With the rudder complete, I’m now finished with construction of the hull. It is finally time for the last step…adding the clear top coat.
A top coat isn’t an ‘absolute must’, but it does help to protect the ship. On my first build I didn’t do a clear top coat when I finished the hull. As the build progressed, I was constantly fighting dust and scratches on the hull. Even touching the hull could leave finger prints that had to be cleaned off. A top coat helps to protect the paint from that sort of wear-and-tear.
The top coat also gives the entire hull a smooth, uniform finish.
Since it was my first time to use a top coat on a ship model, I did some research to see what the recommended top coat was. Turns out there is no single best option – every modeler has their own preferred solution. I heard recommendations of oil, varnish, lacquer, and more.
In the end, I decided to go with Minwax Wipe-on Poly. This product is a clear polyurethane that is formulated to be applied by wiping on with a rag. From what I’ve read, it avoids problems with uneven applications or brush strokes being visible.
Minwax Wipe-on Poly comes in a few different finishes. I picked up some Clear Gloss and Clear Satin at my local hardware store. To test them out, I used a board that I had painted with the same colors (and paint types) as my hull.
The left side shows the result of Clear Gloss, and the right side shows the result of Clear Satin. The center is left unfinished. Both finishes definitely have an impact. The gloss clearly catches more light and results in more shine.
Traditionally, ship models are expected to have a matte finish. Working boats were not polished, and wouldn’t appear shiny or glossy. However, some people have chimed in and reported that racing ships like the Bluenose might often be polished up prior to a race. The idea being that a smoother surface results in less friction and drag. So it isn’t uncommon to see a gloss finish on a model of a racing ship.
My wife ended up being the deciding factor. She preferred the satin finish (right), so that’s what I’m going with. She’s going to have to live with this model on display in our home for possibly decades, so let’s make sure she doesn’t hate it.
I did a quick pass to clean up any remaining issues with the hull. A few spots got sanded a little. There was some quick touch-up paint. The newly installed pintles and gudgeons got their bolts filed down and cleaned up.
Then the ship went into the garage for the clear coat. Fortunately, my wife was kind enough to go shopping for a few hours so I could use her side of the garage. She’s a team player.
Applying the wipe-on poly is very easy. Just pour a little poly on a rag, and wipe it on. I applied poly to the outer hull first. Once that was finished and dry, I turned the ship over and applied a coat to the main rail.
I decided NOT to apply the poly to the deck right now. Soon I’ll be building the various deck structures and fixing them in place. Glue doesn’t hold well to poly. So I’m leaving the deck un-sealed for now, and will add the poly there after I have the major structures in place.
The result is a slightly shiny ship. The paint feels more uniform, and it has a more ‘finished’ look.
With the hull sealed, I’m now officially done with the construction of the hull. That part took 212 days, or 6 months and 29 days.
I can now move on to deck structures.