Attaining a Flat Sheen on Furniture

A flat finish on furniture is challenging, especially in the case of touch-up and repair. Here, the pros supply some advice. January 14, 2008

I spray ML Campbell's lacquer in my finishing shop. I like Campbell's, having for years used Mohawk's. I still do use many of Mohawk's other products. Over the years there has been a constant drift toward an absolutely dead flat sheen on a lot of production furniture. This presents two different problems for me. One is in the touchup/repair area. Even using the Mohawk dead flat toners, there is quite a difference between what I can produce (spot repair) and the surrounding areas on some pieces. The other problem I find is, even using Campbell's Dull lacquer, the sheen is very often much higher than what I'm looking for. My spray booth is by no means a totally dust-free environment, so the final finish almost always requires some rubout. The time tested scratch pattern approach leaves a lot to be desired. Is there a spray lacquer that can approach the (now discontinued) eggshell finish look of McCloskey's varnish?

Forum Responses
(Finishing Forum)
From contributor R:
I would think that having some flattening paste on hand would yield you any sheen you could imagine. The paste itself needs to be agitated in a rather aggressive manner, once it's been added to your coating; be advised to keep that mixture agitated as well.

From contributor J:
Valspar goes down to a 10 sheen in many of their topcoat products. This is as low as I've seen off the shelf products go without having to add additional flatting paste. I think Campbell's Dull is a 5 or 20 sheen.

From the original questioner:
Thanks for the input. I've tried flattening paste with limited results. Perhaps continual agitation will help my results. It's something I'll try again. If I'm not mistaken, Campbell's Dull lacquer (122-18) is around an 18 sheen. So Valspar's 10 sheen seems like a good option.

From contributor S:
To the original questioner: I thought you might be able to answer a question I have.

"My spray booth is by no means a totally dust-free environment, so the final finish almost always requires some rubout."

What do you use for the rubout? I am new to spraying NC lacquers, and when spraying these chairs I am working on, will always end up with some over spray on some part of the chair. Sometimes wiping them down with a clean rag won't get rid of all of the overspray.

From contributor D:
Build your topcoats with a gloss. But your final coat should be a very thinned out dead, dead flat. When adding flatting agent, simple stirring is not enough. You should use a paint shaker or a mechanical mixing device. Each granule of flatting must be wetted out by the coating or it will show up as a white dot. Then, you have to strain/filter your mix. As for the overspray on the chairs, the easiest way to deal with that is to lightly sand the overspray with 1200 grit and then steel wool the area with 0000 steel wool. Then, you follow through with a light spray of Mohawk's Superblush aerosol. I do this all week long, day in and day out.

From the original questioner:
Contributor S, I use 0000 steel wool and lube with OZ polish. This does an exceptional job of ridding the work of overspray, unless the overspray is so severe that it requires sanding (seldom if ever). The only time I use anything approaching 600, 1200, or sometimes 1500, is if I get orange peel, or of course, want a glossy sheen. Orange peel gives me fits, especially when I'm looking for a dull/flat sheen.