We do many traditional white painted kitchens. We have, heretofore, not participated in paint - this has always been somebody else's responsibility.
The majority of our work ends up with a brushed finish. Usually the paint is applied with a spray gun and the last coat is tipped with a brush. A painter and I discussed a new strategy today and I wanted to run it by professionals. What would you think about the following work flow?
1) Build face frames and end panels
2) Miter and glue end panels to face frames
3) Send mitered assemblies to paint shop
4) Prime assemblies
5) Introduce brush strokes as desired in primer
6) Spray one thin coat of enamel over primer
7) Send face frame assemblies back to shop
8) Install face frame assemblies to cabinet boxes
9) Install cabinets in kitchen
10) Brush last coat of thin coat of enamel after cabinets are installed
What we are hoping is that the brush strokes at primer phase would be heavy enough to telegraph through final coats. This approach would save the costs of masking cabinets. Does this idea sound viable?
From contributor A:
If you are brushing 1 thin (?) coat in the field you could easily brush 2 coats in the field. Also you are ending up with 1 coat primer and 2 thin coats of topcoat.
Likewise, we do a lot of pre-primed casework. Our standard method of construction is to prime the face frames with a heavy undercoater/primer. Glue/pocket screw frames onto boxes. If you have an end panel it can often be easier to fasten the primed frame and primed end panel to the box, then touch up the primer with a brush. Fill any nail holes/defects with spackle. Sand the primer/spackle in the shop to 240 grit. Install, caulk, fill nail holes with spackle.
We only sub 2 different painters (individuals) to brush what I call 1 1/2 coats of topcoat. The finish comes out like glass with enough brush strokes to appease customers.
I have had another (untested) idea for a while. What would you think of a spray primed product with a clear finish brushed over the top of the primer? Or is that what you were talking about, contributor R?
Are you using a water base primer? If so, brushing like you said should give you enough brush strokes to work with after installing.
Get yourself some MLC Clawlock or a similar cat undercoater. It lies out even when applied in thick coats. Most customers prefer the finished look of sanded primer. We've had several customers who thought the cabinets were finished.
I also build traditional style cabinets. I much prefer to finish the cabinets and then install. Sometimes we also will deliver primed cabinets to be finished in the field. The problem I have with this is the loss of control. The painters may be good or they may be bad. The finish is what people see, and good or bad, your cabinets will be judged on the appearance of the finish. When we do a primed finish we spray the primer and let the painters caulk and putty much like contributor A described. You really can't get much simpler than that.
What is needed, for the benefit of the customer, is a paint delivery system that can be repaired over time. This is where I think visible brush strokes are useful. I think they are also what you expect to see in an older house. A street of dreams pristine finish, while definitely a testimony to the craftsman's talent, is not necessarily what you want on a reproduction project.
You can polish this thing all you want and it will, on day one, be stellar in appearance. Go back to some of these projects a year or two later and see what they look like. I contend that the ones with more apparent brush strokes on day one hold up better over time.
I think also that some of this quality goes over your customer's head. Show them an A+ job alongside B+ with the price tags affixed and they will probably ask for an A (-) and be just as happy.
After the first primer coat is sanded and you have a smooth substrate, the second primer coat is applied. You could introduce the brush marks here – but why?
Depending on which primer/topcoat system your painter uses, there may be a required sanding step before the first topcoat for intercoat adhesion, which will degrade the brush strokes. Further – if the painter does one brush-on application in the shop, then another onsite, there may be a recoat window which means sanding onsite as well.
My suggestions are:
1 - first primer coat
2 - sand aggressively to remove nibs, etc.
3 - second primer coat (this can be glass-smooth)
4 - back to your shop for cab assembly
5 - install in customer’s house
6 - sponge-sand and brush on unthinned topcoat(s) onsite - this will give plenty of brush marks
Also to consider – why not send everything flat packed to the finishing shop instead of attaching the end panels to the face frames? Unless you’re sending them batches of 1, flat pack will lessen chances of transit damage and take less space in the delivery vehicle.
Everything sticks to shellac (BIN) and no sanding required. Trickiest bit would be getting the BIN tinted properly so the clear coat gives the proper shade of white. Samples strongly recommended.
On another note (maybe the same one?), one of the best finishes I have ever seen was on Doug fir. It went as follows:
1) Fir was sealed with benite.
2) Fir was stained rich dark brown.
3) Two coats of garden variety nitrocelluose lacquer. All this was done out in the carport; nothing high tech...
4) Fir was installed.
5) Putty crayons fixed nail holes.
6) Back brushed with spar varnish.
The lacquer gave it build and the spar varnish gave it streaks. The net effect made you think you were in an old lumber baron's house that had some of the rooms closed off years ago when the old guy died. Wonderful looking finish and pretty simple set of processes.
I find it amazing that in your long successful career you managed to avoid the finishing aspect of our industry. Unfortunately it is one of the most frustrating/rewarding aspects of woodworking. My first boss managed to do the same. He only went as far as satin lacquer or BIN primer with the majority of our work being bare wood. We were building some of the best millwork/casework in Essex, Greenwich, and Watchhill, RI. Up until the late 90's it worked great. Then he started to lose jobs because he had no finishing department. The first thing the next owner did was to throw 50k at a real finishing system.
On stain grade I would definitely stay away from spar, poly (the kind off the shelf at the hardware store), or plain nitro. You are paying too much in labor and headache. Definitely would be introducing brush marks early and then spraying. Touch up done in the field is easy here. But I would definitely steer you away from using a clear coat over your pigmented/paint finishes, because you want to be able to do repairs. It's much harder to make it look nice.
The problem with water, alcohol, or oil based paints is the dry time before shipping. In water base I can't ever get it dry enough to, say, use as a shelf. Stuff will stick to it a long time later. Oil based paints dry way too slow to achieve hardness for shipping. I often ship stuff from my side of the state (dry) to your side (very wet). On one very large paint grade job using a pre-cat lacquer, which is not as flexible as an oil based paint (say Ben Moore, which is often called for in your area in the upper end homes), we had a finish failure, as the hard maple swelled in the doors and hairline cracks appeared. So I tried the Ben Moore oil base for a couple of jobs. Man, you have to let a job sit around for two weeks before you can wrap it in plastic or wrap it in a shipping blanket. I just can't see that being viable for you.
So you are left with going with a catalyzed product (pre-cat, post cat, CV, etc). I know it is done, but I've always been hesitant to brush these. Even to spray and then back brush for effect. Mil limits are finicky. You can exceed them a hundred times and not have a problem, but the first time you land the 200k job and your rep is riding on it, you can count on the finish to act up and you'll age 10 years in a single week. Even before you add the brush element, it is hard to get a finish that is paint grade with catalyzed finishes without getting close to the mill limits.
Good luck with your choices. Do your homework before doing any of this. Finishing can make and lose you money faster than just about any other facet of this business. Finishing is a science and when you ask what is BIN, you are still in 6th grade in finishing school and to be where you need to be with your price point and rep, you need at least a BA.
I was on a job where we did all the millwork and casework except for the kitchen. They wanted everything in the house brushed (Nantucket summer house look). The architect spec'ed CV for the kitchen. The final finish (which I can't believe was accepted by the architect, builder, or customer) had grooves in the topcoat where they had brushed the pigmented CV in their shop. It was the worst finish job I have every seen. That was in a $4 mil, 4000sqft house. I get a bit of dust in one of my jobs and they want to withhold a pile of money until I fix it.
Brush strokes in oil based enamel are easy to accomplish, and enamel is a bit forgiving. It sounds to me as if the brush marks should be kind of faint and not sloppy, as if a drunk decided to slap some paint on the kitchen cabinets. If that's the case (I'm sure it is) I would try and get the brush strokes in the primer stage. Be careful at the junctions where the stiles meet the rails - that's where the "artsy" technique comes into play.
The BIN shellac primer is a good choice for this finish simply because it dries a bit slower than a lacquer and will allow you to manipulate it before it really sets up. Once the setup has begun, it's best to leave it alone lest you end up with a big mess trying to brush it at this point.
Once it's completely dry a light sanding is in order. Just enough sanding with, say, 280 paper to rid the surface of dust or otherwise heavy brush marks that might be undesirable. Once the BIN (primer) has completely cured and the sanding has been done, a few coats of oil based enamel should be in order to complete the project. Thinner coats of enamel are always desirable over heavy coats, which may run or obscure the brush marks left by the BIN primer.
Anyway, I’ve got to get back to a couple of cherry tables I am making. I had planned on mortise and tenon joinery but on second thought maybe I’ll just drive some rusty nails through the joints. I could even bend one over and call it art…
A classic Cape Cod house that's 100 years old has been painted at least a half dozen times over the years. The customer sees these cabinets through the lens of age. A 100 year old house without some patina would not look right to someone today.
It's also not about the craftsman today with respect to cost. I am sure that a competent painter today might argue for the highest quality finish he can deliver. The tailor might argue for the highest quality thread and cloth. At the end of the day this tailor is perfectly content with brush strokes in his paint and the painter chooses factory made shirts over handmade clothing.
Then a brush painted finish... There are some requests for that in the high end market. I can brush it without brush strokes or with. With brush marks I use latex paint, sand it and then glaze it, then top coat with flat pre-cat. When I'm brushing I orchestrate all the brush marks. Sanding them gives them some antiquity, as does the glaze. I also like milk paints. Keep it simple - it's already tough enough.
Titebond 1 = no telegraph
Titebond 2 = some telegraph
Titebond 3 = usually telegraph
Titebond white = always telegraph
It has to do primarily with hardness. Titebond 1 dries very hard/easy to sand. White glue never dries hard/clogs sandpaper.
You will always see movement on the ends of cabinet doors where the edge grain of the rail grows and the end grain of the stile does not. However, we the woodworkers of the world notice those details. You should be able to build doors and face frames where you do not get telegraphing or cracking.