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Adopting A Holistic Approach to Finishing - Step Number 1

18. September 2019 17:14

By Joe Baggett, Innovative Wood Process Solutions

Before we get started with Step One in the finishing cycle, I want to emphasize why this is the starting point. Two reasons:

  1. Finishing usually creates the most perceived value in finished wood products, and
  2. A strategy at the outset should align with creating a finish that can be branded and marketed, and that gets your customers excited so it is imperative that it must occur at this point. If it occurs later on, there most likely will be issues with permitting or application.

Step One is about creating the performance, aesthetics and value in a finish that gets people excited. The big starting point here is what comes first.

I would encourage this part of the discovery and development process not be connected, or disconnected as much as possible, from the current state of any competitor or other wood finisher. It should be based solely on creating a coating system that is game-changing and difference-making.

The main questions to develop this strategy are below. I would encourage this discovery to be planned and executed as a project involving Sale/marketing, Engineering, Finishing, Production and Executive Leadership.

As the questions are answered I would also suggest developing a one-page document of the coatings strategy that references hard samples supporting the answers to the questions below.  I am very grateful for KCMA for their leadership in developing finishing performance standards. These standards are a great starting place and for many is great place to establish coating performance that meets their strategic needs however some coatings strategies demand higher performance than KCMA standards.

 Holistic Wood Finishing Process Cycle

 This is great place to start and will help give context to answering the questions.


  • What scratch/abrasion resistance would create more, better or new value to current or future markets? Typically, a nickel mar test is the starting point for this standard but there may be a higher demand for high performing coating needs.
  • What film build would provide that “feeling” your customers would love when they touch it? This can be objectively measured by dry film build gauges in mils. Along with the film build how soft to the touch does in need to be?

Moisture/Chemical Resistance-

  • Does the KCMA spec suffice or is there added value to higher resistance to moisture and chemical exposure? This the typical edge soak test or in come cases being able to clean it with strong solvent such as acetone.


  • As wood expands and contracts the coating needs to have some elasticity and creep without breaking the coating especially around sharp corners and profiles. What level is needed for the targeted coating? Also, sharp corners and profiles present an issue here for any coating. Defining the level the edge can be slightly broken in the whitewood goes hand in hand here with coating development. Usually a .020” rounding on sharp corners and edges is a minimum to prevent the coating from breaking in the field. Maintaining inner coat adhesion and adhesion to the whitewood is the goal here.

Color fastness/period of time-

How long do the stains, paints, clears need to maintain color after exposure to light especially UV and other elements light before they yellow, fade, flip, or turn amber?

Aesthetics: Stains, Paints, Clear Coats

  • Stains- Does the stain need to be more transparent/translucent or opaque, does the stain need to have depth in itself? People perceive stains differently depending on the market. Is the stain to cover up white wood color, change/tone whitewood color, bring out the grain, cover the grain, can any sanding marks be visible.
  • Paints- Do the paints need to have clear depth on top of them or can the depth of clarity exist with a colored final coat? Does the feel of the painted parts in the hand need to be super soft to the touch especially with high gloss? Specifically, how long would the parts be warrantied not to yellow or flip colors?
  • Clears- How much film build is needed to create the target depth of clarity on top of stain or paint this should be objectified in DFT mils (dry film build)? The dry film build will always have an impact on the moisture/chemical resistance and elasticity. Too little will allow moisture to enter in areas beginning in corners, joints etc. too much (beyond the coatings rating in WFT/DFT and the coating may crack or craze after final curing and temperature/humidity change (this is also applicable to paint). How clear does the film build need to be?

Gloss/SheenWhere will you set the target for gloss and sheen? Usually a 60 scale is used for this but establishing a sheen or gloss level is important. Sometimes people perceive the finish solely on the gloss level. But this is changing. The gloss level needs to be defined on a scale such as the 60-scale set within a range. Just as a reference high gloss is 90 plus, medium gloss is 20-30, and dull or low gloss is 0-10.

Depth of clarity- What is the target depth of clarity for the coating being developed? This how far the clear part of the coating sits on top of the stain or paint in dry film mil thickness. It may be determined by visual acuity but set in mils of DFT dry film build. This can also be measured with a dry film gauge in between coats. 

Once all the questions have been answered, make a strategic summary in a one-page document. The main question here is what is or would be important enough to the customer (end user, builder, architect, distributor etc.) that would drive the value of the coating to be game changing/difference making? Sometimes they don’t know what that is until you put something great in their hands. I know sometimes there is a perception that a market will not bear the cost of high performing coatings but taking a great coating system to market is how that changes. In the following articles of this series we will cover how high performing coatings systems can be applied in a cost-effective manner. 

Joe Baggett is President of Innovative Wood Process  Solutions. Reach him at iwpsolutions19@gmail.com,    817-682-3631. www.iwps.biz

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