Tourist in My Own Hometown

I lived in the suburbs of New York City almost all my life and it was only when I was in my 20’s and working on 5th Avenue when I finally went to the top of the Empire State Building. It took me almost two decades as well to ice-skate at Rockefeller Center, browse the Museum of Natural History, and see a Broadway play.

Now living in New England I still tend to overlook the tourist attractions in my own backyard. It took us eight years after we moved to Keene, NH before we climbed the “most-climbed mountain in the world,” Mt. Monadnock, just a 15 minute drive from our house.

I once read a magazine article about a family that took a week-long vacation in their own hometown. They visited museums, ate out every night, and basically took in their surroundings with the new eyes of visitors. I didn’t have a week – but a few hours I did have. So when my neighbor suggested that we become tourists for a day in Keene I jumped at the chance. My neighbor and I planned a simple late morning excursion with our kids on the Keene trolley.

I have never been on the Keene trolley. I see it motoring around town every time I leave my house to run errands. It looks sweet, touristy, and fun. The windows are rolled all the way up in the warm weather. The seats are wood. The pick-up spot was a five minute walk from the house, so we all walked down to our local Hannaford’s to wait for the 11:35 a.m. trolley.

Why it seemed so exciting is beyond me. I knew where the trolley went and I’ve seen all those spots a thousand times. I knew our final destination was a mere one mile from our house. But somehow, shedding the car and climbing aboard the trolley made it all different. And the kids actually cheered (the younger ones) when the trolley made the turn into the parking lot.

I want to say it was a pleasant ride and wax philosophical about the wind blowing through my hair and seeing the familiar scenes through different eyes. And I would if my 6-year son had not had an intense attack of vertigo which made him exclaim (uh, shout) that the trolley was going to tip over with all of us in it with each turn the driver took. He insisted on sitting up front, where the windows were closed, with me glued to his side; I spent the entire 20 minutes of the ride trying reassure him that this was not a doomsday ride.

But hey, those are the chances you take traveling with children, even if it’s in your own backyard. The ride took us the “long way” past the hospital, toward downtown. “It takes a lot longer to get the Colony Mill on the trolley,” my son said when we finally got off, relieved to be on solid ground (the driver I’m sure was even more relieved).

The Colony Mill Marketplace is the Keene, NH version of a “mall,” – it is actually a renovated mill originally built in 1838 to produce wool garments, including uniforms for the Union troops during the Civil War and the Allied forces during the World World Wars I and II. And it housed scores of civilian companies and families until it closed its doors in 1953. It was completely transformed three decades later into a regional marketplace.

Today it houses quaint shops like Dilly’s for Kids, Mill Toy Works (my son’s favorite), Pocketful of Rye, Toadstool Bookshop (this is my favorite bookstore – no Borders for me!) and True Necessities (my daughter’s favorite). My kids, with their pockets jingling with birthday money from grandparents, made some modest but happy purchases – a few shorts and a shirt for my 12-year old daughter; a strap-to-the-head flashlight and a pull- back toy car for my son.

We had lunch at the mall’s atrium — unlike your typical “mall” setting in both food and atmosphere. Sometimes they even have live piano music. Homemade artichoke soup from Kristin’s Bakery, croissants stuffed with spinach and cheese; the other choice at the Marketplace is Chinese food and I ordered a plate of dumplings for us to share. It was good, satisfying; not a French fry or double cheeseburger to be seen yet all four kids ate heartily (maybe it was the thrilling trolley ride that made them so hungry.)

Our trip ended at another adjacent historic “mall” next door called The Center at Keene, originally a scenic railroad station in the 1800’s that now houses several retail shops and a really good ice cream shop, Rick’s Gourmet Ice Cream. We ate our ice cream outside (I had chocolate custard with chocolate sprinkles – yum!). While we were enjoying our ice cream, we suddenly saw the return trolley go by. “Oh well,” my son said, “we can walk.” And we did — bundles in hand — on the bicycle path.

My friend and I looked at each other, pleased with the day. It was already past 2 p.m. “It wouldn’t have been the same if we took our cars,” she said. And I agree. There is really something special about being a tourist in your own hometown.

Spar Urethane

These require around two coats to achieve the desired color and take longer than the water based wood stains to dry. Spar varnish is superior to spar urethane in UV protection. Spar urethane is better at repelling water and non-yellowing. Urethanes are harder, glossier and more durable, but they can also be hard to apply well.

minwax vs varathane spar urethane

That means you must sand it between coats to create a mechanical bond to the next layer. Let’s start with why you would use polyurethane in the first place vs. other types of wood finishes such as shellac, lacquer, varnish, etc. It’s a kind of super-tough varnish formulated so that its microscopic chains of resin molecules will bond tightly with one another as it dries. The result is a finish that’s much more resistant to water, solvents, abrasion, and impacts than traditional varnishes.

Varathane 200061h Water

Each finish adds to the final color(except water based which generally dries clear. It is the other two ingredients; resin and oil that make the difference in varnishes. The types of these ingredients used, as well as the ratio between the two of them, are what give each varnish its particular characteristics. Turn to Minwax® to add rich color and durable protection to your wood project in a single step.

Handyman: All wood finishes are not created equal – The Detroit News

Handyman: All wood finishes are not created equal.

Posted: Thu, 07 May 2015 07:00:00 GMT [source]

Since you asked I have to assume you have little to no experience. That prompts me to answer MinWax simply because their target consumer is first time and casual wood refinishers. Varathane supplies many markets including begainer and several specialty markets with price competive products. While Varathane has a product for any refinishing job,non are the best available for that piticular application. Minwax isn’t the best either but to their credit they do an exelent job of guiding casual wood finishers through the process of finishing wood. I highly reccomend going to Minwax’s website and reading through it then following their reccomendations.


If you’re short on time, it’s best to go with Varathane. Their products have a super short dry time as compared to Minwax, which dries much slower. Minwax is a brand that has been manufacturing wood preparation and finishing products for more than a century. This company is known for products that deliver excellent protection for your wood which last a long time. Robert Fergusson founded the brand in 1921, who initially used whale oil to manufacture the products. Now, they use resins that make their products more durable and provide them with outstanding clarity and expert finish.

The term “spar varnish” comes from the boating world, where the long wooden poles that support the sails are known as spars. A spar varnish is a finish specifically designed withstand the rigorous conditions of seafaring life, which means it can also handle anything your backyard throws at it. Wood finished for outdoor use is subject to a completely different set of factors that indoor finishes never have to deal with. Huge temperature swings, big changes in humidity, and punishing UV rays are the primary effects your finish will have to endure. These elements will easily break down a regular varnish or polyurethane over time.

Can You Mix Varathane Stains?

Have you ever used spar Varnish or any other varnish to seal tile grout. In addition to pigments, one additive I have seen used in clear finishes is Ethyl-vinyl acetate. For instance, Minwax Spar Varnish shows 3% pigments and 1.6% Ethyl-vinyl acetate by weight.

The single-pack polyurethane finish sold in home centers is not a true polyurethane. It’s an alkyd varnish or water-based dispersion in which some isocyanate has been woven into the molecular structure. Now that we’ve settled the lacquer vs. polyurethane debate, you might want to know if there are other options.

This refers to how long the wooden object remains in good shape and appearance when covered in stain, finishing wax or polyshades. Varathane wood fillers and wood putties can work on any wooden surfaces and when completely dry, can be nailed, drilled or screwed into as they are durable. To change color, you can use the polyshades over the wooden surface without necessarily having to remove the older finishing. The water base polyurethane is easier to clean and designed to be stain resistant. It dries very fast and is waterproof hence protects your wooden surface from damage by water. Works fine inside & pretty cheap compared to the good stuff or varnish.

minwax vs varathane spar urethane

You can also use badger hair brushes, which can give a clean finish on the final coats. Marine spar varnish is the best type for outdoor use. Its key ingredients are linseed oil and alkyd resin . The film is flexible enough to move with wood as it shrinks and swells with shifts in humidity. For example, for me, safety to the wood finisher and the environment is worth at least +5 points, in which case water based polyurethane wins by an even larger margin. You can find both types of polyurethane in brush- and spray-friendly versions, so “ease of application” is a tie.

When we apply polyurethane, we have to be careful not to introduce bubbles into the finish. Those bubbles will dry in the finish and need to be sanded out. The surface needs to be roughed up to give the next coat something to bite into. 220 grit sandpaper is used between each coat and the sanding dust is removed with a ShopVac.

You need to be careful not to cut through the final coat, or you will see “witness rings” that appear as hazy contour lines where the cut through as occurred. I usually start with 600 grit–occasionally 400 if it has lots of problems. I then sand up to 1000 if I intend a satin finish, or to about 1500 grit if I will go on to gloss. After the sanding, I use rottenstone on felt, lubricated with paraffin oil. Varnishes are either water-based, or oil-based, much like paints. Oil-based are older, and probably use either boiled linseed oil or tung oil as their base.

Minwax 785004444 Paste Finishing Wax

Most exterior polys can be used indoors, but interior polys should never be used outdoors; they lack the additives that protect exterior finishes from UV rays. Some polys have oils that give wood a warm, amber tone. If you want wood to keep its light color, use a water-based poly. Usually high traffic pieces like kitchen table would be better finished off with polyurethane while a white lamp in the master bedroom should be done with polycrylic. Polycrylic creates a durable finish and is great for surfaces that are very frequently used such as desks, kid’s furniture and tables. Moreover you cannot dispute the shine that polyurethane layering gives to expensive wood furniture and wooden flooring.

  • Condition the wood.After sanding wood, using something like Varathane’s Wood Conditioner or Minwax’s Sanding Sealer to prepare the wood.
  • Varathane products use very little time to dry as compared to the Minwax products which take longer.
  • To achieve the desired color, you require at least two or three coats of Minwax wood stains.
  • If it is going to be used outdoors, then you definitely want a spar varnish.
  • Of course, everything depends on what you want to use and where are you placing the pieces of furniture you wish to protect.
  • Oil-based products, including spar varnish, have an amber color to them.
  • Medium oil varnishes are best used indoors where a lot of wood movement does not occur and a harder finish is desired.
  • This will also help to keep it from peeling and flaking over time.
  • Regular polyurethane and varnish contain little, if any, UV blocking additives, and that alone makes them a poor choice for exterior application.
  • I guess that’s one real advantage to impregnated rods, that they aren’t affected so much by sun and water.

But, it you desire a shiny, exterior film finish, the marine varnish is probably the most durable. Probably get two or three years of exposure before it looks bad. I was told initially that the paraffin, linseed, thinner mix was a good exterior finish. After a couple years minwax vs varathane spar urethane of Michigan exposure, the logs turned virtually black. I’ve also seen exteriors done with a varnish, film forming finish. The only way to avoid this continual removal/refinish cycle is to go to some form of “transparent exterior stain” like that by Cabot or Behr or others.

What Is The Best Exterior Spar Varnish?

What makes the Design Series Color Wash so distinct is that it can be added to either bare or already stained wood. The Design Series Color Wash is perfect for creating an old-style look making your wood look aged and unique. It is not ideal for floors, but the Design Series Color Wash is ideal for smaller wooden surfaces. Choosing between wood finishing products is not as easy as it seems. It doesn’t help the matter that there are so many great options out there to choose from.

minwax vs varathane spar urethane

Urethane is resistant to ultraviolet light, meaning it could help to protect your vessel against the harmful UV rays from the sun. For vessels that are outdoors for most of the time, this can definitely be beneficial, as it can help to prevent paint from fading and wood from weakening. I do see a few minor issues with this product, of course. First of all, the advertising says that it will darken to a “rich, golden glow” over time. This clear coat may not remain clear forever and may take on a yellowish hue. For some projects, like antique furniture, this might not be a problem.

This doesn’t explaine the differences of varnishes, but will give an idea of some applications. I imagine that some people will twitch over my warer over oil, but done right, it give good results. Spar marine varnish is a natural oil based product that is designed to protect wood. Because of its composition it is can allow wooden surfaces to maintain their flexibility.

It is made of clear redwood and I’ve been looking through a vast number of your very helpful tutorial videos for general finishing advice. I have built stairs and seating benches out of redwood for my outside deck. Living in Utah we have huge changes in weather from 100 degrees summer days to snow all winter. My deck faces east and is in the sun until early afternoon. I love the look of oil but want the benches to be useable and fear some ruined pants with using oil. I prefer clear finishes and wanted to know your thoughts on using Epifanes or something else you would suggest.

The formula of this polyurethane is also scratch and stain resistant to provide excellent protection. This polyurethane dries fast once it has been applied and will offer lasting beauty on a range of different wood types. It has a durable finish that can enhance the natural beauty of the wood.

Varnish vs. Polyurethane – How to Choose –

Varnish vs. Polyurethane – How to Choose.

Posted: Sat, 16 Jan 2016 09:34:57 GMT [source]

Tung oil is more on the expensive side, doesn’t darken wooden surfaces and therefore is very popular amongst antique re-furnishers. Polyurethane is available in either spray on or wipe on form. If you are not concerned about yellowing of the surface, polyurethane is the best option. However it is not the best option for intricate woodwork pieces such as furnishings and scroll work on trims because of the thick patina it leaves on the surface. For such intricate surfaces, Tung oil is considered ideal because of its characteristic of soaking in the wood. I know this is an old thread and there is a lot of great information and points here, but my opinion the Varathane seems to be slightly thicker than Minwax.

I have a similar problem with a cedar picnic table, although I had coated it with polyurethane. But it doesn’t seem that any of these questions are getting answered. I’ve got to do a wood badge project, so I’ve got a slice of fallen tree trunk which I’m making into a knot tying wall hang (for kids to practice tying knots!). Good morning from Nashville, TN- we have a circa 1925 oak church pew that is in very good condition and finished for interior use – it has never been outside and has no rot.


Driving in the Outer Hebrides

When you think of the Outer Hebrides, you normally think of sandy beaches, ancient standing stones and lilting Scottish accents. You don’t normally associate the Outer Hebrides with some of the best driving in the British Isles…

I certainly didn’t expect to enjoy the driving so much when I visited the Western Isles (the other name for the Outer Hebrides) in Scotland recently.

It certainly isn’t speed that makes the roads in the Outer Hebrides so exhilarating. In fact, for much of the time I didn’t get out of third gear…

The roads are often single track with passing places. And where they are single track, often there are rocky ditches either side of a surprisingly narrow track. If you are at all in doubt of the width of your car, don’t drive on the Outer Hebrides!

If the width of the roads wasn’t enough, there are other distractions to keep you busy. The first are sheep. There are several times as many sheep on the Outer Hebrides as there are people, and for some reason sheep enjoy standing around in the middle of the road. Lambs are particularly lively and you have to take care when passing.

The other distraction is the often jaw-dropping scenery. Sometimes it’s all too tempting to look at the view when you should be watching the road…

The roads themselves are often sinuous, snaking their way through rugged scenery. You can’t relax for a moment when you’re behind the wheel in the Outer Hebrides.

Fortunately there isn’t much other traffic. And while it’s always polite to wave to someone who pulls over to let you pass (and return their wave), you quickly find that everyone waves anyway – even where you don’t need to pull over. (One chap painting his fence even waved as we drove past.)

The combination of sinuous, single-track roads with awesome scenery populated by obstructive sheep and polite drivers makes driving in the Outer Hebrides such a pleasure.

My top tips for driving in the Outer Hebrides:

Makes sure you have a car with a good third gear. You’ll send most of your time in third.
The B8011 from Calanais to Uig Sands on Lewis is fantastic. The beach at Uig Sands is wonderful, but it’s worth going there for the drive alone.
If you have a passenger with you, get them to help by spotting approaching cars. An extra pair of eyes can be invaluable.

And although I have now returned from the Outer Hebrides, I have found that I’ve brought a little of the islands with me: I’m much more patient and polite than I used to be behind the wheel – and that can only be a good thing.

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