Water-based lacquer for small shops

      Things small shops should consider when switching to water-based lacquers. 1998.

I am a one-man shop in a two-car garage in my home. I don't have a special room for finishing and need a fast-drying, HVLP sprayable finish that is non-toxic. Water-based lacquer seems to be the answer but I'm having a hard time finding a finish that looks good and is as durable as solvent-based finishes. Can you make any suggestions?

You have two challenges ahead. Durability and flow out. Most water bases are thicker than solvents, so they take an HVLP system that can put out enough pressure to atomize them well. I look for at least 12 psi at the nozzle on HVLP systems. This seems to help most of the coatings flow out smoothly. Pay attention to the viscosity of the coating as you spray and try thinning it out until the product flows out well but doesn't run off the parts. Durability is another tough issue to address. Most waterbases are at least as tough as an uncatalyzed lacquer, but I have yet to find a waterbase that can pass all the KCMA and ANSI tests without adding a crosslinker (catalyst). The crosslinkers are not geared for small shop use at this time, but making them more user friendly is on every paint manufacturer's list of goals. As to suggestions, I would open that to the forum of WOODWEB for all to comment on. I have recently sprayed an ICA waterbase through a conventional air system and was very pleased with its flow out, but I have not seen the testing on KCMA yet.

Rick Hill is an independent representative and consultant for industrial wood finishes. He has been involved in the woodworking industry for 12 years, and has been known to actually hold, shoot, and clean a spray gun.

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