Options for Finishing Cherry

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Cabinetmaker gets advice on finish combinations and application techniques. July 9, 2005

I have a cherry entertainment center job, and I would like the ability to spray clear pre-cat lacquer and dye toning using a gravity HVLP gun. I have been spraying WB finishes with my currrent HVLP but I'm leery about WB on cherry. And I don't want to use my conventional gun due to overspray. I have a 60 gallon IR 2 stage compressor that outputs >15.1 cfm at 175 psi at my shop. I would like your recommendations on a gun model and tip size.

Note: I currently have a Binks Mach M1-G Prime HVLP gun that is designed for shooting automotive primers and waterborne woodworking finishes. The gun has a 1.7 needle (no smaller available). I'm under the impression that this gun has too big a tip for pre cat lac.

Forum Responses
(Finishing Forum)
From contributor L:
I run an HVLP gravity cup automotive gun also. It has a 1.5 tip in it and I want the 1.7. I would say that you are fine for shooting the pre-cat - you won't even need to thin it. As for shooting the dyes and toners, just use the needle adjustment to close down the movement so the needle orifice stays small while shooting.

From Paul Snyder, forum technical advisor:
Water-base finishes don't have quite the same grain "pop" as oil-base and/or solvent based finishes and can look dull on cherry and other woods (some WB finishes are better than others).

But it's easy to work around this limitation. Instead of getting a new spray gun and using lacquer, you can either seal the wood with shellac or an oil-base product. Shellac does a nice job of popping the grain and figure in cherry and, depending on the type of flakes you use, adds some color as well, which also enhances the wood. Oil-based products, on the other hand, do a great job of enhancing the directionality (aka chatoyance, shimmer) in the wood and bringing out its color. Boiled linseed oil is often recommended, but its slow dry/cure time is a real deterrent in a production environment. Instead of the linseed oil, I use an oil-base varnish; it's dry in a day. I use Waterlox original sealer and finish because it has a deep amber coloring that really pops the figure.

Here are the steps I use:
Sand per usual and remove the dust.

Spray Waterlox like it was wiping stain, just enough to wet the wood evenly. Work one section at a time. Spray, then wipe the excess.
Let dry for a day.
Lightly scuff sand with 320 grit just to smooth and remove the dust.
Spray the topcoats. Water-base works fine as long as the Waterlox is dry. The topcoats act like a lens on the wood that really gives it depth.
If you want the added color of a toner, just use some water-reducible dye with your water-base finish.
Try a couple samples, the larger the better, using shellac and an oil-base product before topcoating with the water-base finish to see which you like. Oiling the cherry can cause mottling, which some folks don't like.

I'm working on some large horn speakers for a customer and he loves the look of the oiled cherry with topcoats. I just completed a bunch of cherry display cases for him using the same finish.

From contributor T:
DL M1-G also comes with a 1.4 needle. I have both with the 93P cap. The atomization of a pre-cat lacquer is a whole other subject, like Magnamax in the previous posts. Many precats don't spray as good as your regular lacquer or CV. Heating them in a metal cup helps (85-90 F). You should be fine with your tip to spray it. If anything, you'll have a faster laydown.

From the original questioner:
Thanks for the responses. Looks like I have some options. I think I'll set up some samples and try the different methods before I get a new gun.