§ by chrisfitch on February 11th, 2009
The woodworking shop here at at August Home Publishing can be a very busy place. It’s where all of the projects for Woodsmith, Workbench, and ShopNotes are built as well as the props for the Woodsmith Shop television show. Now, all of the projects that come out of our shop have to hold up to the uncompromising standards of magazine photography. If there’s a scratch, drip, or chip it’ll show. So our shop craftsmen put a lot of effort into choosing the best lumber, matching it carefully, building to very high standards, and applying a flawless finish.
Most of the equipment in our shop any hobbyist would recognize and might well own: table saws, drill presses, planers, and workbenches covered with parts and hand tools
There’s one item that we have that the home shop might not is a dedicated finish room with a professional spray booth. With the volume of projects that get built around here, it’s an important tool in our shop.
I am in awe of this thing. Some people love to apply a careful, flawless finish and they’re great at it; I’m not one of those people. I find it all to be a bit tedious and frustrating. A spray booth excels in applying a final finish (clear or paint) evenly and smoothly. The booth also has the advantage of providing a clean and well lit environment. It’s a much better place to apply finish than in the corners of a dusty shop.
The spray booth arrived on several pallets stacked with all sorts of galvanized sheet metal parts and fasteners like an Erector Set spilled on the floor. Piece by piece it was bolted together. This was followed by a parade of sort. First came the contractors for electrical work, plumbing the compressed air lines, running an exhaust duct to the roof, and setting up the fire suppression system. Next came the inspectors from the city, fire department, and insurance co. You don’t have one of these installed on a whim.
The front of the booth consists of two large doors for easy loading and unloading. The doors also act as pre-filters to help trap dust. In the back of the spray booth are filters that catch overspray as the air is drawn out by the fan. And it has a big fan. There’s no doubt when someone is using the spray booth because it’s actually hard to open the exterior doors to the shop due to the suction created by the fan.
All of the electrical equipment is explosion proof (no sparks please). There’s one switch to turn on the lights and a second that simultaneously turns on the fan and opens a valve that lets compressed air flow to the spray gun. You can’t spray if the fan isn’t on.
With all of the use this spray booth gets, there’s a bit of overspray, so, the interior has a peel away coating. When the overspray gets too thick we can peel it off and apply another coat. We typically keep the gun full of clear lacquer and ready to spray. Lacquer has the advantages of being clear (color neutral), easy to sand, and very fast drying.
For my projects at home, I’m still a fan of simple wipe on finishes. They’re easy and almost (but not quite) foolproof. But here at work, nothing beats the spray booth for fast, quality, no- hassle finishes.