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A Holistic Approach to Finishing - Step 2

8. October 2019 09:36

By: Joe Baggett, Innovative Wood Process Solutions

So, here is where it begins to get exciting. The formulation phase is where dreams begin to come true! Once the Performance/Aesthetics/Value are established it’s time to formulate.

The good news is that coatings manufacturers have been hard at work so much so that standard offerings of formulations have seen more development the last 15-20 years and especially in the last 5-10 than in the previous 100 years. From the first varnishes and Shellacs to today’s modern lacquers, varnishes, polyurethanes, UV, polyesters, and water-based coatings have higher performance applicability. Also, the technology to apply these coatings has been developed commensurately with the chemistry and formulations.

It is important to draw a linear distinction in this process; the formulations must fit the strategy and requirements of step I. Often people go buy a finishing line because it is good deal, but are then constrained with the coatings it applies well or they run coatings it wasn’t designed to run inefficiently.

Establishing the formulations that meet the discovery of the requirements in step one is critical. If the finishing journey doesn’t follow the sequential process there will be greater challenges down the road. So many will not find themselves at the starting point or with a clean slate in their finishing journey. That’s okay because following this process sequentially will help finishers get the most bang for their buck with their existing equipment and processes while planning for the future.

Holistic Wood Finishing Process Cycle

I don’t profess to know all the coatings that are being developed at this very moment (seems like I’m learning of new ones all the time) so I would like to begin with a rough guide but also supply the context and questions with which it may be applied in the midst of constant coatings development. I have been blessed to work directly with some great chemists and application specialist and they have helped shape the context in which we can ask questions.

 Each chemistry of coatings has different chemical and physical properties that lead up to its final performance and appearance in the plant and the field. Many of these coatings now come in water-based and solvent-based versions even if they aren’t designated as such in the chart below. Also, for the record all water-based coatings aren’t the same nor are solvent-based coatings. Too many times in their coatings journey I hear people discount testing water or solvent-based coatings by over-generalizing them.

The chart below is meant to serve as a guide to ask questions in each category the rating and comments are meant to serve as a discussion point. I’m sure there are outliers in each category but please be encouraged to ask questions from a context. Some of the best formulations in wood coatings are the brainchildren of asking the best questions.

Basic Coating type  


Bleaching Whitewood Color

 Blending agents/processes Tones whitewood colors by removing natural pigments from the surface of the wood. 


Tones whitewood color usually with dyes and a clear


Dyes in solution used to create color and penetrate the wood grain

Wash Coat 

Tinted initial coat to provided background to subsequent stains and clears tones whitewood color and grain. This is clear mixed with pigment or dye to reduce the blotchy effect in wood color

Wiping stain 

Usually sprayed on then wiped off after drying briefly usually pigmented with some dyes and binder and solids

Spray no wipe 

Dyes with some pigments this creates color usually in one application sometimes two for darker colors. Usually lower solids and binder contents than wiping stains dyes may flip under UV curing light

Chart for clears and opaque pigmented finishes (click to open PDF)
(note many of the clears can be tinted with dyes or pigments as well)

So now we can take the discovery of step I and begin to apply it to the coatings that match up with the strategy we established for the Performance/Aesthetics/Value. It is important to select coatings and test them and develop hard samples that all functions in the organization can agree to and even sign off on in certain circumstances. I would encourage again that this selection and testing of coatings be done with several different coatings suppliers. At this point an organization creates the real-life versions of the finishing system that will be game-changing and difference-making!

The next step in the holistic process will environmental permitting. This will also have an impact on the formulations but it critical that the finishing system determine what will make a difference and not just be an improvement. If the formulation journey starts with the environmental permitting many times some of the best formulations aren’t considered or developed when they should ask what do we need to do from an environmental standpoint to use the best formulations.

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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