Extending the Working Time on Glaze Finishes

A finisher struggles with glazing applied over waterbased paints. Problem? The glaze sets up too fast. December 8, 2012

I've done a handful of these finishes lately, and it gets me every time. It's a painted finish with darker glaze, applied heavy to all surfaces, including the flats. My current project is a typical traditional entertainment wall unit 10'W x 8'H, raised panel doors. Waterbased paint (MLC Agualente) on off-white, satin sheen, followed by waterbased glaze in Raw Umber. The glaze is General Finishes Glaze Effects, also waterbased, ultimately topcoated with Agualente clear.

My first problem is dealing with the open time. I mask off sections when possible, like adjacent inside faces of upper cabinets. Areas are large, and I find myself running out of time to work the glaze. I more or less slop it on with a brush, then rag it off. Because it's on every surface, consistency of direction and color are key. Once I start wiping, I get about three passes at best before it starts to set up. This is ok for tops or exterior cabinet sides, but for interior surfaces, it's difficult to move superfast when working into the corners or where the side meets the ceiling of the cabinet. The end result is that it often looks messy in those areas. Is there any way to extend the open time? Any other suggestions? I've gone so far as to pre-finish interior faces before assembly, but the design/construction details don't always allow this.

The rag-off technique is very difficult to do nicely in small detail areas, like in the profiles of raised panel doors. I'm masking off the rails and stiles, and doing the raised panel and rail/stile profiles first, along with the raised panel. I've been using a soft artist's brush for the profile areas, and this gives a decent result, but the brush strokes look slightly different from the lines created by wiping with a rag. Also, the brush tends to pull the glaze out of the sharp profiles where I want it to be darker. I use the brush because it gives me better control. Any suggestions for a better way/better tools/better products to do this?

Masking off is proving to be a pain - it's time consuming. The glaze bleeds under the edge (blue 3M tape). I can't use it on areas that I've glazed because it will pull the glaze off.

Forum Responses
(Finishing Forum)
From contributor K:
Try the Renner glaze if you can purchase some. They have a spray and wipe (open time half hour) or an old fashion slop on slop off style (open time one hour). I haven't had any compatibility issues, but I would do a test first.

From the original questioner:
To contributor K: Is it waterbased?

From contributor V:
Use a water spray bottle to mist your rags as needed.

From contributor M:
I feel your pain. I also use mlc wb. I have separated the "look" into two steps. The first is the dark accent glaze. I then mix a very transparent version of it, spray it, and then lay it down with a brush. It is impossible to just do it with cheesecloth. That works well on doors but not bookcases or a run of faceframes. For the tape, I always run a quick line of my clear on the tape joint after I put it down. Actually I go around twice, that way the clear goes under instead of my finish.

From the original questioner:
To contributor M: So you seal in the first coat of glaze with clear, let that dry, and then tape that section off to do the adjacent sections? Then do you apply a second application of glaze over the clear?

From contributor M:
I do the accent, wipe it off where I don't want it with damp cheescloth or paper towels, and then let it dry before the "antiquing" part goes on. If I was doing a small piece I might get a hair dryer out and dry the accent part. It is ok to go over the accent with the "antiquing" since it is the same stuff only cut way back with glaze. When brushed it looks like cheesecloth work. It is way easier to control and less stressful when you separate the finish into parts.

Another trick is when I am doing the brushing part. I cut the air way back to make it splatter. That way I know exactly how much I am putting on by the size and amount of splatters. Also it stays wet longer when it is splattered. As soon as you hit it with the brush it starts to dry. I don't use mlc for my glazes/faux work I have been using Faux Effects out of Florida for ten plus years. Everyone has their own styles right?

From contributor K:
Yes, the renner is wb. I've been using it with their system as well as the Fuhr items with no problems.

From the original questioner:
Today I came up with a tool to help with wiping the glaze out of the edge where the inside face of the cabinet side meet the top. I fold three or four layers of a paper towel over the edge of a taping knife and tape it on. That lets me get in tight without disturbing the glaze on the adjacent face.

Another thing I worry about since there's no sanding of the paint before applying the glaze is adhesion problems with my clear topcoat? I believe the glaze has some ingredient that gives it some bite, but when you thin it way out (I do that, too), that ingredient gets diluted. By the way, I'm pretty sure that diluting with water isn't helping with the open time. Maybe diluting with the clear base glaze is a better idea.

From contributor M:
Yes. Rule number one, do not thin wb glaze with water unless you want it to dry faster. I use the clear glaze to cut the color. I do add a little water because the glaze is kind of thick and stands up some on the surface, but only a tiny amount. Glad you figured something out. I consider myself an inventor of sorts. I am constantly trying to figure things out and new ways of doing things.

From contributor B:
I don't use MLC but I think you would want to at least hit the paint with some synthetic steel wool prior to glazing. I think you definitely could have some adhesion issues.

From contributor J:
A few things I would suggest are that if you are using GF glaze you should look into trying their EF extender. That product will extend the working time of the glaze and give you the time to work it.

Alternatively you can go to a local pharmacy and purchase some Glycerin. That is a trick I learned years ago to give a longer working time to stains and glazes. While water was not recommended above, I just did a fairly large on site glazing job like you described and I did thin down my GF glaze with water by a fairly large percentage (30%) and it was more workable and gave me the effect I needed so I wouldn't rule it completely out.

After years of using aqualente I would also suggest trying GF tinted Poly. It was reformulated about two years ago and in my opinion it outperforms the MLC product. Plus you can get pretty good tech support from GF when you keep in the same family of products.

From the original questioner:
The extender sounds promising. I'm thinning as many as two parts water to one part glaze to get the color I'm looking for, which I'm sure is a big part of my problem. I use a bunch of GF's products - stains, glazes, milk paint, etc. Good company - I met the owners at a woodworking show a few years ago. I haven't tried their pigmented poly. I assume they can color match? My current job is a Ben Moore color.

From contributor J:
They can. In fact they are just transitioning to a new set of colorants that are in my opinion the most advanced in the industry. I was emailed a list of fan decks that they have color matches for with these new colorants and it is pretty expansive. They tint my poly to BM/SW and other decks all the time.

From contributor U:
The MLC Agualente is going to require a scuff before moving on to the next step. There will be no chemical adhesion formed between the products, and no "re-melting" as you might get with a solvent product. I hope this news isn't getting to you too late, but if you've been using the Agualente for a while I assume you have been following the inter-coat sanding steps already.