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How do we win in the game of fine finishing?

finish gap hvlp primer spray system the finishing store wood woodfinishing woodwork woodworking

My biggest inspiration is my 8 year old son. He has taught me to teach him that it's not whether you win or lose,

but how you play the game.

And if you play the game well, you win often.

By  Scott Burt

How do we win in the game of fine finishing?

This is a discipline where we tend to drive ourselves to pretty high standards – little room for error.
We start with good habits for efficiency, eliminating all that is irrelevant to the goal - a zen like ritualism in approach. Actually, we don’t start there. That is a level that we work hard to achieve.
First, there is lots of research and trial and error.

Just like you can't get frustrated with a child for not understanding something that you didn't explain well enough, you can't get mad at yourself for not executing a finish you didn't learn well enough.

In the old days, you could pretty much pull out the sprayer on spray day and make it all fly. That was a different day. Products were more forgiving, open times lasted longer than a summer vacation, and the only thing that really ever changed was the piece you were spraying.

The Triumph of Transfer Efficiency

Sprayers have gotten better over the years. The features, quality of components, systemic nature and performance have advanced immensely. HVLP and air assisted continue to be the benchmarks for most finishers who don't have time to mess around and want great results that are predictable and duplicable. The machine is rarely the problem, if it's the right one for your tasks, especially if you set it up for success.

HVLP and air assisted come with a higher cost of entry than airless, but a more hassle free pro level experience. The bottom line is that we can't get things to lay down like glass when the room is full of mist becoming dry dust, in finish.

So, research, due diligence and self-training, supplemented by learning from other like-minded folks is how we all test our systems for relevance. Remember, failure to adapt is one of the leading causes of finish issues.

This newsletter community continues to grow because good finishers are always looking for, or at least open to ponder, different ways to raise their game. I enjoy being involved because this bunch (readers, writers and publishers) puts its ear right to the ground and listens to many perspectives on finishing and shares the different angles we all need to glimpse the discipline from.

It is the finisher’s challenge to absorb quality info, retain and apply. And reapply, fine tune and commit to long term memory. And reapply. That's how habit takes root.

The good news is that once something becomes habit, it's taken over by muscle memory and becomes pleasingly mindless. You don’t have to think much to put your shoes and socks on in the morning, and you shouldn’t have to think much to lay down a good finish either.

If you find yourself having to think too much on finish day, something may be amiss in your program.

Products are the Biggest Moving Target

As above, finding the right products to run in your spray system and gearing yourself to perceive everything in the finishing environment is the nutshell from which to baseline yourself.

If your weakness is creating space for finishing, figure out how to better organize the workshop, and create that dust free finishing shrine. Finishing is a ground up operation. And it is best when portable, not stationary. Caster everything and dedicate a vac and fan.

Once the environment is controlled, half your potential problems are eliminated. Patience and determination make it possible to zero out all other mental interference and focus on getting your finishes right.

At that point, product becomes the biggest variable, so we try to control that too, by choosing products that are user friendly -or, manipulating non-friendly ones to be friendlier.

Consider your Angle

We get a lot of questions through our topcoatreview.com site about sprayers and spraying. It is by far the most popular category.

There are FAQ’s that look like this:

• I have an old single stage HVLP that I haven’t used in years. I want to spray latex primer, will this work?
• I want to spray tinted lacquers, what sprayer should I get.

 No matter what stage finish program development you are in, it is mostly a game of haves and wants.

• What do you have for resources?

• What do you want to achieve?
• What do you need to do to bridge the gap between those two things?

These are some points to ponder as you continue to build your finish program. The best finishers never look at any part of the finish game as a chore or inconvenience - just opportunity and challenge. There's no reward in finish results otherwise.

Explain to yourself why you are doing each step, every time, and explain well so that it becomes habit.



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