General Finishes new Enduro-Var vs Arm-R-Seal

by Mark Hochstein

A couple of weeks ago I read some info about General Finishes new Enduro-Var Urethane Varnish. From the GF website: Enduro-Var is a self crosslinking polyurethane that looks more like an oil varnish than a water coating. It ambers slightly, is our most durable coating, is highly water resistance, and is both sprayable and brushable. It is our top of the line coating and should be used when you need the very best. Suitable for floors, cabinets and millwork.

I had to give it a shot and compare it with their old standby Arm-R-Seal which is an oil based varnish.

For this test I took a Cherry board that is approximately 24" long and 8" wide. I sanded the entire board to 320 grit and raised the grain before the final sanding. I coated one half of the board (the bottom half in the first picture) with one coat of Zinsser 

SealCoat

 dewaxed shellac.

After that I split the board roughly into thirds lengthwise. The right 2/3's a coat of Arm-R-Seal hand applied and wiped off with the grain. Twenty four hours later the left 2/3's of the board (so, overlapping the middle third with the Arm-R-Seal) got three coats of Enduro-Var. Twenty four hours after the last coat of the Enduro-Var, the right 1/3 of the board got two more coats of Arm-R-Seal 24 hours apart. 24 hours after that I put the board out in the bright summer sun for three days.

From here on out I will refer to Enduro-Var as EV and Arm-R-Seal as ARS.

So at the end you have:

Left 1/3: 3 coats of EV

             Bottom half w/ SealCoat

                                Middle 1/3: 1 coat of ARS then 3 coats of EV

                                              Bottom half w/ SealCoat

                                                                    Right 1/3: 3 coats of ARS

                                                                     Bottom half w/ SealCoat

IMAG0064.jpg

The first thing I noticed was that the EV side (left) is a little more brown and a little less orange than the ARS parts. You can also see that the far right side when there is only ARS darken a little more than the middle part with the EV over ARS. The SealCoat seemed to make very little difference as far as the darkening of the Cherry goes.

IMAG0066.jpg

In this picture the EV part of the board is closest to you. Looking at the sheen, you can see that the ARS then EV in the middle and the ARS only on the far end look very similar. The ARS worked as a great sealer for the EV in the middle. Even though I had raised the grain, you can see on the left side of the near third that the EV without the SealCoat still raised the grain just enough to cut down the sheen a bit. It doesn't feel any different but the evidence it right there.

IMAG0068.jpg

Looking at the light from a really low angle you can more clearly see the effect that the SealCoat had on the right side of the board. The Sealcoat really kept the EV from raising the grain at all. It din't have nearly as drastic an effect under the ARS but still slightly noticeable.

I did this experiment about 2 months ago. I waited this long to post about it just to show that there were no adhesion issues with the EV over the ARS. I've used several different waterborne varnishes over oil based varnishes and I've never had a problem at all - including GF's 

Enduro Pre-Cat Urethane

 over Watco Danish Oil. I have several pieces that are several years old and not showing any signs of finish de-lamination at all. I like it because I can impart the warm glow of an oil based finish applied by hand and then spray the waterborne finish safely.

My take away lessons: Use SealCoat before applying EV - it's really easy to wipe on a coat and the difference is finish quality is noticeable. EV does produce a warmer color than other crystal clear waterborne finishes but not quite as warm as ARS or any other oil based finish. Don't be afraid to experiment with waterborne finishes over oil based finishes as long as the oil based finish is dry.

What do you guys think?

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