Spraying ICA stains

Looking for better results with spray/no-wipe stains. November 18, 2002

I have been using ICA CNA stains for a while and I know that they are a spray-no-wipe stain, but I am not getting the results I would like this way. I have been spraying and then wiping off until dry. This looks good but is time consuming. Does anyone spray these and if so, what do you use?

I have a capspray 4 stage HVLP, a Devillbiss jga comp gun, a PC top-loader and a few miscellaneous guns but I can't get it dialed in. Either it is too light and I get a pepper pattern or too heavy and it looks cloudy. Any pointers on guns, needles or basically anything would be great.

Forum Responses
What is your n/n cap size on your p/c gravity gun? Also, you should use low pressure with it, around 25 psi, depending on your cap size.

I have shot out of the turbine gun, but in my opinion your pressure is important, so you may have to cut down a little. But I haven't shot too many dyes out of turbine. In your jga, what is the cap size? I like a 1.0 -1.3mm. If you haven't been following the threads on the Astro, you're missing out. Get one of those, a 1.3 size, and run around 25-30 psi on it.

From contributor D:
This is a very hard question to answer without getting into physics, but this answer applies to any type of dye spray-no-wipe application. These ICA stains react like dyes although they are pigmented stains, so for these stains this discussion would also apply.

When you use a conventional wiping stain you basically set up an equilibrium. The stain is applied in excess and the wood absorbs as much as possible and then cannot accept any more stain. What happens is that the wiping or applying rag has the same absorption rate as the wood - at this point you have reached equilibrium. You then wipe off the excess and what you see is what youíve got. If you wipe a dye you can achieve this effect as well, as there becomes an equilibrium between the wiping rag and the object being wiped. However, normally you donít want to do this.

What you need to do is think in terms of a flux of color. This is going to get complicated so let me explain. The dye stain must be applied as a continuous flux. What this means is that you are continuously adding color but you are never achieving equilibrium. The more you spray the darker it gets. Since color is never removed from the object with the rag it just gets darker and darker forever. Equilibrium is never achieved. The acceptance of this concept leads to the following realities.

The flux, which is the spray pattern coming out of the gun, must be diluted. If you spray dyes to get an understanding of this, do the following. Dip a tongue depressor into a bottle of dye. Then spray something with the same dye and you will see that itís easily possible to make the sprayed object much darker than the wood that you physically dunked into the dye. Because there is no removal (or equilibrium created), the dye can be sprayed over and over again to make a color much darker than the object would be if it was simply dunked into the dye.

What this means is that to achieve what you want, youíre going to have to greatly dilute the stain mixture. Keep the same ratios, just add more solvent, which in the case of the CNAs is water. You will then be able to build the color to the level needed and not have to wipe. The darkness of the color will depend upon the number of passes that you make. Itís a lot easier to wipe to achieve uniformity but the above technique can be done, as I do it all the time with alcohol dyes. You keep a fairly dry fan and layer the color on. I wish this was less complicated but Iíve done my level best to explain it.

The CNAs are designed for spray application. They can however also be wiped if necessary for effect. For spray and wipe, the addition of VE202 at 5-10% will allow the stains to be wiped.

From contributor D:
Yes, I know that, but the long dissertation above also applies. He's complaining about uniformity and likely the reason he can't get this to the degree he desires off the gun is that he's shooting them too concentrated or too heavy. What I'm suggesting is that if he dilute them, he will be able to spray without wiping and still achieve the uniformity he desires.

Also, if you have never used a spray-no-wipe stain, you really should practice on scrap wood. When I first started with WB spray-no-wipes, I had a heck of a time. I just kept practicing until I felt comfortable spraying. The same with mixing the colors - I thought wipe, which uses more pigments, where a spray uses less, depending on the color.

Spray-no-wipe just doesn't work on open pore woods. It's better on closed pore woods and appear less blotchy when applied correctly but can look like hell if done wrong. One of my customers tried to make them work but gave up after I could tell every job he used them on. He went back to Mohawk and all is now well.

One thing that may help is slowing down the evaporation rate of the spray stain, giving it more time to flash off, evenly allowing it to be more user-friendly. My favorite way to spray stain is with a low pressure airless 400-500 psi with a fine-finish tip. A lot of the time your conventional equipment produces too much air and flashes the stain off too fast, leaving blotching.

From contributor O:
That is right about thinning the dye, or spray only stains. However I find that when you think your color is just about there, you should stop spraying and do a washcoat. Scuff the wash coat and apply a slower drying wiping stain of the same color. This helps even out the foggy look that spraying stains or dyes can give. It also fills the pores on open grained wood with color that spraying misses. Just be sure to incorporate the entire system into your samples for approval.

From contributor D:
A note on what the above... As many of you know, I really *hate* red oak. Yeah, it's cheap, it's plentiful and you can get it in decent widths and grades, but to me plain sliced red oak just plain sucks. Quarter sawn I can handle but cathedral grain red oak looks ugly to me particularly in light colors, especially the boringly disgusting golden oak stain that I see on every kitchen in Phoenix. In dark colors, or better yet when itís painted, itís acceptable.

This is where the dye stain spray technique comes in handy. Shoot some alcohol dye with some shellac binder in it (to prevent pore bleeding) and you greatly suppress the grain pattern. This makes a light stain acceptable on this pathetic wood. I must admit that red oak does burn really well on those chilly winter nights here in Phoenix when it gets down to a frigid 50F or so.

Why aren't cherry, walnut and hard maple (righteous woods) cheap, plentiful and readily available in good widths and grades? It just isn't fair.

From the original questioner:
All my customers want red oak and they all want it stained golden oak. And they all want cathedral doors. If they want it and pay for it, who am I to argue?

From a construction standpoint, I would work with oak hands down to walnut and maple, although walnut is my personal godwood. I have yet in 6 years to have a customer request cherry.

I understand and appreciate your explanation above. My take on it is if you can't just spray on and let dry, then I will just spray on and wipe off as I am. I think I will order one of the Astro guns, though, and use that just for stains.

I have the 202 veh, but it seems to speed and not retard the dry time. I used it on a large test panel and it dried faster than I could wipe. I used 5% 202.

I've managed to build custom cabinets and furniture for the first 11 years without a single (whole) project of oak. Then the first project this year was a large home office library and bath of red oak furniture and cabinetry. We've worked on one mahogany project and the rest have been red oak. We're working on an oak kitchen right now. I expect red oak projects to account for 80 percent or more of my income this year. There is no wood in the world (except maybe mahogany) that accepts a variety of stain shades as nice and consistently as oak. I used to hate red oak. This year I love it...

If you're talking about putting these ICA stains on oak, then I would rethink that. Oak looks better and stains easier with a pigment stain instead of dye, in my opinion. Also, I've found that water dye stains are more difficult to work with oak.

From contributor D:
I love ICA's CNA stains but I'm with the above on this one. A spray only or spray and wipe on red oak should be fine. Even though I hate that wood, it does pigment stains (with sufficient body) very easily. The only problem with pigmented stains is pore bleed back if the stain doesn't have sufficient binder in it. The reason I like dyes on red oak is grain suppression. If you don't mind the Zebra stripes then pigment is clearly the way to go.

From contributor O:

There's nothing wrong with red oak - it just needs the right color on it. Try this on a nice piece of quartersawn (before you burn it!): Two parts burnt umber concentrate to one part burnt sienna concentrate (Sherwood), add ten parts clear base. Use as wiping stain, then dull clearcoat. I did this for a customer who actually asked my opinion on what I thought would look good, and got a $100 tip!

From contributor D:
You're cheating. I didn't say *quartersawn* red oak was firewood. I said that flat sawn (or plain sliced if you apply this to plywood) was firewood.

When you say clear base, do you mean the clear stain concentrate? If so this would be a really thick stain. Don't you use any vehicle? Seems to me that you need some Xylene, mineral spirits or other vehicle.

From the original questioner:
I haven't found them that hard to work with. I am using them now on the schedule I used for my previous stains. As far as color, when I put a door stained with ICA next to an oak cathedral door stained with old masters golden oak, they look identical. The ICA stains are great for someone like me, who is not a master of colors, to learn how they interact.

From contributor O:
Sherwood stains, including the clear base, come in both concentrated and ready to use forms. I was referring to the ready to use clear base on that part of the formula. These concentrates come with binder and vehicle already in them - S.W. even says you can mix them with just mineral spirits or xylene, but I like the clear for better workability. Also looks good on regular old plain sliced oak.

From contributor D:
Now we're on the same page. I'll give your formula a go. I've always used the S-W concentrates which are molasses-like in their consistency. If your formula was exclusively using these concentrates I'd have to put the stain on with a putty knife rather than with a gun or a brush. Appreciate the clarification. Dark Mission quartersawn oak of any variety looks great. It's only the light colored flat sawn that sets me off. Don't like the Zebra effect at all.

I think you're all going crazy! It really depends on the look you're after. Wiped on stain looks entirely different from sprayed on stain. If you were to clear coat a piece of oak (I prefer white oak if I have to use oak) the grain pattern of the oak is not that apparent, however if you were to wipe on an oil stain first, say gilsonite, then the pore structure of the wood becomes dominant and really looks completely different from the natural oak. By spraying on dye stain you can achieve a dark color on oak and still have it look natural. Now I am not saying one is better than another. It's just one of the first things I look at before trying to match a sample. Was it sprayed or wiped?

From contributor D:
I agree with the above comments and that's why I use dyes on oak. I don't like the grain being accented by the wiping stain. And quartersawn white oak rocks.

From contributor O:
I double-checked that formula today, and it was actually five parts clear, not ten. (It was a while ago that I last used it). Yes, it is a bit on the thick side at this ratio, but you don't need your putty knife! This should result in a dark-orangish brown, what I think of as a traditional Mission oak color.

The comments below were added after this Forum discussion was archived as a Knowledge Base article (add your comment).

Comment from contributor M:
I've been spraying the spray no-wiping stain for four years now, and I have found first hand that it does take a lot of practice and patience. Iíve been spraying for a large cabinet company and spray dye stains, custom color spray no-wipe pigmented stains. I use a HVLP Binks gravity feed spray gun, with my pattern at about 6 inches wide, and about 9 inches from the product. The air pressure needs to be set around 40 PSI and the fluid turned down very low. The stains are made to go on almost to the point of being dry to the touch immediately after spraying. If youíre getting blotchy spots either youíre not over-lapping your pattern by 50%, spraying too heavy, or not moving across your product at the right speed.

The foggy mess is from putting the material on too heavy. You need to make several passes on the product to achieve the desired color/darkness that you want. When you start it should take at least five passes. Starting at the top and moving to the bottom for first pass, then start at the bottom and spray to the top for the second pass and it will help eliminate light and dark lines from overlapping as well as problems/inaccuracy.

As you get the hang of it and figure out how your pattern is laying out and how fast you should be moving across the product, you can slowly turn your fluid up one pass at a time till you get a desired look. I also do this staining on all wood species (cherry, oak, birch, maple, cypress, pine, hickory, anything). The stain is a non-penetrating stain and should sit on top of the wood, not soak in. After the sealer is sprayed on, scuff sand with 320 grit, and use any topcoat. Also, when you spray and it gets cloudy, if you let it flash off and seal it/ topcoat it, the cloudiness usually does disappear.