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Newsletter #113

Defining a Prize-Winning Finish

My good friend often serves as a judge at woodworking events. This leads to hours of discussion between us on how one can decide amongst so many superb submissions. Beautiful design and workmanship can be easy to judge. Finish is harder. Too often what might have been a winner is ruined by an imperfect finish. So we sat down and figured out what to look for in a winning finish. See if you agree: 

  • Smoothness that is both visual and tactile
  • Flat and level. No ripples or waves (orange peel)
  • Uniformity from edge to edge
  • Ends, edges and end grain are also smooth, even, and uniform
  • Special care to edges
  • Finish has depth

How does the finisher achieve the perfection described above?

The finisher can brush, dip, roll, wipe, or spray. And how labor intensive is the each process? Can you imagine rolling, or dipping or brushing or wiping an intricately carved music desk, or a very large entertainment center? Runs, sags and brush marks need to be avoided or sanded out. This is where spray finishing takes the finisher to new levels. Now the finisher gains speed, uniformity of application, easier access to more intricate and larger work, and access to many coatings that are better applied by spray than by manual methods. Spray finishing lets you say good bye to the world of hit and miss and endless sanding.

So here is what you need to consider when choosing an HVLP spray system that will help you achieve that prize winning, perfect finish. The goal of a good HVLP spray system is to lay down a smooth level flat finish that does not require sanding after the last coat. Just walk away and come back later to perfection. To do this, the right equipment is essential.

Here are the advantages of a precise, well-engineered, well-made HVLP spray gun:

  • The air cap is precision designed to atomize the fluid into fine even particles to create a smooth finish.
  • The spray gun is light-weight and perfectly balanced, offering no operator fatigue, allowing the operator to move along evenly and consistently. Fatigue can cause waves and ripples, not to mention an aching arm.
  • A good spray gun is easier to clean and maintain. Good components don’t wear out and surprise you with drips and spits and clogs. For the money, one can have two cheapies or one super spray gun.

When you are considering an HVLP turbine:

  • Make sure you have the power to spray a wide range of coatings, from a thin stain to a heavy poly or latex.
  • Avoid a turbine that uses a bottom filter. It’s easy for dirt and dust to be sucked up and land on the finish.
  • Consider the width of the hose. A fat hose is heavy and fatiguing.
  • A hose that is short doesn’t allow the warm air to cool and causes the coating to evaporate too soon.

So at the end, when my friend looks at a perfectly finished submission, will he know how the finisher achieved this perfection? Will he know if the process required endless hours of sanding and redoing? Did it take 8 days or 8 hours? Or was the coating applied with a high powered, precision engineered system? Can he tell? Probably not, but if ease, comfort, and perfection are required, a good HVLP system is surely the answer.

bill boxer signature

Bill Boxer
Sr. Vice President and COO
Apollo Sprayers International, Inc.

Feature Article by Charles Neil:

Finishing the Finish

“A finish should invite you, it should ask to be rubbed and touched and it should feel like warm butter.”

Of any single thing that has been the definitive selling point for my furniture through the years, it has been the finish.

Proper equipment, skill and environment can produce this, but often, for the average guy, it just doesn’t happen to his satisfaction. The simple solution is to rub the finish, but here again, there are many different means of doing that. Some simply are a ‘Witch’s Brew’ that are not successful. Some are very labor intensive and some are so antiquated they just don’t perform. Times have changed. Let’s understand how to effectively finish the finish.

Let’s cut to the chase, with products like pumice, rottenstone, steel wool, polishing  compound and so forth, they work but the issue at least for me, has always been inconsistency in sheen. Read More

Product of the Month:

Introducing the New Apollo 835VR-The World’s Most Advanced 3-stage HVLP Turbine

Precision is the newest and most exciting trend in HVLP spray finishing. All finishing demands precision and Apollo met this demand with a unique variable speed, highly controllable, 5-stage HVLP turbine, the 1050VR. Now, many of these unique features are available in a powerful 3-stage turbine – the Apollo 835VR. is proud to offer this innovative solution to two long term needs of serious finishers:

  • The need for absolute precision: the Apollo 835VR offers the user more controllable, more predictable operation with an array of exclusive precision features.
  • The need for more power to spray higher viscosity coatings – the Apollo 835VR offers 15% more power than most other HVLP turbines.

Imagine how much easier your finishing would be if you had these features at your command:

  • An LCD displaying atomizing pressure that is accurate to 0.10 PSI.
  • A Pressure Control System controlling motor speed, voltage and amperage worldwide, adjusting automatically for altitude and barometric pressure assuring precise atomizing pressure
  • A Precision FreeFlo™ Filter Warning LED that indicates when a filter is restricted
  • Plus 15% more power!

Fact is, there is no other 3-stage HVLP turbine anywhere that offers any of these precision capabilities. If you are serious about matching your craftsmanship and creativity with a perfect finish, the Apollo 835VR is the way to go.

Finishing Tip by Bob Flexner:
Controlling Sheen: Making Semi-Gloss or Dead Flat

pouring-off-some-gloss.jpgYou aren’t limited to the sheens of finishes available from most suppliers and stores—usually just gloss and satin, sometimes semi-gloss. You can make any sheen you want from just one can of satin finish.

First, let the flatting agent (the stuff you have to stir into suspension before use) settle to the bottom of the can. The easy way to do this is to tell the store clerk not to shake the can. Otherwise, let the can sit undisturbed on a shelf for a week or two.

Then pour off some of the gloss finish at the top of the can. Leave the finish with the flatting agent at the bottom of the can.

Finishing Tip by Bob Flexner:
Water-Based Finish is White in the Can

water-based-finish-is-white-in-the-can.jpgLabeling on cans of polyurethane and lacquer can sometimes be confusing. It may not be obvious whether the finish is solvent-based or water-based.

One way to distinguish which is which is to read the label for the thinning and clean-up solvent. Solvent-based products will list a solvent such as petroleum distillate, aliphatic hydrocarbon or lacquer thinner. Water-based products will list water.

Another way to tell is to open the can and look at the finish. Solvent-based products will be clear; water-based finishes will be white. The whiteness disappears when the finish dries.

Bloopers! Or How I Learned from Big and Little Mistakes by Bill Boxer

This error haunts me after 25 years. I was refinishing a grand piano for a client. The piano was mahogany and the owner wanted it to be ebony hi gloss, which meant the grain must be filled first because an ebony piano never shows the grain. I knew that the grain could be filled by multiple coats with sanding between. The resin from the coating would fill the grain. So that is how I proceeded. I did not fill the grain with grain filler. The piano looked terrific until the curing began and the coating started to shrink as the solvents evaporated. The shrinkage revealed the open grain once again. Now I had a black piano with grain, and lots of work ahead of me. So I learned the hard way to use grain filler to hide the grain. That’s what it’s for!