"Paint" Cabinet Finish 101

and needs basic advice for getting started with opaque color finishes. July 3, 2008

For a long time now, I've told clients I don't do paint, but I'm losing some good ones. I'm pretty adept with clear finishes, but need to come up with a good paint finish. I'm looking to attain a satin gloss for kitchen cabinets, using my HVLP. My best local supplier is Sherwin Williams. I've dug through their info and searched the knowledge base here, but am still a little unsure of the best system. It looks like the Sher-Wood white vinyl primer surfacer is the best first coat and the tinted Sher-Wood white CAB-acrylic lacquer is the best choice for the finish. Has anyone used this combo? Should I be considering something different?

Forum Responses
(Finishing Forum)
From contributor A:
That system will work fine, but you may want to check out there cab-cat finish for better durability.

From contributor A:
SHER-WOOD® Acrylic Conversion Coating
Color Resources
Global Color and Design Brochure
Design Engineering
Services Brochure

Sell Sheet
Sher-Wood Acrylic Conversion Coating
Systems and Services Guides
Office Furniture
SHER-WOOD Acrylic Conversion Coating is a HAPS free CAB-Acrylic catalyzed wood finishing system that features a water white clear finish with excellent non-yellowing properties, as well as a 6-month working potlife. It is recommended for clear pickling, light pastel, and natural unstained woods when resistance to discoloration and yellowing are required.
Key Features
Water white formula containing UV absorber for enhanced non-yellowing properties.
Precatalyzed coating with 6 months working potlife.
Meets the test requirements of the Kitchen Cabinet Manufacturers Association (KCMA) as a self sealed system or over Sher-Wood Fast Dry Vinyl Sealer T67F6 catalyzed.
Fast dry to sand and quick early hardness characteristics.
MSDS & Technical Specs Fill Rex Color Name
T77C60 Gloss MSDS PDS
T77F63 Dull Rubbed Effect MSDS PDS
T77F61 Bright Rubbed Effect MSDS PDS
T77F62 Medium Rubbed Effect MSDS PDS

From contributor B:
Sherwin Williams has a great web-site - quite informative to say the least. Your choice of white vinyl is a good start for a paint grade finish and you can apply most all of their other coatings right on top of it. The vinyl makes for a good moisture barrier for your choice of top coats to lie on. Have you considered applying a clear coating over your pigmented coating? It's not much extra work, won't cost that much, and what you get in return is quite beneficial in the long run.

From the original questioner:
I would just as soon not go through the extra step of a clear coat if I don't need to. I see the CAB acrylic comes in a gloss or a low gloss. Can SW adjust the sheen to a MRE equivalent? Are there some reasons I might want to use Pigmented Conversion varnish instead?

From contributor A:
I think they do make a medium rub - if not they can make it. If you want to do it just buy the gloss and low sheen and mix yourself, or buy flatting agent and add to the gloss. They have a guideline to go by for that. As to the white conversion finish it will give you more durability than the cab by far but is harder to repair if and when damaged. The choice is yours to make - durability vs. ease of repair? I'll take the ease of repair since I know it's likely to get damaged sooner or later. I agree, talking to the chemist is always the best.

From the original questioner:
I did talk with the chemist and got steered in a little different direction. He suggested that I use a tinted White Vinyl Sealer as my primer/color coat and then topcoating with clear CAB Acrylic MRE for a semigloss look. This guy is one of the best color matchers I've met, but I'm not sure how much experience he has with the complexities of lacquers and conversion varnishes.

From contributor A:
His suggestion isn't bad, and if you apply 2 coats of the tinted vinyl you should get your needed opacity and can always go 3 coats if necessary. I would use the cat vinyl with the acrylic cat finish over it for better performance. Have them tint the cat vinyl for you and go from there. If you desire excellent performance, I would still recommend their WW conversion varnish. Have them tint the white CV for color coats and apply the clear over it. This results in less finish time and better performance, but remember - it is harder to repair.

From the original questioner:
I really appreciate your help but you lost me there. It seems like I end up using three products and 4 or 5 coats. I want good performance, but don't need bulletproof. Can you clarify your instructions?

From contributor A:
Try 2 coats tinted vinyl sealer, 2 coats acrylic clear conversion, finish sanding in between the 2 clear coats.

From the original questioner:
I like the sound of that, but I hope you are not just humoring me to shut me up. This would be an A-kitchen finish?

From contributor A:
No humor intended. I believe that will give you good durability and somewhat easier repair.

From contributor C:
If you want a single product option, their Sher-Wood White Hi-Bild Pre-Cat Lacquer meets KCMA specs as a self sealed system. They claim the whites stay white over time and resist yellowing.

From the original questioner:
Thanks very much for the help on this. I stocked up today and went at it. Two coats of tinted white vinyl sealer topped with two coats CAB acrylic lacquer; scuff between each coat. It came out pretty darn good for a first try. I've got some beautiful maple samples that look like melamine now. It reminds me of the reason I didn't do paint. I haven't quite gotten the cab acrylic to flow out like I get my precat to. I've added 10% thinner and 5% retarder, but am still getting a little bit of orange peel if you look real close.