Dispensing Ingredients

Finishers contribute tips for storing, measuring, and pouring out paints, stains, and colorants. January 9, 2007

Does anyone have a good system for removing various quantities of paints, base colorants etc. from metal cans in measured quantities without a lot of waste or a big mess? Down at the local paint store they have an expensive looking automatic tint dispenser. But what tools does a small shop finisher use to do the job of making custom paints or wood stains when it comes to working with several different colors? I don't like to clean paint out of the lid groove, so I don't pour it straight from the can. If I use a ladle, then I have to waste a lot of solvent and rags to clean the ladle before I can dip it into the next color, plus the paint that sticks to the ladle is wasted. Also, what has anyone found to be the best measuring system and tools for keeping track of quantities for finish recipes? I have been eyeing the Pyrex glass stirring rods and beakers used by chemists.

Forum Responses
(Finishing Forum)
From contributor D:
First, regarding the paint groove, an old painter trick is punching holes in the groove with a nail to let paint drain back into the can. Second, to avoid the can completely, I use some HDPE plastic dispensing bottles with a squeeze bottle top (either ketchup style or shampoo bottle style will work). I use these for solvents and paint. You must be sure to use HDPE or LDPE plastic so the solvents don't melt it. The type is usually molded into the bottom of the container. You can recycle plastic bottles, or find suppliers online that sell new bottles and tops.

I have also seen large gallon or 5 gallon sized square containers that sit on their sides with a spigot that can be used to dispense paint without all the mess. Do a search online for plastic bottle suppliers and you can probably find them easily.

Third, home centers sell lids that snap onto gallon paint cans and have a spout with a screw on cap. These are great for pouring paint without a mess, and you only have to clean them once - after the paint can is empty.

I'd like to hear more ideas from other people too, as I'm always trying to be more efficient by using less paint and solvent.

From contributor G:
The definitive answer kind of requires knowing what you are mixing, how much of it you do, and if you are formulating or remaking an existing formula. Lacquers, wipe stains, spray stains, Microton, 844s, dyes, et al benefit from different systems.

I like graduated beakers for accurate volume measurements. I wouldn't use glass stir rods, though. I use non-waxed paper cups to dip from gallons. Cleaning the groove in the paint can is easy with the corner of a 2" square piece of cardboard.

We mix and/or match over 100+ formulas a week. Could not function without a dispenser. We still use a digital gram scale to measure out dye concentrates, but this simply would not be cost effective in our situation for pigments. The dispensers are fast, accurate and repeatable. Most dispensers are accurate to at least 1/96th of an ounce, several will dispense a minimum of 1/256 of an ounce. Our database on color formulations goes back 8 years. Many colors are production colors that have to match control samples. We usually mix these in 30-50 gallon batches.

I guess the question arises as to what justifies the purchase of one of these machines. If your business is based on custom matching colors, I would say that the labor you save on doing 3-4 matches a week would probably make this purchase a consideration. In the long run, the amount of time you can save in color development is considerable. Since these machines are fast and accurate, you don't lose your flow or train of thought when you are doing a match. You know exactly what your formula is, adding a little of this or that is no big thing. In the end, simply add up your final numbers and you are done.

Choosing a Scale for Color Mixing
Messy Mixing
Measuring Thinners and Catalysts

From the original questioner:
Your replies are much appreciated. Thanks for the tip on identification of plastic types on bottles. My only concern is that the products do not dry out during long storage. If I seat the metal can lids with a hammer, the paints last a long time. The gallon can lids with spouts sound great too. I'll see if I can find some.

Here is what I mainly use in my shop. I have about fifteen different colors of Mohawk base concentrate for pigmented wiping stains that I buy in quart cans. The concentrate is added to Mohawk solvent to make the stain. These are the biggest hassle for me as far as waste and clean up. I tried keeping smaller amounts in small glass jars with lids, but it skinned over and dried out. I also use Mohawk super penetrating dye stain and its retarders and reducers. The other main finishing products I use are pre-cat lacquer, vinyl sanding sealer and lacquer thinner. I don't have much trouble with the lacquer products. The dye stain really isn't much trouble either. Mainly the wiping stain base colorants are time consuming, wasteful and messy to use. I don't mix stain often enough to make a commercial dispenser pay off. I like the idea of graduated beakers for measuring. I would say I have to mix stain about 15 to 25 times a year. I am looking for small shop solutions.

From contributor R:
Lately I noticed that Cosco and even Albertsons carry Mayonnaise and Ketchup in these great plastic squeeze containers. What's cool about them is that you can stand 'em up so all you have to do is pop open the cap and squeeze out what you need and then snap the cap closed. They're built sort of narrow, so you won't have that much air in them so as to have the base colorants dry out.

For measuring purposes, you can't beat the heavy Pyrex doodads. If you don't like the glass ones, you can get the plastic ones and they're pretty impervious to the solvents we use.

I too am disappointed in the packaging that most of our products come in, but maybe the manufacturers want a lot of our products to dry out so we have to buy more and more. What really burns me up is the solvent based putties. I can't get any of the guys I work with to clean out the channel of dried out putty so the top fits air tight.

From the original questioner:
A tip I can pass on is about acetone and putty. No matter how hard the putty gets, a teaspoon of acetone makes the viscosity like a fresh can.

From contributor F:
Thanks for bringing these questions up - I've scratched my "follicly challenged" head over these and others for years. I've had good luck with an assortment of glass Pyrex measuring cups as mentioned above. I can't find a really good small one for measuring quantities like 1 or 2 ounces oz. I've been using those little cups that come on the kid's cough medicine.

Is there a pump type dispenser for five gallon lacquer thinner pails? I've seen them for the 55's, but not the 5's. I hate tipping the whole thing over for a couple of ounces of thinner. I snagged my wife's big plastic soup ladle out of the kitchen a while back to dip lacquer into the quart spray gun cups. It works great and keeps me from getting lacquer all over the side of the cup. She's mad because I won't give it back.

From contributor W:
I believe that LSS.com carries a pump dispenser for five gallon solvents. They also have all sorts of plastic containers, beakers, and what not. They sell laboratory supplies. I recently purchased a dispenser from an automotive paint supplier that locks onto a gallon can. It has a handle with a thumb latch that opens a springloaded spout kinda like a syrup dispenser and it has a built in agitator. I imagine you can just transfer it to the new gallon when your current gallon is empty without even cleaning it. They cost about twenty dollars each and are available for quart cans also.

From contributor K:
I transfer solvent based putty to round Rubbermaid containers with the snap lock. Works great, never had a leak or meltdown. Because the plastic flexes, it's easy to keep the lid clean.

From contributor M:
I wash out the Mohawk 1 gallon plastic jugs that their Ultra Pen stains come in and fill these with lacquer thinner from my 55 gallon drum. It's much easier to pour small amounts from the plastic 1 gallon jug than from a 5.

From contributor D:
I think the answer to your problems in general is to mix and divide your stains/lacquers into smaller, full containers. Keeping full containers on the shelf will prevent air from ruining your expensive material longer, and the smaller containers will be easier to work with when pouring, especially if they have a spout of some sort.

Another tip to pass on for longer storage is the Bloxygen product. This is an inert gas, (Argon, Nitrogen, and CO2 I think) that is heavier than air and displaces the oxygen in your container. This is how manufacturers seal their cans at the factory for long term shelf storage.

You just squirt a shot of Bloxygen into your container before you seal it and it lasts a lot longer. It's perfect for small shops to preserve their expensive paints as long as possible. It's about $8.95 a can that seals about 75 quarts. I think places like Klingspor, Lee Valley, Rockler, etc. are carrying this product now.

From the original questioner:
Thanks again to everyone for the great responses. It came to me that the idea of storing paint in the new generation of catsup and mustard plastic squeeze bottles that rest on their tops instead of their bottoms seems to have a great side benefit. Traditional containers that have the openings up while stored will skin over on the working side of the container. The top resting bottles will have the air (or Bloxygen) towards the last of the product instead of the beginning.

From contributor D:
That's an interesting thought worth exploring, however a couple concerns come to mind: again, watch out for the type of plastic - you want HDPE or LDPE so it won't melt. It'll be stamped on the bottom of the bottle. Some food bottles are PET or PETE, which is cheaper and will probably melt with our solvents.

Also, the valves in the nozzles of some caps are designed for higher viscosity product, like ketchup or mustard, etc. You may have problems with leakage with thinner solvents or stains. (Just my guess, I haven't tried it.) But you raise a good point about the advantages of storing the paint products upside down! Let us know your results if you try this, and what brand of condiment bottles work best.

From the original questioner:
Yes, I knew that really loose liquids like stains would not work in the new type bottles. Those really aren't a problem for me anyway. It's the base colorants which have the consistency of thick paint that give me the mess and waste problem. You never know, it might work with the thick paint in the upside down bottles. It is a risk that it might work in winter and then ooze out in the higher temperatures of summer, too.

From contributor T:
If you need just a little stain to make a sample, a turkey baster works pretty good. It doesn't make a mess and I flush it out with a little lacquer thinner. I also suffer from the same problems as you. I use a plastic baster, but I guess a glass one would be better. It just helps to get enough stain out so I can pour it without making a total mess. You'll be surprised how quick you can suck out a cup of stain.