Brush or Spray, Water Base is the Way Today
I am happy that our featured article once again highlights and addresses water base finishes for the woodworker. Woodworking was at the forefront of using water base finishes and the development of these products over the years has been superb. I can testify to this personally having been exposed to early products 30 years ago and watched their growth right through today.
Besides using water base products extensively I was fortunate to develop relationships with formulators who were eager to share a lot of inside information with me. That helped me to better understand these products and as such allowed me to better educate others about their development, production and most of all how to use water base products successfully.
When I hear people make negative comments about many of today’s excellent modern waterborne coatings I realize that they are quoting early reviews of original technology without experiencing the newest generation of these products.
Without beating up this subject too much, I can say that today’s modern water base finishes offer great opportunities to the wood finisher. Learning and understanding how they are constructed and how to best use them are key to success. Like any product, some are clearly better than others and I always encourage people to try a few different brands to establish which one looks, feels and works the best for them.
If you are brushing a water base finish it is important to understand the coating’s characteristics and be sure to use product formulated and designed for brushing.
If you are spraying a water base finish it is important to understand that selecting and using the right technology, especially HVLP Turbospray technology, to achieve the end result you desire is critical to the end result.
Recently I’ve had the opportunity to spray water base products specifically designed for the automotive market and have been extremely impressed. I will be writing more on this subject in future columns.
In the coming months I also plan to offer some technical information on our website to help our readers learn how to select, use and achieve the best possible finish with water base coatings.
In closing this month’s letter to our readers I want to tell you to be sure to read next month’s column that will announce some exciting innovations and changes in our HVLP product range.
Sr. Vice President, Sales & Marketing
Apollo Sprayers International, Inc.
Product of the Month: Fine Woodworking Names the ECO-3 “Best Overall”
In the current issue of prestigious Fine Woodworking Magazine, they compare 14 different HVLP Systems under the title “Spray for Less.” We’re glad to report that the ASI-HVLP ECO-3 was named “Best Overall” and “Author’s Choice.” They found a lot to like about the ECO-3 and the E7000 spray gun including “(the) Non-bleeder-style gun is comfortable to use and simple to adjust. System produces a nice spray pattern.” They got the price wrong but otherwise we agreed with everything they said. If you look at the ECO-3 on this website, you’ll see what great value it is, and what a great advantage it will give you in making every project look finished to perfection.
Finishing Feature Article by Carl Duguay: The (Almost) Perfect Finish
Water base finishes have improved quite a bit over the past few years – to the point where they make an excellent finish for just about every woodworker. In particular, they offer a lot of advantages for DIYers and hobbyist woodworkers, especially those working in small shops. You can use a waterborne finish in place of just about any other film finish (varnish, polyurethane, lacquer) on just about any wood surface (furniture, cabinetry, trim work, and flooring). While it can be sprayed on, it’s likely that most DIYers and hobbyists will brush it on, which is what I do.
What is Water Base?
If you’ve been woodworking for any length of time you’ve no doubt heard about water base finishes, even if you haven’t tried them. Essentially, it’s any finish that uses water as a thinner and some kind of organic compound, such as glycol ether, as a solvent. If the product says to ‘clean up with water’ then it’s a water base finish. Water-borne is just another name for water base – though perhaps a more accurate moniker.
Water base finishes also contain resins (along with some chemicals) that are dispersed in the water, so you’ll see these products variously labeled as water base varnish or water base polyurethane (containing a urethane or urethane/acrylic resin blend) or water base lacquer (containing acrylic resin). The water and solvent evaporate, and the resin coalesces (merges) into a film on the surface of the wood, which is why they’re referred to as coalescing finishes. As with any other film finish they’re available in gloss, semi-gloss and matte sheens. READ MORE
Finishing Tip by Bob Flexner: Brushing Over a Vertical Surface
Here’s a trick for avoiding runs when brushing a finish onto a vertical surface. Brush back over the areas where the finish is so thick that it runs to pick up some of the excess with the brush’s bristles. Then wipe off this excess onto a clean cloth you hold in your other hand, as shown in the accompanying picture.
You may need to do this several times to remove enough finish so it doesn’t run anymore.
Always remember that you can’t see what is happening on the brushed surface unless you look at it in a reflected light. You may need to arrange some lights, and you will probably have to move your head around to see a good reflection.
Finishing Tip by Bob Flexner: The Exotic Vocabulary of French Polishing
One of the difficulties with learning to do French polishing is overcoming the exotic vocabulary that continues to be used by some: “charge the rubber,” “fad in,” “spirit off,” etc. This vocabulary was created by English craftsmen 200 years ago, brought to the United States, and used in most instructions since.
I’ve always thought it pretentious to use this vocabulary when there are perfectly good words everyone understands that can be substituted. Here’s the translation. “Rubber” was the name given to what we commonly call a pad, made by tightly wrapping a smooth, finely woven outer cloth such as a handkerchief around a wad of cotton or wool cloth. The word rubber referred to the rubbing you do in French polishing.
“Charging” the rubber means simply adding shellac to it, as shown in the accompanying picture.
“Fadding in” refers to building up the finish as you rub more shellac onto the surface. So “building up” works quite well.
“Spiriting off” refers to using alcohol to remove the surface oil that was added in the building-up stage to make the pad glide more smoothly over the surface. A very small amount of denatured alcohol is added to a freshly made pad and rubbed over the surface. This is a critical step that is difficult to pull off because the alcohol can so easily streak the shellac.
It’s much easier to remove the oil with a product such as naphtha instead. Naphtha thoroughly removes the oil with a single wipe, doesn’t damage the shellac at all and evaporates within a minute or so. (They didn’t have naphtha 200 years ago.)
An additional term that is still often used is “linen.” You are instructed to use linen for the outer cloth. 200 years ago linen was the common fine cloth. Today we have finely woven cotton cloth, and linen can be hard to find. Both work well.
Finishing Tip by Bob Flexner: Pour Over to a Separate Container
Unless you plan on using all the finish in the original container, you should pour the amount you expect to use into a separate container – for example, a clean jar or coffee can.
It’s good to do this so you don’t introduce dust or other contaminants into the finish that you will use at some later date. Especially with water-based finish, but a good idea with all finishes, you should strain the finish as you pour it. Convenient “paint” strainers like the one shown in the accompanying picture, are widely available from stores or online.
The reason straining is particularly wise with water-based finishes is that they are more likely than other finishes to contain solid particles of coagulated finish.