Fixing a Conversion-Varnish Finish

How to knock down a high-gloss CV finish with orange-peel problems, and refinish in satin. January 13, 2006

I have new fir doors with a conversion varnish finish in high gloss, but the customer wants a satin finish. Is this easy to change? There is debris in the finish, as well as a heavy texture - some have referred to it as orange peel. Can this be sanded and re-sprayed? I know I need to find someone new to complete the finishing, but I want to know the options first.

Forum Responses
(Finishing Forum)
From contributor A:
Itís not a big deal. It's more logistics than anything else. Scuff and spray with duller sheen material. There are some caveats to be aware of. If you sand through a layer you need to spot seal with vinyl sealer or you may get some lifting. The orange peel may be more difficult to deal with. The scuffing will take care of the trash in the finish but will not do a great deal for the orange peel. To get rid of the orange peel you need to sand it out by block sanding, not with the palm of your hand as your sanding block. Sanding for the purposes of scuffing is one thing. Sanding as a subtractive measure to get rid of texture or shape is cumbersome and involves a lot of checking of your progress as you sand. You sand out the high spots so that they are flush with the low spots. Just to be sure you should lay down a thin coat of vinyl sealer over your sanded out surfaces.

On-site spraying means that you are turning a remote location into a temporary finishing room. Take every precaution you can, including masking over all electrical outlets. Do all door and drawer fronts back at your shop. You need to produce an off-the-gun finish that has less trash in it. That's tough to do and that's the challenge when using a conversion varnish since most of them have open times that are too long for my taste (35 minutes is way too long for me).

If by conversion varnish you mean to say that you used an ML Campbell product then the open time for that is maybe 20 minutes before they one flash. I think of their catalyzed products as catalyzed lacquer but the names now are muddled thanks to a supplier industry that does more to confuse than it does to define. Marketing with the English language is the bane of the products we have to use.

From Paul Snyder, forum technical advisor:
Yes, they can be sanded and re-sprayed Steve. Use a sander to level the finish.

From contributor B:

As stated by contributor A and Paul, this problem can be solved with a little sanding. I would also agree with sealing with a coat of vinyl sealer prior to the final finish coat in the appropriate sheen. One thing I would add - when trying to eliminate the orange peel, I would use a wet sanding method using either water and a touch of dish soap or paint thinner as a lubricant. This is standard in the automotive finishing industry. A conversion varnish will not be affected by either material. This method will allow you to use a finer grit of sandpaper without gumming or clogging up. By using a finer grit of sandpaper you are less likely to sand through spots causing more problems.

From contributor C:
It depends on how long the gloss has been on the doors.

The comments below were added after this Forum discussion was archived as a Knowledge Base article (add your comment).

Comment from contributor D:
Here is a simple solution I would recommend. Sand the object in question with a fine grit sandpaper or fine steel wool. Wet sanding is recommended. A complete coat of vinyl sealer should be applied to the entire project rather than spot sealing. Then apply the desired finish, such as matte, satin and etc.