Matching an Ambered Lacquer with Waterborne

A finisher who usually sticks to waterborne formulas needs help matching the complex amber tones of an existing solvent-based finish. March 13, 2009

First off I've been using WB almost exclusively now for six years. I've got a large job that the kitchen butts up next to some existing cabs that I believe have CV on them, maybe some kind of Lacquer on them. Itís a very tight, yet plush finish which from my solvent days leads me to think its CV. There are also some other cabs in the house which look they have solvent-poly on them. I'm having trouble matching the amber look of the cabs directly next to the kitchen. There's quite a bit of light that comes in to area in PM and it really is playing havoc with matching the color with WB.

So I'm thinking of going with a solvent system with some added color, close to the existing cabs yet a little lighter and let them amber naturally. The owner is good with this. So any suggestions would be welcomed. I've used lots of SW CV in the past and it doesn't amber anything close to what this cab has. I'd also be open to a good lacquer thatís durable for a kitchen app.

Forum Responses
(Finishing Forum)
From contributor A:
Get some de-waxed orange shellac, spray out a sample, scuff sand, and spray your favorite waterborne over it. You can match many amberís with orange shellac. In the old days, you could get blonde shellac, a bleached version of the orange, for a lighter tint. Be sure to check for adhesion with your waterborne.

From contributor W:
Target Coatings makes several waterbornes that will match the solvent-cv look you are trying to match. Two products come to mind, their EM8000cv and the new EM2000wvx. Both turn a warm abler color as they age and have very plush feel to them under the hand but with good burn-in. These are not your typical water-white WB's. They are hybrids and have alkyd-oils in them but meet the ultra-low VOC standards for LEED certifications.

From the original questioner:
Thanks for the responses. I've used EM8000cv in the past and it doesn't turn this shade of amber. These cabs are very orange with subtleties of yellow and brown yet still very clear - a classic solvent amber. I've been making samples using transtints (honey amber, golden brown, dark vintage) and some GF orange dyes. I also messed with Lockwoods to no avail. This client is super picky. When I hit a sample on the nose color wise she rejected it because by staining it (spray and wipe) the grain in the quarted ash veneer was highlighted some. Not much at all, but she wants an exact copy of what she has. Thatís why I'm considering a solvent solution. It seems as though most of the fast drying I've looked at (San Diego) are all water white. I'm going out to get some orange shellac and bust out some more samples.

From contributor D:
I would have to agree with contributor Aís suggestion and try to match the amber with orange shellac and finish with the waterborne system you are comfortable with. If this client is as picky as you say, I would recommend sticking with your strength, waterborne! As far as working with the shellac, I usually thin 3:1 with a good quality alcohol and spray thin coats until I have achieved the desired color. It's always easier to add color then it is to take color away!!

From the original questioner:
Ok, the shellac was a great idea. Two light coats #1 orange 3lb cut, with a small amount of brown mahogany transtint added, then two thin gloss coats (GF urethane WB), final gloss coat with orange dye add. It's dead on for the solvent finish, just a pinch lighter. Am I right to assume the shellac will amber up as it is exposed to light? I've searched the knowledge base and couldn't find an answer.

Also since this is a large job could anybody recommend a brand/source for dewaxed shellac flakes. I used Rockler for the samples and a local supplier has Liberon.

From contributor A:
Both Rockler and Liberon are reliable suppliers who sell quality products. I would trust either of them. Just be sure your waterborne has good adhesion to the shellac. Yes, shellac is not uv stable, so it will darken with age. Ultimately, over the decades, it will turn black. Most waterbornes have some uv filtering, so this process may be retarded somewhat.

From contributor A:
One more thing - since your customer is finicky, you would be well advised to make a sample and have her approve it by signing and dating it with a felt tipped pen.

From contributor B:
If youíre looking for an amber look, Fuhr waterborne has a product (255 Urethane) that ambers over time

From the original questioner:
Ok, here's where I'm at. I ran out of shellac flakes so I got some zinsser amber so I could keep making samples. I'll have to do this on some really big panels and doors. So this has to be a fool proof method. The color is comparable but is doesn't dry as fast (with a heat gun) as mixed shellac. On the zinsser can they say not to use as a sealer under polyurethane. I'm using it as toner but effectively a sealer. I'll be finishing with WB urethane, any feedback on the zinsser would be appreciated (as it is plentiful and convenient).

I've also gone back and tried Trans-T WB dyes, spraying lightly with no wiping with good results - topping with shellac and just WB. The ones with shellac seem to have a little more pop to them. I'm also considering sealing either the wb dyes or shellac with lacquer or poly that ambers and then topcoating with WB.

From contributor W:
Be careful with the Zinsser shellac underneath the WB. It may crack or craze if applied to heavily. I have seen this effect underneath other high pH WB's. This refers to the Zinsser SealCoat product. Other Zinsser shellacs may be ok but there can be adhesion problems (which is why they make the statement "not to use underneath poly'sĒ on their instructions).

If the TransTint Dye is creating the color tone you are looking for I suggest that you use this color in a reduced version of your chosen WB topcoat. Make a washcoat of the WB by thinning it 50:50 with water. Add your TransTint Dye and use it as the toning stage. I do this with Target WB Lacquer and it works great. This step may save you headaches with the shellac unless you can get pure flake and make your own.

From contributor C:
Using the Zinsser shouldn't be a problem. I've used it in a pinch many times. One thing to be aware of; Shellac does not age well once mixed, all Zinsser products are date stamped, find a dealer who either can order you a fresh supply or has steady supply turn over. This may have been the reason your samples dried slow.