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ShopCam HiLites for 11/29/00
Spreading The Shine


OK, all the sanding is done except for the mantle and columns - we'll catch them up later. Today I want to get most everything sealed.

I'm trying a new finish this time. It's been my tendency that every time the finish calls for waterborne, I try a different product, looking for something better than before. The material selected this time is Target Coating's Oxford Premium Spray Lacquer. I bought the stuff from Jeff Jewitt at Homestead Finishing and though it's expensive, anytime I can use waterborne, I think it's worth it. Mr. D's walnut floor has waterborne and that's the look we want.

According to the directions Jeff has posted at his website, you can thin the PSL 10-20% with water. This seemed too thin to me and as the day wore on, I used less and less water.

To get a feel for the finish with my spray gun, I started with the least visible parts of the wall unit - the lower backs.

My preliminary impression of the PSL was very favorable. It atomized nicely (characteristic of all the waterbornes I've used) and because it flashes slower than the smelly lacquers, it's easy to keep a wet edge; any overspray just disappears.

The upper backs were next and by now, I'm mostly into my usual routine of putting on two coats - one dry which disappears, and another to give it some sheen. I know the waterborne will raise the grain and the plan is to get enough lacquer on the surface so after I sand it, the loose fibers will lock down and subsequent coats won't raise the grain again. This is ambitious. Wish me luck!

The actual procedure for each piece goes like this:

I place the part in the spray area as near to the fan as practical. Then I take a bored-out blowgun and de-dust the piece. The blowgun is swapped out for the spray gun and away we go.

When the part is coated, in this picture one of the lower cabinet tops, I carry it back into the shop where it will rest out of the exhaust fan air stream until dry, and then I bring back a new piece.

If I had a large, enclosed spray booth, the procedure might be different. I would be tempted to load as many parts in the booth as possible, spray them all at once, and then take a break until they have dried to handling stage. As it is, in a small shop, we do what we have to do. Even with the extended dry times of waterborne, I didn't notice any debris getting in the finish.

Above the shop entrance door are the controls for the fan and spray area lights. The double switches on the right turn everything on and off. The dial on the left controls the fan speed (a new feature).

I sprayed almost 1 1/2 gallons today. If I were spraying the smelly stuff, the fan would be on all day, running high speed when spraying and low speed the rest of the time to escape fumes.

Since waterborne doesn't give off explosive fumes, I can turn off the fan within seconds after spraying, saving electricity and valuable shop heat. Did I tell you there were snow flurries outside today!

Dealing with so many parts in a small shop can be confusing. If you aren't careful, you can spend way too much time moving pieces around. I try to give each part it's own spot where it can rest during the whole process.

The doors and drawer faces in the background are resting on carpet strips which in turn, are sitting on other things to get them raised off the workbench. It's easier to set wet pieces down if they have a perch underneath.

As a space saver, sometimes I hang doors for finishing if I don't have too much else to do. This lets me spray both sides at once.That isn't the case here. I'd be afraid of banging into them moving the big cases around.

The shelves are easier to deal with. They have a back edge no one ever sees so I mount a couple cute little feet to the edge with a couple screws. The feet let the shelf stand on it's own and nesting them together, I can rest Mr. D.'s 20 shelves in a space 3' by 4'.

Here are the feet in action. They're setting on a couple walnut scrap blocks to keep them out of the puddle of waterborne accumulating on the melamine base. It's not fun getting finish all over the bottoms of your feet and then getting them stuck to your workbench. Don't ask me how I know this...;)

Bounce-back or blow-back is when you aim your spray gun into a corner and the only place for the overspray to go is right back at you. These are the first drawers I've sprayed with this new HVLP gun and I was hoping bounce-back would be a thing of the past.

Silly me...;)

Once all the easily-carried pieces are finally sealed, it's time to roll in the big ones - no lifting required!

Spraying the insides of these cabinets is really easy without the backs installed. Not only is there no bounce-back, the back edges are easier to get sprayed correctly and I'm less likely to bang the spray gun into wet lacquer. Oh yeah - I can see what I'm doing.

The last piece for today was the fireplace surround (upside down in the picture). I find spaying at the right height critical to getting a good finish applied. An ideal height for this piece finds it sitting on a couple paint cans.

I could have laid it down and sprayed it that way, but I prefer to spray vertically if I can avoid runs (aka sags). Vertical pieces are much less likely to get debris trapped in the finish.

Unlike other waterbornes, I've used, the PSL seems to be sag-free. Though the jury is still out, the PSL sprays just like regular lacquer and in some aspects, it's better! The killer is the grain raising. Cross your fingers!

The key to know when to stop spraying is when you see the finish turn blue. It's kind of hazy looking indicating it's time to point your gun elsewhere. I think I only had one sag all day, and that was inside a drawer. I like it!

How about that feather grain? Isn't walnut beautiful!

At the end of the day, the shop is getting stinky from the drying finish. The only chore left to do is clean the gun. That's right, you have to clean your gun every night - first with water and then with alcohol or lacquer thinner. The waterborne sticks real well, even to polished chrome, so don't throw out all your solvents yet.

Tomorrow we'll sand back the raised grain, and depending on the weather, start spraying the topcoats. See you then!

If you have any questions or comments about Mr. D's Walnut Wall Unit, please post them at the Info Exchange.

Jim Mattson

Onward to the Next Installment

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