Glazing Advice for a High-Volume Shop

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Pros give tips on formulating glazes, simplifying the process, and pacing the work. March 18, 2005

I am applying a black glaze, made by mixing Sherwin Williams black stain concentrate with Sherwin Williams natural glaze base, on maple. I stained, sealed and applied one of two CV topcoats. The glaze goes on fine, but wipes off horribly. Its workability seems dismal. It smears and causes incredible blotchiness, and when smears are wiped off, it dissolves the previous layer of glaze leaving lighter marks. Iím looking for suggestions on applying and removing glaze to leave a relatively clean appearance.

Forum Responses
(Finishing Forum)
From contributor A:
I donít understand the problems that many posters have with glazes or glazing. A glaze is a heavy bodied stain that can be the same color as your initial stain, or it can be mixed in a darker shade to produce a contrasting color. It can be sprayed on and worked with a brush or a rag; it can be applied with a rag and then worked with a brush or it can be applied with a rag and worked with a rag.

I donít think that finishers having a problem with glazes or glazing have an issue with the application but they have an issue with what the glaze is made from. Why buy store bought stuff when you can mix your own? Try this:

1. get a quart of paint thinner
2. pour it into a gallon can
3. secure a stir stick and a table spoon and a quart of Burnt Umber UTC
4. open the can of UTC with a can opener
5. with tablespoon in hand, dip it into the can of UTC and scoop out the equivalent of a tablespoon of color
6. pour this into the can of paint thinner and stir like hell

7. repeat step five and six ten times
8. add two tablespoons of the secret ingredient and repeat step six.

Most of the problems encountered when glazing are because the glaze dries too soon. Most store bought glaze mediums are formulated with solvents that dry too fast. Solvents like Acetone or Naphtha or MEK all have their place in the shop, but in my opinion they donít belong in a glaze. Not only do they dry too fast but some of these solvents can actually bite into the sealer coat and if youíre not finished glazing out a particular area, itís too late because itís already dry.

A word of caution about the secret ingredient - too much of it can cause just as much problem as a glaze that dries too fast. The use of this secret ingredient requires that you allow for proper drying time prior to a sealer coat. I have glazed all kinds of wood work in my nearly thirty years of finishing and since I never rush a step in my finishing schedule I find that if I add a little linseed oil to my glaze, itís just what the doctor ordered.

From the original questioner:
Will the homemade glaze have enough body to stick in crevices and edges by simply mixing thinner with UTC? At which step in your finishing schedule do you apply the glaze? I used vinyl sealers and CV topcoats. I glaze after my first topcoat. I used to glaze after a sealer coat, but found that the porosity of the surface was still too high. Even after a topcoat, I still have trouble with veneers. They seem much more porous than the wood.

From contributor A:
If you find that this mixture is not quite bold enough, you have two options. One option is to increase the amount of UTC or decrease the amount of solvent. If I want the glaze to adhere into the recessed areas of carvings I jab at the glaze with the tips of a brush. Another way is to use a hairdryer, set on low. That will coax it to dry. I usually apply a glaze over a sealer coat. I scuff the sealer coat with a Scotch Brite pad because the scuff pattern gives the glaze something to grab onto. Are you scuffing your top coat? My guess is that you arenít. I donít understand what you mean by your last sentence, could you elaborate?

From the original questioner:
I do not scuff the topcoat because when I do the dark glazes highlight the scratches and give it an appearance I do not like. I find that veneers take the glaze much differently than the wood. The glaze falls into chips and porous areas in the veneer giving it a dirty appearance. This is most severe with knotty maple veneers.

From contributor B:
Excuse my ignorance, but what is UTC?

From contributor C:
I was beginning to think I was the only finisher left who wasn't using magical mystical glaze or whatever that stuff is that everyone is raving about. I also like using a Bob Ross glazing brush when I have to blend my glaze just right. I know about badger hair blending brushes, I have 3 of them. The Bob Ross brush works better and only cost $16. I also like using artist oil colors as a glaze with precat lacquer. For CV I would put them between coats of vinyl sealer though. In using our Makor finish line I developed a powder off glaze that works well for antiquing pieces also. It's just artists pre-mixed black tempera paint. Thin 50% with water, spray over a washcoat of sealer let dry and sand off what you need with a Scotch Brite pad.

From contributor D:
UTC is universal tinting color. Don't throw out the SW yet. Wet it down with MS and it will flow out better. Instead of concentrate, use UTC or Hulls - same difference, better color. To contributor A: Iíve been doing this for as long as you've been a finisher, and it has always done well for me. I sometimes tack between coats with a thinner solution, especially when I'm doing a color match. Doing so allows me to creep up on the color, not over shooting my chance to hit it right on.

To the original questioner: Where are you, that youíre shooting SW, CV? I'm in central CA, and we can't get the stuff, not yet anyway Ė EPA, re-formulations, etc.

From contributor A:
Are you applying a dark glaze over a white base coat color? If so, you can do one of two things to eliminate that. One is to use an extra fine Scotch-Brite pad, not sandpaper, and even out your scuffing process. All youíre trying to do is to lightly apply a scratch pattern to the sealer coat.

The other thing is to try the glaze schedule I laid out for you. If you are having trouble with a glazing process perhaps you could tone in most of the color and then apply a bit of glaze to the carvings. Glazing is a tricky aspect of finishing and itís well worth the extra effort it takes to learn how to do it.

If youíre having trouble with the Sherwin Williams Pre-Cat drying too fast, you could try one of the exempt solvents (retarders) to slow it down. You might look into Oxsol.

From Paul Snyder, technical advisor:
What effect are you trying to get from the glaze? Are you adding a layer of color to the entire surface or just accentuating corners and shapes? Does Sherwin Williams recommend the black stain concentrate to color their glaze base? What problems are you experiencing from the porosity of the sealed wood? How are you applying the glaze and how large of an area are you dealing with?

To increase the open time (working time), adding a slower evaporating solvent like odorless mineral spirits may be an option depending on the effect you want from the glaze.

From contributor E:

When the SW glaze doesn't flow out I use a little P. thinner on a clean rag and use that to move the glaze around until I like the pattern and then I dry brush it for a little more effect in selected areas.

From the original questioner:
We showed a customer a knotty maple door with a light brown stain (sprayed on) with a Van Dyke brown glaze (SW). As I donít prefer the dark glazes to fall into and highlight scuff marks, I have been glazing according to the following procedure:

1. light washcoat (vinyl sealer 1 part to 7 parts acetone)
2. spray Mohawk brand wiping stain diluted 1 part to 5 parts xylene - 5 layers to achieve desired color
3. vinyl sealer full strength
4. sand smooth
5. CV topcoat
6. dry at least 6 hours
7. glaze
8. dry at least 6 hours
9. CV topcoat.

I realize I may be asking for trouble not scuffing between topcoats, but I do not know how to eliminate pronounced scuff marks otherwise.

The customer liked the sample door, but wanted clear maple with same stain and black glaze. As Sherwin Williams doesnít provide a premixed black glaze, I was forced to make my own. I mixed my own from SW glaze base and black stain concentrate.

We then provided the customer a small sample of wood following the procedure. The sample took on a different overall appearance because it was clear, not knotty maple with black not brown glaze. The customer liked it. I am not necessarily looking to change the overall color of the wood with the glaze, but it seems to be an inevitable by-product of applying it to crevices and corners.

The problem is in the workability of the glaze - small samples are fine, but large doors, panels and cabinets prove to be incredibly difficult to work.

The bottom line is that I need to identify an easier, quicker way to do this glazing on the large jobs, 150 doors and drawer fronts, 40 cabinets, 150 feet of crown, etc. Not to mention the risk of having some sort of adhesion failure on these finishes. What are some production suggestions you might have experienced or recommend?

To give you a brief outline of my finishing background - I have only been doing finishing for a woodworking cabinet shop for about 1 year. I think I have become proficient in handling the HVLP gun and applying nice smooth consistent topcoats, and am quickly becoming good at spray stains and dyes, although maintaining complete color consistency between doors and drawer front, face frames, and accessories still needs some improvement. I am also good at the wipe on/off stains on the less problematic woods like alder, oak, hickory, etc. The more advanced finishes I am just learning, and unfortunately I donít have any one to teach me on the job, only from reading about it do I get an idea of how to approach the problems.

From contributor D:
Sounds like you have too much stuff going on there. Start over. What color are you going for? Describe it, and maybe we can knock off a bunch of steps. Read the previous post and tell me you don't get the sense that everyone is telling you to thin the glaze, and not use the concentrate. Have you ever tried to use or wipe concentrate on something, either wetted down or by itself? It dries fast - think about it. With as much ground as you are going to cover youíre going to need to thin the glaze, and youíre also going to need a helper, maybe two - an applicator and someone behind him/her, wiping. Do not trade places or shift people around when it comes to applying glaze. It will show up in the final product. A maroon pad will not leave scuff marks, but will leave just enough abrasion to grab the glaze. Try it and I think you'll agree it beats the snot out of sanding. I think a toner will also reduce some of the effort youíre putting into trying to stain everything to color. You have a monster job and it needs to be knocked down to a simpler equation. As I said, start over. What color do you want? Or stay with what youíre doing, but thin your glaze by any method mentioned here.

From Paul Snyder, technical advisor:
I agree with contributor D - you'll be a lot better off starting from scratch and getting your finish in fewer steps with fewer incompatibilities. Some glaring concerns are the 5 applications of wiping stain and using CV directly over glaze.

You can cut a lot of steps out of your finish which will make it much faster to apply and a lot more likely to reproduce the same color on all the surfaces.

From contributor F:
Sometimes youíre better off not following directions on a can. I mix my own glazes most of the time. I'm concerned that youíre not scuffing prior to glazing especially after applying five sprayed layers of a wiping stain which is sealed with vinyl sealer. This schedule is creating two separate layers that have nothing for the coatings to grab a hold of to promote adhesion. Contributor D mentioned maroon Scotch Brite pads - this is the way to go - just be sure that you always scuff with the grain. Lastly, Sherwin Williams does make a black glaze in concentrate and non-concentrate formulas. Obtain their product line book which gives you their inventory of all products available and sometimes you'll have to order specialty items or things that the store doesn't usually sell in quantity.

From contributor D:
Sherwin Williams carries Hulls and I believe UTC. Mixed with their clear glaze and thinned to a consistency you can work with, it is easy to apply. I'm an old timer too, 38 years and I make my glazes as well, but like all of us artists, I do what I feel is appropriate for the moment. To the original questioner: At this moment, I don't think that glazing is your biggest issue. If you decide to change your finish schedule (highly recommended), you may find glazing to be nothing more than another step to achieve a finished look. It is not all that difficult if you look at glazing as merely an enhancement as opposed to trying to make a color shift with it. And by the way, you never got around to telling me where youíre from, that you are still using CV from Sherwin Williams.

Another thought - I purchase directly from the main distribution center in our area (Sherwin Williams). They do not always have what is available on the shelves, nor do they always have the same stuff at the satellites as they would at the distribution center, you have to ask for what you want. If need be, take advantage of the services they provide - mixing color, for example, until you gather the ability to do it yourself. Big jobs are hard to eat, and eating the wrong one could easily put you out of a job.

From contributor C:
I think spraying on a dye stain as opposed to a washcoat and 5 layers of wiping stain would be easier, faster and look better. Then do a full seal coat, scuff with a Scotch Brite pad and do your glazing.

From the original questioner:
When I say 5 layers of spraying wiping stain, I mean that I am making 5 passes to get the desired color depth. If you are only making one pass at the appropriate dilution of dye stain, do you have a problem with stripes due to an inconsistent application density? By making several passes in varying directions I am able to get a uniform color. What brand dye stains do you spray, and what do you dilute them in?

Question for all: What is an ideal finishing schedule that involves glaze, specifically for vinyl sealers and CV topcoats?

From contributor C:
I use Lockwood water based aniline dye. On the raw wood I find that if I am spraying with a high quality, gun adjusted properly, I don't get any stripes. The only problem is inside of cabinet boxes when they must be finished and then I spray the dye on so that it puddles a little and wipe off with a rag. Inside the cabinet a little blotchiness isn't noticed if the doors and drawers are even. I use water based dyes because I'm a tightwad and they're cheap, however NGR alcohol based dyes will do the same thing. Mohawk, Sherwin Williams, Chemcraft and many others make them. When I am spraying the dye stain I also spray in several different directions.

From Paul Snyder, technical advisor:
Is the wiping stain you're using a dye, or is it a pigmented wiping stain? It's okay to spray dye without wiping because it doesn't have a binder in it, but 5 passes is a lot of spraying. Spraying a wiping stain (pigmented) without wiping is a problem because the stain sits on the surface of the wood (especially since you partially sealed the wood with a washcoat) and the binder in the stain is too weak to ensure good adhesion.

Mohawk has a line of dyes, called Ultra Penetrating Stains, that are metallized acid dyes and are as resistant to fading as dyes get. You can reduce these dyes to get lighter shades as well as intermix them for custom colors.

To get a light to medium color on maple, that's even (not blotchy), there are a few approaches you can take:

1. Spray and don't wipe a dye to get 100% of the color (can be difficult, especially in corners).

2. Spray dye to get 50% of the color and then follow with a wiping stain to get the rest of the color.

3. Dilute a wiping stain with the stain base and use to get 50% of the color and then get the rest of the color with a toner.

With the goal of getting an even, light to medium color, with the fewest steps possible that includes a glazing step, here's a schedule that I would use with CV:

1. Dilute a wiping stain with the stain base until the color is about 50%+ of the final color. Spray and wipe. Use a stain that doesn't cause bad blotching.

2. Once dry, seal the stain with a coat of vinyl sealer (catalyzed for use with CV). Let dry and sand smooth. I like sanding sponges for scuff sanding. Follow with Scotch Brite if scratches are a problem.

3. Apply the glaze and work it to get the desired effect. For speed and ease, spray glaze is a really good choice when you just want to highlight the corners and recesses.

4. If you use a long oil glaze, seal it with a coat of vinyl sealer. The very slow curing oil needs to be sealed in with vinyl sealer. Some glazes, like Chemcraft, use a urethane binder instead of oil and you can topcoat with CV directly over the glaze once it dries. Let the sealer dry and sand smooth.

5. Thin some of your catalyzed vinyl sealer to reduce the solids content. Add some dye to it and spray this toner to get the rest of the color you want.

6. Topcoat with a couple coats of CV, scuff sanding between coats.

Some key points in the schedule are:

* Get the color you want in the fewest steps possible to make the color easy to repeat and keep production up.

* If you use a long oil glaze, sandwich it between coats of vinyl sealer.

* If you use vinyl sealer with CV, make sure you use a catalyzed sealer to avoid wrinkling.

From the original questioner:
To Paul Snyder: I mentioned my glazing finishing schedule to my Sherwin rep, and he didnít have a problem with it. Is there a chemical incompatibility between the CV topcoat and the SW glaze? I have noticed issues with spraying CV directly over the glaze, even after many hours of drying time. The CV feels rough and I have noticed some wrinkling.

If I seal the wood with a catalyzed vinyl sealer and then glaze over that, I notice that the wood is not sealed as well as if I topcoat it with CV and then glaze. With simply sealing, the glaze catches in the end grain and tearout machined sections, however this is minimized after topcoating. Is this just something I will have to live with or are there ways to work around this issue?

From Paul Snyder, technical advisor:
I understand your problem with the end grain. What I'd do is sand the end grain to 220 before staining to help cut back on it sucking up the finish. Then I'd sand the first coat of sealer back fairly aggressively, without cutting through, and spray a second coat of sealer. I'd sand the second coat pretty aggressively also to help level it out. Tear out is another problem altogether. It'd be nice to have a drum sander but that may not be an option. Filler is one possibility.

The problem with the glaze is that the oil starts to cross-link and then the solvent in the CV partially dissolves it. Because of the cross-linking, it doesn't actually dissolve but just swells up and wrinkles. Sandwiching the glaze in vinyl sealer prevents the problem.

From contributor D:
You can also load up the end grain with sealer. Do as Paul suggested and sand back aggressively and pad the snot out of them to pick up the fuzzies. If I have a stack of drawers for example, I'll go down the line and lay a heavy coat on the ends, then as I spray each one individually I'll load them again.This is about all it takes to get rid of the problem. I had a reason for asking you about the CV and the area you were in. The reason is that we are going through a change in our area with reformulation. Prior to this I have never had a problem with SW glazes and CV top coats. About a month and a half ago I began to experience the problem you are having with wrinkling, so badly that things needed to be stripped and done over. I'm angry in a way, as I feel that crap was dumped on us as a way of getting rid of what ever was left over from the old formula. I know for fact another company did this to us, but made good with new and improved for free. Anyway, back to your issue. The crunchies you asked about may also be caused by too much pigment in either your glaze or your stain. Another reason for burying your color(s) or sandwiching them between sealer is to prevent bleeding of color through the top coat. Believe me, this is very possible. I hired a guy who flat out lied to me on a job and did not do what he was asked. A month later I received a call from the company we did the work for. It seems everyone in the office was getting red dye on their clothes, and the furniture we did was the culprit. Bringing the stuff back for another coat alleviated the problem. Another thing - the formula you were given as a glaze that consisted of nothing more than ms and pigment? It's great stuff and another way of adding color without adding more finish and perhaps overload of finish. It tends to dry clearer than when adding clear glaze. You do not need a lot of pigment to create color adjustments either, and it does work with CV (old formula, anyway). Paul has given you a great schedule and very good advice, so I hope everything works out for you.

From the original questioner:
Thanks for the great advice. We are located in Billings, Montana.

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

Comment from contributor G:
I would be concerned with as many coats applied, that you might be glazing too soon. This can cause the glaze to not wipe off evenly. One coat of vinyl sealer at 3 wet mills should be sufficient. A little bit (1 oz. to a quart) of a clear glaze base added to your original glaze will loosen up the performance without changing the color of the hang up or bead. Finishers have used mineral spirits, but this will cause the glaze to be runny and extend the dry time.

Comment from contributor H:
The info in thread was extremely helpful. Especially helpful were the comments about maroon Scotch Brite pads used for scuffing, thinning the glaze and adding stain. Glaze comes off much easier but stays in the micro scratches created by scuffing. The result is a burnished look that rivals a high end major cabinet manufacturer's look. If you want a very rough hand look this isn't for you. If you want a sophisticated look this is the right thread.