The Art of Wood Finishing

Most people can identify high quality woodworking craftmanship. But only a few realize the painstaking preparation, skill and expertise required to create it — and finish it.

Today’s finishers are knowledgeable, with a vast array of tools and technologies to deliver coatings that enhance the look and feel of wood, while adding critical protection to preserve furniture for decades. It has taken a commitment to the craft to bring the repeatable finish quality we see today – and the industry is always on a quest for more, better and even easier ways to finish.

You’re facing intense pressures to improve. Margins are slimmer. Homeowners are more demanding. And unpredictable lumber prices have changed the types of wood used. Any perceptual flaws compromise the entire project, leading to costly rework, discarded lumber and customer dissatisfaction.

4 Easy Ways to Improve Finish Quality

Fortunately, there are a few simple, easy-to-implement ways to improve the complex, challenging finishing process:

  1. Choose the right type of applicator.
  2. Automate with the right capabilities.
  3. Optimize uptime.
  4. Keep your painters happy.

1. Choose the right type of applicator

A skilled, talented finisher may be your shop’s greatest asset. Most projects require fine finishing or touch-up work. Often, an object’s unique shape or size makes automated finishing impossible. But even the best craftsmen need the right tools.

There is a wide range of available applicator technologies — each offering distinct advantages, depending on desired finish quality, transfer efficiency, speed of application, type of paint used and more — that can help your crews deliver higher quality finish and differentiate you from the competition.

Air Spray

A low-pressure stream mixes with compressed air at the air cap to atomize material. Choose air spray applicators for low to medium viscosity fluids and Class A or decorative finishes, such as stains and toners. Many types are available for compliance with ever-changing environmental regulations.

  • Conventional air spray guns use more air to deliver the highest finish quality, but transfer efficiency is lower.
  • High Volume, High Pressure (HVLP) spray guns use less air to meet strict Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations. Transfer efficiency is higher, but it sprays with less air atomization, so finish quality may not match conventional applicators.
  • Low Volume, Medium Pressure (LVMP) spray guns balance air pressure to offer a solid mix of transfer efficiency and finish quality.

Airless + Air-Assisted Airless

Choose airless or air-assisted airless spray guns when speed and convenience are top priorities. Using only fluid pressure, airless sprayers deliver a slightly lower finish quickly than air spray, but with excellent transfer efficiency. The tip size and pressure determine material flow rate.

Air-assisted spray guns use a pneumatic pump to pressurize paint, making them ideal for high viscosity, high solids coatings and waterborne materials. They can create a finer finish than airless sprayers.  

Don’t Forget about the Air Cap!

Choosing the right type of applicator is simply the first step. Every surface offers unique challenges that may influence the type of gun — and type of air cap used. 

Material-specific air caps deliver consistent atomization and uniform spray patterns over almost any type of product. Imagine swapping an air cap designed to optimize high viscosity, thick materials with one for a top coat or wood lacquer — within seconds.

The ability to choose from a range of air caps and spray tips allows wood shops to meet requirements with speed, precision and consistency.

2. Automate with the right capabilities

Fine finishers remain critical to the wood industry, but quality is easier to replicate with automated spraying systems capable of continuous, near-flawless finishing. That’s why most shops rely on both manual and automated spraying.

With a seemingly endless amount of colors, shades and finishes, automated finishing has become the only financially viable way to manage high volume production for many shops. More cabinets, doors, trim and furniture can be completed in less time using fewer resources.

Automated finishing systems don’t require a lot of complicated gimmicks or complexities, they simply need the right capabilities:

Color Change Valves Close to the Applicator and Mix Point

With less material to flush, there’s less waste and, more importantly, less downtime.

Tools that Help Set and Repeat the Exact Angle

It’s important to match the spray pattern height with the product you are spraying. Often, it comes down to the angle or orientation of an applicator’s air cap. Although this is critical, most operators have to “eyeball” the exact angle needed to optimize spray – and reset it every time air caps are cleaned or guns are serviced.

To expedite maintenance, optimize uptime, and reduce rework, look for automatic applicators with these features:

  • Air cap angle indicators etched into the applicator itself
  • Tools that further help technicians set and repeat exact angles, while covering air cap orifices and preventing injection injuries

3. Optimize uptime

Every wood shop owner knows that downtime means lost revenue opportunities. That’s why you have a steady supply of extra applicators, spray tips, air caps, materials and more at your disposal. Unfortunately, your crews have to stop finishing to search for those extra parts – and possibly spend even more time to swap them out.

Keep Spray Guns Running with Cartridge-based Components

There’s risk every time you stop production. Replacing several parts can take a lot of time. Just as importantly, it leaves room for mistakes. If one part is swapped out incorrectly, sprayer performance is compromised. 

With cartridge-style equipment, you can remove and replace one piece, instead of multiple parts, all at once. This makes maintenance is less risky and time consuming, allowing spraying to resume within moments.

Pick Suppliers that Streamline Inventory Management

Sometimes, parts must be ordered overseas. Meanwhile, finishers wait. And wait. Or, they use backup spray guns.

Without their best tools operating at peak efficiency, finishers may be less confident in their work, and it may adversely affect the finished product.

A dedicated parts manager can help maintain an adequate supply of replacement parts. But for those inevitable times when you need expedited parts, it’s important to partner with proven manufacturers and distributors with localized inventory — as well as a history of fast, responsive service — to reduce lead times.

4. Keep Your Painters Happy

As experienced finishers retire, it’s become increasingly difficult to find and retain quality replacements. Often, finishers opt to move to another position in your shop. Others may leave for more pay, more flexibility, or decide to pursue other interests. Fortunately, the same steps you’d take to improve their work environment also can incentivize talent to stay:

Make Sure your Shop is Adequately Ventilated

Like everybody else, painters want an easier, more comfortable work day. But some reluctantly wear proper PPE (personal protective equipment), especially in hot, humid weather. Unfortunately, chemical exposure has long-lasting implications.

A properly ventilated room helps circulate the air and remove some of the toxins from their work space. It’s important to monitor it every day, especially as the weather changes.

Make Purchasing Decisions with Ease of Use in Mind

Look for finishing equipment designed to alleviate common paint line problems.

  • Lightweight spray guns with ergonomic features like hand rests and easy triggers, offer comfort and convenience.
  • Applicators with cartridge-based components can be serviced or repaired quickly - without much downtime.

Your crews will notice the difference. They may even thank you for it with their loyalty.

Even the Best Can Improve

You produce high quality products. And your list of impressed customers continues to grow. So why change anything?

Finishing equipment manufacturers introduce new technologies in direct response to what they’re hearing from top wood shops, cabinet makers and furniture suppliers.

New technology helps today’s professionals produce higher quality, at faster speeds, with less maintenance. It’s simply the next evolution for an industry that’s long sought to turn flawless perfection into an art form.    

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4 Easy Ways to Improve Wood Finish Quality

4 Easy Ways to Improve Wood Finish Quality

Wood shops face intense pressure. Even small flaws lead to costly rework, wasted material, and poor consumer ratings. Take 45 minutes to explore how to boost wood finish quality – and benefit your business.

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