Spray finishing tricks

A compendium of handy contraptions and tricks to help produce beautiful, efficient sprayed finishes. January 24, 2001

In my small shop, we finish everything that goes out the door. I'm looking for suggestions on how to handle and spray faster and better. What tricks are you using, without spending big bucks? How do you spray cabinet boxes and doors?

Forum Responses
I made a rack from pipe, hanging from the ceiling. After spraying both sides of a door, I can hang it on the rack (with wire going through the hinge cup holes). I shoot water-base coatings and if I lay the doors flat, I pick up more dust in the finish than if they are hanging.

For cabinet boxes, I used to use expensive pre-finished, b2 grade maple plywood. Now I use shop grade birch b2 and cut and pre-finish my panels before I put them together. I use a lacquer and can keep up a rotation of the precut panels. If I had more room I would spray full sheets near the end of the day and then cut them.

The best way I have found for spraying cabinets is this: Spray the interior first, then the inside of the face-frame, then the outside of the doors, then the back of the doors. Then take a small nail and place it in the corner of the door, close it and spray the front of the entire cabinet. I use Rudd sealers and lacquers.

If I am spraying just a sealer and lacquer for a clear finish, I spray right over the hinges and it doesnít hurt a thing. For pre-finishing with stains that donít wipe off the hinges well, I use old hinges, which I replace after the finish has dried. I watch out for stain that builds up behind the hinge and runs down the frame of the cabinet. I can usually spray a good size set of cabinets in four hours.

I built a rack similar to a bakerís rack and a swiveling table mounted to a folding stool. Each door is placed on a 1/4" ply or melamine tray and slipped into the rack.

Starting at the top tray, place the tray and door on a table and seal the edges and back. Continue through all the trays. The first tray needs about 15 minutes before turning over to seal the face. After faces and another 15 minutes, it's time to sand and spray the topcoat on the backs. I repeat this process with a scuff sanding and 30 to 45 minutes between turns for the rest of my coats.

The rack design allows air in but guards against dust. The next day the rack goes to the hinge machine for boring and insertion, then to the assembly table for pulls.

After doors are completed, I install a back on the rack. With help, I tip the rack over and load it into the truck bound for install. Doors and the like are no longer a pain to process and take little space in the shop.

We spray a minimum of three coats with any finish. A seal coat and two topcoats is our standard schedule with either a water-based lacquer (we use ML Campbell's Ultrastar)
or a pre-cat solvent-based lacquer.

We mounted a lazy susan to an old tool stand and we put a small square of plywood on top. We put a paint can on that--it makes a pretty stable base and is the right height to spray doors. We can spin it and stand in the same spot. Saves steps around the door.

We leave the backs off cabinet boxes to have better access to the interior, then put the backs on and mount the drawers and doors after finishing.

Another trick we use for finishing the doors is a "tower" to hold the doors as they dry. We made a plywood tower 8" square by 6' tall and mounted it to a base on casters, then screwed 1" x 3/4", 4í strips of plywood with the tops beveled (to minimize the contact area were the doors rest) horizontally all the way around the tower. We use mostly lacquer finishes and by the time we spray the backs of all the doors, we can start over and spray the fronts. Our rack holds approximately 50 doors and takes up about 4í x 4í of floor space when fully loaded.