Knocking down conversion varnish sheen

What's the best method to dull down a finished-and-installed kitchen? March 23, 2002

I finished a kitchen (96 lineal feet total) with a high gloss CV. It's been a while, and the customer doesn't like the high gloss anymore. He would like the cabinets to have a 60 sheen and I don't want to re-coat. Would it be okay to get a 60 sheen with 1000 or 2000 sandpaper?

Forum Responses
Take a look at Micro-Mesh to reduce the sheen.

From contributor W:
I'm afraid there's no good, quick answer here. Because you sprayed on a CV, you're going to have to scuff the surface pretty well before you put anything else on top, so this chunk of work is inevitable. (Also, if the kitchen has been in use, there's probably some sort of film layer on the cabinets from cooking). Trying to get a consistent sheen on about 250 square feet of fronts and panel ends will be a difficult task, especially if they are frame and panel, and you run the risk of burning through the top layer and exposing witness lines.

You might want to consider scrubbing the fronts with Scotchbrite, then using a topcoat of water base at 60 sheen applied with a foam brush. You can do this on site, with minimal discomfort and disruption for the clients, and the CV should be hard enough to stand up under the water base. The alternative is to pull the fronts, take them back to the shop, and re-coat with CV. Of course, whatever you do, you should test the system first using your actual materials.

Naturally, since the client approved the original finish, you should be well compensated for this work.

The above is right. If it had been lac, top coating in place could have been done. But CV requires a different approach. On certain CV's, I have shot precat on top and gotten good results. I think you're going to have to try something on a door to see how it would go regardless of which technique you do.

From contributor W:

One other thing that I thought of: In our shop we use a product called Abralon to rub out finishes; it's made by Mirka. Basically, it's a mesh abrasive mounted on a 1/4" thick foam pad with an H&L backing, engineered to run on random orbit sanders, and it comes in 1000, 2000 and 4000 grits, among others. If your front profiles allow it, you might be able to wet sand with, say, the 2000 grit to get a consistent sheen, and the foam backing should help avoid burn-through. The work could go pretty fast this way. If you need to sand on-site with an electric random orbit, make sure you use a ground fault interrupt circuit.

How many coats are on your cabinets now? I don't see a problem with recoating. Just wash the doors down with some VM&P and give them a good sand, then topcoat with the 60 sheen. You may want to add a drop or two of a silicone flow just in case.

I have been in your shoes on a job like this. The labor to rub out is going to kill you unless the customer is paying by the hour. One thing to remember is that a rub job on cabinets does not look good for very long, unless these people just look at the kitchen. One thing to watch is the DFT of the coating - just keep it in spec with the product used.

Bob Niemeyer, forum technical advisor

From contributor D:
Rubbing out to anything other than high gloss with rubbing compound and a buffer is trouble. Anything less and you almost always see the scratches. Bob's advice is the way to go: clean them up with the naptha, scuff them with a red Scotchbrite or better yet a 220 grit sanding sponge and re-shoot with semi-gloss (60 sheen). You'll be miles ahead with this procedure and don't forget to make the charge for this rework painful enough for the homeowner so that they don't screw up the next time.

Bob asked how many coats you have on the cabinet for a reason. When using CV, the max mil's is 3 to 3 1/2 dry or the product will crack.

Scuffing and re-coating would be best. For what it's worth, you need to make the final topcoat a 50 sheen if you're looking for a 60 sheen on top of the full gloss CV.

When you suggest sanding and re-coating, is there no concern about lifting? This has always been a concern when re-coating a CV.

From contributor D:
Not after this period of drying. The re-coat window should have long passed if these cabinets have been in service for over a month. All cross-linking should be complete by now.

CV will mechanically bond to a properly sanded and prepared surface. Even if the surface is completely cured. The CV we use has a recommended total dry film thickness of 5 mils.

From the original questioner:
This kitchen is about 4 months old, with frameless cabinets, crown moldings and light rail for the uppers. Everything is cherry. I installed it myself, so I know I can take apart every single piece and reinstall. Problem is, it is a lot of work and the money is not there because it was originally an expensive project for the homeowner (40K). This homeowner was introduced to me by a friend, and friendship is playing a role, too.

That's why I like the idea to use Abralon and do some of the work onsite (like tall cabs and the island). I am going to make a sample on a door and see if the results are satisfactory to me, not the homeowner, because I am a perfectionist.

Bob's idea was my first thought - scrub and re-coat, but the problem is the tall cabs and the island and re-coating them on site. I used a SW catalyzed varnish and my guess is that it was about 4 mil wet, so there shouldn't be any problem with scrubbing and re-coating. It just would be awesome if the 2000/4000 grit does the trick.

Finally, the homeowner wants to feature his kitchen in a magazine and I think pride (for me) has more value than money.

From contributor D:
You've got a fighting chance with the Abralon, since the finish is completely hardened. Use a spray bottle with slightly soapy water. A couple of drops of Dawn per quart is sufficient. Spray a very fine mist on the parts in question. Make sure you're using a GFI if you're using an electric sander and use the 6" Abralon with a 5" pad (this is important!). This gives you a cushion in corners and on profiles so that you don't have a sharp edge. Run the sander at maximum rpm to try to cover your scratch pattern. After each section, take the Abralon off the sander and wash it out. The stuff cleans easily so this is no big deal. It will keep the Abralon from loading and maintain a uniform cut. The key with Abralon is hard paint (which you've got) and a good pattern on your random orbit sander.

I have sprayed many a cabinet in the house after they move in. Just some masking and creative plastic work and you will be fine. Do the island first and then cover it up with some furn pads, then do the tall cabinets. The mess is minimal.

Bob Niemeyer, forum technical advisor

Take off all the doors and do them in your shop. You may have to spray some cabinet sides onsite, but like Bob says, use a lot of plastic. (You don't want to get CV overspray on anything. Trust me on this and never mind how I know.)

From contributor D:
I was so interested in this problem that I got out a shelf I had built extra for a bookcase and tried the Abralon approach on it. Here's the deal. You will probably not be happy with the results produced by the Abralon, as you can still see swirl marks even after the P4000 is used. But, if after using the Abralon you come back with 0000 steel wool and wool wax by hand, you can get an acceptable finish, but one that is - in my opinion - too smooth. The advantage of using the Abralon prior to the hand steel wool is that it does most of the work. Also, the hand steel wooling goes very fast, since all youíre going for is the scratch pattern and not trying to level anything as the Abralon has already done that for you.

Hereís the problem. The finish you produce this way is extremely smooth. Whatís wrong with that is that an off the gun satin finish is actually not smooth. It has some surface texture to it and Iím not talking about orange peel. I mean the flattening agent has actually put a texture to the film. This is missing with the polishing approach. The finish will be satin but youíll get perfect reflections off of it, which bother me. It will not look like an off the gun satin finish. If you paste wax after the steel wool, or use paste wax with the steel wool, youíll conceal the scratch marks left by the steel wool, which is good. In closing I prefer the off the gun satin finish, but itís possible to get satin with the Abralon and the steel wool, but I donít like the reflections. Iíd re-shoot the cabinets myself.