The strength of the Bluewater Wood Alliance cluster is that it brings into action many inputs from our industry to help members innovate! Not only do manufacturing members get to visit other plant operations and learn from best practices and help brainstorm solutions to shared challenges, but the expertise of Associate Supplier members is also brought to bear on a topic of shared concern for all! To top it off, our educational stakeholders are also involved, and in this case Conestoga College on the topic of water-based finish conversion.
BWA plant tour focus groups are focused on Continuous Improvement where the host presents a challenge to the group to help them solve. Associate members are “cherry picked” by the host according to area of expertise to participate in the exercise. These are facilitated so that the host is also able to share their business model and best practices. Solutions to challenges are brainstormed by the group creating a “Kaizen” style of interaction that stimulates insight into visiting member’s own operations back home.
Woodlawn Furniture Market / Ruffsawn / Woodhaven in Guelph is a unique BWA member company with a main process focus on finishing supplied manufactured product. Their new 32,000 square foot finishing facility and showroom is a site to behold, and they are in the midst of assessing the benefits and steps involved in converting to water based coatings. Some visiting BWA members have already converted to water based, but most have not. BWA Associate members attending that supply coatings included Richelieu, Performance Abrasives, Katilac Coatings, Sherwin Williams, and CCI Finish Works. We now call them the BWA finishing Dream Team!
The tour and discussion lead to several themes for consideration by members:
- Water based issues shared with various types of wood: “Sugar Popping” when sap in white hard maple leaves the wood traveling through the finish, creating white spots. “Blooming”, “Clouding”, “Fog” – found under the topcoat, which remains after curing. Oak wood – trouble with colour ‘pop’ across surface. Members have found that oak needs to be soaked or misted with water before staining, watched for colour variations across a panel and may need retouching by hand. Wetting wood can raise the grain of the wood causing issues.
- Associate members stressed that a dry environment and control of humidity are key factors to prevent issues, including the ones listed above: air movement, conditioning of wood pre-finishing, misting of wood with good quality water or methyl hydrate when using water-base and have two different set-ups for water and lacquer-based finishing.
- It was suggested to stick with one system/one supplier to easily troubleshoot issues as they come up.
- Avoid mixing water base coats with an oil base, although combining water base topcoat with oil stain has worked for some members. This allowed them to claim that they used a water-base finish for marketing. However, associates believed there is a high risk of peeling.
- An Associate suggested that if you’re thinking about changing over, work it in gradually, buy a new spray system with new pump and allow employees to work with the water base gradually because water-based does feel different when spraying.
- Some members were concerned about the colour depth of water-based stains and matching the existing stain. Associate members were confident that water-based has improved. After wood furniture is finished and cured it is nearly impossible to tell if the finish is water based or not.
- Images 2000 – Converted to water-base and developed a drying system that takes 4 minutes that works very well for them. They emphasized that the key is control over the environment – air movement, temperature, and humidity.
- Water base: = No ‘off-gassing’, which is good for customer perception and work environment.
- The issue of drying/curing time for lacquer base: New drying technology is available in the market (Richelieu) – Microwave Unit – Thermal reactive pads – Wall mount
- Some members believe that it is the long-term obligation to their employees – the movement to water base will directly improve their quality of health.
- Conestoga College can help facilitate R+D with water-based conversion, as a non-bias alternative engaging multiple suppliers to find the right “fit”.
If you would like to attend a BWA Plant Tour Focus group, you will need to learn more about membership by contacting BWA Executive Director Mike Baker: firstname.lastname@example.org
Next event: April 5th hosted by Humber College in Toronto! Stay tuned for details!