Business, Finishing Materials

Assessing your finishing operation - Materials


Choose the Finish to Suit the Job.

One question you should ask when doing your material review is how up-to-date are you on the latest finishing technology? Finishing chemistry is very dynamic these days. There is a steady flow of improvements in the physical and environmental properties of wood finishes.

There are several categories of finishing products: oil finishes, acrylics, nitrocellulose lacquers, precatalyzed and post catalyzed lacquers, conversion varnishes, 2 component polyurethanes, polyesters, epoxies, and UV coatings. The categories are determined by the types of resins, solvents, and catalysts that are in the finish. Many of these categories contain several different product formulations including both solvent-based and water bornes.

Not only does each category of finish have certain physical, chemical and performance characteristics but each individual product may have been developed to further exploit certain specific characteristics of that category…like faster dry times or non-yellowing. Choosing the right product for the job might mean substantial savings in time or materials. Work with your supplier to investigate what is out there and what might be good for your application.

Unfortunately, one of the stumbling blocks encountered with the changes in technology is getting the finishers to accept them. Remember our statement earlier that people by their nature are resistant to change.

Rule #3. Humans are creatures of habit. We feel comfortable with what we know and mistrust things that are new. We are resistant to change.

Finishers feel comfortable with their palette of finishes and the way they work so they aren’t usually excited to try something different. It can be frustrating to see products that might make a person’s job either easier, healthier, or of a better quality ignored in favor of convenience.

The True Cost of Your Finish Material

All wood finishes start out as solid resins or combinations of resins. They are melted down and reduced by solvents so they can be sprayed onto the wood surface. Once applied, the solvents evaporate and then you are simply left with a thin hard film of solid resin, no solvents. The resin content is specified by the manufacturer as The % of Solids by Volume in the finish. What is not solids is solvent and solvents add nothing to the coating that is left on the wood surface. The greater the % Solids by Volume, the greater the resulting dry film thickness that you get with each coat that you apply.

For post catalyzed products consider the cost per gallon of the finish catalyzed. The cost of the catalyst and the ratio that is added can really affect the overall cost. Some catalysts also may reduce the viscosity and the % Solids By Volume of the finished product.

Another consideration is that your greatest cost is not your dollar per gallon but rather your dollar per hour. A finish that has higher Solids by Volume will require fewer coats to reach the desired final film thickness. Fewer coats mean that not only do you reduce your spray and sanding costs, but you reduce the overall time it takes to complete a project, so you can ship it sooner. One final benefit of higher solids materials is that you will also reduce your emissions since there are fewer solvents gassing off with the higher solids materials.

Finish Suppliers

When you evaluate your finish system you have to weigh cost versus value. Your supplier should add value to the products you purchase from them. They know their products and should have the attitude that your success is their success. They should be able to provide you with a wealth of resources ranging from samples to technical support. If you have a problem this should be the place you start. The good ones have diagnostic tools that can help analyze your problems.

Besides providing products they should also offer:

· Technical assistance – who should know their products better than they do?

· Range of services like environmental reporting and custom color matching

· Educational programs and training

You really do have to evaluate the material, the cost and the supplier to determine your overall value.