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Newsletter #185

Greetings from Bill Boxer

Over the past years, we have been fortunate to have associations with some excellent experts and writers who have provided finishing tips and articles covering a variety of topics. This month is a “must read” article by Greg Williams entitled “Check Your Sources.”  

I can’t begin to tell you how important this is, especially in these days of the internet, YouTube and more. Sorting out credible sources of information and advice is getting harder and harder. Please be sure to take the time to ready the article in its entirety.

A great source of information is the AWFS Woodworking Show. This year it is in Las Vegas, July 19-22 and Apollo Sprayers will be there.

Let me also point you to our monthly special that has been carried over from last month by popular demand. Remember our 5 year warranty on Apollo Sprayers PRECISION-5 HVLP Turbospray System.

Happy Summer months and good finishing.

Special of the Month
The response to our special was excellent.
Our June Special features the PRECISION-5.
We are so confident. 
The PRECISION-5 now has a 5 year warranty. 



Some of you are just starting to learn to finish wood; others have years of experience as a hobbyist, or woodworker , and are ready to move up or out , hoping to make a living from your skills.

Now more than ever before, there’s a lot of helpful information, advice, and training, very available to almost anyone.  So much, in fact, that it can be a problem determining what sources are appropriate for you.  Here’s a first caution.  Be careful about what you see on the internet.  It is not the case that “you can’t put it on the internet if it’s not true”.  Much of what you see on blogs and other sites is opinion, conjecture, apocryphal or conditional.

The opinion of an expert can be a great guide.  It has a higher likelihood of being accurate, but isn’t guaranteed to be accurate.  An opinion of a novice may be accurate, but merits a closer look, and corroboration by other sources.  Ask yourself what reasons you have to believe the authority and veracity of the source.  Does he have credentials, education, experience, or other qualifications?

Many well-meaning people will find themselves trying to explain something that they know something about, but lack the depth of knowledge to explain everything about the subject.  In some cases they try to imagine how it could work, or might work, and they build a story that seems to explain it.  A scientist will call that a theory, to be tested or proved.  A layman may take that as a fact, and rely on it.  Many of the blogs and forums I’ve seen covering the myriad facets of finishing, such as guitar builders, auto restorers, cabinet makers, piano refinishers, and furniture finishers contain much of this unverified data.

APOCRYPHAL:   This just means “of dubious veracity”.  When I started in the furniture/wood finishing world, I had “learned” a lot of things about finishing from relatives and friends, that I had to unlearn when I moved into the professional arena, and I continue to learn, revise, and relearn, as new data comes to my notice. Some “facts” that were true enough to be useful years ago may not be so now, either due to new incoming data or changes in materials.

When trouble shooting a finishing problem the well-equipped and well trained technician will have a trouble shooting guide of some sort to help him remember all the things to check out on the product and procedure, and remedial actions to take.  Some of us may have some experience with a problem similar to the one we’re facing now, and may have solved that problem using advice from others, or tips we read on the internet.  But when we haven’t checked all the details, we might miss the critical difference between the earlier problem and the current one, a difference that leads us to fail to solve the current problem.  I once was stymied trying to work out why a spray gun that had worked well on one day suddenly became unusable.  Only after hours of laborious cleaning was it revealed that an employee had ignorantly sprayed mineral spirits through the gun, which clabbered the remaining lacquer in the fluid channels! 


READ THE INSTRUCTIONS (PDS, Tech Sheet, label directions)

GET TRAINING (Practice to develop skill and confidence)

SET STANDARDS (Detailed, measurable, in writing, provide the tools, incentives, and accountability.)

If you are a working shop, you probably interact with a number of people who have the opportunity to stay current with your industry or craft, largely because they in turn interact with many people like you.  They hear about problems, and solutions; successes and fails, and they have an interest in seeing you fail less and succeed more.  Of course, they have an interest in selling you product also, but you can learn who.


While in many markets and for some products your choices of a sales person are limited, in a larger market you may have many companies vying for your business. First and foremost, a good sales rep is someone you can trust. You must trust that he will tell you the truth as he knows it. You must believe that he has your best interests at heart, that he will take the time to learn what you need, and that he will work with you to help you make informed buying decisions. You need to believe that he is competent; that he knows enough about both his product and how you may use it to give good advice, You should be able to trust that your salesman has a commitment to his profession and his employer; that your relationship will endure long enough to justify the time and effort necessary to build a mutually beneficial relationship.

Most good salespeople like their jobs; all exceptional salespeople do. Job satisfaction comes most easily when there is a good match between the sales person and the company he works for, a good match between the salesperson and the product he sells, and a good rapport with the market he serves.

The salesperson you want works hard but not frantically. His schedule can be flexible to help you with urgent problems, but he won’t abdicate his responsibilities to his family or to other customers because of your shortsightedness. He will subscribe to and read trade publications, and will share with you information that will help your business. He will read books, take classes and attend seminars that keep him abreast of current developments in his field, that make him more competent and efficient in the conduct of his business, and a better advisor to you.


Communication is the first secret, and one that shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone, but lack of clear, candid communication between the customer and the company, in both directions, makes our lives and our businesses more difficult.

Assuming that he works for a pretty good company and sells a good product, you start by telling him what you want. If he is smart he’ll listen. He will feed back to you and ask intelligent questions. You don’t have to reveal your trade secrets, but you do have to tell him what you are doing, and how you are doing it in order for him to give you meaningful advice.

You have to do some listening Even if he is somewhat inexperienced, he will know something that may be of use to you, because he has access to information that you don’t.

Listen actively. Let him know when he says something that is of interest to you. Ask probing questions. Say thank you. Say thank you often.

Reward the behavior that you want to reinforce. If you like to be called before a visit, thank him when he calls. Make him glad that he called. If you ask for some special service and he comes through for you, write a short note to his manager, expressing your appreciation. Not only does this reward your rep, it rewards his manager for having such an exemplary employee, and it rewards the company for doing things that please you!


If you want your rep to be a valuable source of information, give him information. Is there a new trend in your area, such as crackle, or whitewash?  Has the local military base expanded, did the main employer in town lay off 2,000 employees, is the fire department cracking down on poorly maintained spray booths.? Tell him things that you like about his product, especially things that will help him sell that product to other customers. The more successful he is the more likely he is to continue doing as you are training him to do, and the more grateful he will be to you.

Give him information about competitors’ products that you like or dislike. What works for you, and what doesn’t, and why. Smart manufacturers will go miles to give you just what you want. Your sales rep not only represents his company to you, he represents you to his company. He is the conduit through which your needs, wants, and buying habits and preferences are communicated to distributors and manufacturers, that quite literally, your livelihood depends on. Last, but certainly not least, if his product and service are good, buy from him.

There’s a small town in a southern state, located on a major highway, that’s full of antique shops, many of which  do refinishing. Some do a lot of refinishing.

For many years most of the shops made their most often used stain from a Sheffield Burnt Umber oil color mixed with turpentine. The reasons given for this preference range from “the guy I learned finishing from did it this ,way to “that’s what they sell at the paint store”, “This is the color the customers all want”, to, “this is the only right way to do it.”

Most of them are protective about their “secret”, especially keeping it from their competitors, who were all doing the same thing.

There are, and have been for many years, stain formulations that will give them the effect they want at far less cost, with faster drying, and greater ease of application, but until recently few of them were willing to make changes, mostly because they were not willing to talk to vendors about what they were doing and what they were trying to accomplish.

What they all want is to be able to produce a salable finish at the least cost. The quality of the finish they desire depends somewhat on their clientele and their business philosophy, but they all want to make money in their business.

Had they been candid with the various vendors of finishing products, they could have made other, more profitable choices. Had they even exchanged information with each other, they could have discovered better, faster ways of doing their jobs. Instead, they each carefully maintained an imaginary advantage over their competitors by keeping their practices secret, and encouraged the local paint store to stock only a few colors of the Sheffield oils.

It wasn’t until a few finishers began using more modern products, even experimenting with other colors, with no loss of clients, that the cycle was broken.

Here are some leads to important information.

Sample Product Data Sheets, Material Safety Data Sheets



Recommended Books:

Wood Finishing 2.0  – 2013  by Ron Bryze

Taunton’s Complete Illustrated Guide to Finishing  By Jeff Jewitt 2002

Understanding Wood Finishing rev 2004 By Bob Flexner

Websites, blogs, periodicals

Woodweb  www. 

Finishing IQ

Woodshop News

ABC’s of Spray Finishing (Spanish)

Valspar Glossary of  Terms

Chemcraft Trouble Shooting Guide

Chemcraft Mobile

Wood Finishing Education

American Wood Finishing Institute 

Professional Refinisher’s Group

Center for Furniture Craftsmanship

Marc Adams School of Woodworking        

Wood finishing Institute

Architectural Woodwork Institute

Products Finishing   

Iowa Waste Reduction Center

University of British Columbia

Cabinet Making and Wood Finishing

Center for Furniture Craftsmanship

Touch Up Suppliers:

Mohawk  Finishing Products

Konig Touch Up

Master’s Magic

Touch-Up Solutions

Greg Williams


Woodworking shows put together new state of the art equipment, talks and demos, and so many experts in all phases of woodworking. So if you can get to Las Vegas, July 19-22, you will find a ton of good information, products and companies

Q&A from 
For Bill Boxer:

Q. I read a while ago that you inadvertency had a bad finishing experience. Please tell.

A.I was just completing a piano top using a 60 sheen nitrocellulose coating on walnut. I was a happy guy. It was gorgeous. I walked out of my clean, well-kept spray area. Did the door close tight behind me? Apparently not. When I came back through the open door a big fat juicy fly was now part of my gorgeous piano top. More work! I certainly learned my lesson. I work hard to keep my spray area free of flying intruders, among other things. Always shut the door.

Q. How do I know when a water based finish is dry?

A. As with all finishes, you should always sand the first coat of water-based finish smooth because it always dries rough to the touch. It’s also the best policy to sand additional coats smooth after they dry to remove dust nibs and other flaws, until the last coat, which you can leave as is.

Water-based finishes dry rapidly, almost as fast as the water evaporates from the finish. So the drying occurs quicker on hot or dry days and slower on cold or humid days.

How do you know when the finish is dry? It powders on the sandpaper and on the surface. If the finish isn’t dry, it will gum up the sandpaper, and it won’t powder.

Take a Break and Have Some Fun!

See how many words you can find. Look for words horizontally and vertically. You can print this page, including the puzzle, work offline and then highlight words as you find them.

Know your Sources