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Newsletter #147

Everybody loves a story

Everybody loves a story. I’m happy to share mine. I’m always being asked about my finishing background and how I got involved with HVLP turbospray systems. So, here it is.

In 1975 I decided to leave an education administrative position in New York City. Having a background in music, I ventured to learn how to tune and repair pianos. 

Making the move from the bureaucratic world to an independent business person was a big leap. However, with a few month summer holiday buffer I moved into the business world enthusiastic that I could start a new career. Little did I know or even think that I would become involved in spray finishing.

The beginning was easy. Go out, tune a piano, get paid. Next came buying an old upright piano, cleaning it up, adjusting it, tuning it and selling it. OK, that worked. Then came small baby grand pianos. Same thing, clean them up, adjust and regulate the action, tune it and sell it. Still OK. Now, as the business started to grow, the customers wanted more. They not only wanted a nice musical instrument they also wanted a beautiful piece of furniture. 

OK, time to learn how to strip off an old finish and put on a new one. Now the fun started. I bought an air compressor and a spray gun, read a few books and learned how to spray. I should also say that I did have some excellent instruction from an experienced finisher as well. Unfortunately, all was not OK. Moving forward with spray finishing was a problem since I was in a shared space. Back in the late 1970’s, lacquer was the coating of choice and lacquer created unacceptable fumes for everyone around. Even trying to spray finish after hours did not suffice. Waterbase coatings, although available, were far from the wonderful quality they are today so that was not an option.

Next came one of those chance moments when you discover something that seems too good to be true. Reading a piano technician’s journal I saw an advertisement with the large heading “Spray Without Mess Or Overspray.” No compressor. Money back guarantee. Needless to say it attracted my attention. Curiosity prompted me to purchase this funny looking unit. Upon its arrival I opened it, read the instructions, connected everything up, mixed up some lacquer, poured it into the spray gun and proceeded to spray out a few wood samples. I was speechless. The finish was superb and I was no longer in a misty cloud of overspray. From that day forward I used this unique tool to finish many fine and expensive pianos. 

The sequel to this story: A few years after owning my Apollo Sprayer Model 500 (Still have it) 500.jpg, by chance I met with the owner of the company when we were both attending a piano convention in Kansas City. That meeting grew into a 30 year relationship with Apollo Sprayers. So here here I am now educating others using my education background and knowledge of spray finishing and coatings that I’ve learned through many years of visiting with our customers in your own fine workshops. 

There you have it. From educator to piano tuner, rebuilder and finisher to Vice President of Apollo Sprayers International, Inc. That’s my story.

I look forward to sharing more with you in the months ahead.

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


Product of the Month: 3M Paint Preparation System (PPS)

A great innovation for the HVLP finisher is the Paint Preparation System. A PPS system makes mixing, cleaning and saving unused coatings easy and efficient. Just line the cup with a disposable liner and attach the cup collar to your spray gun, using the right adapter. When you pull the trigger on your gun, a vacuum will contract the disposable liner to enfold the coating and you will be able to spray at any angle. When you are done, simply release the pressure, and lift out the disposable cup. If you want to save the coating, the PPS system comes with a lid to put on the cup for storage. 


Finishing Feature Article by Carl Duguay: Step up to spray finishing

The vast majority of hobbyist woodworkers, and quite a few professional woodworkers – who might only complete a project or two a month – do their finishing with brush or rag. However, as you begin to undertake more projects, or you move to larger carcass work, it’s natural to start thinking about spray finishing.

There are at least three good reasons for considering a switch to spray finishing. First, it’s surprisingly easy to achieve a near perfect finish with spraying. With practice, you’ll be able to apply the finish evenly and uniformly in a lot less time than you would by brush. Second, because a spray finish goes on thinner than a brushed finish, it dries fairly quickly. Dust doesn’t have much time to contaminate the surface, and you can apply any follow-up coats that much sooner. Third, because spray finishes are fast and easy to apply, you can spend more time building projects rather than finishing them.

A spray finishing system consists of two devices that work in tandem – a continuous source of pressurized air, and a gun that atomizes the finish and delivers it READ MORE


Finishing Tip by Bob Flexner: Glaze for decorating grain

Glaze is very effective for decorating or highlighting grain, especially in large-pored woods such as oak, ash and elm (as shown in the two accompanyingblack-glaze-on-orange-dyed-elm.jpg photographs)

The term “glaze” refers to a specific product, which is essentially a thickened stain. In addition to a pigment colorant glaze contains a binder (oil, varnish or water-based finish) to bind the colorant to the wood, and thickeners to prevent the glaze from running on vertical surfaces. On flat, horizontal surfaces you could use a pigment stain instead of a glaze.

Glaze, or stain used as a glaze, is always applied over a sealed surface so it doesn’t color the wood. The glaze is also always coated over by at least one coat of finish to keep it from being rubbed off and to bring out its true color. In other words, the glaze is sandwiched between coats of finish.

In the two examples pictured, the wood has been stained, then sealed with the first coat of finish,


then glazed with all the excess not lodged in the pores wiped off, then topcoated.

You can also apply glaze over unstained wood, of course, to highlight the grain.


Finishing Tip by Bob Flexner: Stripping veneer

Stripping veneer is no different than stripping solid wood, with a few exceptions.

First, avoid using lye or a stripper that contains water. Because of the thinness of the veneer, these might work through and loosen the glue bond. Solvent-based strippers shouldn’t cause any problem that didn’t already exist.

Second, if you sand after stripping, which is usually a good idea to check that you have removed all the finish, do so lightly and with fine sandpaper. Otherwise, you might sand through, and a sand-through is almost impossible to fix.

I recommend doing this sanding by hand with just your fingers backing the sandpaper. Using a hand-held sanding machine is more risky because it is more aggressive and you can’t see what’s going on under the sander. Using a flat block to back the sandpaper, even on supposedly flat surfaces, can also lead to sand-throughs if there is any unevenness, which is common on old surfaces.


Finishing Tip by Bob Flexner: Two coats, minimum

It almost always takes at least two coats of any finish to develop the sheen a finish is designed to produce: gloss, satin, flat, or whatever. The first coat seals the wood. The second coat develops the sheen.

The exception to the two-coat rule would be if you apply the first coat really thick. This can usually be done only on horizontal surfaces.

The reason two coats are usually necessary is that a lot of the first coat soaks into the wood, so there isn’t enough build to produce the sheen. If you’re applying highly thinned coats, as shown withthree-or-four-coats-necessary-with-wiping-varnish.jpg wiping varnish in the accompanying picture, achieving the sheen may require even more coats.

It’s also almost always best to sand the first coat to make it smooth before applying the second. If you leave the first coat rough, the roughness may telegraph through and still prevent the second coat from reaching the desired sheen.

Finishing Tip by Bob Flexner: Avoiding glue squeeze-out in joints

The obvious cause of glue squeeze-out in joints is that too much glue has been applied. So the obvious way to avoid the squeeze-out and resulting splotching under a stain or finish is to apply less glue.

But you don’t want to apply too little glue either or you won’t get a good bond. So here’s a trick to give you a little leeway.

As shown in the accompanying picture, you can countersink a mortise and a dowel hole to create achamfering-and-countersinking.jpg reservoir for excess glue to collect. You can also chamfer the ends of tenons and dowels. Most dowels are manufactured with the ends already chamfered.

Another precaution you can take is to cut the mortise a little deeper than needed to allow excess glue to collect and drill the dowel hole a little deeper than needed for the dowel.

Unfortunately, there’s no easy equivalent for stick-and-cope joints on cabinet doors.