Best Applicator For Water-based Finish?

  • Advertise with us

« back to Finishing forum

Forum topic by Kazooman posted 04-10-2015 09:31 AM 1231 views 0 times favorited 9 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View Kazooman's profile


998 posts in 1917 days

04-10-2015 09:31 AM

I am building a small set of shelves as a favor for a friend. The shelves will hold shoes and probably some winter boots for the students in a yoga class. I think they will include some plastic trays for the winter season, but the shelves still need to be washable. The shelves have to be painted and they want a gloss finish for easy cleanup.

Woodworking is all done, but I am having some issues with the finish. Shelves are a simple frame made with some cherry I had left from another project with Baltic birch plywood. I have primed the wood with Ziinsser 123 primer and they have a “pebbled” surface. I tried several experiments with brushing, and rolling with foam and napped rollers. I finally settled on brushing the corners and 1/4” nap rollers for the field. Overall brushing and the foam roller were disasters. A single coat of primer was ugly. Light sanding and a second coat has given complete coverage, but there is still the mottled surface problem. The finish just won’t lay down and smooth out. I am used to slower drying oil finishes and I guess I am spoiled.

Any suggestions on the best way to apply the finish? I was planning on using a gloss water-based finish but I have never used it and I won’t be happy if it has the same pebbled look as he primer. Would a real oil-based paint smooth our more reliably?

I am over $200 into this “favor” and don’t intend to start over form scratch. “Pebbled Gloss” may become my new signature look.

9 replies so far

View rwe2156's profile


2881 posts in 1445 days

#1 posted 04-10-2015 10:35 AM

First of all, and I doubt this is your problem, unless the finish is new, I usually run it through a filter.

I’m not an expert on finishes by no way, but I wouldn’t use a roller as you’ve apparently figured out.

I’ve used the foam brushes with pretty good success on WB finishes like urethane and acrylic.
High gloss is least forgiving and I think the best way for this is probably spraying.

You can also try thinning out your finish a little that helps with more even spreading.

Its safest to try out a finish on some scrap first even if I think I know what to expect. how do I know that????

-- Everything is a prototype thats why its one of a kind!!

View Fred Hargis's profile

Fred Hargis

4951 posts in 2458 days

#2 posted 04-10-2015 11:10 AM

Spraying it will give a smooth surface, but it may still take on the texture of the primer. You can buy additives that slow the drying, ask at the supplier.

-- Our village hasn't lost it's idiot, he was elected to congress.

View Kazooman's profile


998 posts in 1917 days

#3 posted 04-10-2015 11:21 AM

Thanks for the suggestions. The primer is new and it is really thick. I do not have any way to spray the finish.

I haven’t tried a foam brush, I used a good quality bristle brush to cut in the corners, but it left a lot of streaks. The foam might be just what I need for this job.

View Mykos's profile


103 posts in 1759 days

#4 posted 04-10-2015 05:00 PM

I’m using water based varathane (gloss) for my canoe. I’ve had great success in just wiping it on with a soft lint free rag.

View gfadvm's profile


14940 posts in 2655 days

#5 posted 04-11-2015 12:24 AM

I probably shouldn’t admit this, but I NEVER use any primer. And seem to get along just fine without it!

This is only true for wood. I always prime steel before painting.

-- " I'll try to be nicer, if you'll try to be smarter" gfadvm

View Clint Searl's profile

Clint Searl

1533 posts in 2326 days

#6 posted 04-11-2015 12:39 AM

From where you are now, proceed with two coats of flat acrylic wall paint (Behr’s best), applied with a roller. Smooth back with 220 drywall sanding screen. Finish with a couple coats of Varathane gloss floor finish using a soft bristle brush. It’s bullet proof.

-- Clint Searl....Ya can no more do what ya don't know how than ya can git back from where ya ain't been

View Ashus's profile


31 posts in 1140 days

#7 posted 04-11-2015 12:50 AM

Every time I’ve gotten the pebbled look from primer, it was from painting it on in about 60-65º rooms. If I use a space heater to warm the room up closer to 80º (which sucks as I’m a big guy who starts sweating at 72º), it goes on much more easily and smoothly with either a brush or a roller. It has also helped me to make sure the primer itself is on the warm side before starting, and giving it a very thorough stirring.

-- Adam in Minneapolis

View redSLED's profile


790 posts in 1857 days

#8 posted 04-11-2015 02:26 PM

In the past I’ve used the below steps to get a satisfactory (ie., not perfect) hand-applied primer finish over bare wood:

- apply primer with brush quickly over area
- use foam brush immediately after to smooth out primer – with very slow strokes – once only if possible
- when dry, just do a quick & light block sand or palm sander with used 150/180/220 grit sandpaper, then wipe off

Admittedly, most of the time over bare wood I go straight to paint, otherwise I’ve done the above with OK results.

-- Perfection is the difference between too much and not enough.

View Kazooman's profile


998 posts in 1917 days

#9 posted 04-11-2015 10:09 PM

Lots of great advice here. Thanks to all. I switched to a good quality foam brush to apply the actual finish and that helps quite a bit. With two coats I think I will get an acceptable result.

I think that the comment on the temperature is a good one. The primer states that it can be applied down to 50 degrees and my shop is currently at 60. I am in the approved temperature window, but certainly on the low end of the acceptable range. That accounts for the thickness of the primer and also for the fact that it is not laying down as well as I would like.

The comment about applying a flat coat of finish followed by a good coat of Arm-R-Seal is probably the way I should have gone in the first place. My original thoughts on finishing the shelves was to leave them in the natural cherry frame and birch fields and finish with Arm-R-Seal. I had actually applied a coat on the shelves when I was “informed” that a natural wood finish wasn’t going to be what they wanted and that I should switch to paint. OK, I guess if you are getting a free set of custom built shelving you should get it in the color you want

Have your say...

You must be signed in to reply.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics