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Thread: Consumer vs. Pro Finishes

  1. #1
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    Consumer vs. Pro Finishes

    Hello. It's me again: Monopolizer of the Finishing Forums . . .

    I'm trying to get a handle on what kinds of improvement I might expect, in terms of ease of application and final results, when using a pro finish versus a consumer-grade finish.

    I've only sprayed, brushed or wiped mostly consumer-grade finishes until now. I am having a particularly difficult time spraying Minwax PolyCrylic. Seems I get bubbles in the wet finish that don't burst and blend out, but remain even after the coat has dried. I've tried spraying very light coats, which avoids the bubbles forming, but even this often leaves what appear to be dust nibs, or very sharp points randomly but consistently dispersed over the entire area being sprayed. Very infrequently, I get somewhat satisfactory results using the latter light-coat method, but there seems to be much room for improvement, and I need a reliable, consistent approach. Even the best of results I've achieved thus far leave me with a finish that just looks a bit "cheap."

    I've tried diluting the PolyCrylic (a waterborne product) 10% and even 20%, have used different application rates and pressures and have tried various spray techniques, all to no avail. The only thing that was consistent throughout was the use of a 1.5mm needle and, to a large extent, the environmental conditions.

    I will most likely be purchasing some waterborne products from Target, including their shellac, USL, etc. To that end, I am wondering if these products will be considerably easier to use and yield superior results, or might there just be a flaw in my technique that precludes me from achieving a successful finish regardless of which product I use?

  2. #2
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    The problem you are having spraying Polycrylic is very strange to me...I have never had that issue with the product, even though it's not my favorite. Those recycled pine nightstands I just completed for my daughters were sprayed with it after dye and shellac and the finish is flawless. I wasn't even taking great care with cleaning up the shop first, either. And the product was nearly a year old, too.

    Bubbles in the finish, or cratering, etc., is troubling. Is your gun sputtering? Is your surface contaminated? (no "tack cloths" or stearated sandpaper should be used) Is the finish being applied too thick? Etc. In other words, I don't believe the problem is with the finish product and I apologize for how that might sound. The caveat might be if you got a bad can of finish, but that's less likely. It does happen, however. I had a gallon of USL a few years ago that was "very bad". Target cheerfully replaced it.

    The product doesn't need thinning to spray and shouldn't be thinned. Water is not a reducer for water borne products and all you are doing is spreading out the finishing molecules in the mix, making it harder for the product to coalesce after the water carrier evaporates. I use my Wagner HPLV conversion gun with the "stock" setup to spray water borne finishes. #3 projector set with a #2 cap.

    BTW, I don't like the Target water borne shellac. It's the one product I've been disappointed with and I stick with Zinsser SealCoat (which I buy by the gallon as well as in spray bombs for small jobs) for that purpose.
    “Never raise your hands to your children, it leaves your groin unprotected.” - Red Buttons

    If you want your spouse to listen and pay strict attention to every word you say -- talk in your sleep...

    Be safety conscious. 80% of people are caused by accidents.

    Equestrian Sports. The most fun you can have with your boots still on...


  3. #3
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    Spraying a finish, such as Target USL, that is specifically designed for spraying and has compatible viscosity, etc. is actually easier than trying to spray a material that is primarily designed for brushing. This at least was my experience.

    I must say, from comments I have heard, that the waterborne shellac from Target, hasn't received stellar reviews. I haven't used it however.

    The other thing that distinquishes pro finishes from consumer grade is the necessity for no only having spray equipment--lots of DIYers have sprayed NC lacquer--but having spray facilities capable of coping with the even more seriously noxious solvents of etc.the higher tech finishes--conversion varnishes, two-part polyurethanes, etc.

  4. #4
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    Thanks for the insights, fellas.

    Jim, in reply to your post:

    1) I knew about not thinning Acrylic, but I read somewhere that up to 10% might be OK. I admit I did thin the Polycrylic by eyeballing 10-20% (probably went as far as 30-40% to be honest after my continued frustration), but this was only after I got bad results full-strength. I may have "jumped the gun," though, since I hadn't tweaked the spray-gun (cleaned it out thoroughly enough I guess) that first time I sprayed full-strength, so I may just re-attempt a spray-job at full strength again, now that I am a little more practiced with the gun and have a witness that good results can be obtained.

    2) My gun is not/was not sputtering as far as I can tell. I always spray test on cardboard to see that I am getting an even, consistent spray pattern. But, there may have been some residual lacquer in the system, try as hard as I might to do a good cleaning job (which to me, entailed spraying thinner through it, then acetone, then water). I don't plan to ever leave that in the can for a couple of days like I did this time around . . . when I finally dismantled everything, there was still residue on the needle shaft and a distinct lingering aroma of lacquer.

    3) I don't think my surfaces were contaminated. I take measures to wipe them down with naptha and let them dry first, then wipe again just before spraying with a dry, clean cloth. I sprayed on several test pieces, some of which were virgin wood (or MDF). I was spraying in a doorway though, at the back of my garage, with the roll-up door open in the front. There is always a superb breeze that blows through that passage - in essence, the Westerly breeze blows down my street, up my sloped driveway and through the front of the garage. Then, that whole mass of air gets a concentrated exhaust out the back door where I am spraying. . . of course, some dust may be coming in that way too, or it might be being picked up off of shop surfaces on its way through the garage. Is that a bad setup?

    4) Not sure about the stearated sandpaper though. How do I know if I sandpaper is stearated or not? All the lableing on the sandpaper you get at the Borgs has been dummed-down, and only says things like "3X faster" or "won't clog." I haven't had the presence of mind to try and cross-reference the cryptic codes on the back of the paper itself against some of the guidelines in the books I have on finishing. Why would stearated make a difference anyway? Is it because of the lubricant residues?

    5) Maybe I am laying on too wet a layer, or my finish isn't atomizing. Should I be using higher pressure? (I have a variable PSI dial) Maybe my tip size is too large? (I'm using a 1.5mm tip/needle) I'll be getting the detail tip/needle kit very soon, and will try that as well. According to the chart that came with the HVLP system and actual viscosity tests though, I am at the lower end of the viscosity range for this 1.5mm needle, which is why I diluted a bit to see if that would bring me closer to the center of the range, but that may have introduced a separate problem (thinning) altogether.

    6) I'll stay away from the Target Water-Borne Shellac. I agree, I've had some decent results with Zinsser's SealCoat (but not so much with their blonde shellac, even when I cut it real thin).

    7) Do you strain your finishes? Is it necessary to do that if you have one of those mesh filters at the end of the spray-can nozzle? Dresner says in his video that he doesn't strain his stuff, because he uses those pleated paper nozzle filters (he had a twelve pack handy in the video).

    Thanks!

  5. #5
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    Jim,
    Just curious what problems you have had with Target Ultraseal? I have used it many times and found it to work well for my applications. Although there are times when I think Zinseers SealCoat is a better choice.

    Sal,
    Bubbles in the topcoat can be caused by several things. The material could be too thick and not atomizing correctly, or you might have layed down too heavy of a coat. Another problem that I struggled with for a while was holding the gun too close to the work.
    I always strain my finishes before pouring them into the gun.
    I have sprayed a good bit of Target USL and I think you will be happy with it. I found it to be very easy to spray and levels out beautifully. Be sure to spray thin coats, 1-3 mils.
    If you don't already have one, I would suggest getting a wet mil gauge and also a viscosity cup.
    Good luck.

    PS: I am not affiliated with Target Coatings, just a happy user of their products
    Last edited by Rob Cunningham; 09-21-2008 at 10:01 AM.

  6. #6
    How much air pressure do you have at the gun? You might need as much as 50psi. The pressure will be reduced within the gun to the 10-12psi at the tip that is what the hvlp folks advertise. If you try to have 10 -12 psi at the gun you will really be starved for air volume out the tip. Next time you are at the paint store pick up a mil gauge to measure the thickness of your wet coat.
    they are cheap (often free) and easy to use.
    Steve Jenkins, McKinney, TX. 469 742-9694
    Always use the word "impossible" with extreme caution

  7. #7
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    Rob, I tried the Target "shellac" product and wasn't pleased with either the coloration or, strangely enough, the fact that it was water borne. The primary reasons I use shellac are for color and as a barrier coat over water soluble dye or BLO prior to moving on with the USL I typically spray. The second one is most important to me, so the Zinsser SealCoat or a mixed-from-flakes de-waxed shellac (for color) is a staple for me in finishing.
    ----

    Sal, yes I always strain finishes going into the gun...and when returning them to the container from the gun if I don't use up what I've had in the pot. The strainer/filters cost about 17 cents each at the 'borg and I bought a whole box of them a few years ago...
    “Never raise your hands to your children, it leaves your groin unprotected.” - Red Buttons

    If you want your spouse to listen and pay strict attention to every word you say -- talk in your sleep...

    Be safety conscious. 80% of people are caused by accidents.

    Equestrian Sports. The most fun you can have with your boots still on...


  8. #8
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    Jim, I agree that Target shellac does not have the same color depth as Zinsser's. I have mainly used Target as a washcoat before staining and also as a sealer over their Ultmia stains. Over BLO I would definitely use the Zinssers. Have you had any problems with USL over Zinssers Sealcoat? I have heard of some WB finishes crazing when applied over Sealcoat.
    Sorry Sal didn't mean to hijack your thread.

  9. #9
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    Rob, I use the SealCoat under the USL all the time with zero problems.
    “Never raise your hands to your children, it leaves your groin unprotected.” - Red Buttons

    If you want your spouse to listen and pay strict attention to every word you say -- talk in your sleep...

    Be safety conscious. 80% of people are caused by accidents.

    Equestrian Sports. The most fun you can have with your boots still on...


  10. #10
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    Smile

    Quote Originally Posted by Steve Jenkins View Post
    How much air pressure do you have at the gun?
    It's a 3-stage turbine HVLP, 110 CFM @ 6 PSI. That's way under what you are saying, but the manufacturer says it will spray practically anything, and that jibes well with what I've read about 3-stage HVLPs in general.

    At this point, I am almost willing to bet that I am spraying too thick. I'll have to try out one of those paint mil gauges - first time I've even heard of them. No more scratching my head when guys talk about mils - I've always wondered how the heck they knew what 1,2,3 or 4 mils was - I just figured it was an eyeball measurement.

    Quote Originally Posted by Steve Jenkins View Post
    If you try to have 10 -12 psi at the gun you will really be starved for air volume out the tip. Next time you are at the paint store pick up a mil gauge to measure the thickness of your wet coat.
    So are you saying that I won't be spraying water-borne poly then? What about paints and other high-viscosity coatings?

    Thanks for the help.
    Last edited by Sal Giambruno; 09-21-2008 at 11:08 PM.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Becker View Post
    Rob, I use the SealCoat under the USL all the time with zero problems.
    This one looks like a no-brainer at first glance . . . I can get a product that performs well from my local retailer (and I imagine even at a Circle-K in some parts) - which sure beats having to wait a week to get it . . .

    I don't see any inherent advantage in the Target Sealer, other than maybe it not being prone to exploding, and having a water-based cleanup. The lack of color, though, may be viewed as a neutral characteristic. That is, while it lacks color, by the same token, wouldn't it provide some flexibility in adding a dye for toning or shading where yellow (or orange) is not a desireable part of the recipe. In the end, it sounds like a toss-up.

  12. #12
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    Sal, the Target shellac product is not "water based". It's water borne, same as the rest of the products. It's still shellac with it's reducer/solvent emulsified into a water carrier. I know this seems like nit-picking but "water based" and "water borne" really do mean two different things. Unfortunately, even the pros who write about the stuff (or their editors...) use the word "based" too much, IMHO.

    Oh, the Target shellac does have color...I just don't happen to like it.

    I've never been concerned with explosions with shellac, personally.
    “Never raise your hands to your children, it leaves your groin unprotected.” - Red Buttons

    If you want your spouse to listen and pay strict attention to every word you say -- talk in your sleep...

    Be safety conscious. 80% of people are caused by accidents.

    Equestrian Sports. The most fun you can have with your boots still on...


  13. #13
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    I used Target products for the first time on kitchen island countertop I finished recently. Like Jim, I like to start with BLO (actually a 1/1 BLO/Naphtha mix) and seal it with Sealcoat. I used Target EM8800 clear sealer with a small amount of TT Brown Mahogany dye, then topcoats of EM8000cv pre-cat for toughness. I was impressed with the way the Target products filled my veneer with oak frame and levelled well.

    When I bought the Target products, I also got a gallon of USL to use on "regular" furniture. I'll be spraying some items with it in the next few days.
    Last edited by Bill Arnold; 09-22-2008 at 8:01 AM.
    Bill Arnold
    Citizen of Texas residing in South Georgia.
    Food for Thought: The Ark was built by amateurs, the Titanic by professionals.

  14. #14
    Quote Originally Posted by Sal Giambruno View Post
    It's a 3-stage turbine HVLP, 110 CFM @ 6 PSI. That's way under what you are saying, but the manufacturer says it will spray practically anything, and that jibes well with what I've read about 3-stage HVLPs in general.
    Sorry Sal. I was referring to HVPL guns run off a regular compressor. I must have missed that you were using a turbine. Whole different animal.
    Last edited by Jim Becker; 09-22-2008 at 3:50 PM. Reason: Fixed quote tagging
    Steve Jenkins, McKinney, TX. 469 742-9694
    Always use the word "impossible" with extreme caution

  15. #15
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    Sal, both the Target and Zinsser shellac will accept Trans-Tint dyes if you want to use them for toning or shading. The Target shellac does have an amber tone to it but not as much as Zinsser. (It is available in garnet and golden red also but I haven't tried them) Unless you are spraying in an enclosed room with no air movement, I wouldn't be concerned about explosion with shellac either.
    As far as sandpaper, I have had good results with 3M 216U sheets, purchased from Homestead Finishing. I use it for sanding raw wood before finishing and also for between coat sanding. Never had any contamination problems using it with waterborne finishes.

    Bill- How did you like the EM-8000? Did it spray and level out well?

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