I can't figure out how to mix lacquer and reducer without making a complete mess! How do you pour from 1 gallon cans, both round and rectangular, without having the stuff splash all over the place?
First off, you need funnels, one or two 5 gallon rectangular plastic containers with interchangeable spigots and caps, measuring cups and the red press-on Shurline 1 gallon paint can collars you can buy at Lowe's or the Home Depot. Additionally, The Squirrel Mixer in the one gallon size and a 500 RMP 1/2" air drill is required. Buy a bag of 1 gallon oblong cans like are used for lacquer thinner (60 come in a bag), but with the 1 3/4" cap closures, along with the appropriate caps. You also need Eagle metal gasoline can screw-on spigots, which are obtainable at Ace Hardware.
Once you've acquired all of this stuff, here's how you use it. If you are using 1 gallon lacquer cans, open these and put the red Shurline collar on the can. Then take your Squirrel Mixer and low-speed air drill and mix up the lacquer, until you have all of the flattening agent mixed into the lacquer. With the Squirrel Mixer, about a minute is all you need to get this done. Wear a mask during this entire process.
Then take a funnel, into which you have placed a strainer cone, and pour the lacquer out of the gallon can through the funnel into the large rectangular plastic container. Pour four gallons into the container, following the above steps. Then add the appropriate amount of thinner. I use 20 ounces of thinner per gallon of lacquer, as here in Arizona we need to use low VOC lacquer. If you're using the thicker, old-style lacquer, you can only do two to three gallons at a time, since you need the room in the large rectangular plastic container for the additional thinner. After adding thinner, place the cap on the large rectangular plastic container and, while holding the large rectangular plastic container, do a hula dance mixing up the lacquer and thinner thoroughly.
Then replace the cap on the large rectangular plastic container with a spigot and, making sure that the spigot is in the off position, turn the large rectangular plastic container on its side, so that the spigot hangs off the end of a table. Placing a funnel containing a strainer cone into one of your oblong gallon cans, turn on your spigot and fill your gallon cans with premixed lacquer, being careful not to overfill. It helps greatly to open the little vent that comes on the large rectangular plastic container during this process. I find it helps to only fill the cans about 3/4 full.
From here, you have two options. First, if you have followed my advice for filling the cans only 3/4 full, you can pour directly from the cans into your spray guns without spilling a drop. If you've filled your cans to the top, you can attach your Eagle gas can spigot directly to the 1 3/4" threaded portion of your 1 gallon oblong cans and pour from the spigot into your spray guns. You need to burp the can when using the spigot, by squeezing it while pouring.
You will now have a lot of pre-thinned lacquer in nice clean 1 gallon oblong cans, which store much tighter than the round ones, and you will not have to worry about the lids blowing off of the round ones when it reaches 118 in your shop during a Phoenix summer. When your oblong cans are emptied, you simply refill them by repeating the above process.
It sounds like you are using one-gallon cans a lot. Before opening a new gallon can, black lacquer for example, allow it to sit upside-down for an hour or even overnight. This allows the solids to loosen up and makes them easier to mix with a paint paddle or stick of wood.
When the can is full, I find it impossible to poor from without spilling. Get some small Dixie paper cups and dip the material out of the can. Works great when you are using a quart cup gun with a quart strainer as your funnel. This is what I do at home and at work when sampling new materials.
The square solvent cans are difficult. Take the lid off and pour it backwards (rather than the hole being at the bottom, turn the can so the hole is at the top). This also works great with five's that have a spout. When you do this, you are allowing air into the can while the material is coming out. When the can is full, this is hard at first--you will spill some material, but usually not much. It gets easier as the can is emptied.
Don't be in a hurry when you mix your material--slow down and be patient. This is about the cheapest, easiest, and best way I have found to mix material in small batches.
Comment from contributor A:
Additional tips that I find make a big difference in working with lacquers:
Think of the cans as some of the tools you use. To get the most out of round metal cans, punch some small drain holes in the rim of the top edge of the can. (Use something sharp - you don't want to deform the rim and make the can impossible to reseal. Also, work on a clean flat surface when punching the rim - anything under the can may punch right through when you hit the punch.) After you pour, the paint drips right back into the container. (Wipe excess away with lint- free wiper. If necessary, pour a tiny amount of reducer into the rim and allow to drain before sealing lid.)
Buy a stainless steel ladle from a kitchen supplier to ladle out material from a full can. After you've used some of the material, it will be easy to pour from the can.
If you don't crunch the can with resealing it over and over, it will last a long time and keep your material in very good condition.
You can also keep a smaller can ready for clean up. Pick one big enough to dip the ladle in. Put in a small amount of reducer (AKA "thinner") and use it to keep your ladle clean after use, as well as to clean up your equipment after use.
When pouring from full 5 gallon pails and square gallon containers in general, put container on solid surface and tip towards your receptacle. You will find you have considerable control over the flow of the material if you are not trying to pour and hold the weight of the container at the same time. With the rectangular can, you can affect the flow by the side you tip from; 'bung opening on the far side' allows you to pour off from top in small amounts and the most control; on 'near side' gives greatest flow but also traps air causing "glugs" and splashes and the least control.
The cleaner you keep your work area, including your containers and mixing tools, the less rework you will have. You will also have less waste which means more profits, better health, and less pollution.