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Newsletter #104

Learning to Play a Different Tune

Occasionally I restore beautiful old pianos. To achieve the desired end result, I want to create an instrument that not only sounds magnificent; it is just as important that the piano look fabulous. In the beginning, nitrocellulose lacquer was my coating of choice. However, as I became aware of the dangers to my health and the environment, I was curious about waterbase coatings. Early on, like many other finishers, I was disappointed. The first generation of waterbase coatings left a lot to be desired. They dried slowly and might have a purple cast. The second generation got better. Safety and environmental concerns motivated me to continue trying. Continued product research into the later generations of waterbase coatings and opening myself up to learning the newer technology led to success. From that point forward I considered myself a convert from solvent coatings to waterbase coatings. I’ve proudly created gorgeous finishes from the smallest console piano to big, magnificent (expensive) Steinway Concert Grands.

If you have been timid about using waterbase coatings, or perhaps had a bad result sometime back, my message to you this month is to spend some time trying different brands and learn the best way to use the coating. I guarantee you will be impressed by the results and so pleased to be in compliance with the strictest environmental guidelines. Stay in touch. I always enjoy hearing your feedback.

Bill Boxer
Sr. Vice President and COO
Apollo Sprayers International, Inc.
[email protected]

Making the Move to Waterbase

Good waterbase coatings have become the norm for many finishers. In the olden days it was easy to get a beautiful finish with nitrocellulose lacquer. The coating was very forgiving and offered a wide latitude regarding viscosity – even thinned to 50% or more you still got a terrific finish. Thin viscosities also gave the finisher the ability to use much less compressed or turbine air.

Then, as environmental laws all over the country became stricter, more companies had to get busy and manufacture coatings that looked and performed as well as lacquer. We are in a new generation of waterbase coatings. Safecoat, as well as many other companies have manufactured waterbase coatings that look beautiful and apply as easily as lacquer. The resins in these new coatings are harder to breakup, the viscosities are higher, and both HVLP Turbines and compressors require more power to generate more air pressure. The results are every bit as good as with nitrocellulose, but the air is safe to breath and you meet the strictest air control standards.

When using waterbase finishes, you’ll find these guidelines helpful:

  • Keep oily residues off the wood. Tack cloths, for example, have oil in them
  • Tack with a damp cloth or a microfiber cloth, or blow dust away with turbine or compressor air
  • Make sure your hands are clean. Micro fiber gloves help
  • Safecoat builds in an additive to counteract oil
  • We recommend sanding to at least a 320 grit
  • Each coat should be between 1 and 1 ½ mils
  • The finisher can decide whether to go beyond with finer grits, wet sanding and micro-mesh products

Finishing by Flexner

Each month Finishing Expert Bob Flexner provides an array of invaluable tips and tricks. Check out this month’s tips and browse through his library of articles and tips. Click the links below :

Grind Up Those Spare Diamonds Lying Around Your House

Do you need some sandpaper? It’s easy. Just go out and find a shark skin, or some glass you would like to grind, or seeds. If you’re in the money, grind up some diamonds. Then glue the whole mess on some paper and voila! You’ve made sandpaper.

Better yet, has an easier way. Take a look at the Zip Sander and the Auto Sander. Both sanding blocks are ergonomically designed for an easy grip, and the hook and loop fastening system provides for easy paper changes. The kind of backing paper used in making the sandpaper is also important, because a quality paper lasts longer. Zip Sander paper is C weight for flexibility and long life. Of course, there is a wide range of grits from rough surface sanding grits to grits suitable for between-coats and final finishing grits. Although Auto Sander sounds like it is made for cars (it was), it is also very useful for woodworking applications and makes a great sander to use in between layers of finish.

At we stress that every finisher is unique and the techniques they use to achieve their finish is as individual as they are. Our resident expert, Bob Flexner, says it best.

“Sanding is very personal. We apply different pressures, use sandpapers to different degrees of wear, and sand for varying lengths of time… It is therefore wise to practice on some scrap wood until you get a feel for what works best for you.”

Our Newest Product – The Erecta-Rack™

Here’s the dilemma: you have a lot of doors to coat and set up to dry. Your shop is not that big. Where can you put the newly finished doors so they are safe and will stay clean? went into research mode and found the solution to the Finisher’s Dilemma.

The Erecta-Rack™ is a simple solution to this challenging problem. Go vertical. The Erecta-Rack™ is a modular, portable system that holds all your pieces for drying. It is made up of stabilizer bars and support blocks. After the easy vertical set up, just slide the wood on the cross bars, and come back later when it’s all dry. Erecta Rack is a great place to keep your project components organized and safe.

A 5-Level Erecta-Rack™ system is approximately 18.5 inches tall. The vertical distance between the levels is approximately 2.75 inches. By adding more blocks and stabilizing bars, the system can build to 10 levels or a maximum of 500 lbs. However, for lightweight stock of 200 lbs or less, 15 levels can be assembled with caution. Then, if you don’t need it for a while, or your space is limited, take it down and store it until next time. There is even an optional storage bag. So come to our TheFinishingStore.Com booth at the Woodworking Shows all across the country, and see the Erecta-Rack™ all set up.

Meet Mike Heavey

You might have seen Mike Heavey as a presenter on the QVC Broadcasting station. Now you can meet him in person as he joins The Woodworking Shows as expert in the Master Finishing Clinic sponsored by Here are some of the topics that Mike will cover:

  • Project Preparation
  • Before You Finish
  • Stain Application/Coloring
  • Choosing a Topcoat Finish

In high school shop, Mike got hooked for life on woodworking. For 30 years he raised his family and worked as a telecommunications engineer while pursuing his passion for woodworking. Making gifts for friends and family marked milestones throughout their lives – a turned plant stand anniversary gift for his wife, heirloom toys and games, a maple and cherry jewelry case, a maple computer station, custom mixed hardwood diploma frames, and turned pen and pencil sets.

Currently Mike and his wife are building their dream house in the woods overlooking the Mark Twain National forest in Ozark, MO with Mike custom building all the cabinets, vanities, furniture, trim, and fireplace surrounds. Mike’s talent with tools led him to doing demonstrations at local home improvement centers and eventually nationally at such shows as the National Kitchen and Bath Show, the International Woodworking Machinery & Furniture Supply Fair, the Association of Woodworker and Furnishings Suppliers show, and more. Mike is a dynamic speaker with a wealth of information. He can discuss your projects and answer questions, so be sure to visit one of The Woodworking Shows near you. Click here for a complete list.

See Tip Top Table Contest Winning Designs

Some of America’s most talented woodworkers entered the recent Fine Woodworking Tip Top Table Contest and the variety of tables and woods and finishes was just extraordinary. They entered to win a new Apollo Power Series Model 835 Turbine system and we thought you’d like to see the remarkable array of tables entered: tables for dining, kitchen, bedside, coffee and bridge and more. Click Here to See Them

Mike Heavey’s Hints for Building a Tip Top Table

Here are some of Mike Heavey’s ideas to keep in mind when building a table:

  • When choosing material for the project, always purchase the longest and widest pieces of material for ease of grain and color matching when doing your glue-ups.
  • Arrange tabletop boards so the grain is pleasing to your eye, and mark their locations for proper glue-up.
  • When sanding the tabletop before applying a finish, always check for unseen problem glue spots with a dampened cloth with mineral spirits, this will highlight the glue marks without raising the grain. Start with 60-80 grit sandpaper and continue to 220 grit without skipping any in between.
  • When determining the proper topcoat to use, you should take into consideration what the table will be used for, and what you want to protect it from. This will lead you to the right finish.