Seeking a sweeter-smelling finish

Potential sources for less noxious finishing materials. November 29, 2000

I have a small shop and currently use Sherwin Williams Super Kemvar "M", a medium rubbed effect pre-cat. I love almost everything about the system, which is why I've been using it for 4 years, except the incredible odor and noxious properties. We use a booth but we're in close quarters with the finishing area, and due to its lengthy dry time are always affected on finishing days.

We are ready to try waterborne or any low odor sytem. The product must pass KCMA tests. We are in Northern California and there are not a lot of distributors in the area. Any suggestions about some good companies to start the experimental process would be greatly appreciated. We use appoximately 10 gallons a month.

Forum Respones
You might want to contact Liberon Supplies. They are in Albion, California--is this close to you? Call Ron Ashby at 707-877-3570. He is a distributor of Star products and others. He could point you in the right direction.

Before you decide on a waterborne coating, make sure that you choose one that does well on the pencil hardness test. This test shows you how well that coating stands up to scratches.

It may be obvious that you need something to be durable. But there are lots of coatings that pass KCMA standards and don't do well on this test. Read about this test at

The fact is that many finishes are softer than they should be. That is probably the result of operator error. Or it has to do with the coating not being the right one for the job.

Ask your supplier of the waterborne to tell you what you can expect regarding the hardness of the cured film. And ask how long the cure time is for that full hardness to be achieved.

If I am not mistaken I believe you can add a little vanilla extract to the coating to help make the coating smell better. I think that is what most coating companies use to help make the material smell better. Most coating companies incorporate this in their formulations when the coating is made. But since you are using a pre-cat there may not be much to do for the odor because you are more than likely smelling urea and fomaldahyde. That stuff wreaks.

It is vanilla and/or pine oil that is used to mask the smell of some coatings. I have found that using these sometimes makes the coating smell worse. The scents must be blended into a base that is compatible with the resin system. Vanilla mask is pricy. Pine tends to be lower in cost and works a little better in masking the scent.

One way to rid the odors is to bake your finish--this will cook most solvents out and reduce your fumes in the shop. I understand that this is not a choice for many small shops. Trust me that when you switch to another product you will find that the odor of the new product will be bothersome until you get used to it, or you use it so long that it starts to bother you.

Bob Niemeyer, forum technical advisor

I had a similar problem with odor and with dust. We simply built a 500 sq. foot room to put our spray booth in. The room has a 6'w x 10'h sliding door with filters in it. We also have filtered outside air intakes (which can be closed during winter). We find that most of the jobs can be stored in the spray room while drying. We just leave the booth running while all parts are drying and have no odor problems anymore.

P.S. Stick with the Sherwin Williams coatings. I have tried many and have come to enjoy the consistency and service of SW.