You should never have runs or sags drying in your finish whether you’re brushing or spraying. The way to achieve this level of perfection is to watch the surface you’re brushing or spraying in a reflected light. You may need to arrange some lights or move your body and your head often to see what’s happening.
With a reflection you can see easily when a finish begins sagging or running. Then it’s a simple matter of using your brush (even if you’re spraying) to remove the problem. Lift the excess finish off the surface with the brush and spread it to another part or drag it over the lip of a jar or can.
While I am a professional finisher, I am a hobbyist woodworker. That mix makes me a wood snob. I love working with wood in any capacity. Because my head and hands are in finishing all week long, I tend to do as little of it as possible in my personal life, but I still love messing around with wood in most any form.
This passion took root for me in 1995 when I had the good fortune of being in the right place at the right time and meeting what would turn out to be my mentor in the world of wood. I was the only painter on a custom interior project. My mentor, Sandy, was the interior carpenter. At the ripe age of 26, I knew just enough about finishing to be very dangerous. It is a good thing I met Sandy when I did, or my career would have ended up on a different path.
Sandy is one of few people I have met who is a natural born cabinet maker and finisher. Some people have it in their DNA. I didn’t. I guess it had never occurred to me prior to that year of what effectively turned into an apprenticeship that I had no idea about the what and how of finishing. The biggest lesson that year was that if you don’t understand wood, it is really difficult to finish it properly.
The What: Understanding of Substrate
If you don’t understand the surface you are putting finish on, the finishing process is compromised from the start. The term “substrate” generally refers to whatever it is that needs to be finished. It can be wood, plaster, concrete, sheetrock, even synthetic materials these days, such as PVC products. Within each of those categories, there are wide variations in what you might encounter.
For the purposes of this discussion, wood is the most important substrate. That generally still holds true, especially in the finishing worlds of cabinetry, inerior trim, architectural moldings and furniture. We are still mostly dealing with wood in fine finishing, and I hear that wood is actually making a comeback in construction as a “green” product. That’s good news for all of us wood snobs. All things come full circle, including wood.
We all work with wood in quite a variety of species, and no two are the same. Whether paint grade or stain/clear finishes, each situation is unique. In broad strokes, people tend to refer to wood as either hard or soft. While that is an important fundamental awareness, there are more pressing considerations when taking wood to a high level of finish, which is always the goal.
The beauty of working with wood is that it is a craft that is steeped in centuries of tradition. My mentor taught me right up front, on the job, that finishing poplar window casings is a very different art from finishing cherry stair treads on the formal stairway.
The How: Building a Finish
Circling back to my own private life as a hobbyist woodworker…when I worked with Sandy, he firmly suggested that while I knew a lot about how to spread paint, I needed to learn about wood. The first thing he wanted me to learn was joinery. I had never heard of this concept, but as I was in an impressionable stage of life, and intrigued to have met someone that knew more about what I did than I did, I was game.
When we got deep into the trim package on our project, Sandy began sending me home at night with his cutoffs. A true craftsman produces very little waste, so I was usually sent home with little more than a milk crate full of pieces less than 10 inches in length. My first assignment was to learn how to glue and clamp. The objective, it turns out, was to learn the strength of the glued joint in relationship to the strength of the wood grain itself. Sandy gave me a set of small clamps and some glue. Every night, I would go home, glue and clamp the pieces, and bring them in the next day for inspection at coffee break.
My first week was miserable. I sucked. But I was quickly taught how to use just the right amount of glue and clamping pressure. I was assured that the pieces I was given were perfectly straight edged and ideal for edge gluing. The only thing standing in the way was me – that was humbling. By week two, I was able to produce small glue ups with minimal glue squeeze out and tight, relatively flat joints. We discussed glue application, quantity, clamp tension/duration and achieving the ideal bond.
To my surprise, in the final demonstration of this initial round, Sandy took the nice little birch piece I had glued up, set it up on his workbench, hanging just off the edge, and smashed it with his hammer. When it broke, I thought for sure I had done something wrong. Sandy smiled and held up the two pieces to show me that the piece had broken across its own grain, and not on one of my glued joints.
The metaphorical value of that demonstration was beyond profound. The power of the notion that wood could be ripped apart by a saw, glued back together, and be stronger than in its naturally occurring state blew me away. I have been hooked on wood ever since.
What Else Can We Do With Wood?
To me, wood is a sacred matter. There are so many ways I want it in my life. I not only want most everything inside and outside of my house to be made out of it, but I also want to heat my home with it. And yes, it was news to me when I started burning large quantities of wood, that different species of wood have different BTU values for heating. That’s another discussion entirely, but suffice it to say that I spend a healthy portion of my life pondering wood. It is everywhere in my personal life. Many of its manifestations in my home were made and finished by me. I stare extra at them and watch over the years how they age. It’s my windows, floors, doors, countertops, siding, trim, decking, overhead doors, built ins, furniture and in some cases even my walls. It is a wonder I get anything done, given this preoccupation.
And Here Is the Point I Labor to Make
For those of us who choose to make wood an important part of our existence, there are really two fundamental practices that come into play:
- We build stuff with it
- We (usually) finish the stuff we build with it (eventually)
Building stuff is the fun part. We all love to find a reason to build something. It is the problem solving, solution seeking soul of the craftsperson, at any level. We love to design the piece, figure out the dimensions, where it will live when done, what it will look like. We love to create takeoffs to figure out how much wood we need to buy or otherwise procure to complete the project. The wood selection phase is the most exciting…figuring out which pieces will be used where and why – studying the grain and attitude of each piece.
It is easy to get drawn into months of evenings and weekends milling and joining. Carving on the piece to discover what form it will take.
When it comes time to apply finish and achieve the final result, there is a fear about that. Psychologically it marks the end of the journey, and the beginning of the destination. About this time, whoever else in our life will enjoy the piece – be it a customer, spouse, relative – is really starting to look for the piece. To the end user, which is often not us, when the piece has taken its physical form, it looks just about done. To us, the creator, and reluctant finisher, it could go on forever and that would be ok. Nothing is ever really finished, there is always more that could be done.
There is permanence in finishing. Pieces that are crafted out of wood are enjoyed from a sensory standpoint – appealing to the visual and tactile senses. People look, people touch. And we are sensitive, almost protective and insecure about our passion.
It’s About Time
I get called, emailed and texted almost daily by makers of wood based things of all different scales, who are paralyzed by the act of finishing. The one common theme that I find in all of these “finish emergencies” is that the finishing phase is approached as an afterthought – something that needs to happen quickly.
This is where it gets tricky for me to advise, because I am a professional finisher. I know most routes between any point A and point B in finishing, with just about any species of wood and finish. I can do them quickly, but it is not because I am fast. Expediting turnaround in the finishing world is only done through efficiency, with methodical and well thought out approaches. I look at any finishing opportunity, and I can usually see at least 5 different ways that it could go, given products and process permutations. Some are faster, some are slower, and they are always driven by product selection. Product drives the finishing process, and process determines application method.
Small scale fine finishes are best achieved through spraying, and HVLP gets the overwhelming majority of nods due to quantities of finish to be dispensed, and quality sought. The biggest mistake I see in people struggling as they enter the finish stage is the unrealistic desire to just walk up to the piece and finish it.
While fine finishing is often best completed as a “one and done” process (in other words, no room for backwards motion once you get into it), it is only to be attempted after all the right preliminary moves have been done.
Tips for Overcoming Fear of Finishing
- During the build phase, save all cutoffs (called “drops”)
- Sand the drops to the same prep level as your finished piece
- Prep sanding grit level is determined by finish to be applied
- Finish to be applied is determined by the desired look, color tone, sheen
- Use the prepped drops as finish samples
- Arrive at your exact finish sequence on the samples before going “live”
- Take careful notes, commit nothing to memory
- Notes include material reduction, HVLP settings and tip selections
- Observe the spraying pace and distance from target that produces the best results
- When you spray the actual piece, do it in a controlled environment (not outdoors)
- When done, clean your sprayer in a different area than your finish/drying space
- Walk away. You are nothing but a contamination risk at this point.
These are some finishing basics that will help to get you over the hump of fear. They are also good reminders for even more experienced finishers who have developed habits that work against the desired effect. Finishing is nothing but a series of habits. As Sandy taught me in ’95, the only thing standing between you and the result, is you.
Think of the finish process as actually “building a finish”. That is what you are doing. Do the research for material selection, do the sampling, enter the spray zone with confidence and have fun!
When brushing a finish onto a large horizontal surface such as a tabletop, it’s most efficient to lift a brush load of the finish (the bristles dipped about halfway into the finish) out of the container and online casino real money plop it down at the center of the area you want to brush. Then stretch out that puddle of finish from end to end working in the direction of the grain.
Work fast without dragging the brush over the edge at each end, which would result in runs down the side. You can accomplish this by using airplane-like landings just in from each edge as you brush back and forth.
When you have lined up the brush strokes end to end at least one brush width wide, plop down another brush load about an inch from the previous strokes and stretch it out end to end while working it back into the existing finish. Continue with this procedure until you have covered the surface all the way across.
To avoid drips where you don’t want them, hold the container of finish in your other hand near where you deposit the brush load of finish.
Think of wood finishes as plastics. Depending on how broadly you define “plastic,” this is exactly what they are. And just like all plastics, finishes deteriorate over time—faster in bright light and heat. First the finish dulls; then it begins crazing and cracking.
As the deterioration gets worse, the finish loses its primary function of slowing moisture (liquid and vapor) exchange. Excessive moisture exchange leads to veneer cracking, joints and veneer separating, splits in wood and warping. A deteriorated finish also looks bad.
Old furniture with deteriorated finishes usually end up in city landfills. This is the reason the message of the Antiques Roadshow, “Don’t refinish!” is so unfortunate. Refinishing saves old furniture with deteriorated finishes.
Often, however, finishes can be repaired rather than refinished. And just as there are different levels of deterioration, there are different levels of repair. Here are three, advancing from least to the most intrusive, effective and difficult to pull off.
Clean the Surface.
Sometimes great improvement can be achieved simply by cleaning (as I’ve done to the left side of the crest rail on the chair). There are two types of dirt, water-soluble and solvent (paint-thinner) soluble, so you may need to use both types of cleaner.
Cleaning won’t remove finish in good condition, but it will remove the dirt. And sometimes that is the major problem.
If the cleaning removes all the finish down to the wood, the finish was totally deteriorated and should be replaced with new finish to protect the wood.
Apply Paste Wax.
Paste wax is the best furniture-care product for deteriorated finishes because it adds shine, doesn’t highlight cracks as liquid products do, is fairly permanent, and it is fully reversible—meaning that it can be washed off with mineral spirits without damaging the finish underneath.
If there are lighter colored nicks and scratches, you can use a colored paste wax to color these in. Many imported brands of paste wax are available in colors.
The easy way to apply paste wax to large surfaces is to put a lump of the wax inside a cloth and wipe it over the surface. The cloth will limit the amount of wax you are depositing so you won’t have to work harder than necessary to remove the excess.
When the shine of the applied wax disappears and the wax develops a noticeable resistance when rubbed, rub off all the excess with a soft, clean cloth. Keep turning and changing the cloth so you aren’t just smearing the wax around; you are transferring it from the finish to the cloth.
Abrade the Surface.
If the finish feels rough because it is beginning to craze and crack, you can abrade it smooth, then apply paste wax or more finish on top. Sandpaper is best for leveling the surface. Steel wool and abrasive pads merely round over unevenness.
Abrading removes the top surface of the finish, which serves doubly to clean dirt. Don’t abrade through any color, whether in the wood or in the finish, or you may lose control and end up having to refinish.
Always use a sandpaper grit that removes the problem efficiently without creating larger than necessary scratches that then have to be sanded out. Generally, you would use either 400-grit or 600-grit sandpaper. You can sand the finish with dry sandpaper, in which case the sandpaper may clog, or you can use an oil or mineral spirits lubricant to prevent the clogging.
When the surface is smooth, you can apply more finish on top. The only finish that could cause problems is lacquer, or any finish that thins with lacquer thinner, because the lacquer thinner could cause the remaining old finish to blister. I would suggest using wiping varnish for a gloss sheen, gel varnish for a satin sheen or, especially for high quality antiques, shellac applied using the French polishing technique.
Fall Back Solution.
If none of these techniques work to your satisfaction, you may need to strip the old finish and apply a new one. Stripping is always better than sanding because sanding to the wood can’t help but remove the color changes (patina) and nicks and scratches that give old furniture its character.
Remember that it’s always best to keep the finish on old furniture in good condition so the furniture survives.
A great piece of furniture is one that catches your eye as you enter a room, but there is nothing particular that stands out about the piece. It’s just exquisite in every detail. Joinery and lumber selection is top-notch and the finish is even, smooth and consistent.
Of course, most of the joinery cannot be seen, but joinery that is visible is near perfection. Dovetails are clean and tight fitting, mitered pieces are tightly closed and reveals around drawer fronts and door edges should be consistent. What’s just as important is what you should not see. Glue lines in assembled panels should be imperceptible as the grain flows continuously across the panels with little interruption. As for the finish, dyes or stains should not mask the wood’s grain. There should also be no vast differences in color and hue.
Of the woodworkers I talk with, most admit they have trouble finishing their projects – trouble in applying the finish, not completing the work. You’re more than likely reading this newsletter to gain a better insight into that part of woodworking. Many woodworkers admit – and I agree – that finishing a project is the “make it or break it” area of work. And while finish is important, it is has to be in balance with other parts of woodworking to be a success; you need also to have developed the skills necessary to build your project and then there is the lumber with which you choose to work.
As a group, woodworkers, for the most part, don’t try to build projects beyond their abilities. We all have projects that we aspire to build one day, and there is nothing more fun than to get into the shop to bust out a simple project quickly with great results – it’s a great confidence builder as well as a way to keep your skills sharp. It’s my opinion that most woodworkers actually over think the project in that they gather any and all information about their project prior to making the first cut. The single most often asked question I hear pertaining to magazine articles is if there are full-size drawings available. I appreciate the desire for drawings although I do not think full-size plans are a necessity because once you have a case, or other major section of your project, constructed measurements are taken from the work already completed.
What is amazing to me is the criteria that many furniture makers use to select their project lumber. It’s here that rational and common sense go out the window and dollar signs begin to take over. “The cheaper the better,” seems to be the mantra.
When I first met the staff of Popular Woodworking Magazine, they asked if I would share my finishing techniques for tiger maple. They were impressed by how strong the stripes stood out on my furniture, and they wanted readers to learn my secrets. I happily explained how to get tiger maple stripes to “pop” during the finishing process. I said, “Buy $10 dollar per board foot lumber instead of $3 dollar per board foot lumber because you cannot makes stripes appear if they are not already in the lumber.” There was a chuckle followed by a moment of silence as they thought about my comment. With figured hardwoods, the more the figure the higher the price of the lumber. While in regular hardwoods, there are subtle differences that push the per board foot prices up the scale. Those differences are worth the investment when building a great project.
In Chicago, at the Wilton School, cake-decorating classes are well attended throughout the year. As part of the Master Course, students learn techniques and decorate a three-tiered wedding cake. All the work is completed on layers of Styrofoam, as it’s the decoration on which they are judged and not the taste of the cake. (If you didn’t know, most of the decorated cakes in bakery storefronts are also on something other than cake.) The flowers and other decoration look great, but can you imagine biting into one of those cakes. Blah!
It’s the same when building furniture. Even if you are a Master at joinery (your dovetails are tight, mortise-and-tenon joints are perfect and your drawers slide smooth and straight), and you apply your finish to rival the best at the game, your project has the potential for problems as it may look unsightly if you “cheap-out” when it comes to lumber. Better lumber results in better projects.
But what about the extra costs, I hear you ask. My response to this question is philosophical. Let’s say you have set your sites on building a chest of drawers. The primary wood for a project – wood seen as one stands in awe of your work – is around 35 board feet. If you upgrade your costs from $5 per foot to $12 dollars per foot – the figures quoted to the magazine editors were from 16 years ago – you increase your cash outlay from $175 to $420, or an additional $245. Did you chuckle? I hope not. Let me explain.
You spend on average two or three months building a chest when working on weekends and the few hours you can squeeze out of a couple nights each week. If you have to spend extra time rummaging through cheaper lumber, cutting between knots and trimming heartwood from sapwood to find sections that are usable, the time spent building the chest will more than likely push into month four. As a result, fewer projects come out of your shop in a given year. Also, you’ll have to join more pieces, three or possibly four instead of two, to arrive at the sizes required for your case sides and top – clear, knot-free lumber of any species is more expensive, and boards of greater width also push the price higher. Additional pieces in your panel assemblies translate into more glue lines, more work achieving an appropriate grain match and a potential overall less appealing case. It’s a shame to put all the work into a chest only to think every time you walk by that it could have been so much better if you would have selected better lumber? Spending more money for better lumber just makes sense.
Next, consider the chest’s life. The work you’re doing is so much better than today’s veneer-wrapped, particle board stuff (I cannot bring myself to call it furniture), so your chest will be around for your children, grand children and great-grand children to enjoy, provided someone in the family wants Great Granddad’s chest of drawers. Sure, your family will desire the chest because it was built by you, but if it looks fantastic they will put the chest in a place of honor, instead of stuffing it to the third bedroom where it’s out of sight most of the time. Or worse yet, relegate the chest to basement storage. If you spread the additional costs over the next 100 plus years, it’s a much easier pill to swallow, and your piece will be treasured by generations to come. Again, it’s worth the extra outlay.
When you do get to the finishing stage of the project, better lumber makes this step easier, too. If there are knotholes, loose knots or multiple imperfections such as drastic color variation in your hardwood (streaks or mineral deposits) or you have to blend sapwood with heartwood, finish application becomes more work. Patches to cover knots look OK on some pieces depending on the style, but on a high-style chest of drawers you wouldn’t expect to find a fix. Panels and drawer fronts built from clear, knot free lumber accept dyes and stains more evenly, so you’ll achieve better color – the grain should be seen and appreciated otherwise you could simply paint the project. With quality hardwoods, you’ll have less time involved sanding during the finish process and topcoats will be easier to sand, flatten and level. These are all keys to a great finish, which begins with a good quality lumber.
With any project, you need to begin with a solid base of good lumber, you need the chops to build the piece and then you need to have a great finishing process that makes the wood look its best. With any one aspect missing, the resulting project will not be at its best.
There are many ways to clear coat your project but if you have the time and plenty of elbow grease, a tung oil finish is hard to beat for achieving a deep clear luster, durability, repair-ability and ease of application. Follow these simple steps and I’m confident you will be happy with the results.
Sand, sand, then sand some more. Remember I mentioned elbow grease, you will need it now. I sand up to 320 grit with a random orbital sander then begin sanding by hand, finishing with 400.
Make sure all swirls and scratches have been removed by using a magnifier, I wear a Bausch and Lomb visor throughout the entire sanding process looking for hiding scratches. If you don’t get those scratches now, they will haunt you and become accentuated as you apply successive coats of oil and will be difficult to remove, you do not want to go backwards at this point. Once the sanding is finished, clean, buff and polish all surfaces with a soft, clean rag free of buttons, stitching or any other hard foreign matter that would scratch.
One could begin to apply tung oil at this point, I prefer applying a coat of wax free shellac prior to the oil to seal the wood. The first coat of oil over shellac looks like the third coat of oil over bare, raw wood, it’s a bit of a head start. Be very careful not to over apply the shellac, put it down and move on. Over applied areas can be carefully sanded level before applying the oil or stain. Apply in small areas and have a plan before you start the application. Once dry, sand lightly with 320 grit followed by very fine steel wool, then buff and polish.
Often times, there is color variation within the wood so at this point, I apply two coats of wiping stain to make the piece much more uniform in color. A shellacked surface is a wonderful sub surface for stain because it controls variation of stain absorption, making for a much more uniform finish. When completely dry, buff and polish.
Apply the first coat of tung oil with a soft clean rag, working in small areas. Wipe immediately, tung oil dries fast and will become sticky, remove all oil and allow to dry 24 hours before the next coat. Never put your project in the direct sun to dry, the oil will heat and expand, oozing out of the grain only to dry as little pimply bubbles. After every 3 coats or applications, stop and lightly sand with 400 grit and very fine steel wool to keep the surface smooth and level, then buff and polish with a smooth rag before the next coat. Don’t rush the applications, It’s very important to allow the oil to dry for 24 hours between coats to harden. The way the finish develops it’s wonderful deep sheen is by vigorous buffing and polishing between coats and the oil must be hard and dry, otherwise, it will scratch. By now, you should be using plenty of elbow grease and clean, soft rags.
The beauty of the tung oil finish is you can put down several coats and it will never cloud but only become deeper, 10 or more coats and a couple of weeks is not uncommon.
Once you have achieved the desired depth and sheen, allow to cure for several days before applying two coats of wax. The main ingredients for a great tung oil finish is plenty of time and elbow grease.
It’s very important that you soften all machined or hand-planed wood edges before applying any film-building finish. The finish will peel away from sharp edges (as is shown in the example) if they aren’t rounded over a little.
It’s also a good idea to soften edges when using non-film-building oil finishes. Sharp edges dent easier than softened edges.
You can easily remove the sharpness from edges with several light passes using medium-grit sandpaper.
Recently, I was involved in a “Woodworking Throw-Down” on the Lumberjocks.com forums. In just a few days, I needed to create a table-top box to store remote controls and ‘stuff’ in.
So I pondered on it a bit, then settled on a “Bombe” style, with a contemporary flair, and maybe a little Asian influence. Not what most would expect from me, I do a lot of period work, but I also do a lot of contemporary, so this should be fun. I used 6/4 Tiger Maple and a piece of Curly Claro Walnut.
Now, the rest of the story. I had to get a “killer” finish on it. One of the things I have learned, while bold contrast can be very nice, sometimes something as simple as a “Blending Tone” of color that actually subdues the “stark” contrast can add a lot of elegance. I have Tiger Maple and Dark Curly Walnut, white and dark brown, a little more contrast that I wanted. Now, to tone things down a bit, I got some AquaTone “Golden Oak” stain (#100-02-04) as I know Golden Oak brings a softer and beautiful color to walnut, especially steamed walnut. The golden color helps to kill the purple tones and adds a nice amber tone. Walnut lightens as it ages, so the Golden Oak brings some of the “aged” colors in as well. It’s one of my favorite colors on walnut.
Now, what to do with the white Tiger Maple box. I didn‘t want to dye the curl. I want subtle. I opted to do a single coat of amber shellac which gave the curl a little boost and “pop”. Next was a light coat of Acrylacq, scuffed lightly with 600 grit (I didn’t want to risk cutting through the finish), then I used the Golden Oak as a glaze over the finish just to add some matching tone and subdue the stark white of the maple. I sealed the glaze with another coat of finish. When it dried, I wanted a little more so I glazed it again and I got exactly what I wanted. I stained the walnut in raw wood as would be normal, I then applied two more coats of finish. Scuffed with a 320 grit light sand in between and I had gotten the finish I was after. I sprayed the finish with the Apollo Atomizer and was able to lay out a “silk slick” finish.
In the contemporary world a lot of contrasting woods are used, I hope you can see and understand how a little toning and working with the finish can help you soothe the contrast to make a beautiful piece.
Paint and varnish removers sold in plastic containers contain the solvent n-methyl pyrrolidone (NMP) as the active ingredient. This solvent is relatively expensive, so manufacturers often mix in other solvents to reduce the cost. But it’s the NMP that does the majority of the work.
NMP has less solvent strength than the methylene chloride and the other solvents used in strippers sold in cans. Just the packaging, plastic vs. metal, tells you this. The reason NMP is still effective is that it evaporates extremely slowly, so it can remain wet on the paint or finish for days if necessary.
I find this paint stripper very easy to use when I’m not in a hurry. I just brush a thick layer of the stripper onto the surface and walk away for an afternoon, overnight, or longer if necessary, until I can take off all layers of the paint or finish at once.
The problem with this stripper is that some of the solvent remains in the wood for many days, and the solvent can affect the drying of the finish you apply. So, if you want to begin finishing within several days of the stripping, you need to dry out the NMP.
You could do this with heat, of course, but it is usually easier to simply wipe with denatured alcohol or lacquer thinner. Alcohol is less expensive and less toxic. Wipe several times with a damp cloth to dry off the surface. You can feel if you have succeeded; the wood will feel dry. You can also tell you haven’t succeeded if your sandpaper clogs up.
I spend a lot of my time as a professional painter fixing paint problems that were caused by people.
Sometimes their choice of paint was a problem. More often, the way they painted was the bigger problem.
If you paint at any kind of level, you likely understand that the proof is in the pudding when it comes to creating nice results. When you get really skilled at painting, it doesn’t matter whether you are spraying, rolling, brushing, or any combination thereof, the application method is just the medium – the thing standing between you and the result you seek. The goal is to be able to use whatever means at hand to get there.
Renaissance men in literature were revered for being “skilled in all ways of contending”, and the romantic in me
holds the art of finishing to that same standard.I am lucky to be able to work on all types of interior/exterior finishes and see how paint problems happen, and which ones cause failure. I enjoy the challenge of figuring out how to fix finish issues.
Working on exterior surfaces in the summer gives me the “bulldozer” perspective on painting. Exterior paints have to hold up to the elements, which is no small feat. While interior finishes are more Porsche than bulldozer. The sequencing of prep and painting for exterior trim is not all that different from interior, just different products. But, of course, product drives process. So while similar, everything is different.
Professionally, I am either taking finish off or putting it on most of the time. Each process comes with a sequence of steps requiring consistent habits to eliminate paint problems.
Overuse of caulking is a common paint problem.
What are paint problems?
On exterior surfaces, paint problems are those technical things that happen during application that prevent paint from remaining intact on the surface over time. Think flaking or peeling paint as obvious examples.
Interior finishes fail in different ways, and it is usually not the fault of the product, but rather the application process. Dramatic interior failures are rare, and more subjective.
If you take finishing seriously enough to continue chasing the dragon of perfection, then you might at times feel like anything short of perfection was a failure. And perfection is elusive.
Scott on an exterior paint removal project in 2014.
Number One Cause of Finish Failure…
Without doubt, the biggest way that people create paint problems that lead to finish failure is by over applying paint: putting too much on at once. It is counter intuitive, I know, and almost like some stubborn vestige of good old fashioned common sense. More paint will hold up better, right? In the old days of old products, sure. And again, regardless of your particular finishing discipline or interest, the same basic truths seem to hold.
As products continue to move toward EPA compliance, less is definitely more in the application of finish. Creating thinner layers can help with adhesion, but can make smooth lay down of product more difficult. In spraying, we refer to the thin coat build technique as “tack coats”. It is easier to get a thin coat of finish to adhere (hold) to a thin layer of itself than to get a heavy coat of the same finish to hang on the substrate. READ MORE in Newsletter
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