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post #1 of 24 Old 02-03-2016, 08:27 AM Thread Starter
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Poly: spray versus brush?

Hey guys, I was wondering what is the optimal method of application for applying poly (satin poly in my case) over stains/paints for stuff like kitchen cabinets? I have been a cabinet builder for a while, but have little experience in applying a finish, and being that I am now doing some moonlighting on the side to bring in some extra income, I need to get this down. At work, we have dedicated airless spray rigs like the ones you can get from Lowes or Shermin Williams. I would prefer to brush on the poly rather than buy a spray rig, but would that yeild the same results?
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post #2 of 24 Old 02-03-2016, 09:11 AM
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Your finish would definitely be better sprayed. That often creates a problem where you do it though. With polyurethane the cloud of overspray that drifts away from what you spray will settle and stick to everything. It's not feasible to use in a house for that reason. You almost have to have a spray booth to do it. Used in the shop it will stick to your tools. What would make your life a lot easier is to use a finish that would dry faster than polyurethane. You might consider a lacquer or conversion varnish. With these finishes you could finish the cabinets in the home. The cloud of overspray that drifts away will settle as dry dust, easily wiped off. Also with polyurethane you can usually can only do one coat per day. With a faster finish you could seal it and put two coats of finish on and be done in one day.

As far as putting a clear finish over a paint you have to be very careful not to use one that yellows as that will affect the color. An oil based finish should be ruled out as they tend to yellow. An acrylic finish should be used for this application.
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post #3 of 24 Old 02-03-2016, 10:47 AM
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The most satisfactory way to apply oil based varnish or poly varnish is by wiping it on. The following instructions should get you started.

Here is something that should help. A friend of mine who was an early advocate, put it together years ago and it has worked well for many.

QUOTE

There are a number of suggested application regimens that are totally subjective. The number of coats in a given day, the % of cut on various coats, which coat to sand after, when to use the blade and a whole host of other practices are all minor differences between finishers. There are some things that I consider sacred when applying a wipe-on finish.

First, you can use any full strength oil based clear or non-gloss finish. The gloss of the final coat of finish will determine the final gloss of the finish. Polyurethane varnish or non-poly varnish is fine.

If you are making your own wipe-on the mix is scientific - thin. I suggest 50/50 with mineral spirits because it is easier to type than any other ratio and easy to remember. Some finish formulators have jumped on the bandwagon and you can now get "wipe on" finish pre-mixed. If you use a pre-mixed, thinning is generally not necessary. But making your own is cheaper and you know what's in it.

The number of coats in a given day is not important. Important is to apply a wet coat with an applicator and merely get it on. Think of a 16 year old kid working as a busboy at Denny's you have sent over to wipe off a table. Sort of rub/swirl the the material on like you would if you were applying a paste wax. Don't attempt any straight strokes. The applicator should be wet but not soaked. The applicator can be a non-embossed paper towel shop towel, half a T-shirt sleeve or that one sock left after a load of washing. Once applied,leave it alone. The surface should not be glossy or wet looking and, if applied correctly, there should be no "brush stroke" type marks. If you have missed a spot, ignore it - you will get it on the next coat. If you try and fix a missed spot you will leave a mark in the finish.

Timing for a second coat involves the pinkie test. Touch the surface with your pinkie. If nothing comes off you are ready for another coat. If was tacky 5 minutes ago but not now, apply your next coat just as you applied the previous coat. Remember, you are wet wiping, not flooding. After applying the second coat, let it fully dry for 48 hours. Using 320 paper and a sanding block lightly sand the surface flat. Now, begin applying more coats. Do not sand between coats unless you have allowed more than 24 hours to elapse since the prior coat. The number of coats is not critical - there is no critical or right number to apply. For those who need a rule, four more coats on non-critical surfaces or six more coats on surfaces that will get abraded seems to work.

After your last coat has dried at least over night you will have boogers in the surface. You should not have marks in the surface because you ignored application flaws. You may have dust, lint and, if you live in Texas, bug legs. Use a utility knife blade at this point. Hold it between your thumb and forefinger, near the vertical, and gently scrape the surface. Gentle is the important word - no harder than you would scrape your face. If you start scraping aggressively you will leave small cut marks in the surface. After you have scraped to the baby butt stage gently abrade the surface with 320 dry paper or a gray ScotchBrite. Clean off the surface. Now, leave the area for two hours and change your clothes. Apply your last coat with a bit more care than the previous coats and walk away.

An anal person is going to have a tough time with this process. Missed spots have to be ignored. Wet wipe, don't flood. Scraping to babies butt smooth means scraping no harder than scraping a babies butt. Ignoring any of these will leave marks that are tough to get out. Getting these marks out requires some aggressive sanding to flatten out the surface and starting over. Like everything concerning finishing, always test you finishing on scrap from your project. You not only learn how to apply your finish but you also learn how it works. Only begin finishing your "money" project when you are comfortable with using the finish.

Jim Kull

END QUOTE

Howie..........
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post #4 of 24 Old 02-03-2016, 03:53 PM Thread Starter
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What are the finishing options that can be applied by hand? Varnish, shellac, poly, lacquer?
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post #5 of 24 Old 02-03-2016, 09:35 PM
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To brush a finish you need a slow drying finish. Varnish and polyurethane dry slow and would brush fine. Lacquer and shellac dry fast and also melt into a dried finish. This makes it really difficult to apply by hand even the so called brushing lacquer. The only difference between a brushing lacquer and a spraying one is the brushing lacquer has a retarder thinner in it which slows down the drying time a little. Still you have to brush it on really fast to keep from removing previous layers.
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post #6 of 24 Old 02-04-2016, 06:11 AM Thread Starter
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I do have the ability to spray the finish coat, I just have little experience figuring out what to use, (i.e. sanding sealer or other sealers, conditioner, then stain then lacquer or poly, ect..) I have an HVLP spray gun and a decent sized compressor.

The only thing is that my current shop is the sun porch on the back of my house, and even though it is fairly big, or at least big enough to comfortably fit my cabinet saw, 3 shaper tables, two big miter saw stations, a 4ft by 8ft work bench, ect..ect.. I do not want to perminately mess it up with over spray from the poly. Eventually I will build a big dedicated shop with room for a spray area, right now though, if I spray the finish coat, I would have to cover up a but load of equipment, and hope that it doesn't seep into the main part of my house.

I have some small-ish to medium-ish sized cabinet jobs lined up, so I really need to figure out a good way to spray stains and finish coats. The first job that I have coming up is fairly small, so the plan for it is to apply the stain and finish coats by hand. However, in the following months, I will be doing some medium sized jobs. So those will have to be sprayed. Luckily I have almost all of my equipment on casters. So when it comes time for these bigger jobs that will require spraying, I plan to roll the equipment into the back, and lay down plastic on the floor, walls, and other equipment in the room.
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post #7 of 24 Old 02-04-2016, 07:46 AM
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I like working with lacquer but there are three different kinds. The most common is a nitrocellulose lacquer. With that lacquer you start with a lacquer sanding sealer. It builds fast and is easy to sand if a thick finish is wanted. Then there is a pre-catalyzed lacquer. It has a hardener in it and is a better lacquer however it comes with a six month shelf life which usually has an expiration date on the can. With pre-catalyzed lacquer you start with a vinyl sealer. You just use one coat with that sealer, it doesn't work well with multiple coats. I never use more than two coats. The last lacquer is a fully catalyzed lacquer. It's very similar to the pre-catalyzed lacquer except it uses a stronger hardener which you mix in yourself as you use it. Once the hardener is mixed in it usually only has a shelf life of 24 hours. With it you use the same vinyl sealer.

With lacquer you won't get overspray on your patio unless you are spraying very close to the floor. Your biggest risk will be drips. The area were you are working you might cover with something like a tarp or a carpet remnant. Even a couple sheets of masonite would work well.
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post #8 of 24 Old 02-04-2016, 10:58 AM Thread Starter
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I like working with lacquer but there are three different kinds. The most common is a nitrocellulose lacquer. With that lacquer you start with a lacquer sanding sealer. It builds fast and is easy to sand if a thick finish is wanted. Then there is a pre-catalyzed lacquer. It has a hardener in it and is a better lacquer however it comes with a six month shelf life which usually has an expiration date on the can. With pre-catalyzed lacquer you start with a vinyl sealer. You just use one coat with that sealer, it doesn't work well with multiple coats. I never use more than two coats. The last lacquer is a fully catalyzed lacquer. It's very similar to the pre-catalyzed lacquer except it uses a stronger hardener which you mix in yourself as you use it. Once the hardener is mixed in it usually only has a shelf life of 24 hours. With it you use the same vinyl sealer.

With lacquer you won't get overspray on your patio unless you are spraying very close to the floor. Your biggest risk will be drips. The area were you are working you might cover with something like a tarp or a carpet remnant. Even a couple sheets of masonite would work well.
Thank you for this information, Steve! Can you tell me if the potential overspray from spraying poly will be as bad as what i have read? If I were to shoot poly, and just draped some plastic over my equipment, would that still be an issue?

Now, with regards to lacquer, which of those will give a finish similar in sheen to satin or semi gloss poly? I have only done poly in the past at my place of employment, never had any experience with lacquer, and normally at work, we shoot poly over the stain, then after it dries we scuff it with 0000 steel wool then apply at second, final coat of poly. Would one coat of lacquer give a similar apperence to two coats of poly? Which lacquer options will offer similar durability to typical poly based finishes?
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post #9 of 24 Old 02-04-2016, 12:04 PM
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You know any time you spray anything there is a cloud of paint in the air. That cloud is droplets of the finish. Any oil based product including polyurethane will adhere to anything it touches. The only way to safely spray it in the shop would be to either get a spray booth fan or if you can have air blowing into the building and you spray next to the opening in the building going out. A lot of folks set up a box fan in a window to exhaust the fumes. Don't do that. Any electric motor has the potential of creating a spark which with atomized paint could be explosive.

You can create the sheen you want with any of the types of lacquer. You just have to select satin, semi-gloss or gloss lacquer. The sheens vary from brand to brand though. If you need something a little less glossy than semi-gloss you could take some satin and measure it out and add it to your semi-gloss. Just be sure to keep the formula you like so another time you won't have to tinker with it.

When sanding between coats you should never use steel wool. Often there is debris in the finish and steel wool will just rub over it and leave the debris there. Sanding will sheer it off flat with the finish. Also steel wool is dirty. You could end up leaving debris from the steel wool to get embedded in the finish.

One note about the lacquers. A nitrocellulose lacquer is made from dissolving cotton. You know how cotton yellows and darkens with age, the lacquer made from it does too. This is sometimes a problem with light colored woods. I've seen ash cabinets which just had a clear finish put on them turn very yellow from just age. It's just a problem using it on light colored woods. The other lacquers are made from plastic resins so they are not prone to yellow unless kept in full sun a lot.
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post #10 of 24 Old 02-05-2016, 08:26 AM Thread Starter
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You know any time you spray anything there is a cloud of paint in the air. That cloud is droplets of the finish. Any oil based product including polyurethane will adhere to anything it touches. The only way to safely spray it in the shop would be to either get a spray booth fan or if you can have air blowing into the building and you spray next to the opening in the building going out. A lot of folks set up a box fan in a window to exhaust the fumes. Don't do that. Any electric motor has the potential of creating a spark which with atomized paint could be explosive.

You can create the sheen you want with any of the types of lacquer. You just have to select satin, semi-gloss or gloss lacquer. The sheens vary from brand to brand though. If you need something a little less glossy than semi-gloss you could take some satin and measure it out and add it to your semi-gloss. Just be sure to keep the formula you like so another time you won't have to tinker with it.

When sanding between coats you should never use steel wool. Often there is debris in the finish and steel wool will just rub over it and leave the debris there. Sanding will sheer it off flat with the finish. Also steel wool is dirty. You could end up leaving debris from the steel wool to get embedded in the finish.

One note about the lacquers. A nitrocellulose lacquer is made from dissolving cotton. You know how cotton yellows and darkens with age, the lacquer made from it does too. This is sometimes a problem with light colored woods. I've seen ash cabinets which just had a clear finish put on them turn very yellow from just age. It's just a problem using it on light colored woods. The other lacquers are made from plastic resins so they are not prone to yellow unless kept in full sun a lot.
Thank you, once again for the detailed response! It looks like my best bet is to shoot precat lacquer or catilized lacquer. Shelf life won't matter, as I plan to shoot all of my stuff at one time. I just want to make sure that I can get the look and durability with one of these two kinds of lacquer that I get with two coats of satin or semi gloss ploy. Most of my customers prefer the semi gloss poly, so I will probably use the same semi gloss lacquer. Would I still need two coats of lacquer as I normally do with the poly? What do you recommend that I sand with after the stain before the lacquer and also in between coats of lacquer?

Also, you mentioned above about some type of sealer that must be used with lacquer. If I go with pre cat or fully catilized lacquer, what is the other product that is needed besides the stain and the lacquer itself? Does this product go over the stain before the lacquer or how and when should it be applied, and what should I sand it with?
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post #11 of 24 Old 02-05-2016, 09:03 AM
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You don't necessarily have to use a sealer with poly or lacquer with the first coat. It's just these finishes are difficult to sand and the finish has to be sanded for sure after the first coat. A sealer is just made softer and easier to sand to make the job easier. With precat lacquer I always use a viny sealer but you could use a lacquer sanding sealer however regular lacquer sanding sealer is prone to yellow so you might create a problem on light wood. You could also use shellac but it also yellows a bit. The vinyl sealer will remain clear.

For between the coats sanding I like to use a fine sanding pad such as Glit. https://www.rsci.com/paint-sundries-glit-sanding-pads It's just a convenience. All that is needed is fine sandpaper 180 grit or finer. Often I cheap out and cut sheet sandpaper to fit the worn out Glit pads and put it on with spray adhesive.
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post #12 of 24 Old 02-05-2016, 11:19 AM
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Steve xan you help me as well

I am not trying to Hijack this thread. Steve what name brand of sealer and lacquer do you use?
This is my first time here and I too am new to wood working.
Thank you in advance for your awesome answers and support.
James.
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post #13 of 24 Old 02-05-2016, 01:48 PM
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I am not trying to Hijack this thread. Steve what name brand of sealer and lacquer do you use?
This is my first time here and I too am new to wood working.
Thank you in advance for your awesome answers and support.
James.
I have a store near me that sells Mohawk lacquers and finishing supplies so I use their E-Z Vinyl Sealer and pre-catalyzed lacquer. The product is good but their packaging is terrible. The can labels quickly fade out to where you can't tell what is in it. I have to keep a marks-a-lot handy.
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post #14 of 24 Old 02-06-2016, 07:41 AM Thread Starter
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I have a store near me that sells Mohawk lacquers and finishing supplies so I use their E-Z Vinyl Sealer and pre-catalyzed lacquer. The product is good but their packaging is terrible. The can labels quickly fade out to where you can't tell what is in it. I have to keep a marks-a-lot handy.
Steve, you are a wealth of information that has been a trendies help! I appreciate your patience and willingness to answer what sometimes must seem like redundant questions. :)

In your opinion, when it comes to finishing kitchen cabinets and doors that have been stained, how many coats of lacquer are optimal? Is the vinyl sealer applied after the stain but before the lacquer? Can the vinyl sealer be sprayed, and what grit would be optimal to sand the seal coat with? Would 320g be too fine?

Do you have a specific brands of pre cat lacquer and the vinyl sealer that you would recommend? I have a local Lowes, Home Depot, Shermin Williams, and PPG store in my area, and prefer to use Shermin Williams and/or PPG.
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post #15 of 24 Old 02-06-2016, 09:03 AM
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Every question you guys are asking, I have at one time been on the asking end of it. I've just been at it so long I've already asked most of the questions. Now at this point in my career my business has fizzled out to doing honey do lists for old folks so before I joined the forum I've started forgetting a lot of things. Your questions are helping me a great deal in retaining a lot of things I've learned over the years.

Think of a sealer as a clear primer. You always start with the primer so it would go over the stained wood and before the lacquer. When you spray wood with any finish the fibers of the wood tend to raise up and this makes the first coat feel fuzzy. By sanding you remove this fuzz and make the surface smooth again. This is the purpose of sanding. The finish will get smoother and better every time it's sanded. On some projects 320 grit would be fine to sand the sealer with. If you were doing table top with a high gloss finish that would probably work good however it takes a lot longer to sand a finish with 320 grit and unless you are working on something special may not worth it. Cabinets are generally not finished with a furniture class of finishing. It's done a lot easier and quicker. Unless the finish is fairly glossy I use 180 grit paper. It will sand the surface smooth and you can't see the sand marks in the finish when done. If you were doing a glass like finish on a mahogany table and used 180 grit paper when you got done you could see the scratches the sandpaper made in the finish. This is the reason the autobody guys use 400 or finer grit between coats when painting a car because it's high gloss and shows everything.

I really don't see any difference in brands of lacquer. Lowes and Home Depot probably will only sell the brushing lacquer and no sealer. The brushing lacquer is the nitrocellulose type and because it's a brushing lacquer will take a lot longer to dry. I've never used PPG lacquer before but it is a very reputable company and I would have no reason not to try it. I use their automotive paint any time I paint a car with great results. The products of Sherwin Williams are fine however I've quit buying from them because they have gotten too high priced.
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post #16 of 24 Old 02-08-2016, 06:13 AM Thread Starter
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Every question you guys are asking, I have at one time been on the asking end of it. I've just been at it so long I've already asked most of the questions. Now at this point in my career my business has fizzled out to doing honey do lists for old folks so before I joined the forum I've started forgetting a lot of things. Your questions are helping me a great deal in retaining a lot of things I've learned over the years.

Think of a sealer as a clear primer. You always start with the primer so it would go over the stained wood and before the lacquer. When you spray wood with any finish the fibers of the wood tend to raise up and this makes the first coat feel fuzzy. By sanding you remove this fuzz and make the surface smooth again. This is the purpose of sanding. The finish will get smoother and better every time it's sanded. On some projects 320 grit would be fine to sand the sealer with. If you were doing table top with a high gloss finish that would probably work good however it takes a lot longer to sand a finish with 320 grit and unless you are working on something special may not worth it. Cabinets are generally not finished with a furniture class of finishing. It's done a lot easier and quicker. Unless the finish is fairly glossy I use 180 grit paper. It will sand the surface smooth and you can't see the sand marks in the finish when done. If you were doing a glass like finish on a mahogany table and used 180 grit paper when you got done you could see the scratches the sandpaper made in the finish. This is the reason the autobody guys use 400 or finer grit between coats when painting a car because it's high gloss and shows everything.

I really don't see any difference in brands of lacquer. Lowes and Home Depot probably will only sell the brushing lacquer and no sealer. The brushing lacquer is the nitrocellulose type and because it's a brushing lacquer will take a lot longer to dry. I've never used PPG lacquer before but it is a very reputable company and I would have no reason not to try it. I use their automotive paint any time I paint a car with great results. The products of Sherwin Williams are fine however I've quit buying from them because they have gotten too high priced.

Would two sprayed coats of pre cat semi gloss lacquer look just the same as two coats of semi gloss poly? Also, would you happen to know exactly what the name is for the vinyl sealer at Shermin Williams? I went in their local store and asked about the vinyl sealer but they acted like they didn't know what I was talking about. I swear, the Shermin Williams in our area is full of kids that know virtually zero about this stuff!
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post #17 of 24 Old 02-08-2016, 08:41 AM
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Polyurethane is thicker than lacquer. It might take 4-6 coats of lacquer to equal two coats of poly. The nice thing though is you could put six coats of lacquer on before you could put one coat of poly on and get it dry.

As far as the vinyl sealer, they have several. Randy would the one that could tell you which would be better. He works for Sherwin Williams. It's just called Sher-Wood Vinyl Sealer. They have some called Fast Dry Vinyl Sealer but all of them dry fast. Vinyl sealer is more of a professional item and most Sherwin Williams cater to house painting, latex wall paint and such. That store may not stock vinyl sealers or catalyzed lacquers. They should have looked it up in their computer for you.
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Polyurethane is thicker than lacquer. It might take 4-6 coats of lacquer to equal two coats of poly. The nice thing though is you could put six coats of lacquer on before you could put one coat of poly on and get it dry.

As far as the vinyl sealer, they have several. Randy would the one that could tell you which would be better. He works for Sherwin Williams. It's just called Sher-Wood Vinyl Sealer. They have some called Fast Dry Vinyl Sealer but all of them dry fast. Vinyl sealer is more of a professional item and most Sherwin Williams cater to house painting, latex wall paint and such. That store may not stock vinyl sealers or catalyzed lacquers. They should have looked it up in their computer for you.
Ok, so now I feel like I have a good overview of different clear coat finishing options. Do you have any tips or tricks for spraying the actual lacquer and vinyl sealer? I have a pair of Graco airless spray rigs, and a standard HVLP gun. While on the topic, do you recommend spraying the stain, vinyl sealer, and lacquer all out of my Graco airless units or would my traditional HVLP gun be better?

Thank you so much for taking the time to help me understand this! I am truly grateful Steve!
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post #19 of 24 Old 02-09-2016, 08:03 AM
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While the Graco would spray lacquer, I don't care for spraying lacquer through an airless. Lacquer is sprayed very thin and the airless tends to put the finish on like a garden hose. If you don't move very fast with it you get runs in the finish. What I really prefer to spray cabinets with is a pressure pot and a conventional sprayer. It will spray lacquer more like a cup gun but you can go inside of a cabinet and turn the gun at any angle and spray it. Since it puts out a little more volume you don't get the dry spray and orange spray you usually get trying to spray the inside of a cabinet. On smaller jobs I prefer a cup gun.
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While the Graco would spray lacquer, I don't care for spraying lacquer through an airless. Lacquer is sprayed very thin and the airless tends to put the finish on like a garden hose. If you don't move very fast with it you get runs in the finish. What I really prefer to spray cabinets with is a pressure pot and a conventional sprayer. It will spray lacquer more like a cup gun but you can go inside of a cabinet and turn the gun at any angle and spray it. Since it puts out a little more volume you don't get the dry spray and orange spray you usually get trying to spray the inside of a cabinet. On smaller jobs I prefer a cup gun.
I never considered using a pressure pot, but I will take your advice and try to pick one up sometime soon. It is my understanding that with a pressure pot you put the material in the pot then hook a line up to connect it to an air compressor, then you hook up another hose with a gun at the end that you spray with. Is this correct? Or do I have it wrong? I know that my local Harber Freight has them, I just don't know if theirs is worth a crap, but it is under $100 with my 20% off coupon so it is worth a try. Can you recommend any other pressure pot setups that won't break the bank?
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