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Water-based Varnish Finishing Schedule
Dennis Weatherly

Total Topics: 73
Total Posts: 654
Eben Atwater of Aerie Guitars gave me permission to share his water-based Varnish finishing schedule with everyone here. Eben uses this schedule with Target Coatings products and hand brushes everything. He uses the DaVinci Cosmotop brush for the top coats - the same one that Bill has recommended here before. He uses dispoable foam brushes for the sealer and grain filler coats. I plan on following this schedule with my project and will try to capture pictures as I go along. Eben prefers the EM8000 Conversion Varnish as a topcoat - he says it does everything EM6000 does and is easier to brush.

Eben's schedule is fairly generic, so it may be adaptable to other water-based product lines as well. I've plugged in the specific Target Products that fit the three categories listed in the schedule (sealer, grain filler, top coat).

Water based Varnish finishing schedule
Eben Atwater of Aerie Guitars

1. Final Wood Prep
-- Sand all surfaces through 280 grit, wipe clean

For Non-Pouros Woods skip to step 4 (Maple, Spruce, Alder, Ebony, etc.)
For Porous Woods do Steps 2 and 3 (Rosewood, Mahogany, Walnut, Ash, etc.)

2. Wash Coat (Target EM8800 Universal Sealler or UltraSeal-WB Shellac Sealer)
-- Thin sanding sealer 50%
-- Apply 2 coats, 2 hours apart

3. Grain Filler (Target HSF5100 Grain Filler)
-- 1 to 2 coats
-- Sand to 320 after each coat


4. Sanding Sealer
-- Do not thin
-- 2 to 3 coats
-- Sand to 320 after each coat

5. Color Coats
-- 1 to 3 coats, maximum of 3 in a day
-- Sand to 320 after last coat

6. Top Coats (Target EM6000 Production Lacquer or EM8000 Conversion Varnish)
-- 8 to 12 coats, maximum of 3 in a day
-- Sand 800 through 2000 Micro-Mesh prior to buffing
-- Allow 8 days minimum cure time prior to buffing

Apr 24, 09 | 8:12 pm
Bill Cory

Total Topics: 158
Total Posts: 3584
Dennis -- this looks great.

Did he mention using a retarder at all?

Thanks --

Apr 25, 09 | 5:28 am
Dennis Weatherly

Total Topics: 73
Total Posts: 651
Target recommends their own retarder any time you brush their top coat products. For EM6000 they (and Eben) recommend about 15% retarder by volume. Eben also commented that he felt the EM8000 Conversion Varnish flowed better and brushed better than EM6000, and was an overall superior top coat for guitars.

I plan to use EM6000 and Target's retarder on the 000. Hopefully the test panel work will begin this week.

Apr 27, 09 | 10:59 am
Bill Cory

Total Topics: 158
Total Posts: 3584
Thanks -- I got some EM6000 and retarded earlier and wanted to make sure. Ditto on the test panel here too -- I'm doing one this week. We can compare notes when they're done.

Apr 27, 09 | 11:32 am

Total Topics: 4
Total Posts: 68
Dennis, I'm not sure that the EM8000 Conversion Varnish has the "burn in" capabilities of the EM6000. So be extremely careful not to sand through layers or you'll end up with witness lines.

Personally, I use EM6000 all the way and find it quite hard and glossy enough....and if I ever have to do a touch up or repair it's a no-brainer.

But, then again, I spray so the flow-out has not been an issue.


Apr 27, 09 | 4:18 pm
Dennis Weatherly

Total Topics: 73
Total Posts: 651
Tim, I'm going to use EM6000 as well. The burn-in issue is a big one for me. I had a couple of small sand-through spots on the electric bass that I finished with KTM-9. KTM-9 does not burn-in at all, so those small witness lines showed through. It is also a bit finicky about long times between coats due to the lack of burn-in. EM6000 sounds like a better product in that regard as well.

Apr 27, 09 | 4:58 pm
Ken Cierp

Total Topics: 58
Total Posts: 2262
Ditto on the "burn-in" --- if it were not for that feature I would have never tried Target products. I have not used the EM6000 "lacquer" yet but I assume it performs the same as USL. I have used and tested other Water Borne products and for sure the burn-in capabilites sets the Target lacquers apart. With the others repairs and touch ups were a nightmare! Tim you tilted me over to WB again -- my new spray booth will be set-up for WB, using halogen heaters.


Kenneth Michael Guitars est. 1978

Apr 27, 09 | 5:01 pm

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