In this two-part blog, I will share my 5 interdependent steps required to consistently produce quality finishes. Why not jam it all into one article, you ask? I wish I could, however, there is far too much material to cover on one blog. So, in this blog I will cover the first 3 steps: 

  • Spray equipment cleaned and lubricated
  • Piece prepared
  • Environment set for success (1st part)

1. Spray equipment cleaned and lubricated.

The importance of a clean gun and air system cannot be overemphasized, as you cannot possibly achieve success unless you start out that way.  And by properly lubricating your gun you’ll get improved performance while saving on maintenance costs.

2. Piece prepared.

Lay the groundwork for success by taking the time and effort to properly sand (or scrape) all surfaces before bringing your work into the spray area.  Resolve all glue runs, dents, cracks, blemishes and other defects.  Also ensure that all surfaces are free of any contaminants which may impact proper adhesion of the finish, and cause the finish to fail. 

Although all my sanders are equipped with relatively effective dust extractors, I still vacuum all surfaces to get rid of dust before heading into the booth. But be wary of using tack cloths if you are applying waterborne finishes because they contain solvents that will contaminate the surface and cause fish eyes in your finish.

3. Environment Set for Success – Part 1.  

There are several considerations:

  • Dust free zone.  Your spray area needs to be as dust free as you can possibly make it.  Dust floating in the air could land on uncured finish and cause defects which more often than not are difficult and time-consuming to correct;
  • Your spray area should ideally have proper air movement to direct any overspray away from the piece.  If you are planning to spray anything other than waterborne finishes you’ll have to invest in an explosion-proof fan system.  Professional spray finishers or auto body shops are good sources for picking up used fans, or they may know someone who has a fan system they are no longer using due to ever-evolving gov’t regulations;
  • Temperature and humidity. Try to maintain as close as possible to the finish manufacturer’s recommended temperature and humidity, which will enhance finish curing time and quality.  If no recommendations are provided, aim for between 18C – 25C (65F – 75F) and below 65% RH (relative humidity).  And don’t forget that your workpieces need to be at the same levels as your spray area.  For safety reasons, open flame heating systems should be turned off while spraying (and until all fumes have been evacuated) any flammable finishes, to lessen the chance of fire and explosion;
  • Lighting. Unless you can see the finish as you’re applying it, you won’t be able to control how well you are doing.  I recommend an overhead light which is canted towards the work, and if you have the space in your spray area, another light to the side.  LED lights have come down in price to the point where they’re nearly as inexpensive as their halogen counterparts and are also less expensive to operate.
  • Safety. There are 4 safety issues to consider:
    • Wearing a properly fitted organic vapours protectant mask which is NIOSH certified, is an absolute necessity.  And for those who feel that just because they’re spraying waterborne finishes exclusively and feel they don’t require such protection, please think again.  Many of the same materials that are in solvent-borne finishes are also found in their waterborne counterparts, so you need to protect yourself – and anyone else (including pets) who may come in contact with the air in your spray area;
    • Eyes. Don safety glasses (or use a full-face mask) to guard against absorbing anything through your eyes’ mucous membranes.  It is also a good idea to have a freshly filled eye wash safety bottle, located where it can be quickly grabbed;
    • Hands and Body. Those with extreme sensitivities may need to also wear gloves and a protective suit, even while mixing finishes; and
    • Gov’t and Insurer Regulations. If you are spraying finishes as a commercial venture, either part or full time, you will have to follow any mandated directives issued the gov’t, local or otherwise.  Regardless of whether running you’re a business or not, your insurer may also have requirements you need to meet.  It’s better to know what you’re actually insured for rather than make assumptions which will be put to the test should you ever have to submit a claim.

I hope that this first part on “5 Steps to a Killer Finish” has been helpful.  In the second part we’ll pick up where we left off on “Environment Set for Success” before carrying on.  Stay tuned!

 

All the best with your spray finishing,

Marty

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