Enduro Conversion Varnish

Conversion Varnish is a two-component, post-catalyzed urethane topcoat for use when ultimate durability is necessary. Use this wood finish for high-use projects that receive a lot of wear, such as bars, commercial tabletops, bathroom vanities, around dishwashers, kitchen cupboards or high-moisture areas.

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General Finishes Water Based Enduro Conversion Varnish

Instructions

Step 1: Preparation

All wood projects require preparation sanding, and all existing finishes require prep cleaning and sanding. If you skip this critical step, your finish may fail.

Preparation for Raw Wood or Raw Wood Projects That Are to be Stained 
See our video: How to Prep Sand Raw Wood

  1. Sanding Schedule: 120-grit followed by 150- or 220-grit sandpaper.
  2. Remove dust with a water-dampened rag or oil-free tack cloth.
  3. Let dry completely before applying GF product.
  4. Do not over-sand with fine-grit sandpapers; this will close and seal the wood grain, preventing ideal color absorption.
  5. Do NOT use steel wool with water-based finishes; the particles will get trapped in the finish and rust.

Preparation for Projects with an Existing Finish (Sealed Surface)
For high-use areas with heavy grime build-up and oil from hands, give your project a deeper cleaning.
See our video: How to Prepare Existing Finishes

  1. Scuff clean with a Scotch Brite pad and a 50:50 mix of denatured alcohol and water. Dry 1-2 hours. Avoid cleaning with products containing phosphates (salt), which can linger in the substrate and produce a white haze. If your project requires a deeper cleaning, see Power Prep Cleaning Highly Used Existing Finishes below.
  2. Sand lightly with a fine-grade (220-320) foam sanding pad or 400-grit sandpaper.
  3. Remove dust with a non-sticky tack cloth or a water-dampened rag.
  4. Let dry completely before applying General Finishes product.

Power Prep Cleaning Highly Used Existing Finishes
For high-use areas such as kitchen cabinets or table tops with heavy grime build-up and oil from hands, give your project a "Power" clean. See our video: How to Power Prep Existing High Use Finishes for Stain or Paint

  1. Scrub clean with a detergent, such as Spic and Span or Dawn, using a Scotch Brite pad.
  2. Rinse well with water.
  3. Scrub clean with a Scotch Brite pad and a 50:50 mix of denatured alcohol and water. Dry 1-2 hours.
  4. Sand lightly with a fine-grade (220-320) foam sanding pad or 400-grit sandpaper.
  5. Remove dust with a non-sticky tack cloth or a water-dampened rag. 
  6. Let dry completely before applying General Finishes product.

Alternative Cleaning Solutions For Existing Finishes (Not as aggressive or effective as denatured alcohol; requires rinsing.) 

  • 50:50 mix of bleach and water 
  • 50:50 mix of vinegar and water
  • Mineral spirits can be used when working with water-based products, but only if the surface is thoroughly rinsed and allowed to dry for 72 hours.
  • If you use with products containing phosphates (salt), which can linger in the substrate and produce a white haze, be sure to rinse thoroughly.

Step 2: How To Apply General Finishes Enduro Conversion Varnish

General Finishes Conversion Varnish is a post-catalyzed, high-solids, two-component urethane formulated for ultimate durability and chemical resistance, and requires General Finishes NCO Catalyst.

Conversion Varnish Application Steps 

  1. Stir thoroughly to reincorporate solids that have settled to the bottom of the can using a power drill and mixer (recommended) or by hand with a paint stick.
  2. Slowly add up to 10% NCO Catalyst by volume (3.2 oz. per quart; 12.8 oz. per gallon) to Conversion Varnish while stirring thoroughly. Allow 2-3 minutes when mixing with a power drill, or 5 minutes when mixing by hand with a paint stick. Use gloves and protective eyewear when mixing. Mix only what you are going to use and clean spray gun immediately after use. The finish can only be mixed once, and the leftover product will solidify after 6-8 hours. DO NOT store in a closed container to avoid pressure build-up.
  3. If desired, thin with 10-15% distilled water or General Finishes Extender, which can be added before or after mixing with NCO Catalyst. Extender will improve flow and leveling, and increase open time, which is helpful in dry climates. 
  4. Let Conversion Varnish sit for 15 minutes. 
  5. Apply 3 coats. For high-moisture areas, apply 4 coats. Additional coats will not improve durability.
    • Spray application: Before spraying, strain topcoat through a fine-mesh filter. HVLP: 1.1mm-1.3mm spray tip, medium air cap. Verify tip sizes with your equipment supplier. See our general guide for spray tip sizes. Keep your gun at a 90* angle, 6-8" from the surface. On large, flat areas, use wet, even patterns 6-8" wide. For narrow surfaces, reduce the fan pattern to 2-3" wide to reduce overspray. Overlap each pass 25% to conceal lines. Wear a full filter respirator (NIOSH/MSHA-approved) and work in a ventilated space. Read here for more information on spraying techniques.
    • Face frames on cabinets: Enduro professional products are engineered to be spray-only but can be successfully applied by hand to cabinet face frames or edges with a pad applicator or small, cabinet-specific roller such as Whizz Velour brand. Larger areas may not level with a hand application. 
  6. If a faster build is desired over raw wood, use General Finishes Sanding Sealer for the first 1-2 coats, followed by 2 coats of Enduro Conversion Varnish.
  7. Dry 2+ hours between coats in ideal conditions: 70*F/20*C; 50-70% humidity. Be sure to allow adequate dry time.You can tell if a water-based finish is dry if it forms a powder when lightly sanded with a fine-grade (220-320) foam sanding pad or 400-grit sandpaper. If in doubt, wait longer. Rushing the dry time can cause "blush," which is clouding in the finish due to moisture trapped between the layers. Increase dry time if:
    • Humidity is over 80%
    • 3+ coats are applied
    • Thick coats are applied
    • Applying over an existing sealed finish
    • Layering General Finishes water- and oil-based products:
      • Water over oil: Let oil-based products dry 72+hr before applying water-based products
      • Oil over water: Let water-based products dry 24+hr before applying oil-based products
    • To accelerate dry time in humid conditions, add General Finishes Accelerator and work in a space with good ventilation and air movement. If you decide to re-coat before the recommended time, test dryness.
  8. Finish sand between coats with a fine-grade (220-320) foam sanding pad or 400-grit sandpaper to improve smoothness and adhesion.
  9. Remove dust with a vacuum, oil-free tack cloth or clean, water-dampened rag before re-coating.

Cure Time
Water-based finishes cure and harden for full use after 21 days in ideal conditions. Avoid placing heavy objects on surfaces that have not completely cured. Treat gently, and do not clean with commercial products during the curing period.

Toning with Conversion Varnish: 
Add up to 10% General Finishes Dye Stain, General Finishes Water Based Wood Stain, General Finishes Ready-to-Match (RTM) Stains or Trans Tints by volume to Conversion Varnish. To deepen the color, add a second coat.

Yellowing & Clear Topcoat

As is true of most "water-white" topcoats, General Finishes water-based topcoats dry clear over non-reactive substrates, such as plastic or metal, except General Finishes Enduro-Var, which ambers. When white paint sealed with a water-white topcoat is applied to something as unpredictable as wood, all bets are off and the reason for yellowing is often unknown. It can be caused by topcoat activating tannins in raw wood or aniline dyes, stains, or contaminants in a pre-existing finish. This is most evident when using BRIGHT WHITE paint and most prevalent in sculpted details of furniture where the topcoat can collect, intensifying color change to an unacceptable level.

There is no reliable way to predict whether yellowing will occur and to what degree. Every existing finish is different and we rarely know the finishing provenance on an existing piece. Every tree is different and every piece of wood is unique. Raw wood can bleed tannins immediately after the topcoat dries or months later with seasonal temperature changes. Oak, pine, mahogany, and douglas fir are particularly prone to bleed-through.

Summary

  • Whites have a lower “hide” quality and are more transparent than most other colors. Nearly all bright whites require additional coats to achieve the desired color and minimize color variation. This can increase the cost of paint finishing. Always include a clause in your contracts addressing the need for additional coats to achieve coverage.
  • All bright white paint will yellow slightly with time, with or without topcoat. You have probably tried to touch up white woodwork in your home after several years and noticed the new paint is brighter.
  • The underlying finish or wood species can affect the final color of light paint.
  • Details and inside corners are difficult to cover with any paint color, but it tends to be more noticeable with whites. This is a naturally occurring phenomenon in paint application and does not necessarily constitute a defect in the paint finish or your technique.
  • The more porous the paint, such as General Finishes Chalk Style Paint, the more likely that yellowing will occur. The topcoat is seeping through the spaces caused by the larger particles of filler that give Chalk Style Paints their texture.

Tips to Prevent Yellowing

  • If it is a low-use project, use a premium white paint that is self-sealing and does not require a topcoat. A clear topcoat is not required on General Finishes Milk Paint for increased durability, as it is a self-sealing, exterior-rated coating with high durability and chemical and water resistance. However, topcoats do provide a smooth surface that is easier to clean and boosts durability for high-use projects, such as tabletops and kitchen cabinets.
  • Use a professional spray such as General Finishes Enduro White Poly. It has "increased topcoat properties," is a standalone finish when 3 coats are applied, and does not require sealing with a topcoat.
  • We recommend using General Finishes Stain Blocker, an engineered chemical barrier, to prevent persistent bleed-through for interior-use projects.
    • Stain Blocker does not adhere to melamine cabinet veneers.
    • Stain Blocker cannot be tinted.
  • Always test your project's ENTIRE finishing schedule (from cleaning to topcoat) on an inside door or a more hidden area of the piece. This will not help if the yellowing occurs later, but at least you will know if there is an immediate problem.
  • Avoid painting period furniture, such as a 1940s serpentine mahogany desk, with light colors. The pieces were often finished in stain that contained aniline dyes, which cast a pinkish bleed-through under light paint. Not every piece of furniture is suitable for upcycling with a light paint color. Pine, mahogany, and furniture of the 1940s and 50s are a red flag.
  • Last, not all manufacturers' topcoats are compatible with other finishes and may react with a color change. Always follow best practices by not rushing, and testing to your satisfaction first.

Knots
Knots in wood tend to bleed and are dense, making paint and stain adhesion a challenge. Stain Blocker may improve adhesion and prevent bleed-through for painting projects. Pine knots are especially difficult to cover with white or light paints. If you decide to paint over them, apply 3 coats of Stain Blocker first; however, we cannot guarantee adhesion or bleed-through blockage. You are better off using a dark paint on pine.

Cleanup of Water Based Products

Application tools and materials containing water-based products can be cleaned with soap and water immediately after use.

Product Spills
Spills may be able to be removed from fabric and carpet if cleaned immediately with soap and water.

Storage of General Finishes Conversion Varnish

Life of Product
Water-based products do not last forever, even when unopened. General Finishes products are best used within 1 year of the manufacture date listed on the bottom of the can. The life of the product may be extended with proper care and storage.

Settling
Gravity can cause some solids to settle on the bottom of the can and slight separation on the top. This is normal. If working with older Conversion, use paint mixing attachment on a drill. If the solids dissolve and clumps smooth out after mixing from the bottom, the product is in good condition for use.

Storage Tips

  1. The finish can only be mixed once, and the leftover product will solidify after 6-8 hours. 
  2. DO NOT store in a closed container to avoid pressure build-up.
  3. Store in moderate temperatures. Avoid temperatures below 50*F/10*C or above 80*F/26*C. Frozen and heat-damaged product cannot be revitalized. Temperature-controlled spaces, such as a basement, are ideal for storage. Do not store product in an attic, garage, in direct sunlight, or next to something warm like a water heater or furnace.
  4. Store can upside down to create a liquid seal, minimize evaporation and reduce the chance of crystallization. 

Furniture Care and Maintenance

Cure First
You have just finished applying a fine furniture finish. Allow 21 days for the finish to cure before cleaning.

Regular Cleaning and Maintenance

  • Remove dust with a water-dampened cloth. Dust can build up over time and may scratch or dull finishes if not removed regularly. 
  • Remove fingerprints, cooking fumes and smoking residue with mild soap and water. These contaminants will not harm the finish, but they accumulate on surfaces and dull the original luster. 
  • As with all fine furniture finishes, avoid using furniture polish, cleaners or dusting sprays that contain silicone, alcohol, ammonia and anything acidic. Exception: We have successfully cleaned with Clorox wipes.
  • Clean up water, alcohol and food spills in a timely manner and use placemats & coasters to protect the finish.
  • Future finishes or touch-ups may not adhere properly or perform as desired over a contaminated surface. Some contaminants, such as silicone, seep through finish into the wood and often cannot be removed.
  • Avoid excessive exposure to direct sunlight, high temperatures or high humidity. These can damage furniture and finishes.

Warnings and Warranties

Limited Warranty
General Finishes products must be tested to your complete satisfaction before using, including compatibility with other manufacturers products. General Finishes will be responsible only for the cost of our products and will not be responsible for any costs such as labor, damage, or replacement costs.

Contamination and Compatibility
Our finishes are engineered as a system and are compatible with each other. General Finishes cannot guarantee an ideal refinish when applying our products on top of or combined with another company's products or over surfaces that have been in contact with waxes, polishes or sprays containing contaminants such as silicone. Test for adherence and aesthetics before beginning. 

Warning
If you scrape, sand, or remove old paint, you may release lead dust. LEAD IS TOXIC. EXPOSURE TO LEAD DUST CAN CAUSE SERIOUS ILLNESS, SUCH AS BRAIN DAMAGE, ESPECIALLY IN CHILDREN. PREGNANT WOMEN SHOULD ALSO AVOID EXPOSURE. Wear a NIOSH-approved respirator to control lead exposure. Clean up carefully with a HEPA vacuum and a wet mop. Before you start, find out how to protect yourself and your family by contacting the National Lead Information Hotline at 1-800-424-LEAD or log onto www.epa.gov/lead. WARNING: This product contains a chemical known to the State of California to cause cancer and birth defects. Do not swallow; first aid: drink water to dilute product. May cause eye and skin irritation; first aid: flush eyes thoroughly with water.

Warning
This product contains a chemical known to the State Of California to cause cancer and birth defects. Do not swallow; first aid: drink water to dilute product. May cause eye or skin irritation; first aid: flush eyes thoroughly with water.

Specifications

Basic Features
Product Colors Water White in can (dries clear)
Base Type Water
Ambering No
Sheen Flat (10 or less), Satin (25-35), Semi-Gloss (50-60), Gloss (85+)
Interior or Exterior Interior/Exterior
Type Urethane/ Acryllic Blend
Application
Coats 3 coats
Application Method Spray
Brushable No
Usable over existing finishes Yes
Sprayable Yes
Spray Tip Sizes HVLP 1.1mm-1.3mm
Dry Time
Dry Time - Touch 30+ min.
Dry Time - Recoat 2+ hr
Dry Time - Light Use 72 hr
Dry Time - Cure 7 days
Contents
Can Sizes Gallons, 5 Gallon pails
Coverage 450 sq. ft/gal
Technical Data
Viscosity Medium
Viscosity (cPs) 350-450
Weight Solids 28%
VOC <200 g/L
Durability
Durability (Highest, High, Medium, Low) Highest
Hardness (Koenig #) 95
Wear (Taber #) 20.40 mg loss
Water 5
Chemical 101

FAQs

Can General Finishes Water Based Top Coats Be Tinted?

All of General Finishes water based topcoats can be tinted to create lightly colored finishes for toning. Toning is the process of adding colorant, either dye or pigment into a top coat and then applying over an entire piece in order to subtly deepen the color.

Some tinting recommendations are:

  • Do not exceed 13 ounces per gallon. Excess amounts of colorant can create surface defects and decrease the viscosity (causing drips, sag, etc.).
  • Tinting a product black only requires about 6 to 8 ounces (based on strength of colorant).
  • Check for colorant compatibly (best to use a zero VOC colorant).
  • Tint off whites with white bases.
  • Enduro-Var top coat cannot be tinted white.
  • GF top coats can also be tinted with General Finishes Dye Stains or Trans Tint Dyes available at many woodworking and paint stores. This produces a transparent tinted finish. Normal addition is usually 2-5% by volume.

GF does not manufacturer colorants. Here are a few sources:

  • Mixol available at Woodcraft
  • Gennex by Benjamin Moore
  • Colortrend 896 or 888, 878

Relevant Videos

How Do General Finishes Water Based Topcoats Differ?

Gf recommends using the least expensive product that will provide the needed performance characteristics. We offer a range of products designed for professional spray applications and brush-on finishes for consumer use.

PROFESSIONAL TOPCOATS

PRE CAT LACQUER (Spray only)

GF recommends our recently improved Pre Cat Lacquer for applications where there is little risk of chemical contamination issues from substances such ketchup, soap, chemical cleaners, or ammonia. This is the perfect spray finish for interior doors, casing, moldings, door jambs and furniture that receives light use. When you think about it, interior doors don't take a lot of wear. You might wipe them down or dust them once in a while but that is about it. PreCat Lacquer is a hard finish that provides excellent build and superior clarity at a phenomenal price point. If you are not finishing a surface such as a table top where you anticipate chemical contamination during use, why pay for a more expensive finish?

Dries clear.

CLEAR POLY (Spray only)

Poly is the go-to cabinet finish. It has all the durability you need at a lower price point than Conversion Varnish. It is similar to High Performance in test measurements for chemical, water and wear resistance, but HP can be brushed and Clear Poly can't - it is already thinned for spraying. Clear Poly has a bit of an edge over High Performance in overall chemical resistance, a 98 rating vs 92.

Dries clear.

CONVERSION VARNISH (Spray only)

This is our top of the line. Conversion Varnish is a post catalyzed high solids, two component urethane formulated for professionals who need the highest level of durability and chemical resistance. Varnish will cure the fastest. Requires NCO Catalyst. It is recommended for commercial applications or extremely high-wear surfaces such as countertops and bar tops

Dries clear.

RETAIL TOPCOATS

HIGH PERFORMANCE (Brush or Spray)

GF's best performing brush on finish with very similar performance testing as our Poly. (High Performance can be thinned for spraying).

Dries clear.

FLAT OUT FLAT (Brush or Spray)

Flat Out Flat is formulated with a self cross-linking acrylic, and is designed to mimic the look and feel of a wax finish. Because of the increased matting agents used to create the "Flat look", this finish will have less clarity.  Like wax, it dries softer to the touch than High Performance when completely cured, and will show more fingerprints. FOF finish will mark up more easily because of increased matting agents used to reduce the sheen, so it is not recommended for high-use tabletops.

Dries clear.

BOTH PROFESSIONAL AND RETAIL TOPCOATS

ENDURO-VAR (Spray or brush)

Enduro-Var is an oil modified water-based alternative for customers that want the warm look of an oil finish in a water based coating. It looks more like an oil finish than a water coating, and can be sprayed or brushed. Enduro-Var adheres well ONLY over WATER STAINS, DYE STAINS, and RAW WOOD. Use over other finishes at your own risk.

Dries Amber

EXTERIOR 45O TOPCOAT

Exterior 450 provides a clear drying tough, protective finish that will withstand the rigors of the sun, rain, and wind. It is suitable for vertical surfaces such as fences, patio furniture, garage doors, entrance doors, outdoor kitchens and interior windows. It is not recommended as a deck finish. Fortified with UV absorbers to stabilize the finish, Exterior 450's built-in mildewcide retards mold and mildew growth.

Dries Clear

Relevant Videos

How to Spray Water Based Finishes

General Finishes water-based products can be sprayed through compressed air, HVLP, airless or C.A.S. units.

Surface Preparation: All surfaces should be clean and free from dirt and oil and sanded. Spray Application of General Finishes Water Based Finishes

All General Finishes water based topcoats and wood stains are ready to spray from the container without additives with the exception of Conversion Varnish. Always strain material through a medium to fine mesh filter before spraying. If necessary, in hot or dry climates, reduce 10 to 15% with General Finishes Extender to extend the open time.

Pre Sealing: Softwoods such as Pine absorb stain at an uneven rate and may respond better to staining if the wood is pre-sealed. Pre-Stain Conditioner Natural can be applied to raw wood to condition the surface for uniform penetration of the stain. Pre-sealing will cause the final stain to be lighter so you may need to use a darker color. Always test your color on a hidden part of the furniture. Allow the Pre-Stain Conditioner to dry 30 minutes before applying your final stain color.

If you are using a sprayer that has been used for oil based or lacquers, clean the unit thoroughly with acetone followed with hot water to purge the fluid passage. Apply a thin coat first that will dry and harden faster. Sand this first coat down to a smooth base on which to build your finish coats with a 220-320 grade foam sanding pad or #400-grit sandpaper. It is better to spray 2 thin coats rather than 1 heavy coat.

Contact your supplier to verify proper tip sizes for your specific equipment. GF's general recommended fluid tips for Wood Stains and Top Coats are Compressed air - .040 and Airless - .009. 

RECOMMENDED TIPS FOR GENERAL FINISHES PRODUCTS USING HVLP:

  • Milk Paint: 1.8mm-2.0mm
  • Chalk Paint: 1.8mm-2.0mm
  • Stain Blocker: 1.8mm-2.0mm
  • Pearl Effects: 1.8mm-2.0mm
  • Glaze Effects: 1.8mm-2.0mm
  • High Performance Topcoat: 1.1mm-1.3mm
  • Flat Out Flat Top Coat: 1.1mm-1.3mm
  • Enduro-Var  1.1mm-1.3mm
  • Water Based Wood Stain: 1.1mm-1.3mm
  • Water Based Dye Stain: 1.1mm-1.3mm
  • Exterior 450 Topcoat:1.1mm-1.3mm
  • Exterior 450 Stain: 1.1mm-1.3mm
  • Enduro Sanding Sealer: 1.3-1.4mm
  • Enduro White Poly: 1.3mm-1.5mm
  • Enduro Black Poly: 1.3mm-1.5mm
  • Enduro White Under Coat 1.5mm-1.8mm
  • Enduro Clear Poly: 1.1mm-1.3mm
  • Enduro Pre Cat Lacquer: 1.1mm-1.3mm
  • Enduro Conversion Varnish: 1.1mm-1.3mm

Air caps should be medium size. Contact your supplier to verify proper tip sizes for your specific equipment.

Break your work into sections such as dresser top or drawer fronts. Spraying too large of an area can result in a textured grainy surface. A correctly sprayed finish should appear even and glossy. It is important to spray enough material to allow proper flow and leveling of the finish.

Spray medium wet films at 3-5 wet ml thickness. Practice makes perfect. If you have never sprayed finishes before, take a large piece of cardboard and practice your technique first. Spray water on the cardboard to learn how the gun works. Check your fluid settings and adjust the controls to get comfortable with the spray angles and to develop your technique.

SPRAYING TOPCOATS:

Keep your gun at a 90* angle, 6-8" from the surface. On large flat areas, use wet, even patterns 6 to 8 wide. For narrow surfaces, reduce the fan pattern to 2-3" to reduce overspray. For topcoats, overlap each pass 25% to conceal lines.

SPRAYING WATER BASED WOOD STAINS:

Keep your gun at a 90* angle, 6-8" from the surface. On large flat areas, use wet, even patterns 6 to 8 wide. For narrow surfaces, reduce the fan pattern to 2-3" to reduce overspray. Overlap each pass of stain 50% for even coverage and wipe back the excess with an absorbent cloth. For narrow surfaces, reduce the fan pattern to 2-3" to reduce overspray. 

SPRAYING WATER BASED DYE STAINS:

Keep your gun at a 90* angle, 6-8" from the surface. On large flat areas, use wet, even patterns 6 to 8 wide. For narrow surfaces, reduce the fan pattern to 2-3" to reduce overspray. Overlap each pass of stain 50% for even coverage. If coverage is even, there is no need to wipe. If you have issues with uneven coverage, wipe back the excess with an absorbent cloth. For narrow surfaces, reduce the fan pattern to 2-3" to reduce overspray. 

Relevant Videos

Which General Finishes product would work best on a restaurant table?

GF has two products that would work well.


For non-professional finishers, we recommend using Arm-R-Seal Topcoat. Arm-R-Seal is oil based and will amber. Be sure to apply liberally with a foam brush or roller, letting the product self level a bit. A liberal application will help you avoid streaks caused by back-brushing and pressure. Stir product thoroughly before and during application because flatting agents settle quickly in a solvent base finish.

For experienced professional finishers who spray, we recommend our two-step Conversion Varnish, which would cure in half the time and dries clear.

Even though General Finishes products are water resistant, they are not impervious to standing water condensation (like an epoxy finish). As with any fine furniture finish, spills should be wiped up in a timely manner. We recommend using coasters to protect your wood from water condensation and pot holders to protect from heat.

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