Product FAQs

Arm-R-Seal

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How do I remove loose fibers that got caught in my last coat of Arm-R-Seal?

You can lightly buff with 0000 steel wool and orange oil - nothing too aggressive.

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*Why Does My Oil Finish Have a Haze When Applying Arm-R-Seal Over a Linseed Oil Based Stain?*

Linseed oil stains take a LONG time to dry. When applied too soon, Arm-R-Seal will likely prevent the linseed oil-based stain from gassing out and drying completely due to solvent entrapment, causing a haze.

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*Which General Finishes Products Would Work Best on a Restaurant Table?

GF has two products that would work well.

For non-professional finishers, we recommend using General Finishes Arm-R-Seal Topcoat.

Arm-R-Seal is oil based and will amber. Be sure to apply liberally with a foam brush or roller, letting the product self-level a bit. A liberal application will help you avoid streaks caused by back-brushing and pressure. Stir product thoroughly before and during application because flatting agents settle quickly in a solvent base finish.

For experienced professional finishers who spray, we recommend our two-step General Finishes Conversion Varnish, which would cure in half the time and dries clear.

Even though General Finishes products are water resistant, they are not impervious to standing water condensation (like an epoxy finish). As with any fine furniture finish, spills should be wiped up in a timely manner. We recommend using coasters to protect your wood from water condensation and pot holders to protect from heat.

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*Can I Spray Arm-R-Seal?

Arm-R-Seal can be sprayed successfully, but we prefer hand application methods because it is very easy to spray too much in one area. If you choose to spray, use very thin coats and watch for runs (large drips that run down the side of your project).

If you notice a run, immediately wipe or brush it out. If you correct a run promptly, you will not see a mark. However, dried runs can be difficult to remove.

Wear a mask and work in a well-ventilated spray booth.

Size: Small Needle Nozzle (1mm)
 

 

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What topcoat should I use on Padauk Wood?

We recommend an oil based finish such as Arm-R-Seal. Oily woods can be tricky with any topcoat. The high oil content affects the drying process of the finish coats and Padauk has a very high oil content. Sometimes oily woods dry fine and sometimes they take weeks.

Try wiping the wood with alcohol or acetone to dry the oils before coating. This technique may help but does not work all of the time - each piece of wood is different. To be safe, always plan on a long dry time.

 

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How can I change the sheen of the top coat? The one I applied is too shiney.

If you want to change the sheen, you can re-coat with a different sheen over top. The second layer of top coat will replace the appearance of the first. Sand lightly with a used 220 sanding PAD to knock down the original finish before re-coating. It may take two or 3 coats to get complete coverage.

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Why did my remaining Arm-R-seal thicken in the can?

Oil base finishes are "oxidizing" products which simply means that when the finish is introduced to oxygen, it starts a chemical reaction where the resins start to harden up. As the top coat is used, the volume in the can is displaced with air, causing the finish to start curing further. Here are some tips to ensure your Arm-R-Seal remains in great working condition.

  • Decant the amount of Arm-R-Seal you will need into a foil covered bowl or paper cup and reseal the can right away. Every minute the can is open the stain is curing.
  • Be sure to REALLY clean the chime and the lid of the can to assure a tight seal.
  • Use Bloxygen to help remove excess oxygen from your can of finish to help preserve it longer.
  • Store your sealed cans upside down.
  • Transfer any unused finish to a smaller container once finished with your project.
  • Plastic Wrap?  We have not tried it, but you get the idea. Anything to prevent contact with air is the key.

 

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*What Finish Would You Recommend for a Butcher Block Counter Top?

It depends on the type of use you plan for your butcher-block top and the look you want.

If it is a statement piece and not intended for high use, almost any finish would work. If you intend to prep or chop food, either General Finishes Arm-R-Seal Topcoat or General Finishes Butcher Block Oil could be applied.

However, neither product will withstand continuous water use or standing water, or hold up to knife cuts. We always use a cutting board just as we would on a standard kitchen counter. Basically, all horizontal wood surfaces in a kitchen must be maintained, and will easily wear with high water use.

Differences:

  • Butcher Block Oil is a maintenance product that should be reapplied over time. It has a lovely matte finish that soaks into the wood and is an excellent protectant for wood surfaces that come in contact with food. Simply wipe on, allow 5 minutes to penetrate and wipe off the excess. It can also be used on cutting boards, utensils, or bowls. It is one of our most popular finished for butcher-block counters.
     
  • Arm-R-Seal is a fine furniture finish, offers several levels of sheen and is General Finishes most durable finish. It has been successfully used on home bar projects with this caveat. No fine furniture finish is impervious to water. Spills must be wiped up in a timely manner.

For a more water resistant finish, we recommend visiting a finish dealer that carries lines specifically designed for high water use such as an Epoxy or a professional two-step catalyzed finish such as General Finishes Conversion Varnish.

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*Why is Arm-R-Seal Blotching Over an Oil Based Stain on a Table I am Refinishing?

The problem areas on your table are probably caused by surface contamination from oils, waxes or cleaning products used over the years. Contaminants from dusting sprays that contain silicone will also impact the appearance and adherence of a finish - silicone is almost impossible to remove. Oil soaps and wax can also cause adhesion failures. This may be why the finish is performing differently on the leaves vs the table top. Adhesion failure is often more obvious in the deepest patterns of grain because the contamination is driven deep into the grain. 

Unfortunately, even though you sanded the table down to raw wood, sanding alone will not remove this type of contamination. In fact, sometimes the friction heat of sanding will drive contaminants deeper into the grain. 

You have two options, and we recommend the first:

  1. Strip, sand and refinish the table. Use a strong solvent such as a paint stripper and, brushing the surface with a soft brass brush to clean out the grain. Follow this by cleaning with 0000 Medium steel wool and mineral spirits.
  2. Buff the existing finish with 0000 steel wool and mineral spirits, particularly in the affected areas, and then re-apply several more coats of Arm-R-Seal

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Is it safe to buff Arm-R-Seal with an auto polish? I have read of this in several magazines.

We know of many customers that have found it safe to buff Arm-R-Seal with auto polishes providing that the finish has cured for 7 to 10 days. Since auto polish is a product that GF does not manufacture, be sure to test in a small area to your satisfaction first.

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Can Arm-R-Seal be thinned?

Arm-R-Seal can be thinned with up to 10% mineral spirits. Thinned Arm-R-Seal will be diluted but can be stored without risk of separation.

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Which Topcoat Should I Choose?

General Finishes Water Based Topcoats:

  • High Performance
  • Flat Out Flat
  • Enduro-Var
  • Enduro Professional Topcoats (Enduro Clear Poly, Enduro Conversion Varnish, Enduro Water Based Laquer)

General Finishes Oil Based Topcoats

  • Arm-R-Seal Liquid Oil Based Topcoat
  • Gel Satin Topcoat

GENERAL PRACTICE:

  1. Oil based topcoats and Enduro-Var will amber over time.
  2. Water based Flat Out Flat and High Performance top coats dry clear.
  3. Never use any water based topcoat with long oils such as Danish, Tung or Linseed.
  4. Water based top coats clean up with water. OIl based topcoats require mineral spirits for clean up.
  5. Enduro-Var ADHERES WELL only over WATER STAINS, DYE STAINS, and RAW WOOD.
  6. If you use water based topcoats over oil based finishes, make sure that you wait 72 hours between the two products. It is essential to let the oil finish dry longer.
  7. Large/Detailed Surfaces - For more complex projects that have a lot of nooks and crannies or projects with large surface areas such as cabinets, we recommend either ARM-R-SEAL liquid oil based topcoat or any of our water based topcoats.
  8. Enduro Professional Top Coats are thinner and intended to be sprayed
  9. High Performance and Flat Out Flat can also be sprayed. If needed, it can be thinned by adding 10% water or Extender. Large surfaces such as cabinets or tables and complex projects with lots of detail are easier to cover with liquid top coat rather than a Gel top coat.

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Brushable White Enamel

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What Shade of White is Brushable White Enamel?

Brushable White Enamel is a bright white. It's similar in color to our Snow Whtie Milk Paint and Enduro White Poly.

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How Does Brushable White Enamel Compare to Enduro White Poly?

White Poly and Brushable White Enamel have similar durability, but different polymer systems. The ingredients that make Brushable White Enamel brushable cause it dries slower than White Poly, making it an impractical choice for professional cabinet refinishers who require fast dry stacking ability. Brushable White Enamel is designed for DIY'ers who want a professional type finish, similar to White Poly, but don't have the equipment to do so. 

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Can Brushable White Enamel Be Tinted?

Yes, Brushable White Enamel can be tinted to a light neutral or pastel shade with a zero VOC UTC colorant. A clear base would be required when tinting to a mid-range or darker color. 

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Can Brushable White Enamel Be Used over an Existing Finish?

Brushable White Enamel can be applied to raw wood or existing finishes. When applying over an existing finish, be sure to prep your surface properly.

Learn how to properly prep existing finishes by watching this video.

The use of General Finishes wood primer Stain Blocker is recommended on both raw wood and existing finishes to prevent dye or stain bleed-through.

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Can I use an Additional Topcoat over Brushable White Enamel for Added Durability?

No, an additional topcoat is not recommended over Brushable White Enamel.

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Chalk Style Paint

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*Why Do Milk Paint and Chalk Style Paint Separate in the Can, Even After Stirring?*

The separation is a condition the paint industry calls "float." This is typical with specific colors, such as grays, because of the large variance in the gravities of the pigments required to create those colors. In gray, for instance, Ti02 (white) is 3.4 and black is 1.62. The lower density will float.

This phenomenon will not occur in colors with less variance in densities. Float is not unique to General Finishes products.

Always stir the paint well just BEFORE and DURING use. If there is any delay, the ingredients will start separating. If it is a large project, we recommend continuing to stir throughout use to keep color properties consistent.

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*How Can I Improve Coverage When Using White Paint on Furniture?*

A primer is your best defense under light-colored paint.

Another technique to avoid the slight color change that sometimes occurs when applying topcoat is to add 10-15% of the paint you are using to your topcoat. This technique layers additional coats of color over your piece as well as providing the protection of a topcoat. If you don't like measuring, just add enough paint until you can see a bit of the hue in the topcoat. This method works with a brush or a spray gun.

To maintain the full-strength protection of the topcoat, DO NOT TINT YOUR FINAL COAT of topcoat.

Remember, NEVER EVER paint an existing piece of furniture with a light paint without proper preparation AND a stain blocking primer. Topcoats can activate tannins in the wood, or dyes in the previous finish, causing yellow or pink bleed-through. We recommend General Finishes Stain Blocker, which has been developed specifically for upcycling furniture and has proven to be 100% effective when two coats are applied, or Zinsser BIN.

Here is a sample finishing schedule:

  1. Prep clean and sand
  2. Three coats of paint (or four if needed)
  3. Two coats of topcoat mixed with 10-15% paint
  4. One coat of topcoat

VIDEO: How to update or refinish cabinets and woodwork light paint color using a sprayer.

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*What is the Difference Between Latex and Acrylic Paint?

The word "latex" is often a misnomer and is used everywhere to differentiate a water-based product from an oil-based product. The same as the word “Kleenex” is used to describe any type of facial tissue, regardless of the brand.
Today, "latex" is the technical term for a suspension (U.S.) or emulsion (European) of microparticles in water.

Latex (a plant-based derivative) was never one of the early ingredients used as a binder, the material that holds all the ingredients together and imparts adhesion, in paint. Binders that are commonly used include synthetic or natural resins such as alkyds, acrylics, vinyl-acrylics, vinyl acetate/ethylene (VAE), polyurethanes, polyesters, melamine resins, epoxy, or oils. Acrylic paint is called that because an acrylic resin is used and not all resins are equal.

CAN I USE “LATEX” WALL PAINT FOR FURNITURE?

Yes, you can. You should differentiate between the “standard” wall paints and the “performance” wall paints, such as Advance by Ben Moore.

The problem with “standard" wall paints is performance. The majority of latex wall paints are designed and engineered for a different purpose: and that is to have great coverage…..on a wall.

Walls simply don’t have the wear and tear that other horizontal surfaces do, so wall paints are manufactured with fewer resins and more of the cost competitive fillers. This helps keep the cost down, which makes sense. 

WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN 100% ACRYLIC WALL PAINT AND 100% ACRYLIC FURNITURE PAINT?

The first is the quality of the resin - there are thousands on the market and they are not all equal. Resins affect cure time. The newer, performance wall paints, such as Benjamin Moore’s Advance, needs almost 20-30 days to FULLY cure for physical use in lab tests, but on a wall that does not matter - folks don’t walk on walls.

Furniture and cabinet finishers need a faster cure time. Furniture and cabinets may need to be stacked, packaged or used fairly immediately, so the resins are selected are based on cure time properties.

The second difference is the amount of filler used. Both wall paints and furniture paints may use 100% Acrylic as the resin. Most interior house paints tend to be a combination of a binder, which is more expensive, (such as latex, acrylic, vinyl, vinyl acrylic, and others), a whole bunch of less expensive fillers such as calcium carbonate or talc, some pigment for color and water. The fillers in wall paint give it great coverage and allow the paint to be manufactured at a lower price point, but sacrifice durability and performance. Imagine wall paint as a can filled with 50% filler powder, some pigment colors, a little binder and then topped off with water. The higher end wall paints are a step up and improve this ratio but still tend to be less durable.

By comparison, a furniture paint may contain 30% filler powder, more binders and higher quality resins, pigments for color, and water. Chalk style furniture paints also have more filler powder than acrylic paints. That is why our Milk Paint is more durable than our Chalk Style Paint - the ratio of filler.

In summary, acrylic paints for furniture contain a higher ratio of resin to filler and superior resins.

High-quality acrylic resins give furniture paint the properties needed in the final finish: adhesion, hardness, flexibility (expansion and contraction with temperature changes in outdoor applications), good scrub resistance and superior color. These paints excel when it comes to flow, leveling and easy brushing. And these paints cure for use and recoating faster.

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What is the best way to store water-based finishes?

Life of Product
Water-based products do not last forever, even when unopened. General Finishes products are best used within 1 year of the manufacture date listed on the bottom of the can. The life of the product may be extended with proper care and storage.

Settling
Gravity can cause some solids to settle on the bottom of the can and slight separation on the top. This is normal. If working with older paint, use paint mixing attachment on a drill. If the solids dissolve and clumps smooth out after mixing from the bottom, the product is in good condition for use.

Storage Tips
See video tutorial: Tips on Storing Leftover Finishes
Water-based finishes crystalize and form a skin due to evaporation when the air-tight seal on a can is broken at first use. The following best practices will increase the life of your product:

  1. Pry open sealed lids with a paint can opener by hooking under the lid's rolled edge. The use of a screwdriver can disfigure the rim and lid, impairing a complete seal. 
  2. Keep lid closed while working. Pour what you will use into a bowl, paper cup, or plate, and close can lid as you work.
  3. Clean the chime of the can thoroughly with a paper towel before closing to create a complete seal. Paint in the chime can be minimized by using a pouring lid, such as Fitsall. Avoid wiping used brushes on the lid.
  4. Pound the lid in place using a rubber mallet to avoid distorting the chime or lid. Dents in the lid from direct contact with a hammer can impair a complete seal. Alternatively, place a flat piece of wood over can lid and firmly pound shut.
  5. Store in moderate temperatures. Avoid temperatures below 50*F/10*C or above 80*F/26*C. Frozen and heat-damaged product cannot be revitalized. Temperature-controlled spaces, such as a basement, are ideal for storage. Do not store product in an attic, garage, in direct sunlight, or next to something warm like a water heater or furnace.
  6. Store can upside down to create a liquid seal, minimize evaporation and reduce the chance of crystallization. Decant remaining product from the can before stirring. 
  7. Decant leftovers to a smaller container when the finish is almost used up. Alternative storage containers for water-based products are plastic FIFO bottles or glass bottles. Do not fill metal-lidded containers completely to prevent them from rusting.

The following water-based product mixtures can be stored:

  1. Product thinned with up to 15% General Finishes Extender or General Finishes Accelerator can be stored, with the exception of thinned General Finishes Water Based Wood Stain.
  2. Mixtures involving colors & sheens within the same product line, such as:
    • High Performance Satin + High Performance Gloss
    • Snow White Milk Paint + Coastal Blue Milk Paint
    • Amber Dye Stain + Merlot Dye Stain

The following product mixtures should NOT be stored:

  • Any water based product with thinned tap water; water often contains bacteria that will adversely affect stored paint.
  • Topcoat + Stain or Paint
  • Milk Paint + Chalk Style Paint
  • Water Based Wood Stain + Dye Stain

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*How Do I Prevent Water Based Topcoat or Light Colored Paint from Yellowing?

All bright white paint will yellow slightly with time, with or without topcoat. Water-based topcoats are reactive and more likely to draw out substances in the wood such as tannins or unknown substances in existing finishes causing the topcoat to yellow. This is an industry-wide issue and we have added warning labels regarding the yellowing of topcoats to our bright white paints, Snow White Milk Paint and Chalk White Chalk Style Paint.

General Finishes background was originally on the professional side, and the incidences of yellowing topcoat over white paint were almost nil, and when our sprayable professional finish, Enduro White Poly, is used, there have been no incidences. But as the use of our paints has increased in the up-cycling and furniture refresh markets, we have heard more reports of our topcoat yellowing. Our original response was to teach about prepping, testing your finish schedule and finally creating Stain Blocker, our stain and tannin blocking primer, but this is not enough. Just as we advocate prepping all finishes, we are now advocating NOT using a clear water base topcoat over BRIGHT WHITE paint.

We are listening and General Finishes is in the process of developing a brushable version of our professional Enduro White Poly (available only in gallons), but that will take some time and rigorous testing before we can release the product. Here is what you should know to protect yourself and also some immediate suggestions to decrease chances of yellowing.

There is no way to reliably predict yellowing ahead of time. Sometimes yellowing occurs, sometimes it does not. Every existing finish is different and we rarely know the finishing provenance on an existing piece. Every tree is different and every piece of wood is unique. Wood can bleed tannins immediately after the topcoat dries or months later with a change in temperature that comes with a change in seasons. Oak, pine, mahogany, and Douglass Fur are particularly prone to bleed-through.

As is true of most "water-white" topcoats, our High Performance Water-Based topcoat is a clear drying finish over a non-reactive substrate such as plastic. When white paint sealed with a water-white topcoat is applied to something as unpredictable as wood, all bets are off and the reason is often unknown. Yellowing can be caused by the top coat activating the tannins in raw wood or aniline dyes, stains or contaminants in a pre-existing finish. This is most evident when using BRIGHT WHITE paint and most prevalent in the sculpted details of furniture, where the topcoat can collect, intensifying the color change to an unacceptable level.

To add to this issue, all bright white paint will yellow slightly with time, with or without topcoat. You have probably tried to touch up white woodwork in your home after several years and noticed that the new paint is brighter.

SUMMARY

  • Whites have a lower “hide” quality and are more transparent than most other colors. Most bright whites require additional coats to achieve the desired color and minimize color variation. This can increase the cost of paint finishing. Always include a clause in your contracts addressing the need for additional coats to achieve coverage.
  • Bright white paints can yellow over time with or without topcoat.
  • The underlying finish or wood species can affect the final color of light paint.
  • Details and inside corners are difficult to cover with any paint color, but this property tends to be more noticeable with whites. This is a naturally occurring phenomenon in paint application and does not necessarily constitute a defect in the paint finish or your technique.
  • The more porous the paint (chalk paint vs an acrylic paint), the more likely that yellowing will occur. The topcoat is actually seeping through the spaces caused by the larger particles of filler that give chalk style paints their texture.

DO NOT CARRY THE COST OF WHITE PAINT YOURSELF – pass the cost on to the consumer who wants it with a fair upcharge. White paints, even if they did not yellow, require more coats to achieve coverage.

TIPS FOR PROTECTING YOURSELF AND PREVENTING YELLOWING

  1. Use a disclaimer in your contracts or recommend a softer white such as Antique White or Linen. Upcharge for the extra coats needed and never guarantee a white finish over a piece that you cannot trace the provenance on. Here is a suggestion for your contracts: Terms of Agreement and Warranties: ________ (Initials) I have been informed that more coats are required when painting with bright whites, reds, greens or yellow. I understand that white paint can yellow over time and water-based topcoats can occasionally react with the substrate or existing finish under white paints causing yellowing, even is a stain blocking primer is used.
  2. If it is a low use project, use a premium white paint that is self-sealing and does not require a topcoat. A clear top coat is not required on our Milk Paint for increased durability, as it is a self-sealing, exterior rated coating with very high durability and performance properties. However, top coats provide a smoother surface that is easier to clean and boost durability for high use projects such as table tops and kitchen cabinets.
  3. Get a spray gun and use a professional "white coat" such as our Enduro White Poly. It is a white paint with "increased topcoat properties", is a stand-alone finish when 3 coats are applied and does not require sealing with a topcoat.
  4. If you are still brushing, try a couple of our customer's techniques. 1) Add 10-15% of the paint you are using to the first application of topcoat. The last two layers of topcoat should NOT have paint in it, to maintain durability. This technique can be used with any color, not just white, and really boosts bright colors. 2) Use a coat of light gray over a lacquer based primer before applying white paint. We have good reports of these 2 techniques from customers BUT HAVE NOT TESTED IN OUR LAB. (Alternatively, GF prefers the use of Stain blocker without grey paint.)
  5. Always test your project's ENTIRE finishing schedule (from cleaning to topcoat) on an inside door or a more hidden area of the piece. This does not help if the yellowing occurs later but you will at least know if there is an immediate problem.
  6. Always apply a stain-blocking primer under white or light-colored paint such as GF Stain Blocker or a shellac based primer. Always let any primer dry overnight. Some of the primers we have seen suggest a 3-hour dry time and that is not enough.
  7. If you are working on period pieces such as a 1940's serpentine mahogany desk which were often finished in stain containing aniline dyes that cast a pinkish bleed through under light paint, stay away from light colors. Not every piece of furniture is suitable for up-cycling with a light paint color. Pine, Mahogany, and furniture of the 1940's and 50's are a red flag.
  8. Last, not all manufacturer's topcoats are compatible with other finishes and may react with a color change. Always follow best practices by not rushing, and testing to your satisfaction first.

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Dye Stains (Water Based)

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Can I adjust the color of my Dye Stain?

Yes, there are a couple of ways. Dye Stain Reducer is the clear base that we use when manufacturing General Finishes Dye Stains. The Reducer is made first, then the dye color is added.

It is easy to make your own custom color Dye Stain by adding in 10% increments of Dye Stain color to Reducer until you achieve the color you want. It is not possible to mix too much of our Dye Stain and Reducer together.

Additionally, General Finishes Water Based Wood Stains can be mixed into the Reducer, which will lighten the color and thin the viscosity so it will penetrate deeper into the wood.

You can also mix other manufacturers dyes such as TransTint dye concentrate, sold in many wood working stores.

We do NOT RECOMMEND using water to lighten dye stain. Reducer has ingredients to help keep color molecules dispersed evenly in the can.

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How do I correct color lift when applying High Performance over GF Water Based Dye Stains?

It is normal to see a bit of stain on the brush when applying the first coat of topcoat. Topcoats often pull a bit of color ont he first pass, but good preparation will minimize this.

To prepare open grains woods such as raw Oak for a water based stain, we recommend sanding with 180 grit followed by no more than 220 grit sandpaper. 300/400 grit sandpaper is too fine for preparing raw wood. Too fine of a grit changes the wood from a porous surface to one that is too smooth to absorb the stain, which causes the first top coat application to pull excessive color. (It is like trying to apply stain to glass.) There is always a small amount of color pull when using water based stains, but the smooth surface escalates this condition. This was evident in the areas that you used the brush to remove excess topcoat.

See recommended sanding schedules here: https://generalfinishes.com/faq/what-grit-should-i-use-for-prep-sanding-raw

Here are some options to try. Always test a small area before proceeding with your entire project.

  1. Toning: Lightly sand the light areas with a 220 grit sanding foam PAD to open up the pores of the wood. Create a toning mix of 10-20% dye stain to 80-90% topcoat. Using a small brush, apply this mix over the light areas to blend with the darker areas. Let this dry 3-4 hours. Then apply another coat of the mix over the entire surface. If this is successful, then apply 2-3 coats of the topcoat. 
  2. Glaze the light areas. This will change the look of your doors, but it is an easier remedy.
  3. Optimally, you should sand down to bare wood and start over with this prep sanding schedule. You can apply the dye stain directly to the wood, or mix in 10% top coat to help lock in the color.

 

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Does adding Dye Stain Reducer to Dye Stain lighten the color?

Yes, one of its uses is to dilute dye stain colors. Dye Stain reducer is the clear base the we use when manufacturing our dye stains. We make the reducer first, then add the dye color.

It is easy to make your own custom color Dye Stain by adding in 10% increments until you achieve the color you want. It is not possible to mix too much of our dye stain or reducer together.

Additionally, General Finishes Water Based Stains can be mixed into the reducer, which will lighten the color and thin the viscosity so it will penetrate deeper into the wood.

You can also mix other manufacturers dyes such as TransTint dye concentrate, sold in many wood working stores.

We do not recommend using water to lighten dye stain. Reducer has ingredients to help keep color molecules dispersed evenly in the can.

 

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*Why or When Should I Use a Dye Stain?*

There are several reasons to choose Dye Stain. Here are a few.

  1. Use dye stain when you have beautiful wood grain, pattern or burl and you want to show it off! GF Dye Stains are like ink and penetrate deep into the wood grain, revealing the figure of the wood with beautiful transparency.
  2. They are a great way to layer and intensify color. We often use a yellow or amber dye stain under another type of darker stain, such as Yellow Dye Stain under Java Gel Stain. The combined colors create a lovely depth and glow.
  3. Dye stains create a brilliantly colored project while maintaining the look of the wood. They come in a range of colors from traditional wood tones to brilliant primaries and can be applied to raw wood or combined with clear coats to make a toner.

Look at this piece that Jilian Moncada of ReFind Design by Coco Clare shared. When Jilian discovered this elegant burled wood under the old finish, she wrote and asked what to use - we recommended dye stain and just look at her result! 

We do not recommend the use of a wood pre-conditioner with dye stains. It is a matter of personal preference, but conditioners diminish color saturation, defeating the purpose of dye stains.

GRAIN RAISE: Water-based dye stains pop the wood grain more than solvent-based versions, but like all water-based stain products, it will raise the grain of the wood a bit. You can reduce this effect by raising the grain before applying dye stain. First, dampen the sanded surface with a cloth moistened with distilled water (tap water can contain minerals that may affect the finish). Let the surface dry and then sand lightly with the grain using 220-grit sandpaper. Never over-sand before applying any stain, as you may seal the surface so much that stain will not be able to properly penetrate. Alternatively, grain raise can easily be knocked down when finish sanding the first layer of topcoat.

CAUTION: Test the color in a hidden area before you begin your project. Once you use a Dye Stain, that is the color you are going to get. Apply liberally and evenly with a foam applicator and wipe off any excess immediately. There won't be much to wipe away; it penetrates fast.

Please share your completed Dye Stain projects on our Facebook page and in our Design Center.

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Enduro Clear Poly

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What is the difference between professional Enduro Clear Poly and High Performance Topcoat?

Enduro Clear Poly is designed for professionals that routinely spray their finishes. High Performance is formulated for the retail market so it can be sprayed or hand applied.

  • Enduro Clear Poly is slightly more durable than High Performance in the categories of wear, water, and chemical resistance. 
  • Even though Enduro Clear poly is more durable and more water resistant than High Performance, High Performance is extremely durable and also recommended for high-use surfaces like kitchen cabinets and table tops.
  • Both products can be sprayed
  • High Performance can also be applied by hand with a foam/bristle brush.
  • Clear Poly is an Acrylic Urethane and High Performance is a Urethane/Acrylic Blend.
  • High Performance is sold in Pints, Quarts & Gallons by GF Retailers, Clear Poly is Gallon, 5-gallon pails and 55-gallon drums by GF Distributors. Cost is determined by Retailer/Distributor.

 

Relevant Videos

How Do General Finishes Water Based Topcoats Differ?

Gf recommends using the least expensive product that will provide the needed performance characteristics. We offer a range of products designed for professional spray applications and brush-on finishes for consumer use.

PROFESSIONAL TOPCOATS

PRE CAT LACQUER (Spray only)

GF recommends our recently improved Pre Cat Lacquer for applications where there is little risk of chemical contamination issues from substances such ketchup, soap, chemical cleaners, or ammonia. This is the perfect spray finish for interior doors, casing, moldings, door jambs and furniture that receives light use. When you think about it, interior doors don't take a lot of wear. You might wipe them down or dust them once in a while but that is about it. PreCat Lacquer is a hard finish that provides excellent build and superior clarity at a phenomenal price point. If you are not finishing a surface such as a table top where you anticipate chemical contamination during use, why pay for a more expensive finish?

Dries clear.

CLEAR POLY (Spray only)

Poly is the go-to cabinet finish. It has all the durability you need at a lower price point than Conversion Varnish. It is similar to High Performance in test measurements for chemical, water and wear resistance, but HP can be brushed and Clear Poly can't - it is already thinned for spraying. Clear Poly has a bit of an edge over High Performance in overall chemical resistance, a 98 rating vs 92.

Dries clear.

CONVERSION VARNISH (Spray only)

This is our top of the line. Conversion Varnish is a post catalyzed high solids, two component urethane formulated for professionals who need the highest level of durability and chemical resistance. Varnish will cure the fastest. Requires NCO Catalyst. It is recommended for commercial applications or extremely high-wear surfaces such as countertops and bar tops

Dries clear.

RETAIL TOPCOATS

HIGH PERFORMANCE (Brush or Spray)

GF's best performing brush on finish with very similar performance testing as our Poly. (High Performance can be thinned for spraying).

Dries clear.

FLAT OUT FLAT (Brush or Spray)

Flat Out Flat is formulated with a self cross-linking acrylic, and is designed to mimic the look and feel of a wax finish. Because of the increased matting agents used to create the "Flat look", this finish will have less clarity.  Like wax, it dries softer to the touch than High Performance when completely cured, and will show more fingerprints. FOF finish will mark up more easily because of increased matting agents used to reduce the sheen, so it is not recommended for high-use tabletops.

Dries clear.

BOTH PROFESSIONAL AND RETAIL TOPCOATS

ENDURO-VAR (Spray or brush)

Enduro-Var is an oil modified water-based alternative for customers that want the warm look of an oil finish in a water based coating. It looks more like an oil finish than a water coating, and can be sprayed or brushed. Enduro-Var adheres well ONLY over WATER STAINS, DYE STAINS, and RAW WOOD. Use over other finishes at your own risk.

Dries Amber

EXTERIOR 45O TOPCOAT

Exterior 450 provides a clear drying tough, protective finish that will withstand the rigors of the sun, rain, and wind. It is suitable for vertical surfaces such as fences, patio furniture, garage doors, entrance doors, outdoor kitchens and interior windows. It is not recommended as a deck finish. Fortified with UV absorbers to stabilize the finish, Exterior 450's built-in mildewcide retards mold and mildew growth.

Dries Clear

Relevant Videos

*How to Spray Water Based Finishes

General Finishes water-based products can be sprayed through compressed air, HVLP, airless or C.A.S. units.

SURFACE PREPARATION:

All surfaces should be clean and free from dirt and oil and sanded.

Indicated below are instructional videos we have for preparing a surface for a new coat of paint or finish:

SPRAY APPLICATION OF GENERAL FINISHES WATER BASED FINISHES:

All General Finishes water based topcoats and wood stains are ready to spray from the container without additives with the exception of Conversion Varnish. Always strain material through a medium to fine mesh filter before spraying. If necessary, in hot or dry climates, reduce 10 to 15% with General Finishes Extender to extend the open time.

PRE SEALING:

Softwoods such as Pine absorb stain at an uneven rate and may respond better to staining if the wood is pre-sealed. General Finishes Pre-Stain Conditioner Natural can be applied to raw wood to condition the surface for uniform penetration of the stain. Pre-sealing will cause the final stain to be lighter so you may need to use a darker color. Always test your color on a hidden part of the furniture. Allow the Pre-Stain Conditioner to dry 30 minutes before applying your final stain color.

If you are using a sprayer that has been used for oil based or lacquers, clean the unit thoroughly with acetone followed with hot water to purge the fluid passage. Apply a thin coat first that will dry and harden faster. Sand this first coat down to a smooth base on which to build your finish coats with a 220-320 grade foam sanding pad or #400-grit sandpaper. It is better to spray 2 thin coats rather than 1 heavy coat.

Contact your supplier to verify proper tip sizes for your specific equipment. GF's general recommended fluid tips for Wood Stains and Top Coats are Compressed air - .040 and Airless - .009. 

RECOMMENDED TIPS FOR GENERAL FINISHES PRODUCTS USING HVLP:

  • Milk Paint: 1.8mm-2.0mm
  • Chalk Paint: 1.8mm-2.0mm
  • Stain Blocker: 1.8mm-2.0mm
  • Pearl Effects: 1.8mm-2.0mm
  • Glaze Effects: 1.8mm-2.0mm
  • High Performance Topcoat: 1.1mm-1.3mm
  • Flat Out Flat Top Coat: 1.1mm-1.3mm
  • Enduro-Var  1.1mm-1.3mm
  • Water Based Wood Stain: 1.1mm-1.3mm
  • Water Based Dye Stain: 1.1mm-1.3mm
  • Exterior 450 Topcoat:1.1mm-1.3mm
  • Exterior 450 Stain: 1.1mm-1.3mm
  • Enduro Sanding Sealer: 1.3-1.4mm
  • Enduro White Poly: 1.3mm-1.5mm
  • Enduro Black Poly: 1.3mm-1.5mm
  • Enduro White Under Coat 1.5mm-1.8mm
  • Enduro Clear Poly: 1.1mm-1.3mm
  • Enduro Pre Cat Lacquer: 1.1mm-1.3mm
  • Enduro Conversion Varnish: 1.1mm-1.3mm

Air caps should be medium size. Contact your supplier to verify proper tip sizes for your specific equipment.

Break your work into sections such as dresser top or drawer fronts. Spraying too large of an area can result in a textured grainy surface. A correctly sprayed finish should appear even and glossy. It is important to spray enough material to allow proper flow and leveling of the finish.

Spray medium wet films at 3-5 wet ml thickness. Practice makes perfect. If you have never sprayed finishes before, take a large piece of cardboard and practice your technique first. Spray water on the cardboard to learn how the gun works. Check your fluid settings and adjust the controls to get comfortable with the spray angles and to develop your technique.

SPRAYING TOPCOATS:

Keep your gun at a 90* angle, 6-8" from the surface. On large flat areas, use wet, even patterns 6 to 8 wide. For narrow surfaces, reduce the fan pattern to 2-3" to reduce overspray. For topcoats, overlap each pass 25% to conceal lines.

Watch our video how to spray water based topcoats here.

SPRAYING WATER BASED WOOD STAINS:

Keep your gun at a 90* angle, 6-8" from the surface. On large flat areas, use wet, even patterns 6 to 8 wide. For narrow surfaces, reduce the fan pattern to 2-3" to reduce overspray. Overlap each pass of stain 50% for even coverage and wipe back the excess with an absorbent cloth. For narrow surfaces, reduce the fan pattern to 2-3" to reduce overspray. 

SPRAYING WATER BASED DYE STAINS:

Keep your gun at a 90* angle, 6-8" from the surface. On large flat areas, use wet, even patterns 6 to 8 wide. For narrow surfaces, reduce the fan pattern to 2-3" to reduce overspray. Overlap each pass of stain 50% for even coverage. If coverage is even, there is no need to wipe. If you have issues with uneven coverage, wipe back the excess with an absorbent cloth. For narrow surfaces, reduce the fan pattern to 2-3" to reduce overspray. 

Relevant Videos

What is the best way to store water-based finishes?

Life of Product
Water-based products do not last forever, even when unopened. General Finishes products are best used within 1 year of the manufacture date listed on the bottom of the can. The life of the product may be extended with proper care and storage.

Settling
Gravity can cause some solids to settle on the bottom of the can and slight separation on the top. This is normal. If working with older paint, use paint mixing attachment on a drill. If the solids dissolve and clumps smooth out after mixing from the bottom, the product is in good condition for use.

Storage Tips
See video tutorial: Tips on Storing Leftover Finishes
Water-based finishes crystalize and form a skin due to evaporation when the air-tight seal on a can is broken at first use. The following best practices will increase the life of your product:

  1. Pry open sealed lids with a paint can opener by hooking under the lid's rolled edge. The use of a screwdriver can disfigure the rim and lid, impairing a complete seal. 
  2. Keep lid closed while working. Pour what you will use into a bowl, paper cup, or plate, and close can lid as you work.
  3. Clean the chime of the can thoroughly with a paper towel before closing to create a complete seal. Paint in the chime can be minimized by using a pouring lid, such as Fitsall. Avoid wiping used brushes on the lid.
  4. Pound the lid in place using a rubber mallet to avoid distorting the chime or lid. Dents in the lid from direct contact with a hammer can impair a complete seal. Alternatively, place a flat piece of wood over can lid and firmly pound shut.
  5. Store in moderate temperatures. Avoid temperatures below 50*F/10*C or above 80*F/26*C. Frozen and heat-damaged product cannot be revitalized. Temperature-controlled spaces, such as a basement, are ideal for storage. Do not store product in an attic, garage, in direct sunlight, or next to something warm like a water heater or furnace.
  6. Store can upside down to create a liquid seal, minimize evaporation and reduce the chance of crystallization. Decant remaining product from the can before stirring. 
  7. Decant leftovers to a smaller container when the finish is almost used up. Alternative storage containers for water-based products are plastic FIFO bottles or glass bottles. Do not fill metal-lidded containers completely to prevent them from rusting.

The following water-based product mixtures can be stored:

  1. Product thinned with up to 15% General Finishes Extender or General Finishes Accelerator can be stored, with the exception of thinned General Finishes Water Based Wood Stain.
  2. Mixtures involving colors & sheens within the same product line, such as:
    • High Performance Satin + High Performance Gloss
    • Snow White Milk Paint + Coastal Blue Milk Paint
    • Amber Dye Stain + Merlot Dye Stain

The following product mixtures should NOT be stored:

  • Any water based product with thinned tap water; water often contains bacteria that will adversely affect stored paint.
  • Topcoat + Stain or Paint
  • Milk Paint + Chalk Style Paint
  • Water Based Wood Stain + Dye Stain

Related Products

Relevant Videos

Enduro White Poly

Return

*Why Do I Sometimes Get Metal Marks On Cabinets I Have Painted with White Poly?

This is very common in pigment coatings and paints. Is called metal marking and it is a characteristic that is very difficult to eliminate. You can even see it in dinnerware like white plates. We usually test with wedding rings and forks. It a constant focus and improvement project for General Finishes, especially the whites. The difference with tinted clear is that the amount of pigment varies from color to color, so sometime it will occur with the lighter paints.

Related Products

Relevant Videos

Which Topcoat Should I Choose?

General Finishes Water Based Topcoats:

  • High Performance
  • Flat Out Flat
  • Enduro-Var
  • Enduro Professional Topcoats (Enduro Clear Poly, Enduro Conversion Varnish, Enduro Water Based Laquer)

General Finishes Oil Based Topcoats

  • Arm-R-Seal Liquid Oil Based Topcoat
  • Gel Satin Topcoat

GENERAL PRACTICE:

  1. Oil based topcoats and Enduro-Var will amber over time.
  2. Water based Flat Out Flat and High Performance top coats dry clear.
  3. Never use any water based topcoat with long oils such as Danish, Tung or Linseed.
  4. Water based top coats clean up with water. OIl based topcoats require mineral spirits for clean up.
  5. Enduro-Var ADHERES WELL only over WATER STAINS, DYE STAINS, and RAW WOOD.
  6. If you use water based topcoats over oil based finishes, make sure that you wait 72 hours between the two products. It is essential to let the oil finish dry longer.
  7. Large/Detailed Surfaces - For more complex projects that have a lot of nooks and crannies or projects with large surface areas such as cabinets, we recommend either ARM-R-SEAL liquid oil based topcoat or any of our water based topcoats.
  8. Enduro Professional Top Coats are thinner and intended to be sprayed
  9. High Performance and Flat Out Flat can also be sprayed. If needed, it can be thinned by adding 10% water or Extender. Large surfaces such as cabinets or tables and complex projects with lots of detail are easier to cover with liquid top coat rather than a Gel top coat.

Related Products

Relevant Videos

How Do General Finishes Water Based Topcoats Differ?

Gf recommends using the least expensive product that will provide the needed performance characteristics. We offer a range of products designed for professional spray applications and brush-on finishes for consumer use.

PROFESSIONAL TOPCOATS

PRE CAT LACQUER (Spray only)

GF recommends our recently improved Pre Cat Lacquer for applications where there is little risk of chemical contamination issues from substances such ketchup, soap, chemical cleaners, or ammonia. This is the perfect spray finish for interior doors, casing, moldings, door jambs and furniture that receives light use. When you think about it, interior doors don't take a lot of wear. You might wipe them down or dust them once in a while but that is about it. PreCat Lacquer is a hard finish that provides excellent build and superior clarity at a phenomenal price point. If you are not finishing a surface such as a table top where you anticipate chemical contamination during use, why pay for a more expensive finish?

Dries clear.

CLEAR POLY (Spray only)

Poly is the go-to cabinet finish. It has all the durability you need at a lower price point than Conversion Varnish. It is similar to High Performance in test measurements for chemical, water and wear resistance, but HP can be brushed and Clear Poly can't - it is already thinned for spraying. Clear Poly has a bit of an edge over High Performance in overall chemical resistance, a 98 rating vs 92.

Dries clear.

CONVERSION VARNISH (Spray only)

This is our top of the line. Conversion Varnish is a post catalyzed high solids, two component urethane formulated for professionals who need the highest level of durability and chemical resistance. Varnish will cure the fastest. Requires NCO Catalyst. It is recommended for commercial applications or extremely high-wear surfaces such as countertops and bar tops

Dries clear.

RETAIL TOPCOATS

HIGH PERFORMANCE (Brush or Spray)

GF's best performing brush on finish with very similar performance testing as our Poly. (High Performance can be thinned for spraying).

Dries clear.

FLAT OUT FLAT (Brush or Spray)

Flat Out Flat is formulated with a self cross-linking acrylic, and is designed to mimic the look and feel of a wax finish. Because of the increased matting agents used to create the "Flat look", this finish will have less clarity.  Like wax, it dries softer to the touch than High Performance when completely cured, and will show more fingerprints. FOF finish will mark up more easily because of increased matting agents used to reduce the sheen, so it is not recommended for high-use tabletops.

Dries clear.

BOTH PROFESSIONAL AND RETAIL TOPCOATS

ENDURO-VAR (Spray or brush)

Enduro-Var is an oil modified water-based alternative for customers that want the warm look of an oil finish in a water based coating. It looks more like an oil finish than a water coating, and can be sprayed or brushed. Enduro-Var adheres well ONLY over WATER STAINS, DYE STAINS, and RAW WOOD. Use over other finishes at your own risk.

Dries Amber

EXTERIOR 45O TOPCOAT

Exterior 450 provides a clear drying tough, protective finish that will withstand the rigors of the sun, rain, and wind. It is suitable for vertical surfaces such as fences, patio furniture, garage doors, entrance doors, outdoor kitchens and interior windows. It is not recommended as a deck finish. Fortified with UV absorbers to stabilize the finish, Exterior 450's built-in mildewcide retards mold and mildew growth.

Dries Clear

Relevant Videos

What is the best way to store water-based finishes?

Life of Product
Water-based products do not last forever, even when unopened. General Finishes products are best used within 1 year of the manufacture date listed on the bottom of the can. The life of the product may be extended with proper care and storage.

Settling
Gravity can cause some solids to settle on the bottom of the can and slight separation on the top. This is normal. If working with older paint, use paint mixing attachment on a drill. If the solids dissolve and clumps smooth out after mixing from the bottom, the product is in good condition for use.

Storage Tips
See video tutorial: Tips on Storing Leftover Finishes
Water-based finishes crystalize and form a skin due to evaporation when the air-tight seal on a can is broken at first use. The following best practices will increase the life of your product:

  1. Pry open sealed lids with a paint can opener by hooking under the lid's rolled edge. The use of a screwdriver can disfigure the rim and lid, impairing a complete seal. 
  2. Keep lid closed while working. Pour what you will use into a bowl, paper cup, or plate, and close can lid as you work.
  3. Clean the chime of the can thoroughly with a paper towel before closing to create a complete seal. Paint in the chime can be minimized by using a pouring lid, such as Fitsall. Avoid wiping used brushes on the lid.
  4. Pound the lid in place using a rubber mallet to avoid distorting the chime or lid. Dents in the lid from direct contact with a hammer can impair a complete seal. Alternatively, place a flat piece of wood over can lid and firmly pound shut.
  5. Store in moderate temperatures. Avoid temperatures below 50*F/10*C or above 80*F/26*C. Frozen and heat-damaged product cannot be revitalized. Temperature-controlled spaces, such as a basement, are ideal for storage. Do not store product in an attic, garage, in direct sunlight, or next to something warm like a water heater or furnace.
  6. Store can upside down to create a liquid seal, minimize evaporation and reduce the chance of crystallization. Decant remaining product from the can before stirring. 
  7. Decant leftovers to a smaller container when the finish is almost used up. Alternative storage containers for water-based products are plastic FIFO bottles or glass bottles. Do not fill metal-lidded containers completely to prevent them from rusting.

The following water-based product mixtures can be stored:

  1. Product thinned with up to 15% General Finishes Extender or General Finishes Accelerator can be stored, with the exception of thinned General Finishes Water Based Wood Stain.
  2. Mixtures involving colors & sheens within the same product line, such as:
    • High Performance Satin + High Performance Gloss
    • Snow White Milk Paint + Coastal Blue Milk Paint
    • Amber Dye Stain + Merlot Dye Stain

The following product mixtures should NOT be stored:

  • Any water based product with thinned tap water; water often contains bacteria that will adversely affect stored paint.
  • Topcoat + Stain or Paint
  • Milk Paint + Chalk Style Paint
  • Water Based Wood Stain + Dye Stain

Related Products

Relevant Videos

Enduro Conversion Varnish

Return

Can General Finishes Water Based Top Coats Be Tinted?

All of General Finishes water based topcoats can be tinted to create lightly colored finishes for toning. Toning is the process of adding colorant, either dye or pigment into a top coat and then applying over an entire piece in order to subtly deepen the color.

Some tinting recommendations are:

  • Do not exceed 13 ounces per gallon. Excess amounts of colorant can create surface defects and decrease the viscosity (causing drips, sag, etc.).
  • Tinting a product black only requires about 6 to 8 ounces (based on strength of colorant).
  • Check for colorant compatibly (best to use a zero VOC colorant).
  • Tint off whites with white bases.
  • Enduro-Var top coat cannot be tinted white.
  • GF top coats can also be tinted with General Finishes Dye Stains or Trans Tint Dyes available at many woodworking and paint stores. This produces a transparent tinted finish. Normal addition is usually 2-5% by volume.

GF does not manufacturer colorants. Here are a few sources:

  • Mixol available at Woodcraft
  • Gennex by Benjamin Moore
  • Colortrend 896 or 888, 878

Relevant Videos

How Do General Finishes Water Based Topcoats Differ?

Gf recommends using the least expensive product that will provide the needed performance characteristics. We offer a range of products designed for professional spray applications and brush-on finishes for consumer use.

PROFESSIONAL TOPCOATS

PRE CAT LACQUER (Spray only)

GF recommends our recently improved Pre Cat Lacquer for applications where there is little risk of chemical contamination issues from substances such ketchup, soap, chemical cleaners, or ammonia. This is the perfect spray finish for interior doors, casing, moldings, door jambs and furniture that receives light use. When you think about it, interior doors don't take a lot of wear. You might wipe them down or dust them once in a while but that is about it. PreCat Lacquer is a hard finish that provides excellent build and superior clarity at a phenomenal price point. If you are not finishing a surface such as a table top where you anticipate chemical contamination during use, why pay for a more expensive finish?

Dries clear.

CLEAR POLY (Spray only)

Poly is the go-to cabinet finish. It has all the durability you need at a lower price point than Conversion Varnish. It is similar to High Performance in test measurements for chemical, water and wear resistance, but HP can be brushed and Clear Poly can't - it is already thinned for spraying. Clear Poly has a bit of an edge over High Performance in overall chemical resistance, a 98 rating vs 92.

Dries clear.

CONVERSION VARNISH (Spray only)

This is our top of the line. Conversion Varnish is a post catalyzed high solids, two component urethane formulated for professionals who need the highest level of durability and chemical resistance. Varnish will cure the fastest. Requires NCO Catalyst. It is recommended for commercial applications or extremely high-wear surfaces such as countertops and bar tops

Dries clear.

RETAIL TOPCOATS

HIGH PERFORMANCE (Brush or Spray)

GF's best performing brush on finish with very similar performance testing as our Poly. (High Performance can be thinned for spraying).

Dries clear.

FLAT OUT FLAT (Brush or Spray)

Flat Out Flat is formulated with a self cross-linking acrylic, and is designed to mimic the look and feel of a wax finish. Because of the increased matting agents used to create the "Flat look", this finish will have less clarity.  Like wax, it dries softer to the touch than High Performance when completely cured, and will show more fingerprints. FOF finish will mark up more easily because of increased matting agents used to reduce the sheen, so it is not recommended for high-use tabletops.

Dries clear.

BOTH PROFESSIONAL AND RETAIL TOPCOATS

ENDURO-VAR (Spray or brush)

Enduro-Var is an oil modified water-based alternative for customers that want the warm look of an oil finish in a water based coating. It looks more like an oil finish than a water coating, and can be sprayed or brushed. Enduro-Var adheres well ONLY over WATER STAINS, DYE STAINS, and RAW WOOD. Use over other finishes at your own risk.

Dries Amber

EXTERIOR 45O TOPCOAT

Exterior 450 provides a clear drying tough, protective finish that will withstand the rigors of the sun, rain, and wind. It is suitable for vertical surfaces such as fences, patio furniture, garage doors, entrance doors, outdoor kitchens and interior windows. It is not recommended as a deck finish. Fortified with UV absorbers to stabilize the finish, Exterior 450's built-in mildewcide retards mold and mildew growth.

Dries Clear

Relevant Videos

*How to Spray Water Based Finishes

General Finishes water-based products can be sprayed through compressed air, HVLP, airless or C.A.S. units.

SURFACE PREPARATION:

All surfaces should be clean and free from dirt and oil and sanded.

Indicated below are instructional videos we have for preparing a surface for a new coat of paint or finish:

SPRAY APPLICATION OF GENERAL FINISHES WATER BASED FINISHES:

All General Finishes water based topcoats and wood stains are ready to spray from the container without additives with the exception of Conversion Varnish. Always strain material through a medium to fine mesh filter before spraying. If necessary, in hot or dry climates, reduce 10 to 15% with General Finishes Extender to extend the open time.

PRE SEALING:

Softwoods such as Pine absorb stain at an uneven rate and may respond better to staining if the wood is pre-sealed. General Finishes Pre-Stain Conditioner Natural can be applied to raw wood to condition the surface for uniform penetration of the stain. Pre-sealing will cause the final stain to be lighter so you may need to use a darker color. Always test your color on a hidden part of the furniture. Allow the Pre-Stain Conditioner to dry 30 minutes before applying your final stain color.

If you are using a sprayer that has been used for oil based or lacquers, clean the unit thoroughly with acetone followed with hot water to purge the fluid passage. Apply a thin coat first that will dry and harden faster. Sand this first coat down to a smooth base on which to build your finish coats with a 220-320 grade foam sanding pad or #400-grit sandpaper. It is better to spray 2 thin coats rather than 1 heavy coat.

Contact your supplier to verify proper tip sizes for your specific equipment. GF's general recommended fluid tips for Wood Stains and Top Coats are Compressed air - .040 and Airless - .009. 

RECOMMENDED TIPS FOR GENERAL FINISHES PRODUCTS USING HVLP:

  • Milk Paint: 1.8mm-2.0mm
  • Chalk Paint: 1.8mm-2.0mm
  • Stain Blocker: 1.8mm-2.0mm
  • Pearl Effects: 1.8mm-2.0mm
  • Glaze Effects: 1.8mm-2.0mm
  • High Performance Topcoat: 1.1mm-1.3mm
  • Flat Out Flat Top Coat: 1.1mm-1.3mm
  • Enduro-Var  1.1mm-1.3mm
  • Water Based Wood Stain: 1.1mm-1.3mm
  • Water Based Dye Stain: 1.1mm-1.3mm
  • Exterior 450 Topcoat:1.1mm-1.3mm
  • Exterior 450 Stain: 1.1mm-1.3mm
  • Enduro Sanding Sealer: 1.3-1.4mm
  • Enduro White Poly: 1.3mm-1.5mm
  • Enduro Black Poly: 1.3mm-1.5mm
  • Enduro White Under Coat 1.5mm-1.8mm
  • Enduro Clear Poly: 1.1mm-1.3mm
  • Enduro Pre Cat Lacquer: 1.1mm-1.3mm
  • Enduro Conversion Varnish: 1.1mm-1.3mm

Air caps should be medium size. Contact your supplier to verify proper tip sizes for your specific equipment.

Break your work into sections such as dresser top or drawer fronts. Spraying too large of an area can result in a textured grainy surface. A correctly sprayed finish should appear even and glossy. It is important to spray enough material to allow proper flow and leveling of the finish.

Spray medium wet films at 3-5 wet ml thickness. Practice makes perfect. If you have never sprayed finishes before, take a large piece of cardboard and practice your technique first. Spray water on the cardboard to learn how the gun works. Check your fluid settings and adjust the controls to get comfortable with the spray angles and to develop your technique.

SPRAYING TOPCOATS:

Keep your gun at a 90* angle, 6-8" from the surface. On large flat areas, use wet, even patterns 6 to 8 wide. For narrow surfaces, reduce the fan pattern to 2-3" to reduce overspray. For topcoats, overlap each pass 25% to conceal lines.

Watch our video how to spray water based topcoats here.

SPRAYING WATER BASED WOOD STAINS:

Keep your gun at a 90* angle, 6-8" from the surface. On large flat areas, use wet, even patterns 6 to 8 wide. For narrow surfaces, reduce the fan pattern to 2-3" to reduce overspray. Overlap each pass of stain 50% for even coverage and wipe back the excess with an absorbent cloth. For narrow surfaces, reduce the fan pattern to 2-3" to reduce overspray. 

SPRAYING WATER BASED DYE STAINS:

Keep your gun at a 90* angle, 6-8" from the surface. On large flat areas, use wet, even patterns 6 to 8 wide. For narrow surfaces, reduce the fan pattern to 2-3" to reduce overspray. Overlap each pass of stain 50% for even coverage. If coverage is even, there is no need to wipe. If you have issues with uneven coverage, wipe back the excess with an absorbent cloth. For narrow surfaces, reduce the fan pattern to 2-3" to reduce overspray. 

Relevant Videos

*Which General Finishes Products Would Work Best on a Restaurant Table?

GF has two products that would work well.

For non-professional finishers, we recommend using General Finishes Arm-R-Seal Topcoat.

Arm-R-Seal is oil based and will amber. Be sure to apply liberally with a foam brush or roller, letting the product self-level a bit. A liberal application will help you avoid streaks caused by back-brushing and pressure. Stir product thoroughly before and during application because flatting agents settle quickly in a solvent base finish.

For experienced professional finishers who spray, we recommend our two-step General Finishes Conversion Varnish, which would cure in half the time and dries clear.

Even though General Finishes products are water resistant, they are not impervious to standing water condensation (like an epoxy finish). As with any fine furniture finish, spills should be wiped up in a timely manner. We recommend using coasters to protect your wood from water condensation and pot holders to protect from heat.

Relevant Videos

Enduro Pre Cat Laquer

Return

How Do General Finishes Water Based Topcoats Differ?

Gf recommends using the least expensive product that will provide the needed performance characteristics. We offer a range of products designed for professional spray applications and brush-on finishes for consumer use.

PROFESSIONAL TOPCOATS

PRE CAT LACQUER (Spray only)

GF recommends our recently improved Pre Cat Lacquer for applications where there is little risk of chemical contamination issues from substances such ketchup, soap, chemical cleaners, or ammonia. This is the perfect spray finish for interior doors, casing, moldings, door jambs and furniture that receives light use. When you think about it, interior doors don't take a lot of wear. You might wipe them down or dust them once in a while but that is about it. PreCat Lacquer is a hard finish that provides excellent build and superior clarity at a phenomenal price point. If you are not finishing a surface such as a table top where you anticipate chemical contamination during use, why pay for a more expensive finish?

Dries clear.

CLEAR POLY (Spray only)

Poly is the go-to cabinet finish. It has all the durability you need at a lower price point than Conversion Varnish. It is similar to High Performance in test measurements for chemical, water and wear resistance, but HP can be brushed and Clear Poly can't - it is already thinned for spraying. Clear Poly has a bit of an edge over High Performance in overall chemical resistance, a 98 rating vs 92.

Dries clear.

CONVERSION VARNISH (Spray only)

This is our top of the line. Conversion Varnish is a post catalyzed high solids, two component urethane formulated for professionals who need the highest level of durability and chemical resistance. Varnish will cure the fastest. Requires NCO Catalyst. It is recommended for commercial applications or extremely high-wear surfaces such as countertops and bar tops

Dries clear.

RETAIL TOPCOATS

HIGH PERFORMANCE (Brush or Spray)

GF's best performing brush on finish with very similar performance testing as our Poly. (High Performance can be thinned for spraying).

Dries clear.

FLAT OUT FLAT (Brush or Spray)

Flat Out Flat is formulated with a self cross-linking acrylic, and is designed to mimic the look and feel of a wax finish. Because of the increased matting agents used to create the "Flat look", this finish will have less clarity.  Like wax, it dries softer to the touch than High Performance when completely cured, and will show more fingerprints. FOF finish will mark up more easily because of increased matting agents used to reduce the sheen, so it is not recommended for high-use tabletops.

Dries clear.

BOTH PROFESSIONAL AND RETAIL TOPCOATS

ENDURO-VAR (Spray or brush)

Enduro-Var is an oil modified water-based alternative for customers that want the warm look of an oil finish in a water based coating. It looks more like an oil finish than a water coating, and can be sprayed or brushed. Enduro-Var adheres well ONLY over WATER STAINS, DYE STAINS, and RAW WOOD. Use over other finishes at your own risk.

Dries Amber

EXTERIOR 45O TOPCOAT

Exterior 450 provides a clear drying tough, protective finish that will withstand the rigors of the sun, rain, and wind. It is suitable for vertical surfaces such as fences, patio furniture, garage doors, entrance doors, outdoor kitchens and interior windows. It is not recommended as a deck finish. Fortified with UV absorbers to stabilize the finish, Exterior 450's built-in mildewcide retards mold and mildew growth.

Dries Clear

Relevant Videos

*How to Spray Water Based Finishes

General Finishes water-based products can be sprayed through compressed air, HVLP, airless or C.A.S. units.

SURFACE PREPARATION:

All surfaces should be clean and free from dirt and oil and sanded.

Indicated below are instructional videos we have for preparing a surface for a new coat of paint or finish:

SPRAY APPLICATION OF GENERAL FINISHES WATER BASED FINISHES:

All General Finishes water based topcoats and wood stains are ready to spray from the container without additives with the exception of Conversion Varnish. Always strain material through a medium to fine mesh filter before spraying. If necessary, in hot or dry climates, reduce 10 to 15% with General Finishes Extender to extend the open time.

PRE SEALING:

Softwoods such as Pine absorb stain at an uneven rate and may respond better to staining if the wood is pre-sealed. General Finishes Pre-Stain Conditioner Natural can be applied to raw wood to condition the surface for uniform penetration of the stain. Pre-sealing will cause the final stain to be lighter so you may need to use a darker color. Always test your color on a hidden part of the furniture. Allow the Pre-Stain Conditioner to dry 30 minutes before applying your final stain color.

If you are using a sprayer that has been used for oil based or lacquers, clean the unit thoroughly with acetone followed with hot water to purge the fluid passage. Apply a thin coat first that will dry and harden faster. Sand this first coat down to a smooth base on which to build your finish coats with a 220-320 grade foam sanding pad or #400-grit sandpaper. It is better to spray 2 thin coats rather than 1 heavy coat.

Contact your supplier to verify proper tip sizes for your specific equipment. GF's general recommended fluid tips for Wood Stains and Top Coats are Compressed air - .040 and Airless - .009. 

RECOMMENDED TIPS FOR GENERAL FINISHES PRODUCTS USING HVLP:

  • Milk Paint: 1.8mm-2.0mm
  • Chalk Paint: 1.8mm-2.0mm
  • Stain Blocker: 1.8mm-2.0mm
  • Pearl Effects: 1.8mm-2.0mm
  • Glaze Effects: 1.8mm-2.0mm
  • High Performance Topcoat: 1.1mm-1.3mm
  • Flat Out Flat Top Coat: 1.1mm-1.3mm
  • Enduro-Var  1.1mm-1.3mm
  • Water Based Wood Stain: 1.1mm-1.3mm
  • Water Based Dye Stain: 1.1mm-1.3mm
  • Exterior 450 Topcoat:1.1mm-1.3mm
  • Exterior 450 Stain: 1.1mm-1.3mm
  • Enduro Sanding Sealer: 1.3-1.4mm
  • Enduro White Poly: 1.3mm-1.5mm
  • Enduro Black Poly: 1.3mm-1.5mm
  • Enduro White Under Coat 1.5mm-1.8mm
  • Enduro Clear Poly: 1.1mm-1.3mm
  • Enduro Pre Cat Lacquer: 1.1mm-1.3mm
  • Enduro Conversion Varnish: 1.1mm-1.3mm

Air caps should be medium size. Contact your supplier to verify proper tip sizes for your specific equipment.

Break your work into sections such as dresser top or drawer fronts. Spraying too large of an area can result in a textured grainy surface. A correctly sprayed finish should appear even and glossy. It is important to spray enough material to allow proper flow and leveling of the finish.

Spray medium wet films at 3-5 wet ml thickness. Practice makes perfect. If you have never sprayed finishes before, take a large piece of cardboard and practice your technique first. Spray water on the cardboard to learn how the gun works. Check your fluid settings and adjust the controls to get comfortable with the spray angles and to develop your technique.

SPRAYING TOPCOATS:

Keep your gun at a 90* angle, 6-8" from the surface. On large flat areas, use wet, even patterns 6 to 8 wide. For narrow surfaces, reduce the fan pattern to 2-3" to reduce overspray. For topcoats, overlap each pass 25% to conceal lines.

Watch our video how to spray water based topcoats here.

SPRAYING WATER BASED WOOD STAINS:

Keep your gun at a 90* angle, 6-8" from the surface. On large flat areas, use wet, even patterns 6 to 8 wide. For narrow surfaces, reduce the fan pattern to 2-3" to reduce overspray. Overlap each pass of stain 50% for even coverage and wipe back the excess with an absorbent cloth. For narrow surfaces, reduce the fan pattern to 2-3" to reduce overspray. 

SPRAYING WATER BASED DYE STAINS:

Keep your gun at a 90* angle, 6-8" from the surface. On large flat areas, use wet, even patterns 6 to 8 wide. For narrow surfaces, reduce the fan pattern to 2-3" to reduce overspray. Overlap each pass of stain 50% for even coverage. If coverage is even, there is no need to wipe. If you have issues with uneven coverage, wipe back the excess with an absorbent cloth. For narrow surfaces, reduce the fan pattern to 2-3" to reduce overspray. 

Relevant Videos

Enduro RTM Ready To Match Stain System

Return

Can General Finishes Water Based Top Coats Be Tinted?

All of General Finishes water based topcoats can be tinted to create lightly colored finishes for toning. Toning is the process of adding colorant, either dye or pigment into a top coat and then applying over an entire piece in order to subtly deepen the color.

Some tinting recommendations are:

  • Do not exceed 13 ounces per gallon. Excess amounts of colorant can create surface defects and decrease the viscosity (causing drips, sag, etc.).
  • Tinting a product black only requires about 6 to 8 ounces (based on strength of colorant).
  • Check for colorant compatibly (best to use a zero VOC colorant).
  • Tint off whites with white bases.
  • Enduro-Var top coat cannot be tinted white.
  • GF top coats can also be tinted with General Finishes Dye Stains or Trans Tint Dyes available at many woodworking and paint stores. This produces a transparent tinted finish. Normal addition is usually 2-5% by volume.

GF does not manufacturer colorants. Here are a few sources:

  • Mixol available at Woodcraft
  • Gennex by Benjamin Moore
  • Colortrend 896 or 888, 878

Relevant Videos

*Why Isn't RTM Stain Adhering to the Wood Grain of My Oak Project?

This problem could be caused by the surface tension of the oak. Surface Tension, sometimes created by sanding, can cause stains to not adhere to the grain of the wood.

You have a few options:

  1. Lightly hand-apply the first coat, then spray (without wiping) a second coat.
  2. Hand-apply stain the first coat. Then tone the piece by applying a mix of 10-15% stain with topcoat.

 

Relevant Videos

Enduro-Var

Return

*How to Spray Water Based Finishes

General Finishes water-based products can be sprayed through compressed air, HVLP, airless or C.A.S. units.

SURFACE PREPARATION:

All surfaces should be clean and free from dirt and oil and sanded.

Indicated below are instructional videos we have for preparing a surface for a new coat of paint or finish:

SPRAY APPLICATION OF GENERAL FINISHES WATER BASED FINISHES:

All General Finishes water based topcoats and wood stains are ready to spray from the container without additives with the exception of Conversion Varnish. Always strain material through a medium to fine mesh filter before spraying. If necessary, in hot or dry climates, reduce 10 to 15% with General Finishes Extender to extend the open time.

PRE SEALING:

Softwoods such as Pine absorb stain at an uneven rate and may respond better to staining if the wood is pre-sealed. General Finishes Pre-Stain Conditioner Natural can be applied to raw wood to condition the surface for uniform penetration of the stain. Pre-sealing will cause the final stain to be lighter so you may need to use a darker color. Always test your color on a hidden part of the furniture. Allow the Pre-Stain Conditioner to dry 30 minutes before applying your final stain color.

If you are using a sprayer that has been used for oil based or lacquers, clean the unit thoroughly with acetone followed with hot water to purge the fluid passage. Apply a thin coat first that will dry and harden faster. Sand this first coat down to a smooth base on which to build your finish coats with a 220-320 grade foam sanding pad or #400-grit sandpaper. It is better to spray 2 thin coats rather than 1 heavy coat.

Contact your supplier to verify proper tip sizes for your specific equipment. GF's general recommended fluid tips for Wood Stains and Top Coats are Compressed air - .040 and Airless - .009. 

RECOMMENDED TIPS FOR GENERAL FINISHES PRODUCTS USING HVLP:

  • Milk Paint: 1.8mm-2.0mm
  • Chalk Paint: 1.8mm-2.0mm
  • Stain Blocker: 1.8mm-2.0mm
  • Pearl Effects: 1.8mm-2.0mm
  • Glaze Effects: 1.8mm-2.0mm
  • High Performance Topcoat: 1.1mm-1.3mm
  • Flat Out Flat Top Coat: 1.1mm-1.3mm
  • Enduro-Var  1.1mm-1.3mm
  • Water Based Wood Stain: 1.1mm-1.3mm
  • Water Based Dye Stain: 1.1mm-1.3mm
  • Exterior 450 Topcoat:1.1mm-1.3mm
  • Exterior 450 Stain: 1.1mm-1.3mm
  • Enduro Sanding Sealer: 1.3-1.4mm
  • Enduro White Poly: 1.3mm-1.5mm
  • Enduro Black Poly: 1.3mm-1.5mm
  • Enduro White Under Coat 1.5mm-1.8mm
  • Enduro Clear Poly: 1.1mm-1.3mm
  • Enduro Pre Cat Lacquer: 1.1mm-1.3mm
  • Enduro Conversion Varnish: 1.1mm-1.3mm

Air caps should be medium size. Contact your supplier to verify proper tip sizes for your specific equipment.

Break your work into sections such as dresser top or drawer fronts. Spraying too large of an area can result in a textured grainy surface. A correctly sprayed finish should appear even and glossy. It is important to spray enough material to allow proper flow and leveling of the finish.

Spray medium wet films at 3-5 wet ml thickness. Practice makes perfect. If you have never sprayed finishes before, take a large piece of cardboard and practice your technique first. Spray water on the cardboard to learn how the gun works. Check your fluid settings and adjust the controls to get comfortable with the spray angles and to develop your technique.

SPRAYING TOPCOATS:

Keep your gun at a 90* angle, 6-8" from the surface. On large flat areas, use wet, even patterns 6 to 8 wide. For narrow surfaces, reduce the fan pattern to 2-3" to reduce overspray. For topcoats, overlap each pass 25% to conceal lines.

Watch our video how to spray water based topcoats here.

SPRAYING WATER BASED WOOD STAINS:

Keep your gun at a 90* angle, 6-8" from the surface. On large flat areas, use wet, even patterns 6 to 8 wide. For narrow surfaces, reduce the fan pattern to 2-3" to reduce overspray. Overlap each pass of stain 50% for even coverage and wipe back the excess with an absorbent cloth. For narrow surfaces, reduce the fan pattern to 2-3" to reduce overspray. 

SPRAYING WATER BASED DYE STAINS:

Keep your gun at a 90* angle, 6-8" from the surface. On large flat areas, use wet, even patterns 6 to 8 wide. For narrow surfaces, reduce the fan pattern to 2-3" to reduce overspray. Overlap each pass of stain 50% for even coverage. If coverage is even, there is no need to wipe. If you have issues with uneven coverage, wipe back the excess with an absorbent cloth. For narrow surfaces, reduce the fan pattern to 2-3" to reduce overspray. 

Relevant Videos

*How Can I Tell if a Water Based Topcoat is Dry?

If the finish feels cool to the touch, it's not ready. When you can sand it to a dry powder, it is ready for the next coat. Dry times will be longer if it is raining, cold, or humid. When in doubt, waiting longer is always better.

Related Products

Relevant Videos

Which Topcoat Should I Choose?

General Finishes Water Based Topcoats:

  • High Performance
  • Flat Out Flat
  • Enduro-Var
  • Enduro Professional Topcoats (Enduro Clear Poly, Enduro Conversion Varnish, Enduro Water Based Laquer)

General Finishes Oil Based Topcoats

  • Arm-R-Seal Liquid Oil Based Topcoat
  • Gel Satin Topcoat

GENERAL PRACTICE:

  1. Oil based topcoats and Enduro-Var will amber over time.
  2. Water based Flat Out Flat and High Performance top coats dry clear.
  3. Never use any water based topcoat with long oils such as Danish, Tung or Linseed.
  4. Water based top coats clean up with water. OIl based topcoats require mineral spirits for clean up.
  5. Enduro-Var ADHERES WELL only over WATER STAINS, DYE STAINS, and RAW WOOD.
  6. If you use water based topcoats over oil based finishes, make sure that you wait 72 hours between the two products. It is essential to let the oil finish dry longer.
  7. Large/Detailed Surfaces - For more complex projects that have a lot of nooks and crannies or projects with large surface areas such as cabinets, we recommend either ARM-R-SEAL liquid oil based topcoat or any of our water based topcoats.
  8. Enduro Professional Top Coats are thinner and intended to be sprayed
  9. High Performance and Flat Out Flat can also be sprayed. If needed, it can be thinned by adding 10% water or Extender. Large surfaces such as cabinets or tables and complex projects with lots of detail are easier to cover with liquid top coat rather than a Gel top coat.

Related Products

Relevant Videos

How do I repair a section that I have buffed through using Enduro-Var over an epoxy on a guitar

Our first concern is the use of the epoxy. Although you have may had success with this process previously, we do not recommend the use of Enduro-Var with epoxy or any oil based products. Enduro-Var works well on its own or with GFs water based finishes. There is a great possibility that future finishes can fail. 
 
Nor do we recommend adding denatured alcohol, which should not be used in any of General Finishes water based products. Denatured alcohol can change the polarity of a finish formula, kicking out polymer particles that would look like grit on the surface. Denatured alcohol could also deactivate the defoamers in the formula.
 
The use of Extender won't help you. It is a water based product and will not melt through existing layers of finish in the same manner that solvent finishes do.
 
We interpret that you are trying to remove witness lines which are basically sanding marks. For your current situation, we recommend attempting to build the area with just Enduro-Var, then buffing out with a 2000-3000 grit. You may have to sand down and start over if that is not successful.
 
Future forward. Use Enduro-Var on its own. Although it is a favorite among Luthiers, it is a unique hybrid finish that does not pay well with other finishes.

Relevant Videos

How can I buff Enduro-Var Gloss to a higher gloss?

Contributed by Jeff Jewitt of Homestead Finishing Supplies

Day 1:

  • Prep sand the wood with 220 grit sand paper.
  • Spray a wet coat of Enduro-Var Gloss and dry for 2 hours.
  • Level sand with 320 grit sand paper.
  • Spray a second coat wet coat and dry for two hours.
  • Lightly sand with 320 grit sand paper.
  • Spray a third wet coat and dry overnight.

Day 2:

  • Level sand with 320 grit sand paper.
  • Wipe down with water mixed with 5% Denatured Alcohol
  • Spray a fourth wet coat 2-3 mils thick and dry 1 hour
  • Spray 3 more coats with 1 hour between coats for a total of 4 coats the second day.

Let your project dry 1 week:

  • Level sand dry with Mirka P800
  • Dry sand with P1200 Mirka P1200
  • Dry sand with 2000 grit Mirka Abralon

(Note- Do not use any lubricants of any type for sanding)

Final: 

Buff 3M Finesse-It Material on with foam buffing pad to high gloss

 

Related Products

Relevant Videos

Can General Finishes Water Based Top Coats Be Tinted?

All of General Finishes water based topcoats can be tinted to create lightly colored finishes for toning. Toning is the process of adding colorant, either dye or pigment into a top coat and then applying over an entire piece in order to subtly deepen the color.

Some tinting recommendations are:

  • Do not exceed 13 ounces per gallon. Excess amounts of colorant can create surface defects and decrease the viscosity (causing drips, sag, etc.).
  • Tinting a product black only requires about 6 to 8 ounces (based on strength of colorant).
  • Check for colorant compatibly (best to use a zero VOC colorant).
  • Tint off whites with white bases.
  • Enduro-Var top coat cannot be tinted white.
  • GF top coats can also be tinted with General Finishes Dye Stains or Trans Tint Dyes available at many woodworking and paint stores. This produces a transparent tinted finish. Normal addition is usually 2-5% by volume.

GF does not manufacturer colorants. Here are a few sources:

  • Mixol available at Woodcraft
  • Gennex by Benjamin Moore
  • Colortrend 896 or 888, 878

Relevant Videos

Why does Enduro-Var clog up in my spray gun during use?

Enduro-Var sprays beautifully if the gun is absolutely clean and does not have any other finish residue. Proper cleaning with acetone followed with hot water should purge the fluid passage. Enduro-Var itself will not cause gun failure.  

Another possibility is the power of the gun. Some of the lower quality guns can overheat causing the product to cure in the gun - they need a rest once in a while if you are using them all day.

Also note that Enduro-Var ADHERES WELL only over WATER STAINS, DYE STAINS, and RAW WOOD. 

Related Products

Relevant Videos

Exterior Stains & Topcoats

Return

*How Soon Can I Put My Project Outdoors After Finishing with General Finishes Exterior 450?

We recommend waiting 5-6 days to let the finish cure a bit before putting outdoors. The finish will continue to harden for approximately 20-21 days.

Relevant Videos

Which Topcoat Should I Choose?

General Finishes Water Based Topcoats:

  • High Performance
  • Flat Out Flat
  • Enduro-Var
  • Enduro Professional Topcoats (Enduro Clear Poly, Enduro Conversion Varnish, Enduro Water Based Laquer)

General Finishes Oil Based Topcoats

  • Arm-R-Seal Liquid Oil Based Topcoat
  • Gel Satin Topcoat

GENERAL PRACTICE:

  1. Oil based topcoats and Enduro-Var will amber over time.
  2. Water based Flat Out Flat and High Performance top coats dry clear.
  3. Never use any water based topcoat with long oils such as Danish, Tung or Linseed.
  4. Water based top coats clean up with water. OIl based topcoats require mineral spirits for clean up.
  5. Enduro-Var ADHERES WELL only over WATER STAINS, DYE STAINS, and RAW WOOD.
  6. If you use water based topcoats over oil based finishes, make sure that you wait 72 hours between the two products. It is essential to let the oil finish dry longer.
  7. Large/Detailed Surfaces - For more complex projects that have a lot of nooks and crannies or projects with large surface areas such as cabinets, we recommend either ARM-R-SEAL liquid oil based topcoat or any of our water based topcoats.
  8. Enduro Professional Top Coats are thinner and intended to be sprayed
  9. High Performance and Flat Out Flat can also be sprayed. If needed, it can be thinned by adding 10% water or Extender. Large surfaces such as cabinets or tables and complex projects with lots of detail are easier to cover with liquid top coat rather than a Gel top coat.

Related Products

Relevant Videos

Should I use Pre-Stain Conditioner Before Staining a Douglas Fir Door to prevent blotching?

Douglas Fir is a difficult wood to stain evenly. A 50|50 mix of your Exterior 450 stain color and Exterior 450 Clear would be a better choice for an exterior conditioner. Blotching may still occur even with this procedure.

After applying the conditioner mix, let it dry 2-3 hours. Allow more time in humid weather. Then a apply the stain color of your choice. Multiple coats will deepen the color.

 

Relevant Videos

Can General Finishes Water Based Top Coats Be Tinted?

All of General Finishes water based topcoats can be tinted to create lightly colored finishes for toning. Toning is the process of adding colorant, either dye or pigment into a top coat and then applying over an entire piece in order to subtly deepen the color.

Some tinting recommendations are:

  • Do not exceed 13 ounces per gallon. Excess amounts of colorant can create surface defects and decrease the viscosity (causing drips, sag, etc.).
  • Tinting a product black only requires about 6 to 8 ounces (based on strength of colorant).
  • Check for colorant compatibly (best to use a zero VOC colorant).
  • Tint off whites with white bases.
  • Enduro-Var top coat cannot be tinted white.
  • GF top coats can also be tinted with General Finishes Dye Stains or Trans Tint Dyes available at many woodworking and paint stores. This produces a transparent tinted finish. Normal addition is usually 2-5% by volume.

GF does not manufacturer colorants. Here are a few sources:

  • Mixol available at Woodcraft
  • Gennex by Benjamin Moore
  • Colortrend 896 or 888, 878

Relevant Videos

*I Used Exterior 450 Over a Mix of Mineral Spirits & Trans Tint Dye Stain and the Finish is Peeling - How Do I Fix the Peeling?*

Most dyes, such as Trans Tint, can only be mixed with alcohol or water, not mineral spirits. A water-based finish, such as Exterior 450, cannot be used in conjunction with mineral spirits, even with an extended dry time. Solvents do not play well with water-based finishes.

Unfortunately, there is no fix for the peeling finish. You will have to sand the project down, apply an exterior stain and recoat with Exterior 450. Also, advise your customer that no finish will withstand the sun indefinitely. All exterior finishes need recoating and maintenance over time.

 

Relevant Videos

Flat Out Flat

Return

*Can I Mix General Finishes Flat Out Flat and High Performance Topcoat?

No, you should not mix Flat Out Flat and High Performance topcoats. They are engineered with different resin systems.

You can mix High Performance topcoats to adjust sheen. For example, you can mix HP Flat and HP gloss to obtain a different sheen.

Relevant Videos

*How Can I Tell if a Water Based Topcoat is Dry?

If the finish feels cool to the touch, it's not ready. When you can sand it to a dry powder, it is ready for the next coat. Dry times will be longer if it is raining, cold, or humid. When in doubt, waiting longer is always better.

Related Products

Relevant Videos

Can General Finishes Water Based Top Coats Be Tinted?

All of General Finishes water based topcoats can be tinted to create lightly colored finishes for toning. Toning is the process of adding colorant, either dye or pigment into a top coat and then applying over an entire piece in order to subtly deepen the color.

Some tinting recommendations are:

  • Do not exceed 13 ounces per gallon. Excess amounts of colorant can create surface defects and decrease the viscosity (causing drips, sag, etc.).
  • Tinting a product black only requires about 6 to 8 ounces (based on strength of colorant).
  • Check for colorant compatibly (best to use a zero VOC colorant).
  • Tint off whites with white bases.
  • Enduro-Var top coat cannot be tinted white.
  • GF top coats can also be tinted with General Finishes Dye Stains or Trans Tint Dyes available at many woodworking and paint stores. This produces a transparent tinted finish. Normal addition is usually 2-5% by volume.

GF does not manufacturer colorants. Here are a few sources:

  • Mixol available at Woodcraft
  • Gennex by Benjamin Moore
  • Colortrend 896 or 888, 878

Relevant Videos

Which Topcoat Should I Choose?

General Finishes Water Based Topcoats:

  • High Performance
  • Flat Out Flat
  • Enduro-Var
  • Enduro Professional Topcoats (Enduro Clear Poly, Enduro Conversion Varnish, Enduro Water Based Laquer)

General Finishes Oil Based Topcoats

  • Arm-R-Seal Liquid Oil Based Topcoat
  • Gel Satin Topcoat

GENERAL PRACTICE:

  1. Oil based topcoats and Enduro-Var will amber over time.
  2. Water based Flat Out Flat and High Performance top coats dry clear.
  3. Never use any water based topcoat with long oils such as Danish, Tung or Linseed.
  4. Water based top coats clean up with water. OIl based topcoats require mineral spirits for clean up.
  5. Enduro-Var ADHERES WELL only over WATER STAINS, DYE STAINS, and RAW WOOD.
  6. If you use water based topcoats over oil based finishes, make sure that you wait 72 hours between the two products. It is essential to let the oil finish dry longer.
  7. Large/Detailed Surfaces - For more complex projects that have a lot of nooks and crannies or projects with large surface areas such as cabinets, we recommend either ARM-R-SEAL liquid oil based topcoat or any of our water based topcoats.
  8. Enduro Professional Top Coats are thinner and intended to be sprayed
  9. High Performance and Flat Out Flat can also be sprayed. If needed, it can be thinned by adding 10% water or Extender. Large surfaces such as cabinets or tables and complex projects with lots of detail are easier to cover with liquid top coat rather than a Gel top coat.

Related Products

Relevant Videos

What is the best way to obtain a more durable finish with a flat sheen?

The popular flat sheens are lovely but they have different attributes than glossy finishes. The flatting agents required to reduce sheen in flat or matte topcoats also slightly reduce clarity, water resistance, durability and resistance to chemicals such as ketchup, soap, chemical cleaners, or ammonia. This is not much of a concern in low use areas but is important for table tops or kitchen cabinets.

Here is a tip to improve the performance of your finish and still obtain a matte sheen: 
Use a semi-gloss sheen for the first two coats and a flat for the third for optimum performance. 
 
General Finishes is constantly seeking new resins and additives to improve the performance of our finishes.

Relevant Videos

*Which Is Better as a Sealer? Topcoat or Wax?

It depends on whether you are looking for aesthetics or durability.

A topcoat will provide greater durability and protection than wax finishes over time.

While wax finishes are lovely, they typically show wear (fingerprints) and are not permanent, requiring semi-annual to annual maintenance.

Wax is a low durability finish. It’s fine for a decorative piece that will receive light traffic. It is absolutely not strong enough for tables, kitchen cabinets, or other surfaces that will see frequent use.  

Wax takes a bit of elbow grease to apply.

Furthermore, nothing adheres well to wax, which can impact future finish changes. Even though there is internet chatter about removing wax with 3rd party products or mineral spirits, the risk of a failure in re-coating over a wax finish is very high and sometimes impossible.

If you love a wax finish, try General Finishes Satin Finishing Wax. If you want the look and feel of wax with more durability, use our General Finishes Flat Out Flat Topcoat. For even more protection, use General Finishes High Performance Topcoat.

 

Relevant Videos

*How to Spray Water Based Finishes

General Finishes water-based products can be sprayed through compressed air, HVLP, airless or C.A.S. units.

SURFACE PREPARATION:

All surfaces should be clean and free from dirt and oil and sanded.

Indicated below are instructional videos we have for preparing a surface for a new coat of paint or finish:

SPRAY APPLICATION OF GENERAL FINISHES WATER BASED FINISHES:

All General Finishes water based topcoats and wood stains are ready to spray from the container without additives with the exception of Conversion Varnish. Always strain material through a medium to fine mesh filter before spraying. If necessary, in hot or dry climates, reduce 10 to 15% with General Finishes Extender to extend the open time.

PRE SEALING:

Softwoods such as Pine absorb stain at an uneven rate and may respond better to staining if the wood is pre-sealed. General Finishes Pre-Stain Conditioner Natural can be applied to raw wood to condition the surface for uniform penetration of the stain. Pre-sealing will cause the final stain to be lighter so you may need to use a darker color. Always test your color on a hidden part of the furniture. Allow the Pre-Stain Conditioner to dry 30 minutes before applying your final stain color.

If you are using a sprayer that has been used for oil based or lacquers, clean the unit thoroughly with acetone followed with hot water to purge the fluid passage. Apply a thin coat first that will dry and harden faster. Sand this first coat down to a smooth base on which to build your finish coats with a 220-320 grade foam sanding pad or #400-grit sandpaper. It is better to spray 2 thin coats rather than 1 heavy coat.

Contact your supplier to verify proper tip sizes for your specific equipment. GF's general recommended fluid tips for Wood Stains and Top Coats are Compressed air - .040 and Airless - .009. 

RECOMMENDED TIPS FOR GENERAL FINISHES PRODUCTS USING HVLP:

  • Milk Paint: 1.8mm-2.0mm
  • Chalk Paint: 1.8mm-2.0mm
  • Stain Blocker: 1.8mm-2.0mm
  • Pearl Effects: 1.8mm-2.0mm
  • Glaze Effects: 1.8mm-2.0mm
  • High Performance Topcoat: 1.1mm-1.3mm
  • Flat Out Flat Top Coat: 1.1mm-1.3mm
  • Enduro-Var  1.1mm-1.3mm
  • Water Based Wood Stain: 1.1mm-1.3mm
  • Water Based Dye Stain: 1.1mm-1.3mm
  • Exterior 450 Topcoat:1.1mm-1.3mm
  • Exterior 450 Stain: 1.1mm-1.3mm
  • Enduro Sanding Sealer: 1.3-1.4mm
  • Enduro White Poly: 1.3mm-1.5mm
  • Enduro Black Poly: 1.3mm-1.5mm
  • Enduro White Under Coat 1.5mm-1.8mm
  • Enduro Clear Poly: 1.1mm-1.3mm
  • Enduro Pre Cat Lacquer: 1.1mm-1.3mm
  • Enduro Conversion Varnish: 1.1mm-1.3mm

Air caps should be medium size. Contact your supplier to verify proper tip sizes for your specific equipment.

Break your work into sections such as dresser top or drawer fronts. Spraying too large of an area can result in a textured grainy surface. A correctly sprayed finish should appear even and glossy. It is important to spray enough material to allow proper flow and leveling of the finish.

Spray medium wet films at 3-5 wet ml thickness. Practice makes perfect. If you have never sprayed finishes before, take a large piece of cardboard and practice your technique first. Spray water on the cardboard to learn how the gun works. Check your fluid settings and adjust the controls to get comfortable with the spray angles and to develop your technique.

SPRAYING TOPCOATS:

Keep your gun at a 90* angle, 6-8" from the surface. On large flat areas, use wet, even patterns 6 to 8 wide. For narrow surfaces, reduce the fan pattern to 2-3" to reduce overspray. For topcoats, overlap each pass 25% to conceal lines.

Watch our video how to spray water based topcoats here.

SPRAYING WATER BASED WOOD STAINS:

Keep your gun at a 90* angle, 6-8" from the surface. On large flat areas, use wet, even patterns 6 to 8 wide. For narrow surfaces, reduce the fan pattern to 2-3" to reduce overspray. Overlap each pass of stain 50% for even coverage and wipe back the excess with an absorbent cloth. For narrow surfaces, reduce the fan pattern to 2-3" to reduce overspray. 

SPRAYING WATER BASED DYE STAINS:

Keep your gun at a 90* angle, 6-8" from the surface. On large flat areas, use wet, even patterns 6 to 8 wide. For narrow surfaces, reduce the fan pattern to 2-3" to reduce overspray. Overlap each pass of stain 50% for even coverage. If coverage is even, there is no need to wipe. If you have issues with uneven coverage, wipe back the excess with an absorbent cloth. For narrow surfaces, reduce the fan pattern to 2-3" to reduce overspray. 

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What is the difference between Flat Out Flat and High Performance Topcoats?

Flat Out Flat is a matte water based topcoat with a velvety feel and was developed as a durable alternative to our Satin Wax. Choose this product if you want a finish that looks more like wax and your project will not require high use. Like wax, it dries softer to the touch than High Performance when completely cured, and it will show more marring and fingerprints. Flat Out Flat is made with a stable self cross-linking acrylic instead of urethane.
High Performance is urethane based and contains less matting agents which result in a slightly harder finish. For that reason, High Performance is the best choice for high use areas such as table tops and kitchen cabinets. Both topcoats have similar water resistance, but High Performance offers greater clarity.  
Use with Oil Based Finishes: Let oil-based finishes dry for 72 hours before applying High Performance or Flat Out Flat top coat. 

 

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Does Flat Out Flat contain a wax that will prevent adhesion during a recoat?

Flat Out Flat is safe to recoat with proper cleaning and scuff sanding. We do not use a paraffin, carnauba or PTFE (Polytetrafluoroethylene) wax in this finish- and those are the waxes that cause adhesion failures. We do use a very small amount of a different wax (part of the secret sauce) and it is used to improve matting, abrasion and mar resistance. 

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How can I change the sheen of the top coat? The one I applied is too shiney.

If you want to change the sheen, you can re-coat with a different sheen over top. The second layer of top coat will replace the appearance of the first. Sand lightly with a used 220 sanding PAD to knock down the original finish before re-coating. It may take two or 3 coats to get complete coverage.

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*How Do I Prevent Water Based Topcoat or Light Colored Paint from Yellowing?

All bright white paint will yellow slightly with time, with or without topcoat. Water-based topcoats are reactive and more likely to draw out substances in the wood such as tannins or unknown substances in existing finishes causing the topcoat to yellow. This is an industry-wide issue and we have added warning labels regarding the yellowing of topcoats to our bright white paints, Snow White Milk Paint and Chalk White Chalk Style Paint.

General Finishes background was originally on the professional side, and the incidences of yellowing topcoat over white paint were almost nil, and when our sprayable professional finish, Enduro White Poly, is used, there have been no incidences. But as the use of our paints has increased in the up-cycling and furniture refresh markets, we have heard more reports of our topcoat yellowing. Our original response was to teach about prepping, testing your finish schedule and finally creating Stain Blocker, our stain and tannin blocking primer, but this is not enough. Just as we advocate prepping all finishes, we are now advocating NOT using a clear water base topcoat over BRIGHT WHITE paint.

We are listening and General Finishes is in the process of developing a brushable version of our professional Enduro White Poly (available only in gallons), but that will take some time and rigorous testing before we can release the product. Here is what you should know to protect yourself and also some immediate suggestions to decrease chances of yellowing.

There is no way to reliably predict yellowing ahead of time. Sometimes yellowing occurs, sometimes it does not. Every existing finish is different and we rarely know the finishing provenance on an existing piece. Every tree is different and every piece of wood is unique. Wood can bleed tannins immediately after the topcoat dries or months later with a change in temperature that comes with a change in seasons. Oak, pine, mahogany, and Douglass Fur are particularly prone to bleed-through.

As is true of most "water-white" topcoats, our High Performance Water-Based topcoat is a clear drying finish over a non-reactive substrate such as plastic. When white paint sealed with a water-white topcoat is applied to something as unpredictable as wood, all bets are off and the reason is often unknown. Yellowing can be caused by the top coat activating the tannins in raw wood or aniline dyes, stains or contaminants in a pre-existing finish. This is most evident when using BRIGHT WHITE paint and most prevalent in the sculpted details of furniture, where the topcoat can collect, intensifying the color change to an unacceptable level.

To add to this issue, all bright white paint will yellow slightly with time, with or without topcoat. You have probably tried to touch up white woodwork in your home after several years and noticed that the new paint is brighter.

SUMMARY

  • Whites have a lower “hide” quality and are more transparent than most other colors. Most bright whites require additional coats to achieve the desired color and minimize color variation. This can increase the cost of paint finishing. Always include a clause in your contracts addressing the need for additional coats to achieve coverage.
  • Bright white paints can yellow over time with or without topcoat.
  • The underlying finish or wood species can affect the final color of light paint.
  • Details and inside corners are difficult to cover with any paint color, but this property tends to be more noticeable with whites. This is a naturally occurring phenomenon in paint application and does not necessarily constitute a defect in the paint finish or your technique.
  • The more porous the paint (chalk paint vs an acrylic paint), the more likely that yellowing will occur. The topcoat is actually seeping through the spaces caused by the larger particles of filler that give chalk style paints their texture.

DO NOT CARRY THE COST OF WHITE PAINT YOURSELF – pass the cost on to the consumer who wants it with a fair upcharge. White paints, even if they did not yellow, require more coats to achieve coverage.

TIPS FOR PROTECTING YOURSELF AND PREVENTING YELLOWING

  1. Use a disclaimer in your contracts or recommend a softer white such as Antique White or Linen. Upcharge for the extra coats needed and never guarantee a white finish over a piece that you cannot trace the provenance on. Here is a suggestion for your contracts: Terms of Agreement and Warranties: ________ (Initials) I have been informed that more coats are required when painting with bright whites, reds, greens or yellow. I understand that white paint can yellow over time and water-based topcoats can occasionally react with the substrate or existing finish under white paints causing yellowing, even is a stain blocking primer is used.
  2. If it is a low use project, use a premium white paint that is self-sealing and does not require a topcoat. A clear top coat is not required on our Milk Paint for increased durability, as it is a self-sealing, exterior rated coating with very high durability and performance properties. However, top coats provide a smoother surface that is easier to clean and boost durability for high use projects such as table tops and kitchen cabinets.
  3. Get a spray gun and use a professional "white coat" such as our Enduro White Poly. It is a white paint with "increased topcoat properties", is a stand-alone finish when 3 coats are applied and does not require sealing with a topcoat.
  4. If you are still brushing, try a couple of our customer's techniques. 1) Add 10-15% of the paint you are using to the first application of topcoat. The last two layers of topcoat should NOT have paint in it, to maintain durability. This technique can be used with any color, not just white, and really boosts bright colors. 2) Use a coat of light gray over a lacquer based primer before applying white paint. We have good reports of these 2 techniques from customers BUT HAVE NOT TESTED IN OUR LAB. (Alternatively, GF prefers the use of Stain blocker without grey paint.)
  5. Always test your project's ENTIRE finishing schedule (from cleaning to topcoat) on an inside door or a more hidden area of the piece. This does not help if the yellowing occurs later but you will at least know if there is an immediate problem.
  6. Always apply a stain-blocking primer under white or light-colored paint such as GF Stain Blocker or a shellac based primer. Always let any primer dry overnight. Some of the primers we have seen suggest a 3-hour dry time and that is not enough.
  7. If you are working on period pieces such as a 1940's serpentine mahogany desk which were often finished in stain containing aniline dyes that cast a pinkish bleed through under light paint, stay away from light colors. Not every piece of furniture is suitable for up-cycling with a light paint color. Pine, Mahogany, and furniture of the 1940's and 50's are a red flag.
  8. Last, not all manufacturer's topcoats are compatible with other finishes and may react with a color change. Always follow best practices by not rushing, and testing to your satisfaction first.

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Gel Satin Topcoat

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How do I reduce the sheen of an oil based top coat?

Rub down the finish with 0000 steel wool and Orange Oil to lower the sheen. Never use steel wool with water based finishes. The steel wool particles can become embedded into your project and rust. Liberon 0000 Steel Wool is a good choice for steel wool, as it does not shred as easily as the hardware store brands. 

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*How Do I Correct the Haze That Appeared When I Applied Gel Satin Topcoat Over 3 Coats of Gel Stain?*

Haze (the technical term is blush) is caused by too many coats applied too quickly. A recoat time of 12 hours is not enough dry time when applying over an EXISTING finish. To remove the blush or haze, you can either wipe the area with a strong solvent, like xylene or lacquer thinner, or you can try sanding out the haze and then reapply the topcoat.

Always allow more dry time when applying oil-based products over an existing finish. Here are General Finishes recommended dry times for applying multiple coats of Gel Stain and Gel Topcoat over an existing finish.

  • Dry-Time to Touch: 4-6 hours
  • Dry-Time to Recoat with Stain When "Wiping Off": 72 hours. Do not recoat until you are sure the stain is dry. If in doubt, wait longer. Humidity or cold temperatures will increase dry times.
  • Dry-Time to Recoat with Stain When "Painting On": 72 hours. Do not recoat until you are SURE the stain is dry. If in doubt, wait longer. Humidity or cold temperatures will increase dry times.
  • Dry-Time to Apply Oil-Based Topcoat over Gel Stain: 72 hours
  • Dry-Time to Apply Water-Based Topcoat: 72 hours
  • Dry-Time for Light Use: 7-10 days
  • Dry-Time Over Laminate or Other Non-Porous Surfaces: At least 72 hours, likely more. Test to your satisfaction before proceeding.
  • CURE TIME: Cure time for all General Finishes oil-based products is about 30 days. During the curing process, protect your flat surfaces and avoid placing heavy items on horizontal surfaces or sliding anything across the surface. 

Dry time and cure time are unrelated. In simplest terms, here is the difference between drying and curing: Drying is the evaporation of solvents in oil-based products, and water in water-based products. Curing is when the product hardens for full use.

 

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How can I reduce the sheen of an oil based top coat? I used Semi-Gloss and it’s too shiny.

You can rub down the finish with 0000 steel wool and Orange Oil to lower the sheen.

Pro Tip: GF does not recommend using steel wool with water based finishes because the particles can become embedded and rust.

 

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Gel Stains (Oil Based)

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Can gel stain be used on ceramic tile around a fireplace?

Gel Stain is engineered for wood, but it has successfully adhered to more surfaces than we could have imagined. However, since tile cannot be abraded properly though sanding,  lasting adhesion may be difficult if not impossible. 

Milk Paint will have a better chance of adhering than Gel Stain. Dark Chocolate Milk Paint was created to match the color of Java Gel stain, for example. Both products are more likely to adhere if they are applied over a tile-appropriate primer. 

Contact a tile store for recommendations regarding a primer that can help finishes stick to ceramic tile. 

Even with primer, we cannot give any guarantees that the finish will adhere properly or last. Always test for compatibility between your primer and Milk Paint or Gel Stain before beginning.

If you choose to proceed, test your procedure on a hidden area first and let it cure for 7-10 days. Then further test the finish by duplicating normal wear and tear: washing, scrubbing, scratching, etc. to make sure the finish bonds to the surface.

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Can Gel Stain be sealed with wax instead of top coat?

Wax can be used over Gel Stain, if you prefer. Just let the Gel Stain dry 24-48 hours before applying the wax. Note: wax is not a durable product. It needs yearly reapplication, will show daily use (finger marks and smudges) and may be very difficult to remove if a future topcoat application is desired.

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Can Milk Paint or Gel Stain can be used over laminate?

GF advises extra care and prep when applying any finish over laminate surfaces because they are specifically designed not to mar and therefore they are not very "sand-able", making adherence difficult. In addition to this non-permeable surface factor, Gel Stain is an oil based product, and it is more difficult to obtain proper drying characteristics over a dense manufactured surface such as laminate. Gel stains, as all wood stains, were formulated to go over raw wood which has an "open" surface and can absorb some of the stain.

Customers have reported the successful use of Gel products over laminates. 

HERE ARE TWO TECHNIQUES: 

  1. Using Dark Chocolate Milk Paint as a Base under Gel Stain (Dark Chocolate Milk Paint was formulated to mimic the color of Java Gel Stain)
  2. Several techniques using only Gel Stain/no paint or primer

SOME NOTES:

  • If you can abrade the surface by sanding, you will increase your chances of success. If you choose to proceed, test for adhesion on a hidden area of your project before getting started.
  • If you are applying GF Gel Stains over existing "sealed" finished wood or any impenetrable surface, TRIPLE OR QUADRUPLE the drying times of all the finishes used because the stain cannot soak into the surface.
  • De-glossers: GF does not recommend the use of a de-glosser as a REPLACEMENT for prep sanding and cleaning. They are sold by manufacturers that advocate that it is ok to cover up dirt and grime, which can create a problem. GF feels that appropriate cleaning and sanding delivers a better result and saves money. If you have physical issues with the labor of sanding, at least clean the project before using a de-glosser.

APPLYING GENERAL FINISHES MILK PAINT TO LAMINATE FOLLOWED BY GEL STAIN DRY BRUSH TECHNIQUE: 

  1. “Power clean” by scrubbing with a solution of water and a strong detergent such as Dawn or Spic & Span, using a Scotch Bright Pad. Rinse thoroughly. Then follow with a second scrubbing with a 50:50 mix of denatured alcohol and water, also using a Scotch Brite pad. Let dry completely.
  2. Sand with a power sander. 150 grit followed by 180 grit sandpaper. (some users report using 220 grit sandpaper). Wipe off the dust.
  3. Apply XIM 400 White Primer Sealer Bonder (follow label applications instructions but let dry longer, 12 hours or overnight.)
  4. Apply 2 coats of Milk Paint allowing triple drying time. Use Dark Chocolate if you are trying to mimic the look of Java Gel Stain.
  5. Apply Java Gel Stain, and while still wet, immediately use a mineral spirit dry brush technique to create a wood grain effect. Dip a clean brush in mineral spirits and drag over the surface until you achieve the effect you want, continually discharging the excess stain. (Here is a good video demonstrating a dry brush technique here. Allow the Gel Stain to DRY 72 HOURS or longer if necessary.
  6. Seal with a topcoat, allowing extra dry time. In GF's finish line, you can use Arm-R-Seal (this topcoat ambers) over dark colors and High Performance over light colors.

APPLYING GEL STAIN DIRECTLY TO LAMINATE:

  • “Power clean” by scrubbing with a solution of water and a strong detergent such as Dawn or Spic & Span, using a Scotch Bright Pad. Rinse thoroughly. Then follow with a second scrubbing with a 50:50 mix of denatured alcohol and water, also using a Scotch Brite pad. Let dry completely.
  • Sand with a power sander. 150 grit followed by 180 grit sandpaper. (some users reported using 220 grit sandpaper). Wipe off the dust.

You can apply Java Gel Stain several ways:

  • With a roller for a painted effect (from ABHall), painting on with a chip brush followed by pouncing with a plastic bag for a textured effect from Denise Wonders Beatty 
  • Brushing on followed by a mineral spirit dry-brush technique. See mineral spirits dry-brushing technique in this video
  • Apply a slip-coat of mineral spirits first using a chip brush to give you more open time. While the mineral spirits is still wet, paint the Gel Stain on using a chip brush. While the Gel Stain is still wet, GENTLY smooth out the surface with a folded blue shop towel going in the direction of the grain. Tip from Andrea Allred : Dry brush Gray Gel Stain on top the next day for a weathered look. 
  • Paint on two coats of Gel Stain, letting each coat dry 72 hours. Create the look of faux wood by sanding each coat lightly.
  • Allow the Gel Stain to DRY 72 HOURS. If it is still tacky and cool to the touch, let it dry for days. Let it dry, let it dry, let it dry. Lack of dry time over existing surfaces is the number one reason for Gel Stain failure!
  • Seal with 3 coats of topcoat, allowing triple dry time. In GF's finish line, you can use Arm-R-Seal (this topcoat ambers) over dark colors and High Performance over light colors.

*Note: here another issue with laminate countertops. When using fine wood finishes, water and spills must be wiped up in a timely fashion. If this a high use area near a sink, consider replacing the countertop instead. If this a low use area such as a bedroom dresser that needs a tune-up, you will be fine.

ADHESION TEST: 
Test your entire procedure (preparation to top coat) on a hidden area first and let it cure for 7-10 days. Then further test the finish by duplicating normal wear and tear: washing, scrubbing, scratching, etc. to make sure the finish bonds to the surface.
FAQS are permanently archived at https://generalfinishes.com/faqs
 

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How do I achieve an even Gel stain color on raw knotty pine? When I apply the topcoat, the stain starts pulling off.

This is a classic problem. Pine is full of pitch (rosin or tar) and stain alone will never adhere to these areas. To fix, sand the table lightly with 120 grit sandpaper and restain the table. To improve adherence of the stain, mix 2 parts Gel Stain with one part Gel Satin Topcoat. Apply as many coats of the mix as needed to obtain the desired color, allowing 24 hour dry time between coats. Note: the stain may never adhere well to the knots because they are too dense to hold a stain. You can try dry brushing the knots with the stain to deepen the color and the protecting with topcoat.

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How do I create a glaze with General Finishes Gel Stain?

Yes- just add 10% mineral spirits. You can add more mineral spirits, but test first. The mixture will thin out quickly.

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How can I prevent Gel Stain from hardening in the can?

As the Gel Stain is used, the volume of stain in the can is displaced with air, causing the stain to start curing. Gel Stains harden up more quickly than liquid oil stains for all the reasons folks love them - the extra colorants and solids within the stain that provide such great coverage also harden up more quickly than other stains. During storage, the oxygen or moisture that's sealed in the container continues to cure and thicken your stored product, ruining the leftovers.Here are some tips to ensure your Gel Stain remains in great working condition.
  • Decant the amount of stain you'll need into a foil covered bowl and reseal your can right away. Every minute the can is open the stain is curing.  
  • Be sure to REALLY clean the chime and the lid of the can to assure a tight seal.  
  • Use Bloxygen to help remove excess oxygen from your can of finish to help preserve it longer. 
  • Store your sealed cans upside down. 
  • Transfer any unused stain to a smaller container once finished with your project or buy Gel Stain in smaller cans to begin with. 
  • Plastic Wrap??  Haven't tried it, but you get the idea! Anything to prevent contact with air is key. 
https://generalfinishes.com/retail-products/oil-base-wood-stains-sealers/oilbase-gel-stains#.VkjpXN-rRMM

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*Is Topcoat Required Between Gel Stain and Water Based Glaze Effects?

Yes - this is not a good place to take shortcuts. GF Gel Stain gets its deep rich hue from a large number of colorants. Seal the stain with a topcoat before applying glaze to prevent "color pull."

The glaze will also glide more easily over the surface after topcoat is applied, allowing you greater control of how much color you want to use. Be sure to wait 72 hours when applying water-based finishes over oil-based finishes.

Here is a sample finish schedule:

  1. Prep sand and clean
  2. Apply stain
  3. Apply a layer of topcoat to prevent color bleed thru and make glazing easier
  4. Apply Glaze Effects
  5. Apply 2-3 coats of topcoat to protect the entire project

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*Can I Mix Gel Stain Colors Together to Achieve Other Colors?

Yes, you can mix similar products together at any ratio to make more color options.

You can also mix with 10% General Finishes Liquid Oil Based Wood Penetrating Stains to obtain a slightly thinner stain than the normal Gel Stain formula.

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*How Can I Lighten the Color of the Java Gel Stain I Have Applied?

It's always possible to darken a stained surface, but you cannot lighten a stained surface after the finish has dried.

When the surface is still wet, you can try to lighten the color by scrubbing with mineral spirits. If the finish has hardened, you will need to sand down your current stain and start over or use one of our paints.

You can mix GF Gel Stain colors to create a custom color.

You can also thin Gel Stain with 10-15% mineral spirits.

Always test our color on a hidden area of your project before beginning.

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I just watched your video on dry brushing Gel Stain. Can I use ethynol alcohol instead of mineral spirits to keep the brush discharged during application?

Yes, but it will evaporate much more quickly so you will need to rewet the discharge pad more frequently. See the video below for how to update existing finishes using a dry brush technique.

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*Can I Use Interior Wood Stains Outdoors If I Coat With an Exterior Topcoat?

Interior wood stains are formulated for interior use and do not contain UV absorbers, mold retardants or HALS (Hindered amine light stabilizers used to protect the polymers from the effects of photo-oxidation.) Waterbased interior stains are much more likely to fail.

You could try this look on an exterior door that will not receive a lot of sun, but be prepared for more maintenance than usual. It is not recommended.

Everyone should note that all exterior finishes need to be maintained at some point - MOTHER NATURE wins the longevity war

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Can I use GF Dyes Stains under Gel Stains?

Yes, many professional finishers use Dye Stains to increase the depth of the grain, to even out color saturation, and to achieve deeper colors. Use Amber or Yellow for a golden glow under any gel stain.

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Should I use a coat of Gel Topcoat on raw wood to achieve an more even color before staining?

While Gel Stain can be applied over an existing finish, it was originally engineered for raw wood surfaces. We prefer applying the Gel Stain over a slip coat of mineral spirits instead of topcoat as shown in this video. (http://bit.ly/1WwDUQ1) 

The slip coat will reduce the drag and help the stain "glide on" easier. The other important technique shown in this video is to apply the stain liberally in sections and remove the excess quickly. Gel Stain is so pigment rich you will get an uneven application if you try to dab it on with a dry rag.

Applying over a layer of top coat is acceptable, but there are two big benefits of applying the stain directly to the wood or over a slip coat.

1) The beauty of the grain is highlighted. This effect will be greatly diminished if the stain is applied over an existing finish.

2) Less coats are required to obtain a dark color.

Preparation and application techniques along with dry time between coats are all different when applying Gel Stain over raw wood vs. an existing finish.

Dry time differences:

http://bit.ly/TZTLwL

 

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How can I thin Gel Stain?

Gel Stain can be mixed with up to 50% Liquid Oil Stain but be aware that this will thin the viscosity. We recommend starting with 10% Liquid Oil Stain and testing to your satisfaction. Add more Liquid Stain as needed up to 50%. The mix will be thin and more translucent, but will not lose any of its properties for adhesion and curing.

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What is the best top coat to use over Gel Stains?

You can use any of our topcoats. In the water based line, use High Performance or Flat Out Flat. For oil based, use either Gel Satin or Arm R Seal. Gel is much thicker. Arm-R-Seal is much thinner, easier to apply and easier to apply to large projects than Gel. Always allow 72 hour dry time when apply water base products over oil based product.

More information on Oil Base Gel Stains

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*How Do I Correct the Haze That Appeared When I Applied Gel Satin Topcoat Over 3 Coats of Gel Stain?*

Haze (the technical term is blush) is caused by too many coats applied too quickly. A recoat time of 12 hours is not enough dry time when applying over an EXISTING finish. To remove the blush or haze, you can either wipe the area with a strong solvent, like xylene or lacquer thinner, or you can try sanding out the haze and then reapply the topcoat.

Always allow more dry time when applying oil-based products over an existing finish. Here are General Finishes recommended dry times for applying multiple coats of Gel Stain and Gel Topcoat over an existing finish.

  • Dry-Time to Touch: 4-6 hours
  • Dry-Time to Recoat with Stain When "Wiping Off": 72 hours. Do not recoat until you are sure the stain is dry. If in doubt, wait longer. Humidity or cold temperatures will increase dry times.
  • Dry-Time to Recoat with Stain When "Painting On": 72 hours. Do not recoat until you are SURE the stain is dry. If in doubt, wait longer. Humidity or cold temperatures will increase dry times.
  • Dry-Time to Apply Oil-Based Topcoat over Gel Stain: 72 hours
  • Dry-Time to Apply Water-Based Topcoat: 72 hours
  • Dry-Time for Light Use: 7-10 days
  • Dry-Time Over Laminate or Other Non-Porous Surfaces: At least 72 hours, likely more. Test to your satisfaction before proceeding.
  • CURE TIME: Cure time for all General Finishes oil-based products is about 30 days. During the curing process, protect your flat surfaces and avoid placing heavy items on horizontal surfaces or sliding anything across the surface. 

Dry time and cure time are unrelated. In simplest terms, here is the difference between drying and curing: Drying is the evaporation of solvents in oil-based products, and water in water-based products. Curing is when the product hardens for full use.

 

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Can GF’s Gel Stain be used outdoors?

Do not use General Finishes Gel Stain or any oil based finish outside where this direct exposure to water. If your furniture will be resting under a cover and not exposed to direct water, you may have a successful result. We recommend our Milk Paint or Exterior 450 products instead.

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Will Gel Stains darken with another coat?

Yes, each layer will darken your project even more. You can also start with a lighter color Gel Stain, and layer on darker colors See step by step photo instructions on how to layer Gel Stain Colors on the GF Blog. Click on the first photo and follow along with this photo tutorial as we finish a walnut table with 1 coat of Java Gel Stain over Nutmeg Gel Stain. Completed with 3 coats of Gel Satin Topcoat. Table design by John Harryman.

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Can I use denatured alcohol mixed with shellac to condition raw wood before applying Gel Stain?

Yes. Denatured alcohol is the solvent used in Shellac. A 50/50 mix is commonly used when conditioning wood before staining.

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Do Gel Stains Require a Topcoat?

All stains need a top coat. Think of stain as the color and top coat as the sealer and protectant.

The high urethane content of General Finishes Gel Stains results in a lustrous finish that tends to fool people into assuming no sealant is required. The beauty of Gel Stain comes from thick thick urethane which can carry a LOT of color to any surface, but that color must be sealed in with top coat. An added bonus of top coat is that it also protects the wood from drying out.

Think of stain as the color and top coat as the sealer and protectant.

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Can Gel Stain be applied over a high gloss paint finish?

Possibly but not recommended - the high gloss is an issue. Folks have successfully put Gel Stain on more surfaces than we ever dreamed of including fiber glass but if you want to proceed, TEST your procedure on the inside of a door first, let the door cure for 14 days. Then further test the finish by duplicating normal wear and tear: washing, scrubbing, scratching, etc to see if the finish bonds to the surface. It might not adhere.

If you want to proceed with your project, the cabinets need to be sanded with 150-180 grit sandpaper before attempting to apply the Gel Stain. If you cannot achieve enough abrasion by sanding, apply a De-Glosser, available at any paint store. We think Milk Paint would be a better choice as paint is more flexible and tends to adhere well to many surfaces, but test to your satisfaction before proceeding. Milk Paint is available in Dark Chocolate, a very close color match to Java Gel.

More information about Oil Based Gel Stains.

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Glaze Effects

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Can Glaze Effects be sealed with wax instead of top coat?

Yes, you can use Satin Wax instead of top coat if you prefer. Although GF loves the look of wax, we recommend using top coat because wax is not as durable. Wax requires annual maintenance and it must be removed if you want to apply topcoat in the future.

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Can I create a glaze with General Finishes Water Based Stains?

General Finishes stains make beautiful glazes. Just add 10% High Performance Top Coat. 

 

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Can I apply Glaze Effects under UV Cure Urethane Topcoat?

Yes, General Finishes Glaze Effects can be applied under the UV Cure Urethane topcoat. We recommend applying a coat of General Finishes Enduro Clear Poly before applying glaze for more control of the color.

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*Is Topcoat Required Between Gel Stain and Water Based Glaze Effects?

Yes - this is not a good place to take shortcuts. GF Gel Stain gets its deep rich hue from a large number of colorants. Seal the stain with a topcoat before applying glaze to prevent "color pull."

The glaze will also glide more easily over the surface after topcoat is applied, allowing you greater control of how much color you want to use. Be sure to wait 72 hours when applying water-based finishes over oil-based finishes.

Here is a sample finish schedule:

  1. Prep sand and clean
  2. Apply stain
  3. Apply a layer of topcoat to prevent color bleed thru and make glazing easier
  4. Apply Glaze Effects
  5. Apply 2-3 coats of topcoat to protect the entire project

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How can I create a custom glaze, wash, varnish or stain?

You can design your own custom glazes, stains, washes, and varnishes with General Finishes intermixable water-based products. See tips and recipes below:

For all of the following mixes, GF recommends the following two steps:

  1. Applying a base layer of High Performance Top Coat before applying your custom glaze.
  2. Protect all of these finishes with 2-3 coats of top coat when you are finished.


Pastel Glaze/Whitewash:

Milk Paint + Winter White Glaze Effects -OR- Milk Paint + Water Based Whitewash Wood Stain

NOTE: Do not add more than 50% paint. If you add more than 50% you will have so much pigment that it will be difficult to wipe away the finish.


Custom Glaze:

For example, Pitch Black Glaze Effects + Winter White Glaze Effects

Experiment with proportions and colors.


Wood Stain as a Glaze:

Water Based Wood Stain + 10% High Performance Top Coat -OR- Oil Based Wood Stain + 10% Mineral SpiritsNote: Make sure that you wait 72 hours before applying a water based top coat on top of an oil-based stain.


Aged/Varnish Glaze:

Water Based Wood Stain  + High Performance Top Coat 50:50 ratio - OR - Dye Stain + High Performance Top Coat 50:50 ratio


Custom Stain Colors:

1 part Milk Paint + 1 part Pre-Stain Natural [50:50 mix]
-or-
1 part Milk Paint + 1 part Glaze Effects - Clear Base [50:50 mix]
-or-
1 part Milk Paint +  2 parts Water Based Stain Natural [1:2 parts]

Note: Proportions are relative to the color you are reducing. Some colors may require 2 parts clear base to reduce strength, others may require 1. Begin with a 50:50 mix, and add more clear base if necessary.

Note: You can further increase the color palette by mixing 2 or 3 Milk Paint colors together before adding the clear base.

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Does Glaze Effects require Top Coat?

Absolutely. All stains and glazes require a sealant. Think of the stain or glaze as the color and the topcoat as protection.

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How can I tint or mix your Black Glaze to make a custom grey color?

There are three ways.

  1. Mix with small amount of Snow White Milk Paint
  2. Add a small amount of EF White Wood Stain
  3. Professional users could add Enduro White

 

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Glaze Effects Clear Base

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Can I apply Glaze Effects under UV Cure Urethane Topcoat?

Yes, General Finishes Glaze Effects can be applied under the UV Cure Urethane topcoat. We recommend applying a coat of General Finishes Enduro Clear Poly before applying glaze for more control of the color.

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High Performance Water Based Top Coat

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How do I prevent orange peel from occurring when spraying High Performance Gloss with a 2.0 spray tip?

The 2.0 tip is too large for the gloss sheen when working with the Earlex 5500 sprayer. We recommend that you use a 1.5mm tip instead. 

One of the causes of orange peel is the application of too  much fluid and not enough atomization to break the product up into smaller droplets. It's similar to putting your finger over the end of a garden hose.

Gloss is going to be the most finicky of the all the sheens to spray. Both Critter and the Earlex devices are suitable but atomization can only be increased with smaller fluid tips or larger spray units.

 

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Which Topcoat Should I Choose?

General Finishes Water Based Topcoats:

  • High Performance
  • Flat Out Flat
  • Enduro-Var
  • Enduro Professional Topcoats (Enduro Clear Poly, Enduro Conversion Varnish, Enduro Water Based Laquer)

General Finishes Oil Based Topcoats

  • Arm-R-Seal Liquid Oil Based Topcoat
  • Gel Satin Topcoat

GENERAL PRACTICE:

  1. Oil based topcoats and Enduro-Var will amber over time.
  2. Water based Flat Out Flat and High Performance top coats dry clear.
  3. Never use any water based topcoat with long oils such as Danish, Tung or Linseed.
  4. Water based top coats clean up with water. OIl based topcoats require mineral spirits for clean up.
  5. Enduro-Var ADHERES WELL only over WATER STAINS, DYE STAINS, and RAW WOOD.
  6. If you use water based topcoats over oil based finishes, make sure that you wait 72 hours between the two products. It is essential to let the oil finish dry longer.
  7. Large/Detailed Surfaces - For more complex projects that have a lot of nooks and crannies or projects with large surface areas such as cabinets, we recommend either ARM-R-SEAL liquid oil based topcoat or any of our water based topcoats.
  8. Enduro Professional Top Coats are thinner and intended to be sprayed
  9. High Performance and Flat Out Flat can also be sprayed. If needed, it can be thinned by adding 10% water or Extender. Large surfaces such as cabinets or tables and complex projects with lots of detail are easier to cover with liquid top coat rather than a Gel top coat.

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*How Do I Prevent Water Based Topcoat or Light Colored Paint from Yellowing?

All bright white paint will yellow slightly with time, with or without topcoat. Water-based topcoats are reactive and more likely to draw out substances in the wood such as tannins or unknown substances in existing finishes causing the topcoat to yellow. This is an industry-wide issue and we have added warning labels regarding the yellowing of topcoats to our bright white paints, Snow White Milk Paint and Chalk White Chalk Style Paint.

General Finishes background was originally on the professional side, and the incidences of yellowing topcoat over white paint were almost nil, and when our sprayable professional finish, Enduro White Poly, is used, there have been no incidences. But as the use of our paints has increased in the up-cycling and furniture refresh markets, we have heard more reports of our topcoat yellowing. Our original response was to teach about prepping, testing your finish schedule and finally creating Stain Blocker, our stain and tannin blocking primer, but this is not enough. Just as we advocate prepping all finishes, we are now advocating NOT using a clear water base topcoat over BRIGHT WHITE paint.

We are listening and General Finishes is in the process of developing a brushable version of our professional Enduro White Poly (available only in gallons), but that will take some time and rigorous testing before we can release the product. Here is what you should know to protect yourself and also some immediate suggestions to decrease chances of yellowing.

There is no way to reliably predict yellowing ahead of time. Sometimes yellowing occurs, sometimes it does not. Every existing finish is different and we rarely know the finishing provenance on an existing piece. Every tree is different and every piece of wood is unique. Wood can bleed tannins immediately after the topcoat dries or months later with a change in temperature that comes with a change in seasons. Oak, pine, mahogany, and Douglass Fur are particularly prone to bleed-through.

As is true of most "water-white" topcoats, our High Performance Water-Based topcoat is a clear drying finish over a non-reactive substrate such as plastic. When white paint sealed with a water-white topcoat is applied to something as unpredictable as wood, all bets are off and the reason is often unknown. Yellowing can be caused by the top coat activating the tannins in raw wood or aniline dyes, stains or contaminants in a pre-existing finish. This is most evident when using BRIGHT WHITE paint and most prevalent in the sculpted details of furniture, where the topcoat can collect, intensifying the color change to an unacceptable level.

To add to this issue, all bright white paint will yellow slightly with time, with or without topcoat. You have probably tried to touch up white woodwork in your home after several years and noticed that the new paint is brighter.

SUMMARY

  • Whites have a lower “hide” quality and are more transparent than most other colors. Most bright whites require additional coats to achieve the desired color and minimize color variation. This can increase the cost of paint finishing. Always include a clause in your contracts addressing the need for additional coats to achieve coverage.
  • Bright white paints can yellow over time with or without topcoat.
  • The underlying finish or wood species can affect the final color of light paint.
  • Details and inside corners are difficult to cover with any paint color, but this property tends to be more noticeable with whites. This is a naturally occurring phenomenon in paint application and does not necessarily constitute a defect in the paint finish or your technique.
  • The more porous the paint (chalk paint vs an acrylic paint), the more likely that yellowing will occur. The topcoat is actually seeping through the spaces caused by the larger particles of filler that give chalk style paints their texture.

DO NOT CARRY THE COST OF WHITE PAINT YOURSELF – pass the cost on to the consumer who wants it with a fair upcharge. White paints, even if they did not yellow, require more coats to achieve coverage.

TIPS FOR PROTECTING YOURSELF AND PREVENTING YELLOWING

  1. Use a disclaimer in your contracts or recommend a softer white such as Antique White or Linen. Upcharge for the extra coats needed and never guarantee a white finish over a piece that you cannot trace the provenance on. Here is a suggestion for your contracts: Terms of Agreement and Warranties: ________ (Initials) I have been informed that more coats are required when painting with bright whites, reds, greens or yellow. I understand that white paint can yellow over time and water-based topcoats can occasionally react with the substrate or existing finish under white paints causing yellowing, even is a stain blocking primer is used.
  2. If it is a low use project, use a premium white paint that is self-sealing and does not require a topcoat. A clear top coat is not required on our Milk Paint for increased durability, as it is a self-sealing, exterior rated coating with very high durability and performance properties. However, top coats provide a smoother surface that is easier to clean and boost durability for high use projects such as table tops and kitchen cabinets.
  3. Get a spray gun and use a professional "white coat" such as our Enduro White Poly. It is a white paint with "increased topcoat properties", is a stand-alone finish when 3 coats are applied and does not require sealing with a topcoat.
  4. If you are still brushing, try a couple of our customer's techniques. 1) Add 10-15% of the paint you are using to the first application of topcoat. The last two layers of topcoat should NOT have paint in it, to maintain durability. This technique can be used with any color, not just white, and really boosts bright colors. 2) Use a coat of light gray over a lacquer based primer before applying white paint. We have good reports of these 2 techniques from customers BUT HAVE NOT TESTED IN OUR LAB. (Alternatively, GF prefers the use of Stain blocker without grey paint.)
  5. Always test your project's ENTIRE finishing schedule (from cleaning to topcoat) on an inside door or a more hidden area of the piece. This does not help if the yellowing occurs later but you will at least know if there is an immediate problem.
  6. Always apply a stain-blocking primer under white or light-colored paint such as GF Stain Blocker or a shellac based primer. Always let any primer dry overnight. Some of the primers we have seen suggest a 3-hour dry time and that is not enough.
  7. If you are working on period pieces such as a 1940's serpentine mahogany desk which were often finished in stain containing aniline dyes that cast a pinkish bleed through under light paint, stay away from light colors. Not every piece of furniture is suitable for up-cycling with a light paint color. Pine, Mahogany, and furniture of the 1940's and 50's are a red flag.
  8. Last, not all manufacturer's topcoats are compatible with other finishes and may react with a color change. Always follow best practices by not rushing, and testing to your satisfaction first.

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Can I use a cross linker with High Performance Topcoat to improve performance?

GF has improved the High Performance formula and Cross Linker would not provide an added benefit.

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*How to Spray Water Based Finishes

General Finishes water-based products can be sprayed through compressed air, HVLP, airless or C.A.S. units.

SURFACE PREPARATION:

All surfaces should be clean and free from dirt and oil and sanded.

Indicated below are instructional videos we have for preparing a surface for a new coat of paint or finish:

SPRAY APPLICATION OF GENERAL FINISHES WATER BASED FINISHES:

All General Finishes water based topcoats and wood stains are ready to spray from the container without additives with the exception of Conversion Varnish. Always strain material through a medium to fine mesh filter before spraying. If necessary, in hot or dry climates, reduce 10 to 15% with General Finishes Extender to extend the open time.

PRE SEALING:

Softwoods such as Pine absorb stain at an uneven rate and may respond better to staining if the wood is pre-sealed. General Finishes Pre-Stain Conditioner Natural can be applied to raw wood to condition the surface for uniform penetration of the stain. Pre-sealing will cause the final stain to be lighter so you may need to use a darker color. Always test your color on a hidden part of the furniture. Allow the Pre-Stain Conditioner to dry 30 minutes before applying your final stain color.

If you are using a sprayer that has been used for oil based or lacquers, clean the unit thoroughly with acetone followed with hot water to purge the fluid passage. Apply a thin coat first that will dry and harden faster. Sand this first coat down to a smooth base on which to build your finish coats with a 220-320 grade foam sanding pad or #400-grit sandpaper. It is better to spray 2 thin coats rather than 1 heavy coat.

Contact your supplier to verify proper tip sizes for your specific equipment. GF's general recommended fluid tips for Wood Stains and Top Coats are Compressed air - .040 and Airless - .009. 

RECOMMENDED TIPS FOR GENERAL FINISHES PRODUCTS USING HVLP:

  • Milk Paint: 1.8mm-2.0mm
  • Chalk Paint: 1.8mm-2.0mm
  • Stain Blocker: 1.8mm-2.0mm
  • Pearl Effects: 1.8mm-2.0mm
  • Glaze Effects: 1.8mm-2.0mm
  • High Performance Topcoat: 1.1mm-1.3mm
  • Flat Out Flat Top Coat: 1.1mm-1.3mm
  • Enduro-Var  1.1mm-1.3mm
  • Water Based Wood Stain: 1.1mm-1.3mm
  • Water Based Dye Stain: 1.1mm-1.3mm
  • Exterior 450 Topcoat:1.1mm-1.3mm
  • Exterior 450 Stain: 1.1mm-1.3mm
  • Enduro Sanding Sealer: 1.3-1.4mm
  • Enduro White Poly: 1.3mm-1.5mm
  • Enduro Black Poly: 1.3mm-1.5mm
  • Enduro White Under Coat 1.5mm-1.8mm
  • Enduro Clear Poly: 1.1mm-1.3mm
  • Enduro Pre Cat Lacquer: 1.1mm-1.3mm
  • Enduro Conversion Varnish: 1.1mm-1.3mm

Air caps should be medium size. Contact your supplier to verify proper tip sizes for your specific equipment.

Break your work into sections such as dresser top or drawer fronts. Spraying too large of an area can result in a textured grainy surface. A correctly sprayed finish should appear even and glossy. It is important to spray enough material to allow proper flow and leveling of the finish.

Spray medium wet films at 3-5 wet ml thickness. Practice makes perfect. If you have never sprayed finishes before, take a large piece of cardboard and practice your technique first. Spray water on the cardboard to learn how the gun works. Check your fluid settings and adjust the controls to get comfortable with the spray angles and to develop your technique.

SPRAYING TOPCOATS:

Keep your gun at a 90* angle, 6-8" from the surface. On large flat areas, use wet, even patterns 6 to 8 wide. For narrow surfaces, reduce the fan pattern to 2-3" to reduce overspray. For topcoats, overlap each pass 25% to conceal lines.

Watch our video how to spray water based topcoats here.

SPRAYING WATER BASED WOOD STAINS:

Keep your gun at a 90* angle, 6-8" from the surface. On large flat areas, use wet, even patterns 6 to 8 wide. For narrow surfaces, reduce the fan pattern to 2-3" to reduce overspray. Overlap each pass of stain 50% for even coverage and wipe back the excess with an absorbent cloth. For narrow surfaces, reduce the fan pattern to 2-3" to reduce overspray. 

SPRAYING WATER BASED DYE STAINS:

Keep your gun at a 90* angle, 6-8" from the surface. On large flat areas, use wet, even patterns 6 to 8 wide. For narrow surfaces, reduce the fan pattern to 2-3" to reduce overspray. Overlap each pass of stain 50% for even coverage. If coverage is even, there is no need to wipe. If you have issues with uneven coverage, wipe back the excess with an absorbent cloth. For narrow surfaces, reduce the fan pattern to 2-3" to reduce overspray. 

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*Which Is Better as a Sealer? Topcoat or Wax?

It depends on whether you are looking for aesthetics or durability.

A topcoat will provide greater durability and protection than wax finishes over time.

While wax finishes are lovely, they typically show wear (fingerprints) and are not permanent, requiring semi-annual to annual maintenance.

Wax is a low durability finish. It’s fine for a decorative piece that will receive light traffic. It is absolutely not strong enough for tables, kitchen cabinets, or other surfaces that will see frequent use.  

Wax takes a bit of elbow grease to apply.

Furthermore, nothing adheres well to wax, which can impact future finish changes. Even though there is internet chatter about removing wax with 3rd party products or mineral spirits, the risk of a failure in re-coating over a wax finish is very high and sometimes impossible.

If you love a wax finish, try General Finishes Satin Finishing Wax. If you want the look and feel of wax with more durability, use our General Finishes Flat Out Flat Topcoat. For even more protection, use General Finishes High Performance Topcoat.

 

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How do I remove brush strokes from the 3rd coat of High Performance?

Sand down the finish with a 220 foam sanding pad and then add another layer of topcoat more liberally than you did previously without heavy back brushing. Let the topcoat self level a bit- it will tighten down as it dries. If it's above 80*F or if it's low humidity in the space you're working, we recommend adding 10% GF Extender to the topcoat to improve open time. 

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Can I create a glaze with General Finishes Water Based Stains?

General Finishes stains make beautiful glazes. Just add 10% High Performance Top Coat. 

 

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Why did the finish on my piece become cloudy after top coating the Milk Paint with High Performance?

The term for a cloudy, milky appearance in the finish is Blush. There are two common causes.

  1. The most common reason is incompatible stain. For example, using a water based top coat over a heavy oil based stain. When the top coat is applied, the oil in the stain seeps up through the finish and reacts with the acrylic causing a chemical blush. To prevent this, either use a quick drying water based stain or allow the oil based stain to dry for 72 hours. You can also seal and oil stain with a coat of shellac or lacquer sealer to providea barrier between the oil and the acrylic.
  2. Another cause for blushing is high humidity. Applying water based finish in humidities of over 75% may cause blushing because moisture becomes trapped beneath the finish and cannot evaporate. You can prevent this condition by increasing air movement in the finishing area with a fan. All water needs to evaporate is sufficient air movement. You can also improve drying conditions by increasing the temperature in the drying area.
  3. And a common cause is a wet object or or a water spill left two long on the surface. In most cases, the white mark will recover and fade within an hour if the spill is cleaned up in a timely manner. If the water has been sitting on that area for an extended period of time then it might not be able to bounce back. The fix: The table needs to be scuffed and sanded first. Second, we recommend applying a sanding sealer to protect the top. Sanding sealer has a larger resin particle, so it will provide a better build for the next sanding step. Then finish with your topcoat.

 

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*Can I Mix General Finishes Flat Out Flat and High Performance Topcoat?

No, you should not mix Flat Out Flat and High Performance topcoats. They are engineered with different resin systems.

You can mix High Performance topcoats to adjust sheen. For example, you can mix HP Flat and HP gloss to obtain a different sheen.

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How can I change the sheen of the top coat? The one I applied is too shiney.

If you want to change the sheen, you can re-coat with a different sheen over top. The second layer of top coat will replace the appearance of the first. Sand lightly with a used 220 sanding PAD to knock down the original finish before re-coating. It may take two or 3 coats to get complete coverage.

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What is the difference between professional Enduro Clear Poly and High Performance Topcoat?

Enduro Clear Poly is designed for professionals that routinely spray their finishes. High Performance is formulated for the retail market so it can be sprayed or hand applied.

  • Enduro Clear Poly is slightly more durable than High Performance in the categories of wear, water, and chemical resistance. 
  • Even though Enduro Clear poly is more durable and more water resistant than High Performance, High Performance is extremely durable and also recommended for high-use surfaces like kitchen cabinets and table tops.
  • Both products can be sprayed
  • High Performance can also be applied by hand with a foam/bristle brush.
  • Clear Poly is an Acrylic Urethane and High Performance is a Urethane/Acrylic Blend.
  • High Performance is sold in Pints, Quarts & Gallons by GF Retailers, Clear Poly is Gallon, 5-gallon pails and 55-gallon drums by GF Distributors. Cost is determined by Retailer/Distributor.

 

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Can General Finishes Water Based Top Coats Be Tinted?

All of General Finishes water based topcoats can be tinted to create lightly colored finishes for toning. Toning is the process of adding colorant, either dye or pigment into a top coat and then applying over an entire piece in order to subtly deepen the color.

Some tinting recommendations are:

  • Do not exceed 13 ounces per gallon. Excess amounts of colorant can create surface defects and decrease the viscosity (causing drips, sag, etc.).
  • Tinting a product black only requires about 6 to 8 ounces (based on strength of colorant).
  • Check for colorant compatibly (best to use a zero VOC colorant).
  • Tint off whites with white bases.
  • Enduro-Var top coat cannot be tinted white.
  • GF top coats can also be tinted with General Finishes Dye Stains or Trans Tint Dyes available at many woodworking and paint stores. This produces a transparent tinted finish. Normal addition is usually 2-5% by volume.

GF does not manufacturer colorants. Here are a few sources:

  • Mixol available at Woodcraft
  • Gennex by Benjamin Moore
  • Colortrend 896 or 888, 878

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How do I correct color lift when applying High Performance over GF Water Based Dye Stains?

It is normal to see a bit of stain on the brush when applying the first coat of topcoat. Topcoats often pull a bit of color ont he first pass, but good preparation will minimize this.

To prepare open grains woods such as raw Oak for a water based stain, we recommend sanding with 180 grit followed by no more than 220 grit sandpaper. 300/400 grit sandpaper is too fine for preparing raw wood. Too fine of a grit changes the wood from a porous surface to one that is too smooth to absorb the stain, which causes the first top coat application to pull excessive color. (It is like trying to apply stain to glass.) There is always a small amount of color pull when using water based stains, but the smooth surface escalates this condition. This was evident in the areas that you used the brush to remove excess topcoat.

See recommended sanding schedules here: https://generalfinishes.com/faq/what-grit-should-i-use-for-prep-sanding-raw

Here are some options to try. Always test a small area before proceeding with your entire project.

  1. Toning: Lightly sand the light areas with a 220 grit sanding foam PAD to open up the pores of the wood. Create a toning mix of 10-20% dye stain to 80-90% topcoat. Using a small brush, apply this mix over the light areas to blend with the darker areas. Let this dry 3-4 hours. Then apply another coat of the mix over the entire surface. If this is successful, then apply 2-3 coats of the topcoat. 
  2. Glaze the light areas. This will change the look of your doors, but it is an easier remedy.
  3. Optimally, you should sand down to bare wood and start over with this prep sanding schedule. You can apply the dye stain directly to the wood, or mix in 10% top coat to help lock in the color.

 

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Can High Performance be used instead of Modge Podge?

No, it is too thin. And High Performance is not thick enough for transfers either. Stick with Modge Podge.

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How Do General Finishes Water Based Topcoats Differ?

Gf recommends using the least expensive product that will provide the needed performance characteristics. We offer a range of products designed for professional spray applications and brush-on finishes for consumer use.

PROFESSIONAL TOPCOATS

PRE CAT LACQUER (Spray only)

GF recommends our recently improved Pre Cat Lacquer for applications where there is little risk of chemical contamination issues from substances such ketchup, soap, chemical cleaners, or ammonia. This is the perfect spray finish for interior doors, casing, moldings, door jambs and furniture that receives light use. When you think about it, interior doors don't take a lot of wear. You might wipe them down or dust them once in a while but that is about it. PreCat Lacquer is a hard finish that provides excellent build and superior clarity at a phenomenal price point. If you are not finishing a surface such as a table top where you anticipate chemical contamination during use, why pay for a more expensive finish?

Dries clear.

CLEAR POLY (Spray only)

Poly is the go-to cabinet finish. It has all the durability you need at a lower price point than Conversion Varnish. It is similar to High Performance in test measurements for chemical, water and wear resistance, but HP can be brushed and Clear Poly can't - it is already thinned for spraying. Clear Poly has a bit of an edge over High Performance in overall chemical resistance, a 98 rating vs 92.

Dries clear.

CONVERSION VARNISH (Spray only)

This is our top of the line. Conversion Varnish is a post catalyzed high solids, two component urethane formulated for professionals who need the highest level of durability and chemical resistance. Varnish will cure the fastest. Requires NCO Catalyst. It is recommended for commercial applications or extremely high-wear surfaces such as countertops and bar tops

Dries clear.

RETAIL TOPCOATS

HIGH PERFORMANCE (Brush or Spray)

GF's best performing brush on finish with very similar performance testing as our Poly. (High Performance can be thinned for spraying).

Dries clear.

FLAT OUT FLAT (Brush or Spray)

Flat Out Flat is formulated with a self cross-linking acrylic, and is designed to mimic the look and feel of a wax finish. Because of the increased matting agents used to create the "Flat look", this finish will have less clarity.  Like wax, it dries softer to the touch than High Performance when completely cured, and will show more fingerprints. FOF finish will mark up more easily because of increased matting agents used to reduce the sheen, so it is not recommended for high-use tabletops.

Dries clear.

BOTH PROFESSIONAL AND RETAIL TOPCOATS

ENDURO-VAR (Spray or brush)

Enduro-Var is an oil modified water-based alternative for customers that want the warm look of an oil finish in a water based coating. It looks more like an oil finish than a water coating, and can be sprayed or brushed. Enduro-Var adheres well ONLY over WATER STAINS, DYE STAINS, and RAW WOOD. Use over other finishes at your own risk.

Dries Amber

EXTERIOR 45O TOPCOAT

Exterior 450 provides a clear drying tough, protective finish that will withstand the rigors of the sun, rain, and wind. It is suitable for vertical surfaces such as fences, patio furniture, garage doors, entrance doors, outdoor kitchens and interior windows. It is not recommended as a deck finish. Fortified with UV absorbers to stabilize the finish, Exterior 450's built-in mildewcide retards mold and mildew growth.

Dries Clear

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*How Can I Tell if a Water Based Topcoat is Dry?

If the finish feels cool to the touch, it's not ready. When you can sand it to a dry powder, it is ready for the next coat. Dry times will be longer if it is raining, cold, or humid. When in doubt, waiting longer is always better.

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Can I use a steam mop on floors finished with High Performance topcoat?

Floors sealed with High Performance Top Coat can be cleaned with Bona floor cleaning system or a similar product. We do not recommend using a steam mop because steam can damage the wood. 

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What is the difference between Flat Out Flat and High Performance Topcoats?

Flat Out Flat is a matte water based topcoat with a velvety feel and was developed as a durable alternative to our Satin Wax. Choose this product if you want a finish that looks more like wax and your project will not require high use. Like wax, it dries softer to the touch than High Performance when completely cured, and it will show more marring and fingerprints. Flat Out Flat is made with a stable self cross-linking acrylic instead of urethane.
High Performance is urethane based and contains less matting agents which result in a slightly harder finish. For that reason, High Performance is the best choice for high use areas such as table tops and kitchen cabinets. Both topcoats have similar water resistance, but High Performance offers greater clarity.  
Use with Oil Based Finishes: Let oil-based finishes dry for 72 hours before applying High Performance or Flat Out Flat top coat. 

 

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What is the best way to obtain a more durable finish with a flat sheen?

The popular flat sheens are lovely but they have different attributes than glossy finishes. The flatting agents required to reduce sheen in flat or matte topcoats also slightly reduce clarity, water resistance, durability and resistance to chemicals such as ketchup, soap, chemical cleaners, or ammonia. This is not much of a concern in low use areas but is important for table tops or kitchen cabinets.

Here is a tip to improve the performance of your finish and still obtain a matte sheen: 
Use a semi-gloss sheen for the first two coats and a flat for the third for optimum performance. 
 
General Finishes is constantly seeking new resins and additives to improve the performance of our finishes.

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*What is the Best Applicator to use for Milk Paint and Water Based Topcoat?

Either bristle or foam brushes will work well with Milk Paint and Top Coat. The folks at GF might use several types of brushes for a project.

For example:

  • We like to use a bristle brush (which loads up more paint) to get Milk Paint on the surface, and then use a water or Extender dampened foam brush to smooth out the finish.​
  • ​​​​​​Bristle brushes are particularly helpful on vertical and detailed surfaces but they can produce subtle texture.
  • Foam brushes tend to produce a smoother finish which can be particularly helpful on flat horizontal surfaces.
  • Pad Applicators or paint rollers are also helpful on larger horizontal surfaces such as a table top.

For folks who don't want to invest in several brushes, the foam brush is our recommendation.

The very best application method is spraying.

 

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How do I buff out High Performance water based topcoat to a high gloss?

There are several techniques by Jeff Jewitt of Homestead Finishing Products:

Dry buff with Mirka Royal Micro Paper

Using Mirka Royal Micro sandpaper, always start with 1500 grit sandpaper. Begin with a small area, make 2-3 passes, then evaluate results. Go to a heavier grit if surface irregularities are not fully removed. Finish with 1500 grit paper.

Dry/wet buff with Abralon Polishing Discs

Start by dry sanding with Abralon 2000 then 4000. Start slowly, monitor to see if buildup is occurring. A large sized table might take 5-25 sheets of paper.  If needed, lubricate by moistening with GF Satin Wax, mineral spirits, or naphtha. Never use water as a lubicant. If lubricated, one sheet of 1000 or 1500 should do the entire table.

Buffing/Polishing with Presta

You can use Presta's polishing kits.
Spray Presta polish on buffing pad stuff to lubricate the pad. Apply a quarter sized dab of polish to sand one section. Spread with pad. Continue section by section. Mist buffing pad with Presta lubricating material when it gets too dry. You should be able to use a buffing pad on 10-20 tables before washing and reusing.
 
When done, mist entire surface with and buff with a micro-cloth to remove splatter

NOTE: Never wet sand a water-based finish.

 

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*Why is High Performance Streaking When Applied over Annie Sloan Chalk Paint?

This is a guesstimate as GF cannot assist with the performance of another manufacturer's product used in conjunction with our own finishes.

It looks like Annie Sloan Chalk Paint is absorbing some of the topcoat because it is so porous. High Performance does not streak over a sealed surface when properly applied. Most likely the chalk paint is so dry it is pulling some of the solvents away from the High Performance, causing an uneven finish or the appearance of streaking. This happens on the original powder Chalk or Milk Paints also.

Possible solution: Porous paints such as chalk paint may require additional coats of High Performance Topcoat to seal off the paint. If the first coat absorbs into the paint it will require multiple coats of High Performance to build a film of sealer above the paint. Using a foam brush will accent the streaking due to the number of strokes needed. We suggest a fairly liberal application with a large applicator such as a foam roller or a pad applicator.

Always test before proceeding with the entire project when using General Finishes projects with other manufacturer's products.

 

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Milk Paint

Return

Why is my application of Milk Paint is not adhering on previously finished cabinets?

There are several reasons:

  1. The cabinets were not prep cleaned and sanded properly. Sanding and cleaning are an essential part of any refinishing process. In most cases you can use a 220 sanding pad to scuff the surface and clean with a 50|50 mix of water and denatured alcohol.
  2. The surface was contaminated with a dusting spray that contained silicone. Silicone is usually impossible to remove. You can try scrubbing the surface with a strong detergent such as Spic and Span and warm water combination using a gray Scotchbrite pad. After that clean with denatured alchohol full strength. In most cases you need to strip and sand, but there is no guarantee of success. Test a small area first.
  3. The surface was contaminated with a previous wax finish.Wax is also difficult or impossible to remove. Nothing adheres well to wax, and once you use it the wood grain can become contaminated. The wax can penetrate the wood, making future paint or stain finishes or touch ups difficult or impossible. Even though there is internet chatter about removing wax with 3rd party products or mineral spirits, the risk of a failure in re-coating over a wax finish is very high. GF does offer a lovelty Satin Finishing Wax, but we recommend the use of Top Coats such as our High Performance Top Coat  or Flat Out Flat (waterbased) for a reliable sealant. We promote glaze effects and stains as other means for adding depth to refinished furniture. 
  4. The surface was contaminated with an oil based soap.
  5. There was not enough dry time in between coats relative to the temperature and humidity. Ideal Conditions are 70 degrees F and 70% humidity. Refinishing furniture in a space that is below or above the 65-75 degrees F range can lead to problems. The colder your space it is, the longer you have to wait between coats. Cold temperatures slow the dry time and affect how quickly the finish will level, harden and cure. Our easy rule of thumb is; if it is cold enough to wear a sweater it is too cold to apply a water based finish.

 

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*What is the Difference Between Latex and Acrylic Paint?

The word "latex" is often a misnomer and is used everywhere to differentiate a water-based product from an oil-based product. The same as the word “Kleenex” is used to describe any type of facial tissue, regardless of the brand.
Today, "latex" is the technical term for a suspension (U.S.) or emulsion (European) of microparticles in water.

Latex (a plant-based derivative) was never one of the early ingredients used as a binder, the material that holds all the ingredients together and imparts adhesion, in paint. Binders that are commonly used include synthetic or natural resins such as alkyds, acrylics, vinyl-acrylics, vinyl acetate/ethylene (VAE), polyurethanes, polyesters, melamine resins, epoxy, or oils. Acrylic paint is called that because an acrylic resin is used and not all resins are equal.

CAN I USE “LATEX” WALL PAINT FOR FURNITURE?

Yes, you can. You should differentiate between the “standard” wall paints and the “performance” wall paints, such as Advance by Ben Moore.

The problem with “standard" wall paints is performance. The majority of latex wall paints are designed and engineered for a different purpose: and that is to have great coverage…..on a wall.

Walls simply don’t have the wear and tear that other horizontal surfaces do, so wall paints are manufactured with fewer resins and more of the cost competitive fillers. This helps keep the cost down, which makes sense. 

WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN 100% ACRYLIC WALL PAINT AND 100% ACRYLIC FURNITURE PAINT?

The first is the quality of the resin - there are thousands on the market and they are not all equal. Resins affect cure time. The newer, performance wall paints, such as Benjamin Moore’s Advance, needs almost 20-30 days to FULLY cure for physical use in lab tests, but on a wall that does not matter - folks don’t walk on walls.

Furniture and cabinet finishers need a faster cure time. Furniture and cabinets may need to be stacked, packaged or used fairly immediately, so the resins are selected are based on cure time properties.

The second difference is the amount of filler used. Both wall paints and furniture paints may use 100% Acrylic as the resin. Most interior house paints tend to be a combination of a binder, which is more expensive, (such as latex, acrylic, vinyl, vinyl acrylic, and others), a whole bunch of less expensive fillers such as calcium carbonate or talc, some pigment for color and water. The fillers in wall paint give it great coverage and allow the paint to be manufactured at a lower price point, but sacrifice durability and performance. Imagine wall paint as a can filled with 50% filler powder, some pigment colors, a little binder and then topped off with water. The higher end wall paints are a step up and improve this ratio but still tend to be less durable.

By comparison, a furniture paint may contain 30% filler powder, more binders and higher quality resins, pigments for color, and water. Chalk style furniture paints also have more filler powder than acrylic paints. That is why our Milk Paint is more durable than our Chalk Style Paint - the ratio of filler.

In summary, acrylic paints for furniture contain a higher ratio of resin to filler and superior resins.

High-quality acrylic resins give furniture paint the properties needed in the final finish: adhesion, hardness, flexibility (expansion and contraction with temperature changes in outdoor applications), good scrub resistance and superior color. These paints excel when it comes to flow, leveling and easy brushing. And these paints cure for use and recoating faster.

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Does Milk Paint need to be sealed with a topcoat or wax?

No, Milk Paint is General Finishes premium paint developed for commercial applications and is durable enough to stand up to most wear without top coat. If increased sheen or maximum durability for high use areas (cabinets, table tops) is required, GF recommends applying 2-3 coats of GF's High Performance or Enduro professional top coats. General Finishes offers Finishing Wax, High Performance Topcoat in 4 sheens (Flat, Satin, Semi Gloss and Gloss), Flat Out Flat Topcoat and Glaze Effects to compliment the Milk Paints.

Milk Paint is also a superior exterior rated finish.

 

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*Why Do Milk Paint and Chalk Style Paint Separate in the Can, Even After Stirring?*

The separation is a condition the paint industry calls "float." This is typical with specific colors, such as grays, because of the large variance in the gravities of the pigments required to create those colors. In gray, for instance, Ti02 (white) is 3.4 and black is 1.62. The lower density will float.

This phenomenon will not occur in colors with less variance in densities. Float is not unique to General Finishes products.

Always stir the paint well just BEFORE and DURING use. If there is any delay, the ingredients will start separating. If it is a large project, we recommend continuing to stir throughout use to keep color properties consistent.

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How do I apply Antique White Milk Paint over cabinets that have been burned?

GF recommends that you replace the doors if you want to use a white paint. Some things are not meant to be and painting charred doors is a recipe for trouble. The charring will bleed through.

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What is the best way to store water-based finishes?

Life of Product
Water-based products do not last forever, even when unopened. General Finishes products are best used within 1 year of the manufacture date listed on the bottom of the can. The life of the product may be extended with proper care and storage.

Settling
Gravity can cause some solids to settle on the bottom of the can and slight separation on the top. This is normal. If working with older paint, use paint mixing attachment on a drill. If the solids dissolve and clumps smooth out after mixing from the bottom, the product is in good condition for use.

Storage Tips
See video tutorial: Tips on Storing Leftover Finishes
Water-based finishes crystalize and form a skin due to evaporation when the air-tight seal on a can is broken at first use. The following best practices will increase the life of your product:

  1. Pry open sealed lids with a paint can opener by hooking under the lid's rolled edge. The use of a screwdriver can disfigure the rim and lid, impairing a complete seal. 
  2. Keep lid closed while working. Pour what you will use into a bowl, paper cup, or plate, and close can lid as you work.
  3. Clean the chime of the can thoroughly with a paper towel before closing to create a complete seal. Paint in the chime can be minimized by using a pouring lid, such as Fitsall. Avoid wiping used brushes on the lid.
  4. Pound the lid in place using a rubber mallet to avoid distorting the chime or lid. Dents in the lid from direct contact with a hammer can impair a complete seal. Alternatively, place a flat piece of wood over can lid and firmly pound shut.
  5. Store in moderate temperatures. Avoid temperatures below 50*F/10*C or above 80*F/26*C. Frozen and heat-damaged product cannot be revitalized. Temperature-controlled spaces, such as a basement, are ideal for storage. Do not store product in an attic, garage, in direct sunlight, or next to something warm like a water heater or furnace.
  6. Store can upside down to create a liquid seal, minimize evaporation and reduce the chance of crystallization. Decant remaining product from the can before stirring. 
  7. Decant leftovers to a smaller container when the finish is almost used up. Alternative storage containers for water-based products are plastic FIFO bottles or glass bottles. Do not fill metal-lidded containers completely to prevent them from rusting.

The following water-based product mixtures can be stored:

  1. Product thinned with up to 15% General Finishes Extender or General Finishes Accelerator can be stored, with the exception of thinned General Finishes Water Based Wood Stain.
  2. Mixtures involving colors & sheens within the same product line, such as:
    • High Performance Satin + High Performance Gloss
    • Snow White Milk Paint + Coastal Blue Milk Paint
    • Amber Dye Stain + Merlot Dye Stain

The following product mixtures should NOT be stored:

  • Any water based product with thinned tap water; water often contains bacteria that will adversely affect stored paint.
  • Topcoat + Stain or Paint
  • Milk Paint + Chalk Style Paint
  • Water Based Wood Stain + Dye Stain

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Can Milk Paint be used outside?

Milk Paint is an exterior rated product and is ideal for outdoor projects. Topcoat is not required.

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Can I use General Finishes Milk Paint over an existing finish that is chipping?

If your current finish is chipping, it is failing to adhere correctly. The adhesion problem could be caused by several reasons:

  1. Improper preparation: Cleaning an existing finish removes dirt, grime and many common contaminants such as oil from hands. Dirt, grime and oil prevent good ahesion causing the possiblility of chipping, peeling and flaking - all signs of a failed finish.
  2. Contaminants from dusting sprays that contain silicone will also impact the apperance and adherence of a finish - silicone is almost impossible to remove. Oil soaps and wax can also cause ahesion failures.
  3. The previous paint was a "chippy style" paint, such as an original casein based milk paint that does not contain the necessary resins for high durability

We would not recommend applying any of our products over a failing finish, because the underlying finish could continue to present adhesion problems. Your only recourse for a good result is to remove the current finish by stripping and sanding.

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Is GF's Milk Paint a True Milk Paint?

GF's Milk Paint is not a true Milk Paint - it is premixed and does not contain any casein based ingredients. We named our product Milk Paint with the intention of putting a clear, bright, contemporary spin on an old fashioned furniture paint tradition. It is designed to mimic the low luster finish of old world paints. It is our premium paint, carefully engineered for durability, ease of application and exterior use. All you have to do is prep your piece, stir the can and get started!
Here are some other qualities that make our Milk Paint stand out:

  • Extremely durable with great adhesion properties.
  • It is self-sealing one coat paint. No additional sealant is not required if low to medium wear is expected. If extra durability is desired in high use areas or if you want a glossier sheen, GF recommends applying High Performance or one of our Enduro Professional Top Coats as a sealant.
  • Performs well on outdoor projects.
  • It's UV resistant, water resistant and scratch resistant.
  • Sprays beautifully.
  • It can be intermixed with other Milk Paints, Chalk Style Paints, and Glazes and is a great companion to our water-based Stains, Dyes, Pearl Effects and Top Coats.

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Can GF Milk Paint be wet distressed?

General Finishes Milk Paint can not be wet distressed after it has dried. All paints are developed for different purposes. Standard latex paints are designed to cover walls, not objects under every day use. Exterior finishes are engineered to be flexible to withstand wide ranges of temperatures in outdoor conditions. GF Milk Paint is a durable commercial grade coating for interior and exterior applications. It is formulated for furniture, cabinets and millwork. General Finishes specifically selects resins to achieve this objective. Our Milk Paint can be easily distressed by hand or with a sander within the first 2-3 hours after application. The longer Milk Paint cures, the harder it is to sand. Each type of manufactured paint has a different look, feel and intended use. Some paints are smooth and hard, while others are textural. Choose your paint based on the look you want to achieve balanced with the way you intend to use your piece. 

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Can oil based topcoats be used over Milk Paint?

Oil based top coat can be applied over Milk Paint so long as 24 hours wait time is allowed between the two products. When moving from a water based product to an oil based product it is essential that the first is dry before applying the second.

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Why does GF Milk Paint look different when applied with a spray gun versus a brush application?

Milk Paint is not like a filler-based wall paint. It is engineered for high-use applications such as table tops and cabinets that require considerably more durability than a wall. The resins that make Milk Paint durable change the properties of it, so you have to handle it differently. The type of applicator you use will change the thickness of the film and affect the appearance GF Milk Paint.

When refinishing kitchen cabinets, our contractor customers often roll the face frames and spray the doors. If there are any corners or edges that need to be filled in with a brush, do this before spraying or rolling. Then complete the entire section with one type applicator. With this approach you will notice a slight difference between the frame and the cabinet door, but the difference is considerably less obvious than it would be if you sprayed and rolled on this same surface. 

Secondly, always stir the can well just BEFORE and DURING use. If there is any delay, the ingredients will start separating. Color separation is a condition that the paint industry calls "float". This is very typical with specific colors such as grays because of the large variance in gravities of the pigments required to create the color.  In gray for instance, Ti02 (white) is 3.4 and black is 1.62. The lower density will float. This phenomena will not occur in colors that have less variance in densities. If it is a large project, we recommend continuing to stir during use to keep color properties consistent.

 

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Do I need to add a wetting agent such as Floetrol to General Finishes Milk Paint?

No. General Finishes already adds excellent wetting and flow agents to our Milk Paint. Adding another wetting agent is superfluous, and it may even be harmful to your finish if the formulas don't coordinate.

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*Why Are Some Milk Paint Colors Thinner and More Translucent Than Others?

The ability of a paint to "hide" (cover) the existing underlying finish color is dependent on a number of factors. One factor is colorants and the other is filler. Colorants affect the viscosity of durable furniture paints, making some paints thinner than others. GF could add more filler, making Milk Paint similar to wall paint, but that would reduce the durability.

When covering existing medium-dark finishes, at least 2 coats of primer is recommended. Even with the use of a primer, additional coats of paint may be necessary.   

When covering lighter colored finishes, it may take 3+ coats of paint to achieve acceptable hide.

If you want a light color that has better coverage, consider General Finishes Chalk Style Paint.

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Can Milk Paint be applied to an existing Glossy surface?

Glossy surfaces have the most risk of poor adhesion.

  • FIRST: clean your project with a Scotch Brite pad and a 50/50 mix of denatured alcohol and alcohol. Do not use mineral spirits with a water based product. SECOND, sand with 150 or 180 grit. Sanding is critical to the success of every finishing project as it further cleans the surface and opens up the grain to improve the adhesion of the new paint or finish.
  • Then TEST your procedure on the inside of a door first, letting the paint cure for 14 days. Then test the finish by duplicating normal wear and tear: washing, scrubbing, scratching, etc to see if the finish bonds to the surface.
  • The cabinets may need to be de-glossed with a de-glosser solvent available at any paint store.

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*My Painted Kitchen Cabinets are Cracking in the Corners After I Turned Up the Heat - What Happened and How Can I Fix It?

This issue is caused by a change in humidity in the house when the winter heating season starts. This is a very typical problem when painting over existing finishes. The cracking is a result of expansion and contraction. When you apply numerous heavy layers of primers, paints, and topcoats, they can crack at the joints or angles when the humidity changes. The cracking occurs when the door panel shrinks and breaks the heavy paint layer.

There are two options when it comes to fixing this problem: 

  • Fill the cracks with painters caulk and reapply the paint and clear coat. 
  • Leave it alone and wait until spring when the cracks will close back up. 

Putting a humidifier in the room may also help close the gaps.

Painting cabinets in the winter is the best way to avoid this problem because there is no humidity. That way when the wood swells up in the hotter months and then shrinks back again in the cooler months, there is minimum cracking or damage. 

 

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*Is General Finishes Milk Paint Different From Their Professional Paint Line?

Both products are exactly the same - the only difference is size. Professional paints are sold in gallons for use in spray applications, whereas Retail Milk Paints are sold in pints and quarts.

General Finishes are particularly durable because they were originally created for commercial use.

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*Will Milk Paint Adhere Over a Paper Veneer Finish?

We cannot guarantee that our paints will adhere well to a paper veneer - we have no idea what the actual material is or what adhesives were used to apply the veneer to the surface. The resins and additives in our paints may break down the adhesives used for the veneer.

General Finishes Milk Paints have an excellent adhesion factor and might well be successful.  If you can abrade the surface with sandpaper, you will increase your chance of success. 

For best possible results, follow these steps:

PREPARATION:

VIDEO: How to Prep Sand Raw Wood
VIDEO: How to Prep Clean an Existing Finish
VIDEO: How to Power Prep Existing High Use Finishes

TEST:

Test your procedure on a hidden area first and let cure for 7-10 days. Then further test the finish by duplicating normal and tear such as washing, scrubbing, scratching, etc to see if the finish has bonded to the surface.  

PRIMER:

If your finish adheres well, you should be ok to continue.  If the finish comes off easily, we recommend trying a sealing binder primer before you apply the paint, such as XIM 400 White Primer Sealer Bonder or whatever is recommended for paper veneer at your local hardware or paint store.  Again, TEST!

APPLY PRODUCT:

Apply product directly over the primer and seal with 2-3 coats of GF Top Coat. We recommend using General Finishes High Performance Topcoat over Milk Paint because it's water-based and dries clear.

 

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Can I use General Finishes Milk Paint over an existing finish?

Yes. Be sure to prep clean and sand, and test a small area for adhesion.

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Why does bright paint take so many coats to achieve coverage?

The opacity of a paint is the ability to "hide" the surface underneath.

Paints that have more hiding capacity are made with a "white" base which contains a larger combination of calcium carbonate and titanium dioxide. The calcium carbonate acts as a spacer to spread out the titanium dioxide, the most common ingredient used in paints to increase "hiding" properties.

Extra deep and extra bright colors have lower opacity because they start out in a "clear" base which contains only calcium carbonate. Very little titanium dioxide is added to a bright paint formula to help keep these colors vibrant. Additionally, bright pigments have smaller particles which also affects opacity.

Neutral paint colors (light grays, browns, dark blues, dark greens, dark reds, etc.) contain a primary color(s) and a good amount of titanium dioxide, which provides excellent hide and requires fewer coats.

For example, if one coat of gray paint is put over a white surface, the outcome looks fairly gray. However, one coat of bright red paint over a white surface will leave a fair amount of white on the surface.

The opacity of a paint (the ability to hide the surface underneath) has nothing to do with the viscosity (thickness of the paint).

The key is to learn the colors that are the most extreme among your favorite manufacturers and use them accordingly. This will help you plan time allotments for your project and your pricing.

Tip to improve coverage to reduce the number of coats using GF paints:

  1. Lay down a primer coat of a similar, high opacity paint first, such as Seagull Gray under Snow White, Buttermilk Yellow under Sunglow, Brick Red under Holiday Red, or Coastal Blue under Royal Purple.
  2. Use a primer with light colors, especially over existing finishes.

This list ranks the opacity of General Finishes Milk Paint colors from highest to lowest. This contrast ratio testing was done on a sealed substrate with an 8 mil draw.

  • Coastal Blue:            100
  • Linen:                       100
  • Millstone:                  100
  • Seagull Gray:           100
  • Persian Blue:             99.97
  • Driftwood:                  99.75
  • Patina Green:            99.72
  • Buttermilk Yellow:      99.5
  • Halcyon Blue:            99.43
  • Klein Blue:                 99.39
  • Dark Chocolate:        99.38
  • Basil:                         99.37
  • Queenstown Gray:    99.26
  • Somerset Gold:         98.51
  • Brick Red:                 98.27
  • Emerald:                   98.1
  • Lamp Black:              98.1
  • Lime Green:              97.6
  • Tuscan Red:             97.3
  • Royal Purple:            97.2
  • Coral Crush:             96.17
  • Snow White:             96
  • Persimmon:              94.51
  • Sunglow:                  88.74
  • Holiday Red:             86.5

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Does GF Milk Paint require primer?

GF Milk Paints are self-sealing so it is not necessary to use primer. You may use a white pigmented stain-blocking primer if you need to seal knots, cover grain, paint light or white color on dark wood, or if you're painting a wood that is known to bleed, such as pine or mahogany. We recommend using General Finishes Stain Blocker, Kilz or Zinsser white pigmented shellac based primers.

Warning: sometimes it is impossible to block bleed through. Always test. Not all projects with existing finishes are candidates for light paint colors. If this happens, start turning your thoughts to Lamp Black Milk Paint - that will cover a lot of problems.

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How do I repair chipping paint applied over an existing cabinet finish?

There is no easy solution to this problem. GF Milk Paint has strong adhesion properties but there are several reasons this finish could fail:
  1. The cabinets were not prep cleaned and sanded properly. Sanding and cleaning are an essential part of any refinishing process. Sanding lightly with the correct sandpaper grit will help clean and smooth the surface, but it will also abrade the previous finish which gives the new paint something to grip onto. Product may not adhere properly to a surface that is un-sanded or that is over-sanded (making the surface too smooth). In most cases you can use a 220 sanding pad to scuff the surface and clean with a 50|50 mix of water and denatured alcohol.
  2. The surface was contaminated with a dusting spray that contained silicone. Silicone is usually impossible to remove. You can try scrubbing the surface with a strong detergent such as Spic and Span and warm water combination using a gray Scotchbrite pad. After that clean with denatured alchohol full strength. In most cases you need to strip and sand, but there is no guarantee of success. Test a small area first.
  3. The surface was contaminated with a previous wax finish. Wax is also difficult or impossible to remove. Nothing adheres well to wax, and once you use it the wood grain can become contaminated. The wax can penetrate the wood, making future paint or stain finishes or touch ups difficult or impossible. Even though there is internet chatter about removing wax with 3rd party products or mineral spirits, the risk of a failure in re-coating over a wax finish is very high. The surface was contaminated with an oil based soap.
  4. A lack of compatibility with the deglosser.
  5. A lack of compatibility with another manufacturer's top coat.
 
The most likely suspect is contamination. If any wax or silicone-based product has been used on the original surface, adhesion problems such as bubbling and chipping can be expected. 
You could try spot sanding then repainting the chipped areas but that rarely is a good solution - we think the problem will continue to occur. We recommend getting the cabinets into paintable condition by sanding back all the new paint and cleaning with a high strength detergent such as Spic and Span mixed with warm water. Rinse thoroughly and let dry. 
 
Then prep sand with a 220 sanding PAD - do not use a finer grit or the new paint won't hold. 
 
Finally,  scrub with a scotch brite pad and a 50\50 mix of denatured alcohol and water. When preparing any surface we highly recommend using a a 50/50 mix of denatured alcohol and water instead of commercial cleaning solutions. The mix is more effective because it has a higher alcohol content, you can get denatured alcohol locally, and it is cheaper. Many commercial cleaning solutions have extremely high VOCs while denatured alcohol is much lower. Furthermore, the 50/50 mix does not have salt in it. The salt in commercial cleaning solutions could linger in the substrate and cause salt contamination when clear coating at the end of your project, which could create a white haze.
 
Then test one door, letting the surface cure for 7 days to see if the problem duplicates itself. If this is silicone contamination, it may be impossible to remove the silicone completely. If your test does not work, stripping is the only answer. We know this is not what you want to hear, but we hope that this insight will help you to achieve your desired end result. 
 
Future forward, when working with a pre-existing finish with no knowledge of previous wood care, alway test a hidden area before proceeding with the entire project.Here are General Finishes general recommendations for preparing a previously finished surface, including the recommended sanding grits: http://bit.ly/1FJNSXG

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Can Milk Paint be applied to raw MDF or masonite?

Yes.

MDF

Apply Kilz or Bin 123 Primer first. MDF is not as absorbent as natural wood, so wait 2 days in between coats and before applying top coat. MDF also tends to cast a brown color. If you are using a white paint, apply a coat of SeaGull Grey first to counter the brown, and then apply a couple of coats of white over it, allowing all coats to dry 2 days.

Masonite

Masonite is harder than MDF. It will also need to primed with a bonding primer like XIM. XIM is known for its high quality primers that bond to "Tough-To-Paint" surfaces like porcelain, tile, glass, plastics, and more.

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*How Can I Improve Coverage When Using White Paint on Furniture?*

A primer is your best defense under light-colored paint.

Another technique to avoid the slight color change that sometimes occurs when applying topcoat is to add 10-15% of the paint you are using to your topcoat. This technique layers additional coats of color over your piece as well as providing the protection of a topcoat. If you don't like measuring, just add enough paint until you can see a bit of the hue in the topcoat. This method works with a brush or a spray gun.

To maintain the full-strength protection of the topcoat, DO NOT TINT YOUR FINAL COAT of topcoat.

Remember, NEVER EVER paint an existing piece of furniture with a light paint without proper preparation AND a stain blocking primer. Topcoats can activate tannins in the wood, or dyes in the previous finish, causing yellow or pink bleed-through. We recommend General Finishes Stain Blocker, which has been developed specifically for upcycling furniture and has proven to be 100% effective when two coats are applied, or Zinsser BIN.

Here is a sample finishing schedule:

  1. Prep clean and sand
  2. Three coats of paint (or four if needed)
  3. Two coats of topcoat mixed with 10-15% paint
  4. One coat of topcoat

VIDEO: How to update or refinish cabinets and woodwork light paint color using a sprayer.

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*What is the Best Applicator to use for Milk Paint and Water Based Topcoat?

Either bristle or foam brushes will work well with Milk Paint and Top Coat. The folks at GF might use several types of brushes for a project.

For example:

  • We like to use a bristle brush (which loads up more paint) to get Milk Paint on the surface, and then use a water or Extender dampened foam brush to smooth out the finish.​
  • ​​​​​​Bristle brushes are particularly helpful on vertical and detailed surfaces but they can produce subtle texture.
  • Foam brushes tend to produce a smoother finish which can be particularly helpful on flat horizontal surfaces.
  • Pad Applicators or paint rollers are also helpful on larger horizontal surfaces such as a table top.

For folks who don't want to invest in several brushes, the foam brush is our recommendation.

The very best application method is spraying.

 

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*How Do I Prevent Water Based Topcoat or Light Colored Paint from Yellowing?

All bright white paint will yellow slightly with time, with or without topcoat. Water-based topcoats are reactive and more likely to draw out substances in the wood such as tannins or unknown substances in existing finishes causing the topcoat to yellow. This is an industry-wide issue and we have added warning labels regarding the yellowing of topcoats to our bright white paints, Snow White Milk Paint and Chalk White Chalk Style Paint.

General Finishes background was originally on the professional side, and the incidences of yellowing topcoat over white paint were almost nil, and when our sprayable professional finish, Enduro White Poly, is used, there have been no incidences. But as the use of our paints has increased in the up-cycling and furniture refresh markets, we have heard more reports of our topcoat yellowing. Our original response was to teach about prepping, testing your finish schedule and finally creating Stain Blocker, our stain and tannin blocking primer, but this is not enough. Just as we advocate prepping all finishes, we are now advocating NOT using a clear water base topcoat over BRIGHT WHITE paint.

We are listening and General Finishes is in the process of developing a brushable version of our professional Enduro White Poly (available only in gallons), but that will take some time and rigorous testing before we can release the product. Here is what you should know to protect yourself and also some immediate suggestions to decrease chances of yellowing.

There is no way to reliably predict yellowing ahead of time. Sometimes yellowing occurs, sometimes it does not. Every existing finish is different and we rarely know the finishing provenance on an existing piece. Every tree is different and every piece of wood is unique. Wood can bleed tannins immediately after the topcoat dries or months later with a change in temperature that comes with a change in seasons. Oak, pine, mahogany, and Douglass Fur are particularly prone to bleed-through.

As is true of most "water-white" topcoats, our High Performance Water-Based topcoat is a clear drying finish over a non-reactive substrate such as plastic. When white paint sealed with a water-white topcoat is applied to something as unpredictable as wood, all bets are off and the reason is often unknown. Yellowing can be caused by the top coat activating the tannins in raw wood or aniline dyes, stains or contaminants in a pre-existing finish. This is most evident when using BRIGHT WHITE paint and most prevalent in the sculpted details of furniture, where the topcoat can collect, intensifying the color change to an unacceptable level.

To add to this issue, all bright white paint will yellow slightly with time, with or without topcoat. You have probably tried to touch up white woodwork in your home after several years and noticed that the new paint is brighter.

SUMMARY

  • Whites have a lower “hide” quality and are more transparent than most other colors. Most bright whites require additional coats to achieve the desired color and minimize color variation. This can increase the cost of paint finishing. Always include a clause in your contracts addressing the need for additional coats to achieve coverage.
  • Bright white paints can yellow over time with or without topcoat.
  • The underlying finish or wood species can affect the final color of light paint.
  • Details and inside corners are difficult to cover with any paint color, but this property tends to be more noticeable with whites. This is a naturally occurring phenomenon in paint application and does not necessarily constitute a defect in the paint finish or your technique.
  • The more porous the paint (chalk paint vs an acrylic paint), the more likely that yellowing will occur. The topcoat is actually seeping through the spaces caused by the larger particles of filler that give chalk style paints their texture.

DO NOT CARRY THE COST OF WHITE PAINT YOURSELF – pass the cost on to the consumer who wants it with a fair upcharge. White paints, even if they did not yellow, require more coats to achieve coverage.

TIPS FOR PROTECTING YOURSELF AND PREVENTING YELLOWING

  1. Use a disclaimer in your contracts or recommend a softer white such as Antique White or Linen. Upcharge for the extra coats needed and never guarantee a white finish over a piece that you cannot trace the provenance on. Here is a suggestion for your contracts: Terms of Agreement and Warranties: ________ (Initials) I have been informed that more coats are required when painting with bright whites, reds, greens or yellow. I understand that white paint can yellow over time and water-based topcoats can occasionally react with the substrate or existing finish under white paints causing yellowing, even is a stain blocking primer is used.
  2. If it is a low use project, use a premium white paint that is self-sealing and does not require a topcoat. A clear top coat is not required on our Milk Paint for increased durability, as it is a self-sealing, exterior rated coating with very high durability and performance properties. However, top coats provide a smoother surface that is easier to clean and boost durability for high use projects such as table tops and kitchen cabinets.
  3. Get a spray gun and use a professional "white coat" such as our Enduro White Poly. It is a white paint with "increased topcoat properties", is a stand-alone finish when 3 coats are applied and does not require sealing with a topcoat.
  4. If you are still brushing, try a couple of our customer's techniques. 1) Add 10-15% of the paint you are using to the first application of topcoat. The last two layers of topcoat should NOT have paint in it, to maintain durability. This technique can be used with any color, not just white, and really boosts bright colors. 2) Use a coat of light gray over a lacquer based primer before applying white paint. We have good reports of these 2 techniques from customers BUT HAVE NOT TESTED IN OUR LAB. (Alternatively, GF prefers the use of Stain blocker without grey paint.)
  5. Always test your project's ENTIRE finishing schedule (from cleaning to topcoat) on an inside door or a more hidden area of the piece. This does not help if the yellowing occurs later but you will at least know if there is an immediate problem.
  6. Always apply a stain-blocking primer under white or light-colored paint such as GF Stain Blocker or a shellac based primer. Always let any primer dry overnight. Some of the primers we have seen suggest a 3-hour dry time and that is not enough.
  7. If you are working on period pieces such as a 1940's serpentine mahogany desk which were often finished in stain containing aniline dyes that cast a pinkish bleed through under light paint, stay away from light colors. Not every piece of furniture is suitable for up-cycling with a light paint color. Pine, Mahogany, and furniture of the 1940's and 50's are a red flag.
  8. Last, not all manufacturer's topcoats are compatible with other finishes and may react with a color change. Always follow best practices by not rushing, and testing to your satisfaction first.

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Oil Based Liquid Stains

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Can Gel Satin Topcoat be tinted with GF's liquid oil based stains?

Yes, you could mix up to 20% General Finishes liquid oil stains with General Finishes Gel Satin Topcoat.

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*Can I Use Interior Wood Stains Outdoors If I Coat With an Exterior Topcoat?

Interior wood stains are formulated for interior use and do not contain UV absorbers, mold retardants or HALS (Hindered amine light stabilizers used to protect the polymers from the effects of photo-oxidation.) Waterbased interior stains are much more likely to fail.

You could try this look on an exterior door that will not receive a lot of sun, but be prepared for more maintenance than usual. It is not recommended.

Everyone should note that all exterior finishes need to be maintained at some point - MOTHER NATURE wins the longevity war

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Pre-Stain Conditioner Water Based

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Why can't I get a dark stain color on Maple wood using water based wood stain over pre-stain conditioner?

Maple is one of the most difficult woods to achieve a dark, uniform stain color on because it is a dense, closed grain wood and often absorbs stain very unevenly. General Finishes Gel Stains or Water Based Stains usually will perform very well because they are more topical than traditional liquid oil stains, and contain more colorants. 

We do not recommend pre-sealing Maple with a conditioner because it closes up the grain of the wood even more, further preventing color adherence. In the future, just use our water-based stains or gel stains on their own. Do not use liquid oil-based stains on Maple because they will blotch.

Also, prep sand Maple with 120 grit, followed by 150 grit or 220 grit. 

 

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Pro Floor Finishes

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Is it necessary to use Pro Sealer every time I finish a wood floor?

General Finishes Pro Image Topcoat or Pro Shield Topcoat can be applied directly to the stain without a sealer. In cases of species like White Oak top coats can pull tannin from the wood leaving an undesirable color affect. Many closed grain woods such as maple, walnut, and cherry may only require one seal coat and two finish coats. Most open grain woods such as the oaks and ash will need two seal coats to increase the build of the finish and improve the final result. If in doubt, put down a coat of sealer.

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*How is a Flooring Topcoat Different than a Furniture or Cabinet Finish?

Three features differentiate flooring topcoats:

  1. General Finishes flooring topcoats, such as Pro Image and Pro Shield, are fortified with significantly more urethane to increase durability.
  2. The slip rate of flooring topcoats is higher to improve floor safety and reduce the likelihood of slipping; approximately a 5.7 rating. For example, someone in socks is less likely to slip on a flooring finish, or a basketball player is less likely to slip on a good professional floor finish. Cabinet finishes have a much lower (negative) slip rate because folks want a silky, smooth finish on a cabinet or furniture; approximately a -.4 rating.
  3. A floor finish has more elongation - the finish stretches to provide flexibility over expanding and contracting woods.

 

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Will a steam mop damage Pro Image or Pro Shield finish?

A steam mop won't damage the finish film but it will force moisture into the wood between the boards or into any open scratched areas on the surface of the board. This could cause a delamination of the finish from the wood or damage to the wood itself. We recommend a commerical floor cleaner such as Bona floor cleaning system.

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Salad Bowl Finish

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Why isn't the Salad Bowl Oil I applied to walnut serving boards drying after two coats?

Some pieces of wood contain a lot of oil and walnut can be finicky. The oil in the walnut wood may be causing the problem you've described - a longer dry time might have been needed over an oily wood. If the wood does not dry over the next few days then it may be necessary to sand down and start over. Unfortunately, if the first coat does not dry, the second will never dry.

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Sanding Sealer

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What are the benefits of using sanding sealer before applying topcoat?

You can substitute your first coat or two of topcoat with a sanding sealer. This saves time (faster sanding, faster drying) and money (it costs less than topcoat). It is a softer finish, making the first coat easier to sand.

  • Sanding sealer can be used over raw wood or a stained surface. It makes a strong barrier coat when working with existing finishes. 
  • The resin particle is also larger so the finish "builds faster" (how thick it looks).
  • It has strong adhesion properties. It does not stop tannin or dye bleed through, but it definitely improves adhesion.    
  • We recommend no more than 1-3 coats, then finish with 1-2 coats of topcoat.
  • Sanding sealer dries tack free in 10-20 minutes. Drying Time: 1-2 hours under normal conditions. (70F -70% humidity)  
  • Sanding sealer can be used with all of our water based and oil based finishes except Endur-o-var.

HERE IS AN EXAMPLE OF HOW TO USE:
1. Stain or paint
2. Apply one coat of sanding sealer, finish sand before applying topcoat.
3. Apply two coats of topcoat, finish sanding in between coats.

Here is a video on finish sanding: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8lrOfipJZVk

 

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*How to Spray Water Based Finishes

General Finishes water-based products can be sprayed through compressed air, HVLP, airless or C.A.S. units.

SURFACE PREPARATION:

All surfaces should be clean and free from dirt and oil and sanded.

Indicated below are instructional videos we have for preparing a surface for a new coat of paint or finish:

SPRAY APPLICATION OF GENERAL FINISHES WATER BASED FINISHES:

All General Finishes water based topcoats and wood stains are ready to spray from the container without additives with the exception of Conversion Varnish. Always strain material through a medium to fine mesh filter before spraying. If necessary, in hot or dry climates, reduce 10 to 15% with General Finishes Extender to extend the open time.

PRE SEALING:

Softwoods such as Pine absorb stain at an uneven rate and may respond better to staining if the wood is pre-sealed. General Finishes Pre-Stain Conditioner Natural can be applied to raw wood to condition the surface for uniform penetration of the stain. Pre-sealing will cause the final stain to be lighter so you may need to use a darker color. Always test your color on a hidden part of the furniture. Allow the Pre-Stain Conditioner to dry 30 minutes before applying your final stain color.

If you are using a sprayer that has been used for oil based or lacquers, clean the unit thoroughly with acetone followed with hot water to purge the fluid passage. Apply a thin coat first that will dry and harden faster. Sand this first coat down to a smooth base on which to build your finish coats with a 220-320 grade foam sanding pad or #400-grit sandpaper. It is better to spray 2 thin coats rather than 1 heavy coat.

Contact your supplier to verify proper tip sizes for your specific equipment. GF's general recommended fluid tips for Wood Stains and Top Coats are Compressed air - .040 and Airless - .009. 

RECOMMENDED TIPS FOR GENERAL FINISHES PRODUCTS USING HVLP:

  • Milk Paint: 1.8mm-2.0mm
  • Chalk Paint: 1.8mm-2.0mm
  • Stain Blocker: 1.8mm-2.0mm
  • Pearl Effects: 1.8mm-2.0mm
  • Glaze Effects: 1.8mm-2.0mm
  • High Performance Topcoat: 1.1mm-1.3mm
  • Flat Out Flat Top Coat: 1.1mm-1.3mm
  • Enduro-Var  1.1mm-1.3mm
  • Water Based Wood Stain: 1.1mm-1.3mm
  • Water Based Dye Stain: 1.1mm-1.3mm
  • Exterior 450 Topcoat:1.1mm-1.3mm
  • Exterior 450 Stain: 1.1mm-1.3mm
  • Enduro Sanding Sealer: 1.3-1.4mm
  • Enduro White Poly: 1.3mm-1.5mm
  • Enduro Black Poly: 1.3mm-1.5mm
  • Enduro White Under Coat 1.5mm-1.8mm
  • Enduro Clear Poly: 1.1mm-1.3mm
  • Enduro Pre Cat Lacquer: 1.1mm-1.3mm
  • Enduro Conversion Varnish: 1.1mm-1.3mm

Air caps should be medium size. Contact your supplier to verify proper tip sizes for your specific equipment.

Break your work into sections such as dresser top or drawer fronts. Spraying too large of an area can result in a textured grainy surface. A correctly sprayed finish should appear even and glossy. It is important to spray enough material to allow proper flow and leveling of the finish.

Spray medium wet films at 3-5 wet ml thickness. Practice makes perfect. If you have never sprayed finishes before, take a large piece of cardboard and practice your technique first. Spray water on the cardboard to learn how the gun works. Check your fluid settings and adjust the controls to get comfortable with the spray angles and to develop your technique.

SPRAYING TOPCOATS:

Keep your gun at a 90* angle, 6-8" from the surface. On large flat areas, use wet, even patterns 6 to 8 wide. For narrow surfaces, reduce the fan pattern to 2-3" to reduce overspray. For topcoats, overlap each pass 25% to conceal lines.

Watch our video how to spray water based topcoats here.

SPRAYING WATER BASED WOOD STAINS:

Keep your gun at a 90* angle, 6-8" from the surface. On large flat areas, use wet, even patterns 6 to 8 wide. For narrow surfaces, reduce the fan pattern to 2-3" to reduce overspray. Overlap each pass of stain 50% for even coverage and wipe back the excess with an absorbent cloth. For narrow surfaces, reduce the fan pattern to 2-3" to reduce overspray. 

SPRAYING WATER BASED DYE STAINS:

Keep your gun at a 90* angle, 6-8" from the surface. On large flat areas, use wet, even patterns 6 to 8 wide. For narrow surfaces, reduce the fan pattern to 2-3" to reduce overspray. Overlap each pass of stain 50% for even coverage. If coverage is even, there is no need to wipe. If you have issues with uneven coverage, wipe back the excess with an absorbent cloth. For narrow surfaces, reduce the fan pattern to 2-3" to reduce overspray. 

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Stain Blocker

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*How Can I Improve Coverage When Using White Paint on Furniture?*

A primer is your best defense under light-colored paint.

Another technique to avoid the slight color change that sometimes occurs when applying topcoat is to add 10-15% of the paint you are using to your topcoat. This technique layers additional coats of color over your piece as well as providing the protection of a topcoat. If you don't like measuring, just add enough paint until you can see a bit of the hue in the topcoat. This method works with a brush or a spray gun.

To maintain the full-strength protection of the topcoat, DO NOT TINT YOUR FINAL COAT of topcoat.

Remember, NEVER EVER paint an existing piece of furniture with a light paint without proper preparation AND a stain blocking primer. Topcoats can activate tannins in the wood, or dyes in the previous finish, causing yellow or pink bleed-through. We recommend General Finishes Stain Blocker, which has been developed specifically for upcycling furniture and has proven to be 100% effective when two coats are applied, or Zinsser BIN.

Here is a sample finishing schedule:

  1. Prep clean and sand
  2. Three coats of paint (or four if needed)
  3. Two coats of topcoat mixed with 10-15% paint
  4. One coat of topcoat

VIDEO: How to update or refinish cabinets and woodwork light paint color using a sprayer.

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How can I prevent bleed through on mahogany furniture from the 1920-1930’s?

Never guarantee a finish on this era of furniture. Inform your customers of this issue and steer customers away from using light colors. Never guarantee a finish on this era of furniture. Inform your customers of this issue and steer customers away from using light colors. Many mahogany pieces from the late 1920's to early 1930's have an aniline dye lacquer finish which can bleed through no matter how many times you paint or prime over it. Although ideal coverage over an aniline dye lacquer can never be guaranteed, the following two products have been known to minimize bleed through:

  1. A  stain blocking primer such as General Finishes Stain Blocker or Zinsser B-I-N 
  2. shellac seal coat will usually stop most of the bleeding

 
Note: If you are trying to cover red mahogany with a white you may never be able to stop the bleed through. Stain Blocker is most likely to stop the bleed-through of all options listed above because it was specifically engineered to block the most persistent bleed-through.

 

Tips from GF:

  1. Never guarantee a finish on this era of furniture. Inform your customers of this issue and steer customers away from using light colors.
  2. Clean the project and apply 2 coats of General Finishes Stain Blocker with a brush, roller or by spraying. The first coat will absorb contaminants in the wood, causing a color change during the first application, and the second will seal the contaminants. More information regarding Stain Blocker here.
  3. Another primer alternative is Zinsser B-I-N.
  4. Use a dark paint color - there are some pieces that will never work with al light paint.
  5. If none of this works, we recommend that you strip and refinish with a penetrating oil stain followed by a clear coat. 

Stripping Recommendations:
 

  1. Use a good quality citrus stripper or a soy gel stripper as they are more gentle than traditional chemical strippers.
  2. Remove any remaining finish with 150 grit sandpaper. 
  3. Once you have removed the old finish, wash the piece down with a 50/50 blend of denatured alcohol and water to remove any residual oils and waxes. 
  4. Once these stages have been completed, it is safe to use any type of wood stain to restore the original look of the piece.  

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UV Cure Urethane

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Can I apply Glaze Effects under UV Cure Urethane Topcoat?

Yes, General Finishes Glaze Effects can be applied under the UV Cure Urethane topcoat. We recommend applying a coat of General Finishes Enduro Clear Poly before applying glaze for more control of the color.

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Water Based Topcoats

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*How to Spray Water Based Finishes

General Finishes water-based products can be sprayed through compressed air, HVLP, airless or C.A.S. units.

SURFACE PREPARATION:

All surfaces should be clean and free from dirt and oil and sanded.

Indicated below are instructional videos we have for preparing a surface for a new coat of paint or finish:

SPRAY APPLICATION OF GENERAL FINISHES WATER BASED FINISHES:

All General Finishes water based topcoats and wood stains are ready to spray from the container without additives with the exception of Conversion Varnish. Always strain material through a medium to fine mesh filter before spraying. If necessary, in hot or dry climates, reduce 10 to 15% with General Finishes Extender to extend the open time.

PRE SEALING:

Softwoods such as Pine absorb stain at an uneven rate and may respond better to staining if the wood is pre-sealed. General Finishes Pre-Stain Conditioner Natural can be applied to raw wood to condition the surface for uniform penetration of the stain. Pre-sealing will cause the final stain to be lighter so you may need to use a darker color. Always test your color on a hidden part of the furniture. Allow the Pre-Stain Conditioner to dry 30 minutes before applying your final stain color.

If you are using a sprayer that has been used for oil based or lacquers, clean the unit thoroughly with acetone followed with hot water to purge the fluid passage. Apply a thin coat first that will dry and harden faster. Sand this first coat down to a smooth base on which to build your finish coats with a 220-320 grade foam sanding pad or #400-grit sandpaper. It is better to spray 2 thin coats rather than 1 heavy coat.

Contact your supplier to verify proper tip sizes for your specific equipment. GF's general recommended fluid tips for Wood Stains and Top Coats are Compressed air - .040 and Airless - .009. 

RECOMMENDED TIPS FOR GENERAL FINISHES PRODUCTS USING HVLP:

  • Milk Paint: 1.8mm-2.0mm
  • Chalk Paint: 1.8mm-2.0mm
  • Stain Blocker: 1.8mm-2.0mm
  • Pearl Effects: 1.8mm-2.0mm
  • Glaze Effects: 1.8mm-2.0mm
  • High Performance Topcoat: 1.1mm-1.3mm
  • Flat Out Flat Top Coat: 1.1mm-1.3mm
  • Enduro-Var  1.1mm-1.3mm
  • Water Based Wood Stain: 1.1mm-1.3mm
  • Water Based Dye Stain: 1.1mm-1.3mm
  • Exterior 450 Topcoat:1.1mm-1.3mm
  • Exterior 450 Stain: 1.1mm-1.3mm
  • Enduro Sanding Sealer: 1.3-1.4mm
  • Enduro White Poly: 1.3mm-1.5mm
  • Enduro Black Poly: 1.3mm-1.5mm
  • Enduro White Under Coat 1.5mm-1.8mm
  • Enduro Clear Poly: 1.1mm-1.3mm
  • Enduro Pre Cat Lacquer: 1.1mm-1.3mm
  • Enduro Conversion Varnish: 1.1mm-1.3mm

Air caps should be medium size. Contact your supplier to verify proper tip sizes for your specific equipment.

Break your work into sections such as dresser top or drawer fronts. Spraying too large of an area can result in a textured grainy surface. A correctly sprayed finish should appear even and glossy. It is important to spray enough material to allow proper flow and leveling of the finish.

Spray medium wet films at 3-5 wet ml thickness. Practice makes perfect. If you have never sprayed finishes before, take a large piece of cardboard and practice your technique first. Spray water on the cardboard to learn how the gun works. Check your fluid settings and adjust the controls to get comfortable with the spray angles and to develop your technique.

SPRAYING TOPCOATS:

Keep your gun at a 90* angle, 6-8" from the surface. On large flat areas, use wet, even patterns 6 to 8 wide. For narrow surfaces, reduce the fan pattern to 2-3" to reduce overspray. For topcoats, overlap each pass 25% to conceal lines.

Watch our video how to spray water based topcoats here.

SPRAYING WATER BASED WOOD STAINS:

Keep your gun at a 90* angle, 6-8" from the surface. On large flat areas, use wet, even patterns 6 to 8 wide. For narrow surfaces, reduce the fan pattern to 2-3" to reduce overspray. Overlap each pass of stain 50% for even coverage and wipe back the excess with an absorbent cloth. For narrow surfaces, reduce the fan pattern to 2-3" to reduce overspray. 

SPRAYING WATER BASED DYE STAINS:

Keep your gun at a 90* angle, 6-8" from the surface. On large flat areas, use wet, even patterns 6 to 8 wide. For narrow surfaces, reduce the fan pattern to 2-3" to reduce overspray. Overlap each pass of stain 50% for even coverage. If coverage is even, there is no need to wipe. If you have issues with uneven coverage, wipe back the excess with an absorbent cloth. For narrow surfaces, reduce the fan pattern to 2-3" to reduce overspray. 

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How can I change the sheen of the top coat? The one I applied is too shiney.

If you want to change the sheen, you can re-coat with a different sheen over top. The second layer of top coat will replace the appearance of the first. Sand lightly with a used 220 sanding PAD to knock down the original finish before re-coating. It may take two or 3 coats to get complete coverage.

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*Is Topcoat Required Between Gel Stain and Water Based Glaze Effects?

Yes - this is not a good place to take shortcuts. GF Gel Stain gets its deep rich hue from a large number of colorants. Seal the stain with a topcoat before applying glaze to prevent "color pull."

The glaze will also glide more easily over the surface after topcoat is applied, allowing you greater control of how much color you want to use. Be sure to wait 72 hours when applying water-based finishes over oil-based finishes.

Here is a sample finish schedule:

  1. Prep sand and clean
  2. Apply stain
  3. Apply a layer of topcoat to prevent color bleed thru and make glazing easier
  4. Apply Glaze Effects
  5. Apply 2-3 coats of topcoat to protect the entire project

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*Can I Mix General Finishes Flat Out Flat and High Performance Topcoat?

No, you should not mix Flat Out Flat and High Performance topcoats. They are engineered with different resin systems.

You can mix High Performance topcoats to adjust sheen. For example, you can mix HP Flat and HP gloss to obtain a different sheen.

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What is the best way to store water-based finishes?

Life of Product
Water-based products do not last forever, even when unopened. General Finishes products are best used within 1 year of the manufacture date listed on the bottom of the can. The life of the product may be extended with proper care and storage.

Settling
Gravity can cause some solids to settle on the bottom of the can and slight separation on the top. This is normal. If working with older paint, use paint mixing attachment on a drill. If the solids dissolve and clumps smooth out after mixing from the bottom, the product is in good condition for use.

Storage Tips
See video tutorial: Tips on Storing Leftover Finishes
Water-based finishes crystalize and form a skin due to evaporation when the air-tight seal on a can is broken at first use. The following best practices will increase the life of your product:

  1. Pry open sealed lids with a paint can opener by hooking under the lid's rolled edge. The use of a screwdriver can disfigure the rim and lid, impairing a complete seal. 
  2. Keep lid closed while working. Pour what you will use into a bowl, paper cup, or plate, and close can lid as you work.
  3. Clean the chime of the can thoroughly with a paper towel before closing to create a complete seal. Paint in the chime can be minimized by using a pouring lid, such as Fitsall. Avoid wiping used brushes on the lid.
  4. Pound the lid in place using a rubber mallet to avoid distorting the chime or lid. Dents in the lid from direct contact with a hammer can impair a complete seal. Alternatively, place a flat piece of wood over can lid and firmly pound shut.
  5. Store in moderate temperatures. Avoid temperatures below 50*F/10*C or above 80*F/26*C. Frozen and heat-damaged product cannot be revitalized. Temperature-controlled spaces, such as a basement, are ideal for storage. Do not store product in an attic, garage, in direct sunlight, or next to something warm like a water heater or furnace.
  6. Store can upside down to create a liquid seal, minimize evaporation and reduce the chance of crystallization. Decant remaining product from the can before stirring. 
  7. Decant leftovers to a smaller container when the finish is almost used up. Alternative storage containers for water-based products are plastic FIFO bottles or glass bottles. Do not fill metal-lidded containers completely to prevent them from rusting.

The following water-based product mixtures can be stored:

  1. Product thinned with up to 15% General Finishes Extender or General Finishes Accelerator can be stored, with the exception of thinned General Finishes Water Based Wood Stain.
  2. Mixtures involving colors & sheens within the same product line, such as:
    • High Performance Satin + High Performance Gloss
    • Snow White Milk Paint + Coastal Blue Milk Paint
    • Amber Dye Stain + Merlot Dye Stain

The following product mixtures should NOT be stored:

  • Any water based product with thinned tap water; water often contains bacteria that will adversely affect stored paint.
  • Topcoat + Stain or Paint
  • Milk Paint + Chalk Style Paint
  • Water Based Wood Stain + Dye Stain

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How Do General Finishes Water Based Topcoats Differ?

Gf recommends using the least expensive product that will provide the needed performance characteristics. We offer a range of products designed for professional spray applications and brush-on finishes for consumer use.

PROFESSIONAL TOPCOATS

PRE CAT LACQUER (Spray only)

GF recommends our recently improved Pre Cat Lacquer for applications where there is little risk of chemical contamination issues from substances such ketchup, soap, chemical cleaners, or ammonia. This is the perfect spray finish for interior doors, casing, moldings, door jambs and furniture that receives light use. When you think about it, interior doors don't take a lot of wear. You might wipe them down or dust them once in a while but that is about it. PreCat Lacquer is a hard finish that provides excellent build and superior clarity at a phenomenal price point. If you are not finishing a surface such as a table top where you anticipate chemical contamination during use, why pay for a more expensive finish?

Dries clear.

CLEAR POLY (Spray only)

Poly is the go-to cabinet finish. It has all the durability you need at a lower price point than Conversion Varnish. It is similar to High Performance in test measurements for chemical, water and wear resistance, but HP can be brushed and Clear Poly can't - it is already thinned for spraying. Clear Poly has a bit of an edge over High Performance in overall chemical resistance, a 98 rating vs 92.

Dries clear.

CONVERSION VARNISH (Spray only)

This is our top of the line. Conversion Varnish is a post catalyzed high solids, two component urethane formulated for professionals who need the highest level of durability and chemical resistance. Varnish will cure the fastest. Requires NCO Catalyst. It is recommended for commercial applications or extremely high-wear surfaces such as countertops and bar tops

Dries clear.

RETAIL TOPCOATS

HIGH PERFORMANCE (Brush or Spray)

GF's best performing brush on finish with very similar performance testing as our Poly. (High Performance can be thinned for spraying).

Dries clear.

FLAT OUT FLAT (Brush or Spray)

Flat Out Flat is formulated with a self cross-linking acrylic, and is designed to mimic the look and feel of a wax finish. Because of the increased matting agents used to create the "Flat look", this finish will have less clarity.  Like wax, it dries softer to the touch than High Performance when completely cured, and will show more fingerprints. FOF finish will mark up more easily because of increased matting agents used to reduce the sheen, so it is not recommended for high-use tabletops.

Dries clear.

BOTH PROFESSIONAL AND RETAIL TOPCOATS

ENDURO-VAR (Spray or brush)

Enduro-Var is an oil modified water-based alternative for customers that want the warm look of an oil finish in a water based coating. It looks more like an oil finish than a water coating, and can be sprayed or brushed. Enduro-Var adheres well ONLY over WATER STAINS, DYE STAINS, and RAW WOOD. Use over other finishes at your own risk.

Dries Amber

EXTERIOR 45O TOPCOAT

Exterior 450 provides a clear drying tough, protective finish that will withstand the rigors of the sun, rain, and wind. It is suitable for vertical surfaces such as fences, patio furniture, garage doors, entrance doors, outdoor kitchens and interior windows. It is not recommended as a deck finish. Fortified with UV absorbers to stabilize the finish, Exterior 450's built-in mildewcide retards mold and mildew growth.

Dries Clear

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How important is the "hardness" of a wood finish?

The hardness properties of a wood finish are formulated around the objectives of use. A hard finish is desirable on projects that get heavy wear. The most common are kitchen cabinets and table tops. 

But in other situations, such as an outdoor topcoat, a desired property of the finish is elongation, which allows the topcoat to expand and contract through different extremes of temperature. 

Flooring finish is another example where hardness is not the major objective of formulation. Just like outdoor furniture, wood floors expand and contact through the seasons of the year, responding to heat, air conditioning and changes in humidity. The floor finish needs to elongate or flex as the wood moves. This can be problematic for floors which are often subject to heavy use, including dogs nails. Pet nails will not scratch a good floor finish all the way through the wood, but the nails will in dent or Imprint the surface of the floor. It is impossible to combine equal properties of flexibility and hardness in a floor finish, so you have to accept some limitations at the outset. You can improve the life of your wood floor finish by selecting a denser wood for your floors, hickory, maple or white oak instead of pine for instance. Or just live with the indentations. This is another instance where dogs rule.

Heavy sunlight will also affect harder finishes applied in sun saturated areas such as window sills, causing finishes to become brittle and crack.

You can keep costs down and have a better result if you match the properties of the finish to the needs of the project. One of General Finishes hardest water based topcoats is Conversion varnish, which requires a catalyst and is recommend for use by professionals. It cures in half the time of most topcoats, allowing the finisher to pack and ship sooner, but the price point would make it overkill for other uses. Other factoids:

  • Arm-R-Seal is GFs hardest oil finish, but it does not have elongation properties, so its great for tables but not as compatible for floors.
  • Although GFs Exterior 450 is formulated to be flexible and resist water, water based High Performance or oil based Arm-R-Seal would work very nicely for a bathroom cabinet.
  • Flat Out Flat is hard but the matting agents and additives that give FOF the look of wax impair chemical resistance  

It is impossible to combine equal properties of flexibility, hardness and chemical resistance in a finish, so be sure to select the correct product for your finishing project.

 

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What is the best way to obtain a more durable finish with a flat sheen?

The popular flat sheens are lovely but they have different attributes than glossy finishes. The flatting agents required to reduce sheen in flat or matte topcoats also slightly reduce clarity, water resistance, durability and resistance to chemicals such as ketchup, soap, chemical cleaners, or ammonia. This is not much of a concern in low use areas but is important for table tops or kitchen cabinets.

Here is a tip to improve the performance of your finish and still obtain a matte sheen: 
Use a semi-gloss sheen for the first two coats and a flat for the third for optimum performance. 
 
General Finishes is constantly seeking new resins and additives to improve the performance of our finishes.

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*How Can I Tell if a Water Based Topcoat is Dry?

If the finish feels cool to the touch, it's not ready. When you can sand it to a dry powder, it is ready for the next coat. Dry times will be longer if it is raining, cold, or humid. When in doubt, waiting longer is always better.

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Can I use steel wool with water based finishes?

No, because the particles can become embedded and rust. Some alternatives are Klingspor Synthetic Wool and Meka Mirlon 1500 synthetic wool.

Steel wool is still an acceptable option for oil based finishes. GF recommends using "oil-free" 0000 wool from Liberon because it doesn't shred as easy as hardware store brands.

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Which Topcoat Should I Choose?

General Finishes Water Based Topcoats:

  • High Performance
  • Flat Out Flat
  • Enduro-Var
  • Enduro Professional Topcoats (Enduro Clear Poly, Enduro Conversion Varnish, Enduro Water Based Laquer)

General Finishes Oil Based Topcoats

  • Arm-R-Seal Liquid Oil Based Topcoat
  • Gel Satin Topcoat

GENERAL PRACTICE:

  1. Oil based topcoats and Enduro-Var will amber over time.
  2. Water based Flat Out Flat and High Performance top coats dry clear.
  3. Never use any water based topcoat with long oils such as Danish, Tung or Linseed.
  4. Water based top coats clean up with water. OIl based topcoats require mineral spirits for clean up.
  5. Enduro-Var ADHERES WELL only over WATER STAINS, DYE STAINS, and RAW WOOD.
  6. If you use water based topcoats over oil based finishes, make sure that you wait 72 hours between the two products. It is essential to let the oil finish dry longer.
  7. Large/Detailed Surfaces - For more complex projects that have a lot of nooks and crannies or projects with large surface areas such as cabinets, we recommend either ARM-R-SEAL liquid oil based topcoat or any of our water based topcoats.
  8. Enduro Professional Top Coats are thinner and intended to be sprayed
  9. High Performance and Flat Out Flat can also be sprayed. If needed, it can be thinned by adding 10% water or Extender. Large surfaces such as cabinets or tables and complex projects with lots of detail are easier to cover with liquid top coat rather than a Gel top coat.

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Wood Stains (Water Based)

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Can I apply General Finishes Water Based stain on green white oak timbers?

No, you cannot. The stain  will not absorb due to the high moisture content of green wood and not accept the stain. 

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*How to Spray Water Based Finishes

General Finishes water-based products can be sprayed through compressed air, HVLP, airless or C.A.S. units.

SURFACE PREPARATION:

All surfaces should be clean and free from dirt and oil and sanded.

Indicated below are instructional videos we have for preparing a surface for a new coat of paint or finish:

SPRAY APPLICATION OF GENERAL FINISHES WATER BASED FINISHES:

All General Finishes water based topcoats and wood stains are ready to spray from the container without additives with the exception of Conversion Varnish. Always strain material through a medium to fine mesh filter before spraying. If necessary, in hot or dry climates, reduce 10 to 15% with General Finishes Extender to extend the open time.

PRE SEALING:

Softwoods such as Pine absorb stain at an uneven rate and may respond better to staining if the wood is pre-sealed. General Finishes Pre-Stain Conditioner Natural can be applied to raw wood to condition the surface for uniform penetration of the stain. Pre-sealing will cause the final stain to be lighter so you may need to use a darker color. Always test your color on a hidden part of the furniture. Allow the Pre-Stain Conditioner to dry 30 minutes before applying your final stain color.

If you are using a sprayer that has been used for oil based or lacquers, clean the unit thoroughly with acetone followed with hot water to purge the fluid passage. Apply a thin coat first that will dry and harden faster. Sand this first coat down to a smooth base on which to build your finish coats with a 220-320 grade foam sanding pad or #400-grit sandpaper. It is better to spray 2 thin coats rather than 1 heavy coat.

Contact your supplier to verify proper tip sizes for your specific equipment. GF's general recommended fluid tips for Wood Stains and Top Coats are Compressed air - .040 and Airless - .009. 

RECOMMENDED TIPS FOR GENERAL FINISHES PRODUCTS USING HVLP:

  • Milk Paint: 1.8mm-2.0mm
  • Chalk Paint: 1.8mm-2.0mm
  • Stain Blocker: 1.8mm-2.0mm
  • Pearl Effects: 1.8mm-2.0mm
  • Glaze Effects: 1.8mm-2.0mm
  • High Performance Topcoat: 1.1mm-1.3mm
  • Flat Out Flat Top Coat: 1.1mm-1.3mm
  • Enduro-Var  1.1mm-1.3mm
  • Water Based Wood Stain: 1.1mm-1.3mm
  • Water Based Dye Stain: 1.1mm-1.3mm
  • Exterior 450 Topcoat:1.1mm-1.3mm
  • Exterior 450 Stain: 1.1mm-1.3mm
  • Enduro Sanding Sealer: 1.3-1.4mm
  • Enduro White Poly: 1.3mm-1.5mm
  • Enduro Black Poly: 1.3mm-1.5mm
  • Enduro White Under Coat 1.5mm-1.8mm
  • Enduro Clear Poly: 1.1mm-1.3mm
  • Enduro Pre Cat Lacquer: 1.1mm-1.3mm
  • Enduro Conversion Varnish: 1.1mm-1.3mm

Air caps should be medium size. Contact your supplier to verify proper tip sizes for your specific equipment.

Break your work into sections such as dresser top or drawer fronts. Spraying too large of an area can result in a textured grainy surface. A correctly sprayed finish should appear even and glossy. It is important to spray enough material to allow proper flow and leveling of the finish.

Spray medium wet films at 3-5 wet ml thickness. Practice makes perfect. If you have never sprayed finishes before, take a large piece of cardboard and practice your technique first. Spray water on the cardboard to learn how the gun works. Check your fluid settings and adjust the controls to get comfortable with the spray angles and to develop your technique.

SPRAYING TOPCOATS:

Keep your gun at a 90* angle, 6-8" from the surface. On large flat areas, use wet, even patterns 6 to 8 wide. For narrow surfaces, reduce the fan pattern to 2-3" to reduce overspray. For topcoats, overlap each pass 25% to conceal lines.

Watch our video how to spray water based topcoats here.

SPRAYING WATER BASED WOOD STAINS:

Keep your gun at a 90* angle, 6-8" from the surface. On large flat areas, use wet, even patterns 6 to 8 wide. For narrow surfaces, reduce the fan pattern to 2-3" to reduce overspray. Overlap each pass of stain 50% for even coverage and wipe back the excess with an absorbent cloth. For narrow surfaces, reduce the fan pattern to 2-3" to reduce overspray. 

SPRAYING WATER BASED DYE STAINS:

Keep your gun at a 90* angle, 6-8" from the surface. On large flat areas, use wet, even patterns 6 to 8 wide. For narrow surfaces, reduce the fan pattern to 2-3" to reduce overspray. Overlap each pass of stain 50% for even coverage. If coverage is even, there is no need to wipe. If you have issues with uneven coverage, wipe back the excess with an absorbent cloth. For narrow surfaces, reduce the fan pattern to 2-3" to reduce overspray. 

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*Can I Use Interior Wood Stains Outdoors If I Coat With an Exterior Topcoat?

Interior wood stains are formulated for interior use and do not contain UV absorbers, mold retardants or HALS (Hindered amine light stabilizers used to protect the polymers from the effects of photo-oxidation.) Waterbased interior stains are much more likely to fail.

You could try this look on an exterior door that will not receive a lot of sun, but be prepared for more maintenance than usual. It is not recommended.

Everyone should note that all exterior finishes need to be maintained at some point - MOTHER NATURE wins the longevity war

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Can I create a glaze with General Finishes Water Based Stains?

General Finishes stains make beautiful glazes. Just add 10% High Performance Top Coat. 

 

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Can I thin General Finishes EF Water Based Stains?

Thin GF water based stains with 10-15% extender or water at point of use only. Decant what you need into a separate container and use immediately. If thinned water based stains are stored, they will separate and lose the semi-gel consistency.

GF Enduro RTM stains are a thinner formula designed for professional spray applications.

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How do I prevent bleed through when applying Whitewash over Espresso Water Based Stain?

Water Based Stains will always exhibit a bit of bleed through. When glazing with any color over water stains, we recommend some type of seal coat be applied first. Unfortunately, the two colors you have chosen do not work very well together. Expresso will always bleed if Whitewash is applied directly over top. In the future seal the Espresso stain with a coat Shellac,  and then High Performance, allowing both to dry,  before applying Whitewash as a glaze (1 part stain, 1 part top coat mix). 
 
We suggest two remedies:
1. Strip away finish and start over.
Stain with Espresso, top with Shellac, top that with 1-2 coats HP, top that with Whitewash as a glaze (Glaze = 1:1 EF stain : HP). Seal with High Performance.
2. Paint over the bleeding stain
Seal current finish with Shellac and then paint with Seagull Gray Milk Paint.
Any time you apply a light stain over a dark stain there is a possibility of bleed through. Therefore, it's important to seal off the base color first. If the look of the wood grain is not important, Dark Chocolate Milk Paint is an exact match to Java Gel Stain when painted, and it could be used as an alternative base color.

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Why can't I get a dark stain color on Maple wood using water based wood stain over pre-stain conditioner?

Maple is one of the most difficult woods to achieve a dark, uniform stain color on because it is a dense, closed grain wood and often absorbs stain very unevenly. General Finishes Gel Stains or Water Based Stains usually will perform very well because they are more topical than traditional liquid oil stains, and contain more colorants. 

We do not recommend pre-sealing Maple with a conditioner because it closes up the grain of the wood even more, further preventing color adherence. In the future, just use our water-based stains or gel stains on their own. Do not use liquid oil-based stains on Maple because they will blotch.

Also, prep sand Maple with 120 grit, followed by 150 grit or 220 grit. 

 

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Wood Turners Finish

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Do I need to wet sand Wood Turners Finish?

Wood Turner's Finish does not need wet sanding. If feel the need for more sheen, dry polish with Merka Abralon 1500-4000 grit or Micro Mesh 4000-8000.

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