Woodfinishers Weblog

Wood finishing forum for professional finishers

Thinning and retarding water based lacquers and coatings

There are a few tips to thinning and retarding water based materials that are common to most all of the water based materials on the market today, knowing these tips can make spraying out water base materials easy fun and most importantly give you the control over the flow of the materials so you  compensate for the varying conditions of your environment.

One of the things to be aware of with water based materials is that they are temperature and humidity sensitive, meaning that on a cold and rainy day it will take forever to dry if left wit out forced air and some heat.

The obvious and wonderful characteristic about water based materials is that you can thin them with water; water is cheap and not explosive.  No one has ever accidentally blown up their shop with a bucket of water.  That being said   you can overthin with water and that can create a mess.

Before we get into percentages and how much you should thin, one thing you should know is that the warmer the materials are, the thinner they will be. This is true of both water base and solvent materials.   Heating pads, bucket heaters and in line material heaters are all things that you can implement.  Inline materials heaters are pricey and not something that are too common here in Southern California  but can be used. More commonly and more practically you can just keep your buckets off the concrete floor or move the bucket in to the office of the shop overnight if it’s cold out. Warming up water base is easier and safer than warming up the solvent materials and in fact with some water base materials you can even warm  them up in the microwave machine, a little impractical but not impossible.  For every 10 degrees you heat the material you will reduce the Viscosity by 10% .  And that is a good thing to know because you can reduce your labor by putting on a thicker coat save our self the labor of having to put on another one of or two more sometimes

Now onto the more practical, the first thing that you should do is adjust your equipment to the material in other words if you have been spraying lacquer with an extra fine airless it’s probably going to be too small an orifice for the water base; you don’t want to overthin it so that you can get it out of  your gun but rather get a bigger tip. Generally a 1.7 mm tip in a cup gun and or something no smaller than a .014 in an airless and that would be the smallest I recommend 1.8 or a 2.0mm tip and needle for a cup or gravity gun.

When you do need to thin the materials down I start out with about 5% water and see how it’s coming out of the gun and laying down, with water based a good heavy coat is what you want if it looks a little blue you are doing good. You want it heavy enough to flow out but obviously not so heavy that  it is running.

Ok the next thing is getting it to flow out and lay down smoothly if it has any orange peel to it then you need some retarder. I generally add the retarder whether I need it or not as I like that fact that it flows out better, this might not be true of all water bases but the ones I have used it just seems to work better with the proper amount  of retarder.

Glycol ether is the solvent for retarding water based material you can also use that for retarding regular solvent lacquers   If you use too much your coating will never dry. The other thing to know is that you can add the retarder too fast and “shock” the material. Shocking information, but true. Dump the retarder directly in to your pot and it can cause itto foam up and have an adverse reaction. Some chemicals go together easily and some don’t;  then there are others that are right on the boarder, this in one of those. So the best way to add the retarder is to mix it 50/ 50 with water first and then add that into the water based lacquer while stirring it. Start out with one to two percent of the   50/50 water retarder solution and see if that doesn’t do the trick for you.  You can go as high as about 4%. If you are working with pigmented water base materials then you can go up to 7% .

White and pigmented lacquers require more and will have a tendency to “mud Crack” (Mud cracking is the phenomena whereas the material dries it begins to crack like mud drying out)   if you don’t use the retarder, what is happening is the solvents are drying out of the pigment faster than the pigment is drying and so you need to slow the process down so that they all dry and flow together.

Not all retarders are the same, some companies sell retarders that are a combination of different things, these work well for solvent lacquers but not always for water based materials.  You either want a lacquer retarder that is made and marked for Water based materials OR you have to test them. The way  you test your normal run of the mill retarder to see if it will work in your waterbased system is to mix it  with water. Simple, if it mixes in you’re good If it separates and doesn’t mix in or foams up and looks weird then its not going to work.  There are a few manufactures that have acetone in their retarder which doesn’t mix well with water If you add that to your water based lacquer its trash.

Ok I hope this information is clear and to the point. Use it and let me know what you get. Leave comments on the blog posting for others to see. I have specifically kept this report completely generic so that if you have a product that you are trying out for the first time it is generally best to contact the manufacture and ask them what they recommend, the better companies will spend the time to answer your questions others won’t

 Thanks,

 Greg Saunders
Annex Paint

February 20, 2011 Posted by | CIC Centurion, water based Conversion Varnish, Spray techniques, Water based Lacquers | , , , , , | 2 Comments

What is the best finish for my Kitchen?

Since I have had this blog up I have had numerous calls and emails from homeowners and professionals alike asking what is the best finish for my kitchen?  Some go on to say things like my contractor wants to put Valspar luster lac on but my architect tells me that we should use polyurethane and my neighbor say use water base. What do I do?

 The simple answer is have all these people give you samples of the finish not only should you ask for a sample but have them do a sample on the same wood and materials that  you are going to have in your kitchen: alder, cherry, maple or what ever. Then have them use a door or a cabinet from your kitchen. If you have to pay a little for it you should.  A real good finishing job is expensive and worth it using multiple steps in the finishing process you can gain a depth and clarity that you don’t with the lower quality finishing.

By survey, a well painted room or a high quality cabinet finishing job will make a room “feel different” the untrained person coming into the room will feel more comfortable and will prefer the room with the higher quality finish to the room with the lesser quality finish. The technology behind this is the fact that consciously or not a person does perceive imperfections and they will make you feel to one degree or another uncomfortable. The same thing is true when you go into a room that is off square and a room that is perfectly square even when the rooms are identical in every other aspect by test, most people will “like” the square room better. Not all things are square, nor do you always want square. The point being that people can perceive the difference in quality and workmanship, when the difference is not as obvious. Ever notice the phenomena of seeing two similar looking products you pick up the more expensive one? 

 I’ve digressed; a good finish is worth the extra cost. That being said, what are the differences and the pros and cons of each.

 Nitro-cellulous lacquer– The easiest to apply; it gives a great look and feel. All regular lacquers will yellow over time, some faster than others. Valspar has been notorious for that. Regular lacquer is relatively soft and will not hold up to moisture. But feel great and therefor it is not good for kitchens and bathrooms. Lacquer finishes are easy to repair as each successive coat of lacquer melts into itself.

 Pre-Catalyzed lacqueror Pre-Cat lacquer, designed about 50 years ago as a material that would hold up to moisture environments better, the kitchen and bath rooms. Pre-cats   have an acid catalyst in the mix that makes it a lot harder and yet it is still relatively easy to work with.  Pre-Cats are what you should have in your kitchen but they have a tendency to crack if applied too heavily and they are not impervious to moisture. You have to wipe up spills and not let the dish water sit in the crevices and cracks of a cabinet door.  Give that door a year with a daily dose of water sitting on it not cleaned up and the coating is going to fail.  You do have to clean up after your spills. If you don’t like that Idea, hire a maid or go with stainless steel. The Pre-Cat lacquer brand I like the best is Gemini. It is thick and yet can be sprayed directly out of the can dries quickly and looks great. 

 Water based lacquers– they have come a long way. They have had a tendency to have a “plasticie” look as the materials lay on top of the wood rather than soaking in to the wood as a lacquer does. One person I know refers to water base materials as nothing but watered down Elmer’s glue. 20 yeas ago that was about what a water based finish looked like.

 Times have changed and the water bases of today are far superior to what they were. Old time finishers who haven’t taken the time to train themselves on how to properly apply the materials still cling to their earlier fixed Ideas on the matter. The truth is that properly applied a water based finish can look just as good as a lacquer finish and is twice as durable as lacquer when it comes to moisture. The trick is in knowing how to apply it and letting the water based materials fully cure. Cure is different than dry. The materials will dry in a few minutes and then take a week or two to fully cure. The other up-side to water based materials are that you are releasing toxins in to the atmosphere don’t however think that water based materials are with out carcinogens. There are lots of nasty chemicals in water based paints they are just not being released into the atmosphere as are the lacquer products. Personally I have a few water based materials that have proven them selves; the Gemini brand “Titanium” and more recently the Italian brand Renner. The Renner is hands down the best water based material I have found to date.  Like a Lamborghini however, it’s pricy at $210 for five gallons as apposed to the $170 a five for Gemini Water based lacquers.

 Conversion Varnish, this is tough stuff and is the product that I would recommend for table tops and high wear areas. It is tougher to work with and is rougher on both the personnel spraying it and the equipment it requires a higher skill set to use and it more difficult to repair. There are high end finishers that do all there work in Conversion Varnish as they want the toughest finish they can provide. It does have great moisture resistant qualities however it is not designed for out side use. The brand I sell and have had good results with is again the Gemini brand. (I have had others  I  stocked and had troubles with. Suffice to say I no longer carry those brands). The Conversion I sell is about $50 to $60 dollars a gallon. And comes with the catalyst you have to add

 Water based conversion coating; This is a new product to the market that I’m beginning to really like. It combines the best of both worlds.  There aren’t many companies that make it. Rexcel is the brand I have, American made and comparable to the solvent base stuff. You can see other articles in this Blog about it.  Very tough and moisture resistant (see the earlier article I wrote where I have pictures of the panels coated with the Rexcel in my shower stall getting the extreme moisture test. The panels have been in there for over two months with two or more showers happening a day and there is no signs of failure in the coating. This particular product needs no further catalysing which makes it very painter friendly.

 Polyurethanes, Water based and other wise, these are the toughest finish that you can get and the most expensive. One part polyurethanes or single stage that have not catalyst aren’t really worth the effort of buying. Most polyurethanes come with a catalyst you have to add before applying similar to epoxy glue, there is a part A and a part B. you have to get the ratios right or it either won’t dry or will dry and crack. They generally sit on top of the wood as a coating and so give it that plastic film look. It’s tough to glaze in-between coats and which is the technique that gives you that depth and quality. There are some really good finishers that can pull the off but normally for the expense that is not something you need for your house or kitchen. This is the product I recommend for commercial applications that is getting high wear and constant abuse. Additionally If you want shinny you can buff and polish polyurethane to a high gloss that is mirror smooth. 

 To give you an idea, polyurethanes are the coatings you put on your floor, that’s the toughness you get from a poly. If you want a high build thick film that you can see this would be the product to use as you can lay it on thick unlike Lacquers.  There are water based polys and solvents based, I carry both.  I wouldn’t recommend doing you kitchen cabinets in polyurethane, that being said I have some very high end finishers who have perfected the skill sets and can product incredible products with polyurethanes. These finishing procedures come with a cost. “Thomas Craven Finishing Company” are at the top of their league for high end work. 

 So what should you have your kitchen done with. Get the samples and look at them. see the look that you like and then decide what you are willing to pay for it. If you are a Hollywood celebrity, have lots of parties and don’t clean, go with the polyurethane. If you are a regular family and are looking to cover you new custom cabinets with something that will preserve them for a long time to come use a Pre Cat lacquer or the water based conversion coating or perhaps the conversion varnish depending on what looks the best for you.

 Either way get your finisher to provide you with samples so you can see the difference yourself. Finishers are usually creatures of habit and like to do what they have done and feel safe with. Often an old school finisher will tell you something is bad because he has no clue how to use it and doesn’t want to learn.

 I enjoy your comments suggestions and opinions.

 Greg Saunders

Annex Paint
greg@annexpaint.com

May 3, 2009 Posted by | polyurethane, Water based Lacquers, Wood finishing | , , , , , , , , , | 34 Comments

A do it yourselfer does well- here’s the story

Some months ago, Greg, a local homeowner, came in to the store looking to buy some lacquer to re-finish his kitchen, He was going to undertake this project as an anniversary present for his lovely wife.

Armed with very little knowledge and a lot of willingness he went forward with several gallons of Gemini’s water based titanium lacquer. Hector and I gave him several tips while he was at the store. As he was leaving I gave him my card and said call me if you have any trouble.

Two days later on the following Saturday I got the call, ” It wasn’t working the gun was spitting and the finish wasn’t working, what do I do?”  As luck would have it I didn’t have that much going on that weekend and so offered to go out and see what was going on.

Greg  had all the doors hanging in his garage and was set up pretty well to do the job but the binks cup gun he had was not the right tool. the water-base material was too thick and wasn’t coming out of  the gun well.

 This is probably the key thing in dealing with waterbased materials and that is having ther right gun with a wide enough opening on it to allow the  materials to come out and then atomize in to small enough particles to then actually lay down smoothly ( this is covered in full detail in the article on this blog titled “spray finishing basics”  by Thomas Craven) 

Once again as luck would have it I had my spray guns in the back of my truck and wasn’t going to be using then for the weekend and so offered to lend these to Greg. The project was off and running again. here is a picture of the garage spray booth,

The garage spray booth

The garage spray booth

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 All things were off and sailing once again! here is a picture of Greg doing the kitchen faces, note that he has the place properly masked off so that all the over spray is captured and not covering the rest of the finish work. ( for an never having done a finishing job, Greg had a few things going for him. I was impressed )

Greg going to town fully out fitted

Greg going to town fully out fitted

 

 

 

 

 

 

As you can see here  Greg is now using the new gravity spray gun he  later bought from Annex for under $100

He also has a the 3m reusable cup system  you can see here on the top of his gun, this allows him to refill the gun easily and spray in all directions including up.

You would think all was well and the family would live happily ever after in there new kitchen but not yet, the next previously unmentioned aspect was yet to be discovered.

So after sanding his fingers to the bone and getting the finish just right, Greg’s wife has a little spot  of something on a cabinet and proceeds to break out the 409 and clean it off , the day after the final coating and it went down to the bare wood!

The Wife was in despair and Greg was ready to shoot me for selling him a low quality product! the paint was soft and with his little kids was doomed!

Water base coating are actually tougher and more durable then there solvent based counter parts BUT ! you have to let them cure ! the Kitchen cabinet Manufacturer’s Aassociation let’s their test panels cure for 30 days before subjecting then to all the things they do i.e. mustered, vinegar, jelly, alcohol and all the other house hold product they test.

With reluctance, Greg was willing to let the finish cure until after the holiday before shooting me to see if in fact I was on the up and up with him.

As my luck would have it the finish cured hard and has resisted all that  could be throw at it. Here is the final shot after the holidays and all was said and done.

a stunning piece of work

a stunning piece of work

Greg called me up after the holidays to thank me for seeing the project through to a done.

As you can see it turned out great in the end.

Thanks to  Home Owner Greg, for sharing the pictures with me and the permission to post the story on our Blog.

If you have a project you would like to have some help with send me a line, if you are interested in doing it you self  I’ll set you up and turn you looSe, If you want a professional finisher to do the work I have the names and numbers of nearly every cabinet shop in the surrounding area and would be happy to refer you to the people i have seen consistently do good work.

Greg Saunders
818-439-9297

Annex Paint
7450 Reseda Blvd.
Reseda California
91335

January 19, 2009 Posted by | Water based Lacquers, Wood finishing | , , , , , | Leave a comment

a few things to be aware of when using waterbase finishes

I have just come  from a mans house who recently refinished his kitchen cabinets, he wasn’t a professional finisher when he started the project but was interested in the game and had the spirit to jump in and figure things out. He came into the store and asked for a water based material as he was going to be doing this work in his house and garage while the family continued their daily lives. choosing a water based material was a correct choice.

The gentleman was friendly, enthusiast and good spirited but not at all familiar with the trade so I told him that if he were to have any trouble to give me a call. Sure enough Saturday morning I got the call. He was having troubles for sure but they were easily resolved with the right spray gun that I lent to him from my collection.

Having the right size gun is essential with water based materials a 1.7 mm tip or a 2.0 is what I prefer.

Now then, all went smooth from there on out until his wife got a little glue on the surface of the finish and tried to take it off with 409 and a rag. To her great shock she took off the glue and all the finish right down to the bare wood. That was the living end, after all that work! the wife was in tears, the husband was in despare after all that work and both decided that the sales guy was going to have to be shot for this grieviouse mis-repesentation of the product!

The next day I got a call from the husband who was now under the impression that the whole system was a failure and that it all  had to be redone — Why was the coating so soft ?

On close inspection he did apply the material correctly and didn’t over load the materials on the surface, he used a water based grain filler and so was OK there (  had he used a solvent based grain filler and had not let that fully fully dry, like 48 hours or more that  would have caused problems). So what was going on here?

The answer?  nothing was wrong! the materials just needed a longer cure time. Mrs Enthusiastic scrubbed the glue a mere 48 hours after it had been applied.

409 shouldn’t be used on your new cabinets in the first place even when they are fully cured.

The point here is that you have to let the water based lacquers fully cure.  and full cure comes after 30 days! not that they are not hard enough to install in a few days but if you think that you are going to have immediate abuse then you should hold the parts a few days longer before installing them.

After 4 days of curing the finish was twice as hard. it still loosen up a little and lost some finish with vigorous scrubbing and 409 but it was twice as hard.

On a close study of the KCMA ( Kitchen Cabinet Manufactures Association) tests that the materials passed.  they make the point in  the tiny fine print that the doors tested had been let allowed to cure for 30 days befor they were subjected to the chemical testing.

When you think about it, the water-based materials have to be allowed to air dry. There are no other solvents other than water. The other thing you have to think with is the fact that the materials are going to dry from the top down, I.e they are going to dry on the surface with the deeper and deeper layers drying last.

I have found that once you have let the stuff fully cure it it actually far tougher and far more chemically resistant than their solvent base counterparts.  Ya, just have to let them dry !  

I have promised the homeowner that I would return in 30 days and would test again the hardness of the materials at which point We’ll have full dry and one heck of a finish.

There are two lessons here:

  1. You have to figure in to your equation letting the materials fully cure. That doesn’t mean that you can’t install them until then but if your do install the cabinets you need to know that you have to be gental with the finish for a month or so.
  2. Have the right equipment and read all the printed materials about the materials you are going to be using so that you know what you should expect.

I’ll post the pictures when I get the from the homeowner after the first of the year.

The water based lacquer by the way was Gemini’s titanium white with the white sanding sealer under that

Greg Saunders
ANNEX PAINT
Reseda, California
818-344-3000

November 20, 2008 Posted by | CIC Centurion, water based Conversion Varnish, Finishing failures and the fix, Tips and Tricks, Water based Lacquers, Wood finishing | , , , | Leave a comment