Canadian Woodworking

Spray finishing – tips for getting started

Author: Rob Brown
Published: February March 2012
finish spraying
finish spraying

Rob Brown shares his tips for getting the best results on your next spray finishing project.

Protect Your Lungs
A proper respirator is a must. Get one that will protect you from organic and paint vapours. (Photo by 3MTM TEKK ProtectionTM Brand.)

spraying tips

Familiarize Yourself
Understand what the knobs and adjustments do while you’re practicing on scrap material so that, when the time comes, you’ll be able to adapt to the situation and apply an appropriate coat. Though there’s generally not much to adjust, each gun is slightly different.

finish spraying

A Good Foot to Stand On
Attach a lazy Susan bearing to the underside of a piece of scrap material and you have a great surface for spraying smaller parts. I also use some Bench Cookie Cones to help keep the work-piece away from any overspray on the turntable.

spray finishing

Follow Orders
Make sure to follow all the manufacturers’ recommendations regarding their products. Both spray equipment and finishing materials will only work well if you use them appropriately. A cup to check a material’s viscosity is a good place to start.

spray finishing

Before you spray

  • Maintain a temperature of 17–25°C and don’t spray if the humidity is very high.
  • Use ample lighting and have it come from a number of directions. For best colour rendition, use daylight-balanced tubes in your fluorescent fixtures.
  • Spraying outdoors – because there is little overspray with HVLP spray units, working outdoors might be a good option, if weather permits. Spraying outside is also more appropriate when spraying low VOC materials.
  • Indoors – best to work in an enclosed area – booth, room or draped-off area. Sweep and clean the area well before spraying.
  • Cover tools, machinery, etc. with drop cloths before spraying.
  • Use a turntable and keep the piece at a comfortable height while spraying.
  • If you’re spraying smaller pieces or furniture parts, use a number of riser blocks to hold the piece off the main turntable surface.
  • Spraying furniture sub-assemblies is much easier than finished pieces of furniture; even if you are able to remove the back from a cabinet, your finishing job will go much smoother.
  • Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for spray equipment and
    finishing materials.
  • Heaters – don’t spray flammable material around heaters, furnaces, etc. that have an open flame; you can turn the heat source off until overspray clears the area, and remember pilot lights too.
  • Have a fire extinguisher rated for flammable liquids nearby.
  • Use an appropriate respirator.

As you spray

  • Keep tip about 6″ from the sur­face that you’re spraying. Don’t arc the gun in any direction; make straight, even passes, mov­ing your arm, not your wrist.
  • Overlap each pass 50 percent with the previous pass.
  • Practise on flat cardboard and boxes, wood scraps, old furniture items that are heading to the gar­bage, etc. to get an idea of how much material is being applied, the necessary motions and the order of operations. Practice is the only way to quickly get well acquainted with how the spray equipment performs.
  • Don’t be afraid to adjust the width of the spray pattern as you work, depending on what part of the piece you’re finishing.
  • Also feel free to rotate the air cap so the spray pattern is appropriate for the work you’re doing.
  • If you get a drip or run on a horizontal surface, or near a corner, wipe it with your finger, removing much of the run, then quickly continue spraying.

Rob Brown - [email protected]

Rob is a studio furniture maker and the editor at Canadian Woodworking & Home Improvement. Instagram at @RobBrownTeaches

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