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Finish Products & Techniques9/26
I've recently taken on some small batch production work making wood plaques, trophy stands, signs and so on. I'm looking for some advice on what the best finish products and techniques would be for a one man operation needing to keep expenses and finish time to a minimum. This contract has potential to yield pretty high quantities of products and hand rubbed stains with spray on urethane is way too time consuming. Need help!
This is why nobody else is doing it. Small items have a high cost to finish and without the right setup it is hard to make money on.
How many pieces will you do a week, how big are they, what wood and color do they need to be and how much does the finishing budget allow per piece?
Quantity could be anywhere from 10 to 50 pieces per week. I'm primarily working with red oak but am trying to find a cost effective species that's easier to work. Pieces range in size from a small 12"x12" plaque to a 4'x8' sign. Stain colors can range as well but most of it is the typical golden oak. I haven't quite figured out how much to allow for finishing.
Spray Stain and UV curtain coater.
The above method is the most efficient.
My $.02 would consist of the following:
Plaques,trophy bases and such are not high usage items.They are also not color specific so rather than using oak and adding the cost to prep and stain, I would use a wood such as Walnut,Maple,Cherry etc that look good without any stain in order to eliminate a step as well as inventory. A small increase in price on wood can be made up with lower finishing costs.
Secondly, on the finish schedule the volume is far too low to consider production systems like UV and the durability is not warranted. I would set a minimum number of products needed to fill a full work day and then divide that number by your shop rate to figure out what to charge and then only finish them in batches so you are efficient.
As far as the product, any nitrocellulose lacquer will work if you have a booth and 2 coats would be acceptable. If no spray booth I would look at just using a tung oil or similar finish as that would be very quick and easy on small pieces.
If you have access to similar products being produced in the price range you are at, figure out what finishes they use as well and match it.
why not pre-cat ?
agreed that durability is not a major concern ; but pre-cat is no more difficult to use than nitro , no more costly ( I pay more for nitro than pre-cat from my supplier ) , and builds a bit better .
Curtain coater and UV coatings? I used to purchase UV in drums and it was over $45.00 a gallon. I'm sure Josh is a small user and would have to pay through the nose for that. As for the curtain coater, I wonder if mine is still in the back of my garage?
Thanks for all the helpful information everyone. I'm going to be speaking with a local finish supplier tomorrow about products. I've avoided 2 part laquers because we do not have a spray booth and can't afford one right now. I'm currently spraying General Finishes Arm R Seal over their oil based stains. The process is just too labor intensive. I'm doing one coat of wiping stain, then 2/3 coats of Arm R Seal to get a decent finish. If I go with a laquer, should I add a sanding sealer in the mix? I like the idea of a wipe on togue oil type finish, but am afraid the customer wants to keep some color options other than natural wood.
If they do insist on stains, explain to them the process and the need for additional charges and if they agree the extra steps add value to the product then you can increase your rate accordingly.
As to the question from the poster about Pre cat vs NC, If you can do it for the same or less then sure. In my area NC is less expensive than PreCat and has the advantage of burn in without needed to scuff without worrying about recoat windows. But I am not saying it wont work.
If you must stain, use a fast drying NGR or alcohol based stain. The quick dry time allows you to go right to finishing. Have you thought about spraying shellac, since you don;t have a booth it dries very fast so no worries with dust. A coat of wax and then a power buffing and you're good to go.
SW's BAC Wiping Stains can be brush or spray applied, then wiped, and topcoated in a couple of hours. They are terrific but my experience is limited compared to many others here. Arm-R-Seal is a great product but it dries far too slowly and the overspray makes a mess. I'd switch to a waterborne like GF's Enduro Lacquer. It dries quickly, and can be scuff sanded and recoated in about an hour. Cleanup is a breeze.
I'd get away from oak, too. Cherry, walnut, or alder would be far better for ease of finishing.