Metallic Finishes

Pros discuss ways to put a bright, shiny silver metallic finish on wood. August 9, 2005

Does anyone have experience with solvent or waterbased products that can be applied to architectural trim to replicate a stainless steel or aluminum look with about a 30į gloss? Perhaps a metallic silver lacquer? I've read some posts from those who've used automotive lacquers, but what type of primer/undercoat would be used for wood?

Forum Responses
(Finishing Forum)
From contributor E:
Try mica powder - silver - with flat lacquer. For the sealer, use VS.

From contributor M:
Use all automotive acrylic materials, from the primer to the silver base color coat, to the final clear coats, including the proper thinners. You may have a problem with a low sheen - it will look greyish and muted, and you probably will have to go up to a higher gloss. Make up some samples and see what you end up with.

From contributor J:
I don't have first-hand experience with the product called Luminore, but I've been intrigued with it since I heard about it a few years ago. Sounds like it might be just the ticket for you.

From the original questioner:
Thank you for your responses. The LuminOre product sounds very interesting. My first thought is that it was simply suspended mica powders or metal powders, but this sounds completely revolutionary. The downside is having to fly across the country for the two day training class and nowhere is cost mentioned, so it must be expensive. I'm going to look into this. And for now, will experiment with the mica powders and automotives. I've also used some faux finish products, the best of which is Modern Masters metallics, but they're high solids and don't spray well and are tricky to apply well by brush.

From contributor G:
Modern Masters' product is not nearly as good as Ronan. Ronan has the highest reflective metallics of any product I've tried, making it look more like the real thing. Generally I glaze over it a bit or heavily to give it character. They also spray well. In fact, I did some yesterday and it was really beautiful, great atomization, does need to be thinned. You can't brush the metallics, as lap lines are too tough to overcome. It is very difficult to find non-water based metallics these days, although some are around, based in xylene.

From contributor J:
My first thought when I read about the training, etc. for Luminore was just to call them and try to find someone nearby who is already trained and sub it out to them.

From contributor M:
I do a lot of metallic faux finishing and I use solvent base acrylics. They sell interior acrylic wood coatings and exterior acrylic coatings. On the acrylic silver base sample, all the colors were made up with acrylic paste colorants with a water solvent, coated over with acrylic. I use this same process on gold and silver pure or composite metal leafing.

From contributor C:
I used to work with Luminore. Yes, it is a good product, but has downsides, too. It is expensive and when you spray it, you have a 30 minute potlife. Otherwise you can throw your gun away. Once it is sprayed, you can polish it just like real metal. It is very durable. I coated the engine valve cover on my car 4 years ago and it is still there. I am sure there are easier methods out there, but if you need a very durable finish, Luminore is worth looking at.

From contributor D:
I have experimented with Luminore. It was easy to use and looked very nice when completed. It has been a few years since I used it. I was told I would have to take a training course before I could buy it. Well, somehow we made it around that and didn't take the course and were still able to buy the product. It wasn't cheap. For the price and the small amount we were going to use it, we decided it was not a product for us. If the look you are going for is something you will do a lot of and customers will pay the price, then this product is worth looking into. Make sure when you work with this that you are well-ventilated with proper PPE. I was and it still gave me a reaction on two separate occasions. It did not affect my other finishers. I may have had a leak in my respirator.

From contributor O:
We just mix some silver metallic powder from Crescent Bronze or Mohawk in with some cab lacquer such as MLC Klearplast. For a brighter look, prime the piece white. We do this quite often and it's no big deal. For varied effects, try gray or red undercoats.

From contributor R:
The above response is the most effective. It blows me away how many commercial shops know nothing about touch up. I am not a big fan of Mohawk, but every shop should have a set of their powders, especially the metal ones. They can be brushed, Frenched, sprayed, or just fingered on. They mix with any lacquer or thinner. They can be mixed to cover any knot or imperfection and of course, in this case, trim work. Trust me - this is the route to go! The time and money saved is well worth the initial $150 for the set or just order the silver. I think it is about $10 for 2 ounces. If you don't have the time to order this, silver guild from any craft store will also work, but do yourself a favor and get the powders for the future. I know guys that make a living off these powders and a can of lacquer alone.

From contributor G:
I have a full set of Ronan Aqualeaf metallics, as well as a full set of Modern Masters metallics. Rarely do I use the MM straight up, as I don't think they give the sheen and metal glow as well as Ronan. I do use them, however, to tone the Ronan when I'm looking for a color I can't get just by mixing the Ronan. I also use them for select other purposes, but Ronan is my main source.

I usually spray the Ronan with a 1.5 tip turbine system (turbine because most of my work is onsite). I do recommend a compressor system instead, because between the particles and the product thickness it is tough on the 2-3 stage turbines. Mine's a 4 stage. Use it thinned out, after running it through a fine mesh filter. The metallic particles can gum up the gun if you don't use the fine mesh.

This product produces a beautiful finish, especially good for hazing instead of using expensive powders ($10 - 20 for 2 ounces). Long time ago I used the gold in what I recall as an oil vehicle, but could have been xylene - too long to remember. Also, the fumes made me forget - terrible stuff to work with.

Recently I did extensive gold and brass work trying to match and restore some 17th - 18th century French artifacts. The customer didn't want 23k gold leaf, they didn't want the lap lines. Among other things, I had to do all the walls in a master bath, several sconces, cabinets, mirrors, medallions, etc., so leaf was impractical.

I looked long and hard for a product which would provide me the true metallic look, but couldn't find anything better than the Ronan. If anyone knows of a source for that old style gold/brass in oil vehicle, or a product better than Ronan, I'd sure like to hear it. I noted Luminor doesn't have gold.

My fear is that EPA rules have eliminated the use of this type of liquid gold. Contributor M, I'd be very interested to hear more about your acrylic based paste colorants. Also, when you say solvent based acrylics, you mean water as a solvent?

From contributor M:

No, I mean an acrylic solvent. The acrylic paste colorants are the same as the Universal, oil, or Japan colors. The only difference is that the acrylic colorants are ground up in a different binder, which then can use water as its solvent.

Any manufacturer or supplier of WB coatings should be selling acrylic colorants. If you are a small shop, you can buy acrylic colors in any arts and crafts shop.

From contributor G:
Thanks. Don't mean to be obtuse, but you mean something like adicolor? If so, then how do you get that true metal look, without having metal/mica particles suspended in it?

From contributor M:
I think you may have misunderstood me. When you mentioned that you glaze over the metallic coatings, I posted the photo of the tall box which has a silver base coat, and then a faux patinated finish I did with acrylic colorants. This was a sample I made up for an article I am working on. That's why I mentioned the acrylic colorants. I use both acrylic clear coatings and the acrylic metallic coatings (base coat - clear coat). I then do my color glazing (if needed) and go back to the clear acrylic coatings.

The comments below were added after this Forum discussion was archived as a Knowledge Base article (add your comment).

Comment from contributor H:
I am a painting contractor that uses lots of metallic coatings from the user friendly paints from Modern Masters to Blue Pearl. These are mica based and basically shiny paint. Mid line is Sculpt Nouveau, real metal suspended in water based resin. Itís super easy to use and their C metals can be burnished up fairly well with steel wool, great for most projects. For the real deal go with PlateAll. Real metal suspended in resin and MEKP used to harden. Itís the same technology as LuminOre without crazy upfront and training purchasing costs. There is very strong customer support and friendly owners.

I use a CA Technologies J100 gravity gun. It comes in a pack with three different set ups, a gauge, tools, gun holder and case. I mostly use bronze, aluminum, and nickel silver. I recently did a house with all bronze trim, and it looks amazing next to stained wood. I also did a set of aluminum cabinets.