Good lighting and ventilation

Spray Finishing Tips You Need To Know

Here are the best spray finishing tips for refinishing your own furniture, cabinets, or laying down a glass-smooth finish.

Spray finishing has a lot to consider, but it doesn’t have to be complicated. A good quality turbine spray system and pressure-assisted HVLP spray gun makes it easier than you think.

Spray Finishing Equipment - HVLP Turbine and Spray Guns
First, start Small

The Q5 Platinum turbine system and T70 or T75G HVLP spray guns sprayed the projects shown here, but you don’t need the top-of-the-line system to start spraying clear finishes. A Semi-PRO 2 or any of the Mini-Mite Series (available in 3, 4, or 5-stage turbines) will spray clear finishes like lacquer.

Compressor air blowing dust
Spray it Off and Get Cheesy
  1. Blow off any fine dust and debris from your project using compressed air.
  2. Choose a basic dry cheesecloth from the hardware store instead of tack cloth, because it contains chemicals.
  3. Use the cheesecloth to wipe the surface down and remove any stubborn dust.
Spray Finishing Tips - Apply a top coat prior to drilling
Topcoat before drilling

When it comes to hardware and spray finishing, you might think it’s okay to pre-drill holes for all the hardware before applying a finish.

Expert sprayers know to wait until the topcoat is applied, before drilling all those holes. An empty screw hole will accumulate extra finish, causing runs or drips. Avoid this problem before it even starts by applying the finish before drilling for hardware.

Spray Finishing Tip - Limit your contaminants
Limit Contaminants

This is my dog Trooper. He’s more of a family member than a pet and he’s allowed on my prized Stickley rug. He pretty much rules the roost.

But when I’m spraying a clearcoat, he’s a “contaminant.” To be honest, I don’t think I’ve ever finished a piece of furniture that didn’t have dog hair in it somewhere! You can overcome the little issues when finishing, but give yourself the best odds possible by cleaning the work area of sawdust, dirt, and yes, dog hair.

Avoid Silicone Products

Strictly avoid any products containing silicone. Products containing silicon like car wax and some general-purpose lubricants will contaminate raw wood and cause uneven stain and finish absorption.

Spraying finishing tips - let your stains dry
Let Stain Dry Overnight

We’re all in a hurry, but be sure to let stain or dye layers cure fully before spraying the topcoat. This is a big lesson learned for novice woodworkers. Remember that sometimes slow and steady wins the race. Unless you have commercial stains formulated to dry quickly, let the stain dry fully before moving on to the next step.

Spraying finishing tips - spray horizontally
Get Horizontal

Whenever possible, spray cabinet doors and furniture parts in a horizontal position. This ensures the finish lays down beautifully and eliminates drips and runs that occasionally happen on vertical surfaces.

Good lighting and ventilation

When spraying mission-style cabinet doors or parts with recessed areas, angle the spray gun slightly to avoid a “rain shadow.” That’s what we call an area missed by the sprayed finish.

But luckily, it’s easy to avoid if you work in a logical way. Spray the edges first, then finish the center panel, making sure the inside edge of the rails and stiles get good coverage.

Adequate Lighting & Ventilation

Raking light in the work area helps you identify any problem areas as you spray. If you can’t see your work, you’re quite literally taking a shot in the dark.

Always wear a respirator with cartridges approved for organic vapors, and work in a well-ventilated area. In practical terms, this means having at least two sources of fresh air, plus running fans.

Spraying finishing tips - spray the edges
Hit Those Edges

I like to spray the back face first, flip parts onto painter’s points, then spray the edges with the gun slightly angled. Finally, straighten your wrist to aim the gun 90 degrees to the surface, and finish the faces of your parts. Hold the gun 8-12” from the surface, and overlap passes about 50% for full, even coverage.

Always be aware of your fan orientation, and rotate it as needed to complete your project.

Spray Finishing Equipment - HVLP Turbine and Spray Guns

Those are my top spray finishing tips for achieving the best results. With reliable turbine spray systems and a pressure-assisted HVLP spray guns, spray finishing becomes a breeze. Whether you’re comparing gravity feed and bottom feed HVLP spray guns or researching the difference between a Mini-Mite 3 and Q5 Platinum, Fuji Spray has all the answers you need.


Willie Sandry is a Freelance Writer for several woodworking magazines, professional tool tester, and spraying enthusiast. Find his latest projects and reviews on his YouTube channel at The Thoughtful Woodworker!

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