Replicating a Dark Pearl Finish

Thoughts on a challenging finishing project: imitating a "mother of pearl" finish. March 4, 2009

I have to duplicate a door finish that Tawas Woodworking made approximately ten years ago. The current customer saw a sample and liked it. The pictures below show the depth of the finish. I found that it is "ICA mother of pearl" material. I have been making samples for a month and need help. The M. of P. when sprayed is too silvery so I have added a black pigment to get the correct color. The problem is getting repeatable results as air temp and movement seem to affect results.

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Forum Responses
(Finishing Forum)
From contributor R:
Hard to tell from a photo, but that looks like a "hammertone" finish to me. I used to make my own by adding a pearl powder to my topcoat and then adding silicone until getting the effect I was after. HOK makes pearl powders in many colors including black. I hope this helps.

From contributor R:
Is it just my monitor or is that door done on a birdseye maple? If you have a pressure pot set up with an air assisted agitator it will keep the pearl totally mixed into your coating - no floating. That’s one hot damn finish and the kind I live and yearn for - something that will really yank your finishing skills right out of your ear canal. I really think the air-plane propeller in the pressure pot will solve some of your issues.

From Paul Snyder, forum technical advisor:
I'd try a black dye toner over the silver pearl before adding pigment to the paint. It's more predictable. Like metal flake paint, you need to lay down a very uniform coat and not too wet. I'll do a light box coat to get the surface uniformly covered and let it flash off. Then back off the surface of the piece with the spray gun and spray a very light, even coat. Once it flashes off, you can repeat this even coat if you don't get it quite right on the first try.

From my experience, laying down a full wet coat seems to be the cause of the inconsistency in appearance. Or if you overlap too much in some areas the same problems will happen in spots or stripes. It seems to be an issue with the pigments floating/flooding in the wet paint.

Once you get the look you want, let it flash off and mist on an even coat of toner to adjust the shade. If you need more than one coat of toner, let each previous coat flash off before applying the next. Rewetting the paint with too heavy a toner/clear coat will also produce inconsistent results. Try the light coat approach with the tinted paint you have and see if it comes out looking better.

From contributor K:
Don't add pigments to your pearl coat. You need to adjust your color in the base or a candy coat, and then lay down the clear pearl coats, then a clear coat. Toning or candy coating over the pearl will negate its intended effect.

Something else I noticed with that sample is it's not prepped very well. You're not going to get consistent results that way. Your sample's need the exact same steps and attention that the finished product will have. I'd use a black or green primer.