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Kem Aqua plus Clear

Mike Member

Making the switch from solvent to waterborne. I expected some grain raising with the first coat but wow not like this. I actually had to use the orbital sander with 220 to knock down the large flat areas and then sandpaper wrapped around a putty knife to get into all the corners. The second coat went almost as nice as solvent base, not bad for my first try at water. Is this normal for this product? I used it as a self sealer on raw unstained Hickory with a gravity feed lvlp with a 1.4 needle. Would i get better results if i first used either the Kem Aqua Lacquer Sanding Sealer or the Kem Aqua plus Waterborne Sealer?
When i use the solvent base lacquer i can sand with 220 sponge very fast (i would call it wipe rather than sand) and go for the second coat. Inside corners on doors are no problem but if this water is typical of the sanding required I'll probably go back to solvent. Could it really just be technique or do you guys have a good method.

9/2/16       #2: Kem Aqua plus Clear ...
Russell Isaac Member

Having made the switch to waterborne myself, I feel your pain to a degree. You are correct in expecting some grain raise. I have never used Kem Aqua, but I have tried a bunch different products with varying success. I won't bore you with the details, but at this point I am settled on ICA Coatings products.

One of the main advantages of the products I use is that the base coat is applied in two coats without sanding between. This is a wet-on-dry application with the second coat applied between 1 & 3 hours (or a bit longer) after the first coat is applied. The product then sands well without clogging the paper and because of the extra film build, there is no sanding through the first coat, or the stain in the case of a stained wood. However, this 2-base-coats-without-sanding technique is not unique to ICA Coatings. Target Coatings and probably others have this as well. You might want to check with your rep as to whether your product can be applied in this way.

9/3/16       #3: Kem Aqua plus Clear ...

only a little help here...the Kem-Aqua is a tough and attractive wb finish but it does not sand well...even after 24 hours dry time in low humidity conditions you wouldn't say it 'powders up nicely'. For a sealer and to avoid the grain raise I use Zinnser's Seal Coat. Of course if you want to go all wb this won't work.
I'd ask my SW rep for a demo gallon of the sealer...I know I am.

9/4/16       #4: Kem Aqua plus Clear ...
Steve Member

"Would i get better results if i first used either the Kem Aqua Lacquer Sanding Sealer or the Kem Aqua plus Waterborne Sealer?"

Not tyrying to be smart, but that's why the product exists. While I have used the former I am not familiar with the difference in the latter and have been curious about it (is it justy a name change?).

But yes, by all means use it - I have had nil raising on hickory and Euro Steam beech and a lot of use on Cherry. Perfect results, sanding, as someone says, is more like wiping with 200 or above.

9/4/16       #5: Kem Aqua plus Clear ...
Mike Member

Steve you may have hit on the answer i was hoping for. Could you please clarify when you had great results was that with the Kem Aqua Lacquer Sanding Sealer? Am i to understand that you have no experience with the Kem Aqua plus Waterborne Sealer?
The two products are not the same and are listed in the doc's for the Kem aqua plus clear and also in the doc's it states that it can be used as a self sealer that's why i didn't use any of the other products under it.

9/4/16       #6: Kem Aqua plus Clear ...

There is nothing wrong with mixing solvent and WB products. We used to use a solvent vinyl sealer and then a WB topcoat. Ask your supplier what they would recommend. I'm just saying this as a potential fix for the grain raising. If your required to go all WB, this won't be the answer.

9/4/16       #7: Kem Aqua plus Clear ...
Steve Member

Mike, by 'former,' I have used the Aqua Lacquer Sanding Sealer, Product Data Sheet CC-F46, (and other Aqua products) for four years with fantastic results. I trust you have done the same and have that application info. at hand.

As a result of this conversation I printed the downloaded Waterborne Sealer data sheet CC-F68, and I now see the difference if that applies to your needs as an extra option.

Also, if I understand the process here, if you click on my name it should send me a private mail (PM) and I will be happy to discuss any side questions if I am able to.

9/4/16       #8: Kem Aqua plus Clear ...
david zaret Member

i've used a lot of kem aqua plus lately, and i agree completely with what's been said (especially the poor sandability). that said, the price point is amazing - i pay $29 a gallon for it, it's readily available, and seems to generally function well as a reliable clear.

i much prefer GF enduro clear poly, but it's $66 a gallon and difficult to get. i used to be an avid user to Target and stopped using it after a couple of major quality control failures.

so... what's the answer? have you guys found a water clear that's as "simple and reliable" as kem aqua, at a reasonable price point, but has better overall characteristics? what about Agualente?

-- dz

9/4/16       #9: Kem Aqua plus Clear ...
Steve Member

Now, there you have several good points, David. But tell me... last week I called the local Chemical Coatings Div and was told they now only carry it in 5 gallon, no more one gallon. Have you run into that? I'm in northern CA if that matters

9/4/16       #10: Kem Aqua plus Clear ...
david zaret Member

from what i'm told, and what i see (southeast michigan), only the dull rubbed sheen is available in only 5s. the rest are available in gallons (i've been buying the medium rubbed). last week i bought two gallons... so at least fairly recently that's still the case.

i'm going to try the kem aqua sealer to see if that's a help to the poor sanding of the topcoat. maybe that's a reasonable solution. that said, if anyone has suggestions on another good, reasonably-priced industrial clear (waterborne) please advise. thanks.

-- dz

9/5/16       #11: Kem Aqua plus Clear ...
Steve Member

Thank you for your info par.1, David, I think SW and I may have had a miscommunication and I'll go back to them this week.

As to the Aqua Waterborne sealer, I would like to try it but if you are going to try it as you indicate, I'll wait to hear your results if that is OK, rather than duplicating an initial effort. Time is no rush.

I am out of the sanding sealer but will wait to order it and possibly combine the two on one order.

Back to the OP, Mike your PM note got gobbled by my computer sync, now fixed, please resend. Thanks all.

9/5/16       #12: Kem Aqua plus Clear ...
Steve Member

Well fellows, I have read all your comments repeatedly, and if I am correct, none of you have followed the S-W protocol, e.g simply using Aqua sanding sealer and then Aqua top coat, no criticism intended. David, I don't follow the need for any appreciable sanding. I did two moderate sized kitchens and a half dozen free standing cabinets, face frames of Steamed Euro Beech. All were sanded to 220 or 320 maximum. I'm in N. CA so air temp was moderate and comfy - no excessive heat or winter cold.

Door panels were " same material lumber e.g. not veneer, from Walzcraft and a few were my own made using " veneer for the interior panel. SImilarly a bunch of things made of " cherry - none required any noticeablle sanding. In the doors mentioned, solid stock was 'wiped' with 220 using a Festool 6" ROS. Veneer panels required modestly more sanding. single pass.

I sanded after the Aqua sanding sealer coat and after 1st coat of Aqua gloss or medium rubbed finish. and then that was it for sanding followed by second final coat.

I just stained and sprayed a half-dozen 15" sq. veneer panels and had quite a bit of grain raise but I think that was the material used - off cuts of ⅛ inch veneer. I was also out of sanding sealer per above, but OK, that was probably a sloppy test. :(

Point here, is no mention is made of your circumstances requiring sanding - different material? Any summary comments are invited.

Happy Labor Day, all.


9/5/16       #13: Kem Aqua plus Clear ...
Mike Member

David were you using the clear as a self sealer as i was when you posted your first reply ---- and i agree completely with what's been said (especially the poor sandability).------ Steve is getting good results but he uses a sealer first. I am also interested in the results of using Aqua Waterborne sealer so if any one of us gets their first please post your findings on this string.
Steve i received your pm reply, thank you.

9/5/16       #14: Kem Aqua plus Clear ...
david zaret Member

guys, i completely follow, and agree. i did not use the sanding sealer (put in an order just this weekend for some), and used the topcoat as a seal coat. agreed the sanding is probably much less of an issue with the sealer. i'm encouraged by what you've said here, and looking forward to trying the sealer first.

9/6/16       #15: Kem Aqua plus Clear ...
John B Member

I have not used the Kem Aqua myself, but have tried GF, Target, Aquelente among others. I just finished my second clear coat project using Sayerlack, available from SW,
and have to say this stuff is the best I've used yet. Self seals, sands well, builds very fast, and seems to allow stacking the following day with no problems so far. It does dry just a bit slower than some but I think that's just because it builds a little quicker.

9/6/16       #16: Kem Aqua plus Clear ...
david zaret Member

stopped by SW on the way to the shop and talked to them about the Kem Aqua sealer. that stuff only comes in 5s. he said ~$150 for a 5, and about a year shelf life once opened. not ideal.....

9/6/16       #17: Kem Aqua plus Clear ...

John b., because the sayerlac sounded like the answer to my WB woes l tried for 2 months to get my SW rep to get me a couple of demo gallons to no avail...said it just wasn't a availible on the west coast or at least we're l where are you and how's the a availability?

9/6/16       #18: Kem Aqua plus Clear ...
Steve Member

I'll have to look into the Sayerlack tomorrow - I ordered a gal of Sanding sealer today. Earlier I said I was told only 5's. That was through the paint store mgr. OK, so I called Chem Coat myself today and he said sure no problem but he had to pour off a gallon and needed a couple of hours in case I was on my way over but time is no problem so I am of the understanding 1 gal is en route to me.

Where are you guys located? - I am in the greater S.F. Bay area. David let's be sure we are on the same page, Aqua SANDING Sealer T65F520.

9/6/16       #19: Kem Aqua plus Clear ...
david zaret Member

that's the one. let us know what you discover.

9/7/16       #21: Kem Aqua plus Clear ...
Mike Member

Steve are you sure about your last post wanting to try Aqua SANDING Sealer T65F520. Did you mean T65F550?
On post #7 you wrote (Mike, by 'former,' I have used the Aqua Lacquer Sanding Sealer, Product Data Sheet CC-F46, (and other Aqua products) for four years with fantastic results.)
CC-F46 is T65F520

9/7/16       #22: Kem Aqua plus Clear ...
John B Member

Steve, we're in upstate New York, near Syracuse but the commercial SW products ship to me from Rochester, NY. My local SW branch doesn't handle it.

9/7/16       #23: Kem Aqua plus Clear ...
Steve Member

"Steve are you sure about your last post wanting to try Aqua SANDING Sealer T65F520. Did you mean T65F550? "

Yes, Mike, thank you for catching my error. ..550 it should be.

9/7/16       #24: Kem Aqua plus Clear ...
Steve Member

OH GOOD GRIEF - sorry this forum has no after posting editor - That is the question I asked in the top of the thread. will be back to you later.....

9/7/16       #25: Kem Aqua plus Clear ...
Steve Member

OK, folks we have closure and an explanation to complete this exciting saga.

S-W has discontinued the Sanding Sealer (65F520) and replaced it with the Waterborne Sealer T65F550. So, Mike, kudos to you in catching my error earlier this morning.

And the issue of why the two (?) is no longer a point, Waterbourne is a direct replacement, and one nice point in my humble opinion is that you can not use Butyl Cellosolve from the prior line but use diluted Acetone for cleanup, which is readily available from most big box and hardware stores. Remaining Aqua Plus products continue to use Cellosolve.

So, to the OP, give it a shot and tell us what you think of it; I have a gallon coming to me by Friday and I'll spray some samples and share my results.

The end. :)

9/11/16       #26: Kem Aqua plus Clear ...

Mike, Nick, et al - I received my one (single, uno...) gallon of the sanding sealer ...550 Friday morning. I'm putting together some stuff to test and will post my results, sanding and all comments, in a day or two and will share them here.


9/19/16       #28: Kem Aqua plus Clear ...
Steve Member

Hello everyone, sorry for the delay. I'll spray the new sealer in the morning as I want to see it for myself before I apply it to my current endeavor, a two door glass door cherry book case. Mike, I hope you haven't thrown in the towell waiting for me.

9/20/16       #29: Kem Aqua plus Clear ...
Mike Member

Not at all Steve were all busy trying to earn a living. I am still very interested on how much grain is lifted with this stuff. I also use a lot of Cherry so that's a good choice for the test. I can assume you have both solid and plywood in the bookcase, interested in the results of both types of wood.

9/20/16       #30: Kem Aqua plus Clear ...
Steve Member

I sprayed 8 pieces of material, offcuts and such as was on hand. Three were cherry (1-was " lumber and 2 were " veneer cherry, cabinet grade). The other pieces were " , ⅛ veneer and stuff from local big box, rather than my usual professional supplier due to the min qty order.

Bottom line to Mike's question is that there was only slight lift on the cherry veneer or lumber, almost negligible. Wiping it back and forth once with 220, using a Festool orbital sander cleared it up. In fairness, a tiny bit of that might have been my air reg settings but my previous finished products showed no problem.

This new Waterborne Sealer is an Acetone base so remember to have a little Acetone on hand to cleanup 50:50. The sealer is noticeably slightly heavier body and creamy-ish consistency than the old.

The other pieces were some sort of birch-like veneer and needed just an extra swipe with 220 grit.

Sealer on Cherry dries as medium rubbed affect and is first class. I'll finish my bookcase shortly and spray it. I hope this answers the OP's questions.

9/21/16       #31: Kem Aqua plus Clear ...
Steve Member

A BELATED NOTE TO THE OP AND SEVERAL OTHERS. Kem Aqua is NOT a water base product! References to water and such are misplaced.

Aqua is an alcohol based., WATER REDUCIBLE product. If you have the problems in the OP - sanding inside corners, etc., you have an application problem, apparently excessive material. I should have mentioned this earlier. As stated I have always found it easy to 'wipe' or no sanding to speak of. No raising of grain.

9/22/16       #32: Kem Aqua plus Clear ...
Mike Member

Steve that's interesting what you said about (you have an application problem, apparently excessive material.) I have some time next week I'm going to try and figure this out. I'll start by trying to put too little on some scrap pieces let it dry then increase the flow etc till i get it. I really hope that's it. I'm assuming then that you put a piss coat on raw wood to seal it then go for a full wet coat after sanding. I was trying to follow specs at 3 to 4 mils wet coats and found that will run on verticals so i was probably down to 2 mils wet. Is anyone else following this thread have info to add to this???

9/22/16       #33: Kem Aqua plus Clear ...
Steve Member

Mike, your paragraph here eliminates any remaining questions, and amplifies the apparent need for beginning spraying lessons. Your points only now mentioned, including that it ran on vertical should have been our first notice.

As others have stated in the thread, this is why S-W limits sale of Aqua to its professional Chemical Coatings Division stores.

I suggest you check out the home woodworking forums for starters.

9/22/16       #34: Kem Aqua plus Clear ...
JoeW Member


I have been following this tread out of interest. I do not use the Aqua Chem. I have used waterborne for over 10 years. MLC Agualente and ValSpar Zenith.

Waterborne is like a difficult child. It will fight you all the way. I have concluded it is because anyone who had been using solvent has become proficient with it and has a difficult time accepting that waterborne is just not as easy to apply.

That said, I have found that if you try to apply 3 to 5 mils it is going to run. Usually because I have a tendency to thin to it's recommended bottom limit. Have to to give the product enough time to allow micro bubbles to pop before it skins over. If you spray a thin coat, it is very hard to keep a wet edge and over spray will cause other issues.

You just have to keep experimentingwith it until you comfortable with it. I use a CATech H2O AAA pump. Harder to use with waterborne than from a cup gun. At least for me.

Good luck.

9/22/16       #35: Kem Aqua plus Clear ...
Steve Member

Thank you Joe for the better description of what I should have referred to as waterborne. I too started to invest in the same CAT equipment and MLC products you mention but decided not to for other reasons - brand familiarity in 60 year loyalty and availability, air-assisted operation, and existing equipment (stranded investment).

Mike, you might be interested in S-W's Waterborne Poly, which is available in quarts at all paint stores instead of mnimum gallons, shorter shelf life, and trying to deal with their CC Divison stores. Check it out. Good luck.

9/22/16       #36: Kem Aqua plus Clear ...
Mike Member

Steve i don't know why you think I'm an amateur woodworker I've been doing this all my life and 5 years shy of retirement so this old man is trying something new (new to me) at least. If you go back and read my first opening question you will see that i am trying to switch from solvent to waterborne. I sprayed solvent for years and yes as Joe mentioned it is a different product with different technique.
So i simply asked the question about dealing with the raised grain, i also said that after it's sealed a can lay down a very nice smooth coat it's just the first coat that raises the grain. So yes i don't have experience with this product hence the forum to ask questions. The comment i made about a sag on a vertical test piece was well after the original post while i was testing this stuff one evening. Spraying it and getting a level coat is not the problem the raised grain is and i do acknowledge my ability to spray this stuff correctly has to change so again hence the forum to ask questions.

9/22/16       #37: Kem Aqua plus Clear ...
JoeW Member


To focus in on your question about the first coat raising the grain. Yes. Always for me.

I have found that if I sand maple to 220 grit, in most cases the grain raise is not too bad. But it is there. Try to sand to 150 or so and its much worse.

With Clear, It has always been easier to use a sanding sealer for the first coat. The MLC and Valspar sanding sealers are softer. I have found that sanding with the SurfPrep and their 5mm pads makes sanding a breeze and getting into the corners is not a problem. Second and third coats, are also very easy. You just got to get by the first coat.

With Pigment, I try to put a thicker coat of primer on first, since I will sand it more to get it smooth. I use 320 grit. Usually what is left is pretty thin and some times the second coat of primer will raise the grain again. But the second coat of primer is the magic coat. You can get it really smooth with 320. If you use the SurfPrep, as I have for the last 2 years with the Very Fine pad its even better.

Once you get to the color coats, It's all about getting the gun set to atomize correctly and laying it flat with as few micro bubbles as possible. Micro bubbles are the main issue. You got to make sure they have time to pop before it skins over. Resist the temptation to use fans to speed up the drying until after it skins over. After that the fans work great on the waterborne I have used.

I have a love hate relationship with waterborne. Virtually no smell, easy cleanup. But what a pain to get to atomize and still keep a wet edge. After 10 years I am still wrestling with it. Especially now that MLC has changed the Agualente formula with their new Agualente Plus. Takes much longer to dry effecting stacking and wrapping.

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