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Newsletter #141

 Learning from Our Customers

I’m writing this month’s message from my hotel room in Houston, Texas. I’m on the road quite a bit during October and November visiting new and old distributors. For the past few days I have been at the Woodcraft store in Houston providing some sales team training on our products. At the same time I’ve been able to spend time talking with customers as they browse inquisitively over our products. I commented to Wendell Willoughby, the store manager, how I not only enjoy the customer contact, but also realize the importance of coming out from behind the desk to interact and talk with our distributors and their sales team to better understand their needs and to make the customer experience both satisfactory and positive. It is always my goal to leave everyone with enough knowledge and information to carry on once my visit is completed.

While in Houston I have had the opportunity meet with a new distributor in the industrial finishing marketplace. This highlights to me the versatility of our HVLP Turbo Spray equipment product range.  One day I am talking to customers who are serious home woodworkers, the next day I’m looking at our equipment being used in diverse industrial markets from bathtub resurfacing to paint contracting.

What I realize from the many conversations that I have been having are the common questions and the frequency with which the same questions come up. One in particular that occurred again yesterday was “how do you clean the spray gun?”  While I can be funny and reply “with your hands,” I realize that most people perceive the task of cleaning a spray gun as ominous and as a barrier to buying this tremendously useful tool. 

Let me assure those of you reading this who have had the same thoughts that cleaning your spray gun is far from the complexity that you perceive. You probably imagine disassembling and re-assembling a multitude of parts, flushing and cleaning all and taking a sizeable amount of time. Not so! Today’s HVLP spray guns, especially Apollo, are far simpler than conventional spray guns of the past. There are fewer parts, larger passageways, and overall they are easier to clean and manage. 

In the case of Apollo, stainless steel is extensively used internally which makes cleanup even easier – especially with waterbase coatings. I would venture to guess that if you normally clean your paintbrushes properly, that the time consumed in cleaning a spray gun is no different, if not less than the time it takes to clean a paintbrush. 

Another frequent question that comes up is about adjusting the viscosity of a coating for spray finishing. Again there are many preconceived ideas that one must be a chemist to mix and adjust viscosity. Far from correct. Today, many products, especially waterbase coatings are formulated and ready to spray straight from the can. It couldn’t be easier than that. Simply stir, strain and pour into the spray gun cup and you’re ready to go.  

In the case of other coatings that need some adjustment, guidelines are clearly outlined where you can adjust by percentage of solvent to coating.  For even greater precision, use a simple viscosity cup, which is a small cup that allows you to measure, the release of mixed product, to compare with the suggested guidelines. Once you learn these ratios, you will most often be able to do this by eye and experience. Of course, understanding the relationship between atomizing pressure and fluid viscosity further aids in making the correct adjustments should they be needed.

As it is now time for me to pack my bag and head to the airport for my next stop in Mexico, I will leave more of these frequent and common questions to be continued in the November issue. 

 Good wishes and great finishing!  

Sr. Vice President
Apollo Sprayers International, Inc.


News: Fine Woodworking Covers the New ECO-Series!

We were pleased to see this great write-up on the ASI-HVLP ECO-Series in Fine Woodworking:

“For hobbyist woodworkers interested in stepping up to the big leagues of HVLP finishing, the sheer cost of a system has always served as a major stumbling block. At well under a thousand dollars however, Apollo’s new ECO-Series is aimed squarely at the amateur/small-shop-pro marketplace.

Available in 3, 4, and 5 stage turbine models, the best bet for most hobbyiest woodworkers is going to be the 3-stage offering, which will easily handle solvent finishes as well as most waterborne finishes, which are thicker-and at $649, it’s a heck of a lot easier to justify the expense to a wary spouse! For those in search of a unit that will handle any waterborne finish, a step up to the 4-stage model ($749) might be in order READ MORE

Product of the Month: Nour Brushes

When you are using waterbase coatings, natural bristle is not best. Instead, it’s essential to buy the very best synthetic brush you can find and that’s what Nour brushes are. Nour AquaGlide Plus Nylon Fine Bristle Brushes are hand made and have wooden handles. The high quality brushes work best for water based coatings because they won’t shed, they pick up the coating easily and you can clean them. It’s a good idea to start with a brush that has been dipped in water and then shake it out. Work quickly and when you are finished, go away for a while and when your return the coating will have flattened out.

Clean your brush with a brush cleaner and it will last a long time.


Finishing Feature by Charles Neil: Finishing in Hot or Humid Weather

It seems that one of the topics I get a tremendous amount of emails about is when folks are having issues due to the heat and humidity. A huge number of woodworkers spray their finishes outside and in doing so, are at the mercy of uncontrolled temperatures. Spraying in these conditions can be risky business.

Most finishes simply do not like to be force dried. When spraying in direct sunlight, the surface of the finish will skim over leaving the underlying finish still soft. The finish can then blister; this is most predominant in solvent base finishes. The surface dries and the air that is trapped in the pores of the wood cannot readily escape. READ MORE


Finishing Tip by Bob Flexner: Use Dye to Match New Parts

A common situation in furniture restoration is matching a newly made part to the color of the rest of the object. Water-soluble dyes are much more effective for doing this than commercial store-bought stains. The water-soluble dyes I’m referring to are those made by WD Lockwood. They are also sold by Woodworker’s Supply under the name Moser.

Metalized dyes like those sold as NGR stains or Transtint aren’t nearly as effective because they are difficult to lighten. Trying to tweak the color usually results in it getting darker as the two colors blend and there’s no easy way to lighten it.

The water-soluble dyes from Lockwood, which are sold as powders for you to dissolve yourself, are easy to lighten simply by wiping with a wet cloth after the dye has dried. They are also easy to tweak or even change the color entirely, as shown in the accompanying picture.manipulating-dye-color.jpg

On this panel I stained the entire surface with the red dye shown in the middle section. Then I wiped the left section with a yellow dye and changed the color to orange. I wiped the right section with a black dye and changed the color to brown. This sample shows an extreme example of how much control you have of the color.

The usual way to match the color of a new part is to practice on scrap wood of the same species until you get it right. Then apply the color to the part. But if you’ve tried this you know that it rarely works to your satisfaction. Somehow, the color that seemed good on the scrap often looks wrong on the new part.

With water-soluble dyes you can practice right on the part. Go ahead and glue it into the furniture, then apply a dye color you think is close to a match. Because the color you’re going to get with the finish applied is the same as the color of the part with the dye still damp, you can see right away what adjustment you need to make. It’s usually adding a little red to warm the color, a little green to cool the color, or a very little black to dull the color.

A big advantage of using a water-soluble dye is that you don’t have to worry about damaging an adjoining finish if you get some of the dye on it. Just wipe it off.

Finishing Tip by Bob Flexner: Pigment Colorants for Oil and Varnish

The two widely available pigment colorants for oils and varnishes are oil colors and Japan colors. The difference is that oil colors are pigment ground in linseed oil while Japan colors are pigment ground in varnish.

So the difference in practice is that Japan colors dry faster and harder than oil colors, though if you were to mix an oil color with varnish, it should dry well.

The name “Japan” comes from the attempt in the West to imitate Japanned furniture (also called Japanese or Oriental Lacquer) that was imported in the 17th and 18th century. So the harder drying and glossier varnish base worked better than an oil base.

In my experience, you can also use widely available universal colorants (normally meant for tinting latex paint) in oils and varnishes successfully if you let these colorants sit in the binder overnight while stirring occasionally.

Finishing Tip by Bob Flexner: Stain or Paint Panels First


Wood panels set in frames tend to shrink over time, exposing an unfinished stripe at one or both sides. Even paint won’t keep this from happening, as demonstrated in the accompanying picture.

The only effective way to keep panels from showing the stripe is to stain or paint them before assembly. Gluing them in won’t solve the problem because this will cause the panels to split, which is worse.

With the panel already colored, it can shrink as much as it wants without leaving unsightly stripes.