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Finishing materials: must compliance mean an inferior product?


While most American woodworkers shy away from water-based finishing materials because of their perceived inherent problems with this type of finish, WOOD & WOOD PRODUCTS talked to a number of industry experts to get a gauge on the truths and misperceptions of this "finish of the future."

The buzz words have been spoken for years. Words such as air quality, volatile organic compounds (VOC), compliance, and transfer efficiency among others have been on the tips of many tongues. While there has been a lot of talking, for about 80 percent of woodworkers there has been little action, industry experts such as Bob Ballway at Sherwin Williams and Elgin Miller of Abilene say. Traditional, nitrocellulose lacquers are still by far the finish of choice for most woodworkers.

Many industry experts point to the perceived problems with using VOC compliant finishes, primarily waterborne finishes, as reasons given not to change. "A lot of people do not like waterbase, because right away the first thing that comes to their mind is the lack of hardness and its slow drying," said Elgin Miller, general sales manager, Abilene Research and Development, of Hewlett, N.Y. "VOC compliant coatings are also more expensive because of resin costs."

Water-based finishes have carried the stigma of hardness and drying problems for years. They are also burdened by complaints of grain raise, dullness, clarity and price.

For some, these perceived negatives outweigh the positive aspects of waterborne finishes, which are environmentally safe, non-toxic, non-flammable, and offer easy cleanup, said Phil Burke, general manager of Waterlac Coatings Inc. of Cuba, Mo.

Another advantage, according to Bill Ballway, Sherwin-Williams marketing director/Chemical Coatings, is possible lower insurance premiums when a shop converts from flammable solvent-based systems. "Insurance for shops using an all-water system usually averages about 50 percent less than finishing operations which employ solvent-based systems because of reduced health and fire hazards," according to Ballway. "It's not uncommon for a shop to save $5,000 a year or more in insurance premiums by converting to water."

Still, woodworkers have not converted to waterborne finishes in droves. But time is running short for wood finishers to decide how they will lower VOC emissions mandated by local, state and federal regulations. Will woodworkers have a choice or are water-based products the only avenue open to them?

Old dogs and new tricks

According to Miller, a big reason woodworkers do not want to change is the concern that the finish will not be as hard or scratch resistant as lacquers have. "For over 20 years manufacturers have had such good results (with other standard air dry materials) they do not want to change," Miller said. "(Making a change) is jeopardizing the whole future of the company and product. It has to have testing and not in a lab. What it has to go through is the iron curtain; through the dealer, the showroom, the customer, and if the customer reports back that it scratches or is dull then you are in trouble."

But, many industry experts said that due to environmental regulations water-based finishes will be the only way for woodworkers to go. The strictest regulations are in Southern California. Since July 1990, companies must use less than 4.6 pounds per gallon of VOCs in topcoats and sealers, 4.0 for low-solid finishes, 5.0 for pigmented coatings and 5.7 for multi-colored coatings. In addition, equipment used to apply the materials must be capable of achieving at least 65 percent transfer efficiency.

By 1994, VOC content will need to drop drastically. Under these South Coast Air Quality Management District regulations, VOC content in clear topcoats, multi-colored coating and pigmented coatings will need to be under 2.3 pounds per gallon.

"For example, under the next (SCAQMD) regulations, the standard nitro-cellulose lacquer will not comply," according to Ballway.

Jim Hall, Guardsman Products national marketing manager, Specialty Coatings Division, said that many woodworkers "will never be able to afford the costs associated with installing compliant equipment in their shops. We feel the real future for finishing materials will be in the on-going development of coatings with lower VOCs."

California is not the only state in the union to enact VOC emission regulations. Other states, including Illinois, New Jersey, Washington and Texas have regulations regarding VOC emissions.

With the as yet unknown ramifications of the Clean Air Act of 1990 looming ahead, woodworkers would seem to be in a bind. How to comply with emission regulations while still putting out a product with a quality finish?

Long held truths or misperceptions?

Abdullah M. Melik, president of Aquaday International Ltd. of Arlington Heights, III., said that problems with water-based finishes are nothing more than public misperceptions. Aquaday International has been in the water-based coatings business for 15 years selling only water-based products.

"Fifteen years ago a majority of water-based products that were out were not good and they developed a bad reputation that people still believe," Melik said. "I don't agree with that (reputation)."

"Many of the objections wood finishers had in the past to water-based products are no longer viable," said Ballway. "Water-based lacquers were often considered inferior to solvent-based resistance. But the new waterbases are much more durable. They also offer clarity and sandability equal or superior to solvent-based finishes."

According to Hall, "Switching over to waterborne finish systems definitely offers more positives than negatives."

Melik countered drying time arguments, saying that water-based products can dry in 20 minutes "which is the same as lacquers. Drying time depends on the thickness of the spray and humidity conditions," he added.

Erik Kasner of Hydrocote Co. Inc. of East Brunswick, N.J., said, "Drying time is really not a problem for most shops, but for some of the larger manufacturers it is a problem. It is a question of rather than five minutes to dry, it may take 10 or 15 minutes to dry."

He explained that for large shops with heavy volume, the extra time could be a problem. "To speed up drying times to meet the needs of the larger shops, something would have to be put back in. You are in a catch-22 situation."

Kasner added that one way some companies speed up drying times is to add 10 percent lacquer thinner to the finishing material. He said this would cut down drying time in half with better clarity. He added that this is something his company does not openly endorse, but if they receive a call asking for help, they will relay this information.

Burke added that "some change of process by a company that will accelerate drying by movement of air is a small price to pay for the advantages of water-based."

As for the problem of hardness or lack of hardness which leads to scratches, Kasner said it is a problem that has already been solved by many companies. "With Hydrocote and other companies, hardness is by far better (than traditional finishes)... as much as 50 percent better than conventional nitrocellulose lacquers."

According to Melik, the only disadvantage to water-based finishes is grain raise. He said that companies can get around this problem by setting down one coat, sanding and then applying a second coat.

"Any good company will spray, then sand and then apply a second coat. If you sand between coats grain raise is not a problem at all," Melik said.

The grain raising problem is more serious on certain types of wood, said Kasner. Oak is usually affected more than other types of wood, but if the wood is sanded with 220 grit, the wood will "generally have a minimal amount of grain raising."

Does VOC compliant mean safe?

According to Kasner, finishes should not only be VOC compliant, but also environmentally safe. "I can make a VOC compliant coating and yet, still have toxic materials in it," he said. "It can still be flammable or toxic. The classic example is hot lacquers that have VOCs of 4.3 pounds per gallon which will comply with standards but are still quite hazardous."

Miller also points to the dangers of being VOC compliant but not environmentally safe. He uses examples such as chlorine solvents that "have excellent low VOCs but can be dangerous to your health if you inhale it." He added that catalyst cured systems with high solids can also pose a health threat. "The catalyst systems are really dangerous when they go into your lungs. It can take eight hours to cure," he said.

Finishing materials roundup

United Gilsonite Laboratories has introduced AQUA ZAR water-based polyurethane. The company says the polyurethane combines the beauty and durability of an oil-based polyurethane with the environmental benefits of a water-based finish. It is a non-yellowing, clear wood finish that can be used on a variety of surfaces and resists many chemicals and abrasions. 200

The patented super putty wood paste from Poxywood Inc. looks, stains, and finishes like wood. It is non-shrinking, weather-proof and has excellent adhesion to wood. The easy-to-apply paste is tintable and thinable and can be sawed, planed, drilled, etc. 201

The Star Bronze Co. now offers Zip-Guard water-based wood finish and stain lines that are clean air compliant, will not harm the ozone layer, have low odor, are fast drying and can be cleaned up with soap and water. Wood finishes are available in satin or gloss. They dry water clear and are resistant to water, alcohol, grease and detergents, the company says. Wood stains are available in 10 wood tones. 202

Amity Inc. says its new water-based stains solve the problem of grain raise with water-based finishes. The stains can be sprayed-, wiped- or dipped-on. The aniline dye stains are non-fading, super clear, has easy water clean-up and low VOCs. Ten wood tone colors can be infermixed or tinted for infinite color range, the company says. 203

The Valspar Corp. can do high tech finishes on traditional furniture and cabinets. The company offers U.V. cure, electrostatic application, automatic spray or waterborne. Its finishes provide top quality appearance, in fewer steps with cost and part savings, while offering a fast-cycle time, the company says. 204

Wood-Tex finishes from Velco Inc. offers a solvent-free putty and non-flammable lacquer that will meet VOC and environmental regulations. The putty is available in many colors and is fast drying with minimal shrinkage. The waterborne lacquer can be applied with HVLP, air and airless applicators. It is durable, non-yellowing, and withstands water and various chemicals, the company says. 205

ProFin and ProFin Satin from Daly's Wood Finishing Products are hard, fast drying wipe-on finishes designed primarily for professional use, the company says. They have an oil modified urethane base and are frequently used in situations where spray or brush-on techniques are not practical. 206

Guardsman Products' waterborne Enviro-Plus SC can replace solvent-borne lacquers. The product offers ease of application, 40 and 60 sheen plus full gloss and excellent clarity in six contemporary colors. All in a stain-sealer-top coat system that compares favorably to other high performance finishes, but that offers dramatically lower VOCs. 207

G.J. Nikolas & Co. Inc. offers the #9980 Eco-Borne catalyzed wood coating. The coating is designed to meet current and future EPA requirements for VOC reduction. Because #9980 is made with a high amount of solids, one coat will equal two to three coats of conventional sealer or lacquer, the company says. It is also chemical and abrasion resistant, the company says. 208

Abilene Research and Development Corp. offers a new service for Texturelac users. Abilene will put a company in touch with its designer manufacturing group who will make custom patterns to the client's approval. A company can get new texture patterns and color from leather, pebble, cobblestone, stucco, rough marble to the Southwest Look, plus many other texture patterns. 209

Wood-Kote Products is now offering the Clear and Clean label of environmentally safe lacquers and urethanes. Both will come in gloss and satin finishes in pints, quarts, gallons, 5-gallons and drums. Both products are non-yellowing and self-leveling. 210

W.D. Lockwood offers a complete line of transparent, soluble, deep penetrating dyes for wood. They dissolve into hot water in five minutes and are applied by brushing, wiping or spraying methods. When completely dry, they are finished with almost any type of lacquer or varnish, including waterborne lacquers. The color remains clear and will not cloud or bloom into the coating, the company says. Available in 72 stock water soluble colors. 211

Sherwin Williams offers Sher-Wood, a water reducible wiping stain. The ready-to-use pigmented stain, available in a full-line of package and monochromatic colors, provide excellent clarity and will not fade or bleed, the company says. It is VOC compliant and non-flammable. It contains less than 3.0 pounds of solvent per gallon less water, and its flash point exceeds 200 [degrees]. It can be applied by spray, dip, brush or cloth. 212

Hydrocote Finishing Products offers the Hydrocote Clear Wood Finish. The finish is an environmentally safe, high build, water clear finish that simulates the lacquer look without any of the hazardous features of a nitrocellulose lacquer, the company says. It is non-flammable, non-toxic, non-yellowing and quick drying with exceptional clarity and depth, the company says. It is available in gloss, satin, flat and rubbed effect stain. 213

Donald Durham Co.'s rock hard putty can handle many kinds of repair needs, the company says. It can be sawed, chiseled, polished, colored and molded. The putty permanently adheres in wood, plaster, tile, composition and stone. It does not shrink and withstands weather when painted. 214

Last-n-Last Ultra Clear from Absolute Coatings Inc. is a environmentally friendly water-based finish. Lab tested, it is scuff and chemical resistant, and is easily applied, the company says. 215

Minuteman Inc.'s Aqua-Lac is a water-based lacquer that is user-friendly and economical, the company says. Aqua-Lac can be used with turbine systems or brushed on. The water-based lacquers have low VOC content, are crystal clear, and are extremely durable, the company says. A complete line of lacquers, stains, glazes and samples are available. 216

Waterlac Coatings Inc. offers water-reducible wood finishes designed as alternatives to regulatory pressures facing the wood finishing industry. Both #9561 Waterlac Sanding Sealer and #9562 Clear non-yellowing topcoat are non-flammable, have low odor, easy clean-up with water and low VOCs. 217

Pro-Lac waterborne stains available from Compliance Coatings Inc. offer a new degree of safety in wood finishing. They are non-flammable, non-toxic and emit small amounts of solvent, the company says. Pro Lac is designed for staining interior wood surfaces and shows excellent performance in penetration, grain enhancement, drying properties and clean up. The maximum VOC is .5 lbs/gal. 218

Pratt & Lamberts' M.L. Campbell brand of finishes now includes the Magnalac Precatalyzed Lacquer. It is based on European technology and is an advanced generation of compliant precatalyzed lacquer products currently on the market, the company says. It contains no solvents on the U.S. Regulated Toxic Pollutants List, meets current and proposed New York and New Jersey VOC regulations and is formulated with ultra-low formaldehyde levels. 219

The U-100 Synthetic Patch available from The Willamette Valley Co. has always been able to repair defects in plywood, but today the product is being used in many other areas of the wood products industry, the company says. Other areas to begin using the Synthetic Patch include mouldings, laminated veneer lumber, laminated beams, lumber, decking, guitar manufacturers and wood composites. 220

Smith & Co. offers the Spar Varnish, DEFT Stains, or the DeSoto 1000 Series Clear Linear Polyurethane. These finishes are resistant to water, chemicals and ultraviolet light. 221

James B. Day & Co. offers a water soluble line of modified acrylics that offer excellent clarity and resists yellowing. The waterborne finish is high in solids (35% by weight) so it offers excellent build with one coat of sealer and one coat of the desired finish, the company says. The company's waterborne line can be applied by convention or airless spray equipment. Because of high solids, a smaller spray tip and nozzle are recommended. 222

Randolph Products Co. offers a line of VOC compliant lacquers. The line includes; clear lacquer which is made of high solids to give it excellent build and good mar resistance; Super Lacquer with 42% high solids and is an excellent catalyzed lacquer for fine wood finishing while being EPA compliant; and, color lacquer which is VOC compliant, non-toxic and comes in 14 different tints. 223

Sanncor Industries has introduced its Sancure 825, a high performance aliphatic waterborne urethane polymer which is resistant to water and chemicals, the company says. When properly formulated, Sancure 825 provides tough, clear and pigmented films on all varieties of wood. It can be used in factory applied systems, as well as for both the consumer and industrial wood markets. It can be applied using all conventional techniques. 224

From Hawkeye Industries, Duratec polyester coatings include: high solids, low VOC emission sealers, primers and high-gloss coatings of less than 1.75 lbs/gal. The company says Duratec primers are easily sandable, have high build, and cover MDF in one wet-coat application. 225

Landmark Coatings offers a new line of solvent and water-based coatings for kitchen cabinets, floors and interior wood surfaces. The company says its fast-drying water-based lacquers with a tint base system give a wide choice of colors with excellent chemical, scratch, mar and wear resistance properties. 226

Chemcraft Sadolin manufactures high solids, water-based, UV-cured and high-gloss finishes for use on wood, plastic and metals. The company says its high solid and water-based coatings meet and surpass the toughest VOC restrictions. 227

Hood Products' One-Step is reportedly environmentally safe. It can be applied by nylon brush, foam pad, spray gun or wiped on and is available in six wood tone colors. 228

Crown Metro Wood Coatings offers ELVOC (Extremely Low Volatile Organic Content) coatings, a line of high-solid finishes that comply with solvent emission standards, the company says. The coatings are suitable for spraying, roll or curtain coating with gloss variation ranging from the European wet look to matte. 229

A waterborne air-or UV-curable finishing system that includes stains, sealers and topcoats are available from PPG Industries. The products exhibit an estimated cumulative VOC average of 2.5 to 2.7 lbs/gal, which reportedly results in more than 60% VOC reduction. 230

Aquaday International Ltd. offers a water-base sealer and topcoat in one. The product reduces VOC emissions, is easy to apply, recoat and clean up, the company says. It is non-flammable, non-toxic and can be applied by spray, wipe, dip or brush over plain wood or solvent-based lacquers or stains: It provides a clear film that is water and mar resistant. 231

Aexcel Corp. offers a new generation of polyurethane coatings called Uthane that are formulated to comply with EPA regulations of VOC emissions. In addition, fully-reacted Uthane polyurethane spray residue is chemically inert so that over-spray is classified as non-hazardous. 232

Color Caulk's WLP wood/laminate/paint caulk matches nearly every natural wood, wood stain and plastic laminate available. Uses include repairs and fixing imperfect miters. 233

Akzo Coatings Inc. is currently awaiting a trademark for its thermoset waterborne topcoat AQUAD PLAZ. It reportedly reduces VOC emissions by approximately 50% vs. conventional solvent-based catalyzed clear top coats. 234

The Gilbert Spruance Co. offers the Aquacoat waterborne lacquer systems. The finish has a VOC range of 2 to 2.3 pounds per gallon which is 59 percent below the regulated VOC levels, the company says. The system includes a sealer and topcoat that is mar, print and wear resistant and offers clear film clarity. 235

Mohawk Finishing Products Inc. offers a full line of products including water-based sealers and stains. The company says its Ultra II water-based stain is VOC compliant, non-flammable, ready for use, made from state-of-the-art dyes and comes in 10 colors. 236

PHOTO : The volutes and necks of these cellos have been finished with G.J. Nikolas & Co.'s Eco-Borne catalyzed wood coatings.

PHOTO : This Queen Anne's leg chair was finished with Valspar Corp.'s fast-cycle time finishes.

PHOTO : Hydrocote's Clear Wood Finish simulates the lacquer look without the hazardous features of nitrocellulose lacquer.

PHOTO : Abilene Research and Development offers customers finish design assistance.

PHOTO : Minuteman's Aqua-Lac water-based lacquer can be brushed or used with turbine systems.

PHOTO : Zip-Guard water-based wood finishes and stains from Star Bronze Co. are resistant to water, alcohol, grease and detergents.

PHOTO : Willamette Valley Co.'s U-100 synthetic patch system repairs defects in plywood, lumber, mouldings and other wood products.
COPYRIGHT 1991 Vance Publishing Corp.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1991, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:includes listing of companies that make water-based finishes; dilemma faced by furniture manufacturers in using water-based coatings
Author:Adams, Larry
Publication:Wood & Wood Products
Date:Dec 1, 1991
Previous Article:Business site opportunities.
Next Article:Wood waste: turning scrap into ca$h.

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