Sand-Through Finish Strategies

Pros kick around ideas for a layered, sand-through finish for a multi-colored beat-up appearance. March 29, 2006

A client wants a finish for cabinetry which is mostly white or mostly black, dull to satin, with heavy distress marks and the appearance of sand-throughs which reveal layers of color beneath - specifically red and gold basically, a beat up door with red and or gold showing through a white or black top coat.

I have 2 questions:

1. We typically use MLC post cats. I'm not sure if the client wants real metallic gold or just a gold paint color. If they want gold paint color, I can have that mixed into Resistant. If they want metallic, I need some suggestions. I know that there are metallic gold spray cans at Home Depot etc. but I'm unsure of their place in a post cat system, i.e. adhesion, wrinkling etc.

2. This is how we thought we would get the look:
Clawloc the raw doors with red and gold, here and there until fully covered. Let it cure, sand, and then go over the whole thing with either black or white Amazing Glaze. Scotch Brite through the glaze to the red and gold and topcoat with Krystal.

Is there a potential adhesion problem with having 80% of the door covered with Amazing Glaze and then top coating? I want to use the glaze because its fast and really easy to sand. Otherwise, I am faced with a full coat of Resistant which must be sanded through very carefully.

Does anyone have any suggestions before we start testing? In this particular case we're not trying to make art but just match a plain and fancy finish with the client's own odd tastes thrown in but I want to avoid any call backs.

Forum Responses
(Finishing Forum)
From contributor A:
How are you going to make the Amazing Glaze work on top of Clawlock? Will that work? Have you tried it before?

From contributor B:
It is likely that you'll have some problems with that plan. I do not work with Amazing Glaze but I have been told that it is not a stable layer when used too thickly. I'd suggest that you use Clawlock for your white or black layer. Try doing the sand-throughs with thinner and rags while the topcoat is still soft. That way you can bite to the right level and then clean it up a little with abrasives when everything is dry. Or just use a fine grit sanding sponge to do the sand-throughs and work carefully as color is revealed. It is not nearly as hard as you think. 180 grit is about what I'd use to start and then follow with Scotch-brite gray pads or similar. You wont have the proper control with a power sander. A few samples will give you confidence and help to work out the bugs.

From the original questioner:
Thanks for the advice guys. My understanding of Amazing Glaze was that it had to be used over a post cat because it has so much solvent in it that it would attack a softer coating. Obviously I need to call tech support. I don't think there is any resin in the glaze, only pigment which gets locked into whatever you topcoat with. But maybe the dry pigment would act as a release agent and prevent the topcoat from wetting what is underneath the glaze pigment. Too bad it sounded like a good idea. I just had a thought. Perhaps I can do the white field first and then gold and red highlights on top - instead of sanding through.

From contributor C:
In some cases, instead of using multilayers of color coats, and then sanding through the layers, you may want to try randomly brushing on those colors you need in the finish. It takes some practicing, but its an option you may want to consider.

From contributor D:
I am not sure this will work for you so do a sample first. I have done the sand-through by staining wood (brown-yellow-any color) vinyl sealer (catalyzed) tinted to any color (uncatalyzed). Then take a rag, wrap around your finger, dip in lacquer thinner and rub off the tinted sealer to show your base color. Then lightly sand the whole door to give the look of the finish wearing off. I would be a little worried about too may layers of uncatalyzed sealer because the top coat may lift off the layers that are not catalyzed.

From the original questioner:
Thank you all for the advice and cautions. I have an excellent MLC rep who suggested the following:

1. Red/Gold Clawlock on raw wood
2. WW Vinyl sealer
3. Resistant
4. Clear top coat

The Resistant is hard to sand through so you have more control and the Vinyl is something you can 'feel' when you hit it before you get to the Clawlock. I'm going to try this method.

From contributor E:
Sounds good - just be careful of the "lake edge" showing up when you sand thru the vinyl. Sometimes that sandwiched layer will be too visible to accept.

From the original questioner:
Thanks for that observation. I'm wondering if the vinyl edge that's exposed will melt into the clear topcoat. Do you have any thoughts on this?

From contributor F:
Have you considered doing the job with acrylic latex? What ever method you use, you will have to clear coat the base color(s) before applying the black or white top coat, otherwise you run the risk of pulling or sanding all the layers off when you do the sanding and leaving nothing to show for your effort, but raw wood.

The post cat finish you are using now should pose no problem as a barrier coat. I wouldn't concern myself with using a sealer. Crackle medium when used with waterborne finishes will give you a leg up when it comes time to do the rub through/sanding or pull method. It acts as a release agent and leaves an irregular pattern that can be sanded smooth at the edges for a clean effect. I do not like the look of a sand-through finish like the one you describe, but adding a crackle will help you clear the field for a more interesting sand through effect.

A simple method is to go acrylic all the way. What you suggested doing as your first step is workable (one color over another) but I would substitute your product with acrylic, preferably flat, and preferably anything that dries within four hours for recoat. Apply your dominant color, for example, red.

Secondly, apply the gold using the method you describe. Since you want to rub through this as well, I might suggest you use a sun burst technique in laying this down. The idea is to give you areas that will rub through easily and of course giving you some areas that have tooth and are therefore hard to rub through. With that said, I might want the effect to be more interesting and easier to remove, and I would try a different approach. Before applying any gold I might lay down a crackle medium in areas I plan on sanding. This can be done directly over the red. Once this is accomplished, I would apply the gold. There is no need to allow the crackle to dry. Once you have covered the areas with crackle, lay down the gold.

You must plan this in such a way as the whole thing is not cracked; only the areas you want to release. The same thing applies to the red areas you intend to expose. I forgot to mention that your base color must be dry - at least four hours.

Once you have applied the gold and the crackle medium, apply the top coat - black? Allow the whole thing to set up, maybe an hour or two. Then, using a card scraper, go over the entire door. You should notice the gold peeling away from the red and leaving behind it even greater or lesser amounts of gold, depending on how you applied the crackle. The black should do the same, but if not, apply more pressure as you scrape. When you are satisfied with the results, allow the paint to set, four hours or more, and then do your sanding to finesse the edges. One or two clear coats should finish it.

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

Comment from contributor V:
I have done this technique many times using artist acrylics. Golden Acrylics is an excellent brand. You can add acrylic retarder to slow the drying time and make it more easily workable, and then go over it lightly with a hair drier once it's painted on to speed drying.

Golden makes a wide range of metallic paints. Their gold is really nice and convincing, as is their iridescent metallic. I've used their iridescent silver paint, and people always think it is either silver leaf or cast aluminum. If you use a fine Taklon brush (from an art materials supplier), brush-stroke is very minimal, and practically non-existent with practice.

The acrylic retarder also adds to the creaminess/workability and smoothness of the final finish. You can put a coat of paste wax over acrylic paint for a final protective layer. The wax adds a lot of depth to the look and feel, and brings out a richness of color.

Many people also do this same technique with milk paint. For best results with milk paint, add acrylic matte medium to the paint. This will allow it to bond to any surface, which can be a problem with just straight milk paint, and would allow you to use metallic acrylic gold along with it. Top coat it with bees wax (the traditional technique) or paste wax. Milk paint is a very tough finish, and a little harder to sand than acrylic, but it has a nice, natural look and feel, which goes well with the "beat up" look.