help me design a finishing system ....

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Forum topic by Adrock1 posted 03-11-2015 09:56 PM 1216 views 0 times favorited 8 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View Adrock1's profile


43 posts in 1203 days

03-11-2015 09:56 PM

So now that I am in a new home I am working on upgrading my garage shop. I’ve upgraded table saws, I’ll be adding a jointer and dust collection will also be adding a large compressor so I can spray finishes and use some higher cfm air tools.

This is what brings me to my question. My plan, once I have a large capacity compressor is to get into sprayed finishes or at least sprayed top coats. I have a tremendous amount of experiencing with spraying lacquer based finishes by way of my former career. I used to run the finishing room for a major high end manufacturer and we did all lacquer based finishes. At home though, all I have experience with really is wiped or brushed varnishes. Waterlox mostly. Once I start down the road of sprayed finishes I want to go with mostly water based products. I don’t want to deal with volatile solvents.

And here in lies the problem. I know next to nothing about these water based finishes and what materials are compatible with them. I need some help designing a basic system I can use with my equipment that will allow me to achieve a number of colors and styles.

Were I used to work, we had a wide variety of colors and styles but all the finishes we did followed a pretty standard recipe. It went like this:

-sap stain (an ngr alcohol based stain sprayed sparingly to even out the base color)
-second stain (another ngr alcohol stain sprayed all over to provide the base background color)
-washcoat ( a thin low solids ng lacquer coat sprayed and then scuff sanded)
-Filler (similar to oil based pigment stain but a very thick slurry. It would be aggressively rubbed into the grain to fill the poor and add color)
-sanding sealer ( basically high solids nc lacquer that was sterated to aid sanding)
-glaze (similar to a basic oil based pigment stain)
- several coats of NC lacquer

With this system we would gradually build the layers of color to develop the finish. Varying the colors of the different fillers and glazes and stains we could create about any color we wanted. What I would like to do is take a similar approach with materials more friendly for home spraying. In this way I would have a family of products that work well together and need only vary the individual colors to achieve the desired finish.

I’m leaning towards the General Finishes family of products. Their High Performance sounds like a good and easily sprayed top coat. Their enduro sanding sealer sounds like a good base over which to apply the top coat. What I need help with is what goes under this basic topcoat.

I would really like to start with a dye stain for a base color, then apply some sort of wipe on oil bases seal coat because I really like the grain enhancing effect of oil. On top of that I would like an oil based stain that I can highlight and build the color then seal it, and top coat it. So my idea right now is a system something like this:

Dye stain
Oil sealer
Pigment stain
Glaze (optional for creating antiquing type effects and highlighting)
Top coat.

Could I use GF water based dye for the base stain, seal-a-cell for the seal coat, then GF water or oil based stain, then GF Enduro sanding sealer, then GF glaze effects, then top coat with high performance?

Would anyone recommend a different basic system or family of products that would allow me to produce a variety of colors?

My mainrequirements is a system that is easily and safely applied at hom, that will offer the grain enhancing look of a wiped oild finish, but utilize a sprayed water based top coat?

8 replies so far

View Drew's profile


350 posts in 3096 days

#1 posted 03-12-2015 12:53 AM

If you really want to go through all those steps feel free… But that’s a lot of steps!
My thoughts…
GF dye stains are awesome! 95% of my colors come from GF dye
High P is ok but if you’re going to spray than step up to Enduro! Very easy to use , decent durability.
Toning doesn’t work as well with WB as it does lacquer. You won’t want to rely on that so much.
As for sealer, stick with GF sanding sealer.

If you want something better though….. I would step up to Target Finishing Products. I’m a big fan of 9300. It’s a bit tricky to use but I can give you some advice if you decide to go that route.


View a1Jim's profile


117091 posts in 3574 days

#2 posted 03-12-2015 12:59 AM

This man has it all figured out already.

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View Adrock1's profile


43 posts in 1203 days

#3 posted 03-12-2015 01:03 AM

I’m not dead set on that many steps. My experience is with lacquer based finishes as I described and I’m inclined to go with something analagous to that system. If I can achieve favorable results with a simpler system I’m all ears.

I wont rule out other brands of product but im leaning towarss the GF line because i have a local woodcraft that carries their line of products. Anyway I’ve considered the enduro var but from what I read it doesn’t pay as well with other materials as the high performance. I would have to use it exclusively for the clears. I couldn’t use something like the seal a cell under it.

I really want to have a system that will have the grain enhancing properties of an oil finish. Its one of the things I love about waterlox. The water based products are crystal clear and just don’t give the same look. If I could get that effect and some color established and then top coat with the water based stuff I would be a happy camper.

View Drew's profile


350 posts in 3096 days

#4 posted 03-12-2015 01:31 AM

I’m sorry, I should have been more specific. I should have said Enduro clear poly.
They don’t carry it at woodcraft but you can get it at


View pjones46's profile


1001 posts in 2639 days

#5 posted 03-12-2015 01:40 AM

Contact GF and ask them what they suggest and they may even send you samples to try. I will PM you with contact info for them.

-- Respectfully, Paul

View Adrock1's profile


43 posts in 1203 days

#6 posted 03-12-2015 11:31 AM

Good advice so far guys. Thanks. Good idea just contacting GF directly. I appreciate the info.

View OSU55's profile


1667 posts in 1986 days

#7 posted 03-12-2015 12:28 PM

I do similar finishing to what you describe. To get professional looking and lasting finishes and color any way desired, that’s what’s required. My system is built with Target Coatings products and shellac. The research I did a few years ago led me to Target vs GF based on comments by serious users and professionals that had used both. Target worked so well I never tried the GF products.

o I use Transtint dyes
o WR4000 stain is an emulsified BLO. When the water flashes, you have oil (and pops the grain like oil), but it dries faster and can be tinted any color with dyes. Comes in clear and many colors.
o I use dewaxed shellac flakes dissolved with box store DNA.
o Typically use EM6000 lacquer and EM9000 poly topcoats depending on the project

Typical finish schedule:

o wood requiring blotch control, seal with either a WB topcoat thinned 50% with water or 5 to1 mix of Elmer’s glue all – both work well, glue is cheaper.
o finish sand with 320, leave the dust – helps fill.
o apply WR4000, by spray bottle, brush, rag, etc., use a sponge or rag to continue working and even out color and lap marks. It takes some experimenting. You can always add more stain if it starts setting up.
o seal stain with shellac. Typically tone the shellac with dye.
o light nib sanding with 600
o if a filled finish, HSF5000 sprayed and sanded
o topcoat – use honey amber TT to get the solvent poly look. Sometimes tint with darker color depending on project color. This is not for toning/shading the wood – the shellac is used for that. It’s to add back the color missing in WB topcoats.

I tried WB directly over the stain, and the WB had a tendency to lift color, shellac does not and seals the stain well. I have not tried the EM1000 sealer since others have said it can lift color.

View daddywoofdawg's profile


1028 posts in 1571 days

#8 posted 03-12-2015 12:46 PM

I would ask the manufacturer GF or whoever, what they would recommend tell then what you have done I.E the steps you posted tell them your looking the same or close to the same results.They know there products better than anyone.

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