Custom Mahogany Kitchen Build, Part 9: Varnishing Panels

This is the ninth post in a series documenting my method of construction for an entire set of custom kitchen cabinets. This series is not intended to be a full how-to tutorial, but rather to show the sequence of steps using photos and commentary. You can find all the posts in the series here. Please comment below or send follow-up questions to


After the stain has dried outdoors for 24 hours I apply two coats of Pettit marine spar varnish.

This varnish goes on thick and dries to a very durable, high gloss finish. I am just using it here to build up the finish thickness in preparation for the satin topcoat. I brush on the finish using a 3” Jen foam brush. Jen is the only brand of foam brush I use – boxes of them are available on Amazon or other distributors.

The two coats can be applied about 8 hours apart. Below you can see that the grain is not completely filled. Were this a table or desktop I would continue to build the coats three at a time, sanding in between each set, until the grain is completely filled. Since this are the insides of cabinets, that is not necessary.

After the varnish has cured for a full 24 hours, I sand the panels with my random orbit sander at 320 grit to smooth the surface, creating a cloudy appearance in the process.

Thanks for reading. In the next post I will use the Festool LR32 system lay out and drill all holes for the hinge plates, shelf pins, drawer slides and other hardware.