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Finish recommendations for Civilians.12/27
I have a question about finish.
We built this walnut piece about 6 years ago. The finisher on this project used the cheapest nitrocellulose finish he could find. It was basically just one step up above hairspray.
The customer would like to refinish this himself and is looking for recommendations of technology he could handle himself. I told him that a brushed finish would produce a patina that could endure and would be easy to maintain. I wish they would have done something like this in the beginning.
The finish protocol I have in mind resembles one I saw many years ago. The finishers sealed Douglas Fir baseboard and casings with benite then applied a very dark brown stain. They then shot two coats of nitrocellulose on it to produce build. All of the finish at this point was produced in the carport.
After the spray was dry the carpenters chopped and installed it. They used colored crayon putty to fill the nail holes. After this was done the painters back brushed 2 coats of SPAR varnish onto the finish. The critical part was the varnish. It was not a self-leveling kind. Any brush streaks or high spots that were present in the first brush phase were still there after the second brush application. The second coat did not meld with and flatten the first coat.
The final effect was something that looked very very old. It was like what you would expect to see in a lumber baron's house built at the beginning of the last century. It looked like it was in a room that was produced 100 years ago then closed to the public.
I don't think this is ever going to look like a new piece of furniture again. I would like to see it made a little brighter and the walnut to have a little more luster.
Can anybody recommend a brush-able finish that a civilian could apply? Would optimally like to have something that is not "self-leveling". Would like to maintain the "aged" look. Any suggestions?
Does your customer share your vision for how the finish should look? If so, then the widely available Minwax polyurethane applied with a good brush should fit the bill. I would not use a waterbase as that tends to deaden the wood rather than make it come alive. So your customer will need some paint thinner for cleanup as well. I suppose they don't even need to sand between coats if you truly want the rustic look. The poly will be thick enough out of the can to leave the brush marks, and it's formulated to be user friendly. It's extremely durable, available in a variety of sheens and doesn't smell too bad. That's what I would recommend.
That is interesting question about whether or not the customer shares my vision. We are getting ready to build a new kitchen for them in a better neighborhood so I am guessing they do. They sold this house and renting it back for a year so there is time to figure this out.
When we built the job I did not have the talent to photograph it. I have the skills & resources now to do that properly.
I like your idea of the MinWax. That would leave a little residue in the corners which seems to make things more forgiving. I think what I will do is donate a couple guys to go over and do the initial sanding for them to help expedite this.
I have been giving some more thought to your comment about whether or not the customer shares my vision for what the finish should look like.
My company does not provide finish but we do provide a lot of counsel about finish. We always advocate for brush finish work because, for the most part, the work we provide is what you would typically find in a house built from the 1900s to the 1930's. If you were to look at a Model-T truck and it had a paint job on it like a Lexus Automobile your lizard brain would tell you something is wrong with this picture.
The other reasons I advocate for brush work has to do with repairability over time. If you start out with a brushed finish it is easier to break out a brush and repair a blemish. Not sure how you do this with a sprayed finish.
I am hoping someone can weigh in on this and tell me more about the protocol for repair work on spray finish jobs. I have heard of something called a Preval (?) spray process that atomizes paint. How often do you guys that provide spray finish get called upon to tune it up? How do you handle this when it happens?
The customers are moving into a kitchen this weekend that we recently produced. On this one the contractor insisted on sending the cabinets to a pre-finish shop where they painted it with conversion varnish. My understanding is that of all the possible spray finishes CV is the most resilient and durable. Is CV intrinsically robust or is it just the best of the worst?
The job I am speaking of right now is fairly contemporary in design and has white cabinets on the perimeter with two very dark islands in the middle. The space has not yet been occupied but I already see a fair amount of white nicks in the paint on the dark island. I will be photographing the job in a couple of months so will be sure to document what I see when I do that.
Which gets me back to: What is our responsibility to educating customers and helping to define customer expectations?
A lot of times the customer has to rely on "the smartest guy in the room". This is usually the painter or the contractor who vouches for the painter. I think a lot of times what they are selling is expedience. Every part of my DNA expects to see that dark island looking very pretty beat up in short order. Should I take a role in explaining possible outcomes to the customer or should this be strictly up to the contractor?
A painter that I want to work with asked a couple of weeks ago what I would charge to build him three identical sample cabinet doors so he could show the customer what it would look like if he rolled the paint vs spray or brush. Part of the dialogue should also center, I think, on possible sheen. In a lot of Victorian finishes you would expect to see higher gloss millwork.
Partly this exercise is for defining customer expectation but also a useful mechanism to talk about budget priorities.
So how often do you guys that provide finish hear from customer about tuning the finish up? How do you handle this when it happens?
CV is a pretty durable finish. It's not 2k but it is very hard. Did they prime the dark areas with a tinted primer? It sounds like they used a white primer and then went over it with dark paint. This will lead to those white chips you speak of.
The downside of CV is it is harder to touch up. Unlike lacquer or precat it does not melt back into itself, it requires a mechanical bond of the small scratches you put into it when you sand it for touch ups. It can make touch ups a little harder in my experience as you have to sand and shoot the area you sand without going over where you haven't sanded much or that part with time and effort will flake or peal. It takes an experienced hand.
Despite doing the exact opposite of what you do, we spray CV on most of our product. I really like your brushed finish and your reasons for doing so. Ultimately is it the clients and the clients budget that makes the decision. Something I would hazard to guess is that 95% of the new kitchens produced or more are sprayed as this kitchen was so it can be done without too many sleepless nights when you do it. But the brushed finish besides being a good product I bet does some selling and separating of you from the competition.
Downside is you don't make anything off of either one as I understand it. But if you have capped amount of shop hours it does allow you to do that much more woodworking in that time frame in the busy times.
I'm sure DS has further information he can provide on the issue but I've often admired the finish, even tried to implement it on our painted jobs 8-9 years ago, but the clients weren't having it, so hope you don't mind me giving my two cents. They wanted the sprayed look in this area and our pricepoint. Good luck.
I would second the motion for Minwax in Satin. Trying to spray in a kitchen would be a disaster, especially for a home owner.