dries you no longer need to hang on to the brush thus making the whole process more efficient. Isn’t that thoughty?  Using this technique, undo fatigue is less likely to occur. The trick is to get the brush cleaned before apprehended. Caution:  Be careful when varnishing overhead using this technique as the varnish is capable of lodging in your armpit making further overhead work nearly impossible.

Lastly we need to get up close and personal here and talk about SAG No woman wants to talk about sag, get lectures on sag much less see sag.  But sag is a big part of varnishing.  Sag is caused by too much thick varnish on your hog hair brush.  Or sag can be caused by starting in a corner with a full brush.  All of this is untrue.  Sag occurs when you turn your back.  I personally have never directly caused sag but have been accused of sag on many occasions.  Just when you think you have done some of your best work, Mr. Toolbelt struts past, clinking of hammer and nail set, and points out… THE SAG.  Gasp and cringe.   Sag is the kiss of death.  Once you have sag, you become the instant object of derision.  To protect your sticky self esteem, the only choice is to get mad and stomp off.  Don’t let anyone tell you it can be fixed because we all know that once something has sagged only God, or Dr. Bieber, will attempt to fix it.

So what is the moral of this story?  Actively avoid varnish, the discussion of varnish and varnish products at all costs.  You do not wish to prematurely expose yourself to the prospect of sag.  Primitive Toolbelt Man, Varnopithecus Robustus, could potentially anticipate sag and instinctively seek a younger woman.

Good Luck, girls… I rest my case.

Respectfully submitted:
Mary Jo Shelton