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Newsletter #165

Greeting from Bill Boxer, Sr. Vice President, Apollo Sprayers International, Inc                                                                                   

Overcoming the Fear of Spray Finishing

I’ve just returned from the 10th Anniversary Celebration for the Woodcraft Store in Allentown, PA. I was pleased to join in the celebration and to also talk with their customers interested in venturing into spray finishing with HVLP turbospray equipment to further enhance the projects they build.

You might be surprised with the first and most frequent question asked from those about to embark on the leap from brush to spray.

Here it is: “How do you clean the spray gun?” Actually, the real question is “How hard is it to clean the spray gun?” My response to this question: “Most often I can clean our spray gun faster than I can clean a brush!” 

For some reason, cleaning a spray gun conjures up visions of messy paint along with lots of small parts to assemble and disassemble. This is far from accurate with today’s modern technologies and spray gun design. In fact, with waterbased paints, cleanup couldn’t be easier since warm water or soap and water are the cleanup mediums.

Here is a photo of a simple way to quickly clean a spray gun right in the kitchen sink. (water based coating of course)



Now, let’s get right down to the real reason for moving from brush to spray. As your projects get larger, more intricate and complex, spraying on your finish not only adds speed but it also provides uniformity and access to parts of the project that are better sprayed than brushed. In many cases you open up opportunities to use finish products that are better sprayed than brushed.

Always important to remember: Your work is most often judged on how it looks and feels. Spraying your finish with Apollo HVLP will take your project to the next level. You’ve spent the time to build the perfect project. It now deserves the perfect finish. The equipment you need. The equipment you deserve.

This month’s Feature Article is written by Susan Hudson, the remarkable finisher at Black Dog Salvage

After retiring from teaching Art in public schools for 23 years Mike Whiteside and Robert Kulp of Black Dog Architectural Salvage asked me to come on board with their team. I started out as a researcher, but soon found myself working in the paint studio and custom furniture shop.   

At Black Dog Salvage we try to reclaim, repurpose, up-cycle, and recycle everything we can. We hardly ever throw out a thing as we are sure to find some creative way to reuse it. When our craftsmen combine several pieces to create a new piece, it can be a real challenge to find a successful finish that will marry the pieces together and make them one.

That’s where I come in. As a former Art teacher I have a working knowledge of color, how to mix, blend, texturize, and create interest.

My role in the shop is to “finish” the builds for the show, the store, and the custom pieces. Very few people want a “new” look, preferring a distressed or aged appearance. This can be difficult to achieve, for instance when the old wood has been resurfaced in order to provide a level and smooth tabletop.

Or when our craftsmen build a piece using our hand wrought old world iron which has acquired a gorgeous rusty patina after 100+ years of weathering.  It is my job to make their new welds disappear, not an easy task.



I am the queen of the sample board and experimenting with materials. Most finishers are working with new wood, new construction, and new materials from the get go. In the shop at Black Dog Salvage it is my job to make the new look old, or at least match the old seamlessly. The guys in the shop save me drops of every sort of wood to experiment on. Those sample boards have proved to be a great selling tool for custom pieces.


For this article I would like to share a two of the different finishes I use on the DIY network show “Salvage Dawgs” and in the shop.  


As I noted earlier we create a lot of pieces using old decorative iron. Our customers like and appreciate the rusty patina and want to keep it intact. When our craftsmen cut and reassemble the iron into the desired form, they are left with new shiny metal and blackened areas.

In order for the newly joined areas to disappear I first paint the areas with a black acrylic paint to create depth, overlapping onto the rusted patina just a bit. The second layer of paint is mixed to match the most prominent “base” color of the rust, to this paint I add sand to create the rusty texture. How much sand depends on how textured and pitted the actual rusted patina appears. Rust is multi colored and multi layered. Some rust finishes require 3-7 colors in order to look “natural” and must be applied in layers.  Using a paper plate as a palette board I mix and match the colors using the same brush as the sand paint. It is a process of applying, wiping, smearing with my finger, and reapplying until I have achieved the look I want. Once complete the entire piece is taken to the spray room where we apply a flat or satin coat of poly with the Apollo Sprayer.

Here are photos of the jail door table. The legs and cross members are all of new steel that has been rustorized to look old. 


Wood Dye on Bare Steel

We do a lot custom of work using a combination of old world iron and new steel. Recently the guys constructed a console table out of just those two items. The problem that presented itself was the fact that they left me no room to get a paint brush between the two elements in order to paint the steel.  To mask off all the patina’d iron would take too much time and labor for the small amount of steel that needed to be painted – 4 legs. It would be difficult to position a paint brush in the less than ½ spaces they left me, plus I did not want brush marks showing. I got some scraps of square steel tubing and started experimenting with different wood dyes and stains.

After several attempts I came up with the solution, black wood dye and a sponge brush. It worked beautifully, dried to a nice smooth finish, and accepted the poly with out a hitch.


I love to experiment with different products and techniques. It never fails to amaze me how beautiful some of the crazy concoctions I mix up turn out. I would love to hear from you about your amazing solutions for “out of the box” finishes. You can email me at: [email protected] or like me on my facebook page Susan “Swooz” Hudson via Black Dog Salvage. Thanks for your time and interest.


Special of the Month, an Offer You Just Can’t Refuse


Click Here for a list of companies that sell the Apollo Spray Systems

Tip by Glen Huey  One reason that woodworkers lack respect for shellac stems from the many myths that surround this finish. Myths such as, shellac is difficult to use, lacks water resistance and is incompatible with other finishes. These beliefs are simply not true.

Shellac is not only simple to use, it is easy to repair. Once mixed, either from flakes or directly from a can, shellac can be brushed on, ragged on or sprayed onto your project. If you brush shellac, use a good-quality brush. A good brush carries more shellac to your project and that allows you a better flow of the shellac for a smoother finish. This idea is the same for most any brush-applied product. Also, fast drying times allow for more coats to be applied daily (a faster finish process) and keeps shop dust out of your project.

I prefer to spray my shellac. Spraying shellac results in an even smoother finish which greatly reduces the amount of sanding during finish work.

Lack of water resistance has long been a stab at shellac. However, fresh shellac is remarkably water resistant. Shellac will develop white rings from glass condensation, but only after hours of neglect. And the truth is that much of the necessary water protection should come from a protective coat of wax.

A reminder about What You Need to Know About Needles and Nozzles

There are just a few essential things you have to know to create a beautiful finish, like oil and water don’t mix. The finisher can work with many variables and a good finish is assured when the variables are in sync. The finisher can control the viscosity of the coating, the psi, (if you are using a conversion gun or a variable speed turbine,) and the size of the needle and nozzle. Needles and nozzles however, must match. A 2 mm needle works with a 2mm nozzle, etc.

Coatings companies as well as equipment manufactures offer guidelines for choosing the right needle and nozzle. A larger needle and nozzle is recommended for higher viscosity coatings, such as latex paint, while smaller sizes work with thinner materials, like stain. It is always surprising however, to discover that a finisher achieved a gorgeous finish while breaking all the recommendations regarding viscosity, pressure and needle and nozzle sizes. That’s why woodworkers are artists, who sometimes bend the rules and produce amazing results!