Last time we talked about the new generation of catalytic water-borne wood coatings that have been formulated to be reactive. There is now a catalyst involved, working much the same way as their solvent-borne wood coating relatives.

There are water-borne pre-cats that have the same significant shelf lives that we see today in solvent-bornes. There are post-cats that require us to mix in batches and have performance characteristics that closely approach solvent conversion varnishes. With this silent explosion in the field of resin technology, I predict that we will see even further advances in the next few years that will lift the performance standards of these coatings even higher.

The nitrocellulose solvent-bornes coatings of the past have also developed along similar lines. The first improvement upon them was the introduction of the Cellulose Acetate Butyrate (CAB Acrylic) technology. It was great because it didn’t yellow. We all know that anything with nitrocellulose in it is prone to doing exactly that.

Then we started seeing pre-cats that offered improved performance over their predecessors and for those really adventurous woodworkers there were post-cat lacquers. These have developed into the ultimate marketing tool for cabinet shops because of their truly outstanding performance.

Many a cabinetmaker has based his marketing plan upon his conversion varnish because, with its wonderful protective qualities and its non-yellowing properties, it’s as good as you can get from a “lacquer-based” coating. Now shops are raising the stakes even higher and promoting the increased performance characteristics of two-component polyurethanes and polyesters.

But in the 21st century, we want Green and Green isn’t going to come from solvent-bornes in the same way that we will see them come from the ultra-low and Greenguard certified water-borne coatings. Don’t get me wrong here! There are 550 VOC and 275 VOC lacquer pre-cats and post-cats, which come to us, again, because of the new resin technology. But there are water-bornes that have the 32% volume solids of a conversion varnish and plus or minus 100 g/l VOC. Stay tuned! There will be more and even better options available to us in the years ahead.

Until next time…spray on!

Bernie Bottens writes and teaches on the subject of wood finishing in industrial woodworking. Based in Vancouver, WA, he teaches wood finishing to shop owners, shop foremen, spray technicians and finishers all over the Pacific Northwest. Bernie is the owner of Kapellmeister Enterprises Inc. He can be reached at

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