Finishing, Finishing Basics Temperature Versus Dry Time

Temperature Versus Dry Time


Temperature certainly does affect the dry time of both stains and f inishes. An important step in the drying process is the ev aporation of the solvents from these liquids. Only after the solv ents evaporate can the liquid lay down and start to f orm a f ilm. The higher the temperatures the f aster the solvents ev aporate…think pot of water on a hot stov e, only a lot more f lam- mable. So if the temperature is lower than normal, the solv ents ev aporate more slowly and it takes longer than normal to dry.

A nifty little rule of thumb is that the dry time changes by a factor of 2 f or every 12 degree change in temperature. Said an- other way, dropping your temperature 12 degrees will double your dry time; increasing your temperature by 12 degrees will cut your dry time in half.

As an example: if y our dry time is normally 20 minutes at 77 degrees, then it will be about 40 minutes at 65 degrees, 80 min- utes at 53 degrees, and 160 minutes at 41 degrees. Lower than this is a good temperature f or beer, not f inish. Conv ersely if y ou increase the temperature from 77 degrees to 89 degrees y our dry time will drop f rom 20 minutes to about 10 minutes.

As long as we are talking temperature there are two other issues that should be pointed out.

As the temperature drops the viscosity of the f inish material increases. If sprayed in this state the f inish doesn’t flow out as well and will often dev elop orange peel. The normal reaction to this is to add more solv ent to the finish to lower the viscosity, which brings us right back to the temperature – evaporation thing. More solv ent…more dry time.

The f inal temperature related issue applies only if y ou are using any type of cataly zed finish (pre or post cat). As the solv ent in these types of finishes evaporates the catalyst starts a chain reaction that cross links the resin molecules in the finish. Think of the resin molecules as strands of spaghetti. Cross linking is like welding all of the strands together to form one big strand. It is the welding, or cross linking of all of the resin molecules that gives these f inishes their enhanced wear, water and chemical resistance. Once sprayed the object must stay at a temperature of at least 68 degrees for a minimum of 6 hours in order f or the catalyst to complete this chain reaction. At lower than 68 degrees the film will dry but it will lose many of the per- f ormance characteristics that you paid good money f or and that the client expects.


  • Finish should be dry for a minimum of 48 hours before being packed and stacked
    • Longer in humid weather
    • Longer for glazed & f ull-fill finishes
    • Most wood f inishes take 30 days tof ully cure and harden
  • Never stack pieces “f inish to finish” without a protective layer between
    • Always use plain paper or a closed cell f oam between lay ers when bundling multiple shelves, doors or panels
    • Never use corrugated cardboard between lay ers – it will leav e an imprint
    • Never use newspaper between layers as the ink may transf er onto the f inished piece
  • Whenever possible ship bundles of shelv es, doors or panels on edge rather than lay ing f lat
  • Never leave newly finished products in a truck for an extended period of time
    • Summer heat can cause f reshly finished pieces to stick together or to leav e an imprint f rom their wrapper
    • Winter cold can cause f reshly finished pieces to cold check and crack
  • Store shelv es, doors or panels standing on end at the jobsite rather than lay ing f lat.
    • Cut the tape or wrapper on bundles as soon as possible after the product is delivered to relieve pressure
  • Make sure moving pads and blankets are clean and f ree of debris


Watching a good finisher work is like watching a dance. A smooth series of fluid movements as they glide that wet spot around the board. It’ s done with an economy of motion and a dash of finesse. No fences, no CNC, just pure hand-eye coordination and skill. When you have a real team of people in a finish room working together and they get into the flow of what they are doing it is a marvel to watch. You see a constant state of motion, none of it wasted. Each me mber feeding off the others cues; a point of a finger, a nod of the head, nary a word spoken for none can be heard over the roar of the booth and the hiss of the gun. Parts moving in, parts moving out. A well tuned machine whirling in purposeful, fluid move ment.