Metallic Speckles for a Custom Finish

Inventive ideas for applying metallic speckles in between the dark base coat and clear finish coat of an art piece. December 23, 2014

Question (WOODWEB Member) :
I've used this basic finish successfully in the past but seek to modify it slightly using a technique of which I am unfamiliar so I am looking for any tips that would help it work as intended. The basic finish is four coats of flat black enamel, with the last two coats sanded with 300-400 grit between and then four to six coats of wipe-on poly (either satin or gloss) between coats. I've found that when wear occurs on the surface, it can be quickly renewed with a light steel wool buff followed by one or two wipe-on poly coats and therefore an easily-maintained surface all-around,

The new wrinkle: I would like to add some metallic (in this case, gold) flecking prior to the poly finish coats. I've read about something called "Fly speck" finishing using a stiff brush and flicking the modification coat on, though I have yet to try it out. I was shopping for metallic oil-based enamel (like the paint used for model building) but have only found acrylic paint thus far and am wondering if there will be good adhesion between the flat oil-based enamel and the acrylic paint which is a water-based product and may present some bleed issues. Secondly, the technique itself (flicking paint from brush bristles) seems pretty haphazard though I assume some consistency might be achieved with enough practice.

Note: Spraying a metallic enamel with a pressurized can just won't create large enough metallic particles for the visual that I seek to achieve. So I am canvassing those of you who may have tried or read about something like this to discover the typical pitfalls and suggestions on how to control them. Essentially I was looking for a random metallic speck pattern similar to what an insect might make if it was walking on the black surface with metallic painted feet. The specks need not be the same size but am trying to avoid too great a variation between the smallest and largest speck sizes.

Any suggestions, article links or other navigation would be appreciated. Thanks in advance for any recommendations. I've used this basic finish successfully in the past but seek to modify it slightly using a technique of which I am unfamiliar so am looking for any tips that would help it work as intended. The basic finish is four coats of flat black enamel, with the last two coats sanded with 300-400 grit between and then four to six coats of wipe-on poly (either satin or gloss) between coats. I've found that when wear occurs on the surface, it can be quickly renewed with a light steel wool buff followed by one or two wipe-on poly coats and therefore an easily-maintained surface all-around. The new wrinkle: I would like to add some metallic (in this case, gold) flecking prior to the poly finish coats. I've read about something called.

Forum Responses
(Finishing Forum)
From contributor T:
A wipe on finish sounds like more work than needed. A water base clear sprayed on sounds faster and will do the same job. As far as the specks go, I will take a spray can and ream out the spray tip with a screw. The more you open it up the larger your flecks get. Hold the can a foot or so above your surface and a quick press and release will give you what you want. I always try it first on a separate piece of wood.



From the original questioner:
Good idea about changing the port diameter on a spray can. Thank you. It may not achieve the randomness I am after but still worth exploring. As far as spraying goes, well, I'm not really set up for production spraying and the environmental limitations here would preclude it anyway. My pieces are directed towards artistic quality rather than production (few cabinets but many carvings, turnings and sculpture-type items, antique restorations, etc.) so the hand-rubbed texture is important. I sub out any lacquering I might need out to another shop.

I have just tested speckling with acrylic paint but it failed. The metallic component of the paint is expressed too weakly although adhesion seems adequate. Additional coats remedy the problem but obviously is not an alternative with the speckling effect. Found some inexpensive gold flake paint with a Xylol infusion to try next although it has been documented as being somewhat carcinogenic in composition. Next will be a modified spray paint nozzle. I have experimented changing port size before, though not with paint spraying, and it can become an adventure finding the ideal hole diameter.




From contributor K:
I have done something similar to what is described above. Instead of a spray can, however, I used a Preval sprayer (you can get these at Home Depot.) Itís kind of like a fillable spray paint. It comes with a jar that you fill with your solution, and an aerosol can that screws to the top of the jar. What I did was made a mix of gold powders I got from Pearl art store, and mineral spirits. You will get very random specks if you pull back on the cap instead of pressing it in. Just pull back enough for the can to start spitting out material. You can cover quite a bit of area in no time. It helps to put a couple small hex nuts in the bottom of the jar so you can agitate the mix every so often (the gold falls to the bottom pretty fast).


From the original questioner:
Actually I have used the Preval sprayer before for staining vinyl upholstery but hadn't realized it could be manipulated to achieve the random particle size you have mentioned. A follow-up question: Approximately what was the mix ratio of powder-to-mineral spirits that you used successfully? I would expect this to change the flow of material distribution to some extent, no? Your tip about agitating the solution periodically is also helpful.