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User Tips: Milesi 2K Water-based System

In our previous post we touched on the benefits of using the Milesi 2K waterborne system for cabinet finishing and cabinet refinishing. In this post we will be providing tips and tricks when using this system.

A couple of quick notes:

  • I use the term “catalyst” and “hardener” interchangeably in this post,
  • 2K” refers to when a product uses a hardener and “1K” is when a product does NOT use a hardener,

Tip #1: Increase Fluid Pressure

Note: The settings below are set-ups we have found to work well with the HKA, HKR and HGA products. That said, see your gun manufacturer’s literature for recommended pressure settings – especially Atomization Pressure as that setting can vary widely.

Compared to most other brands (whether solvent- or water-based), the Milesi 2K topcoats spray their best when using higher fluid pressures. They also like a larger tip when running HVLP or Conventional, but prefer a smaller tip when running air-assisted airless.

So, as you will see below, tip sizes and pressure settings are a little unconventional. Full disclosure – we struggled and even fought using some of these settings when we first brought the product in (old habits die hard ;-).

By the way, you will be very happy no matter which gun type you use, but you will have a grin on your face when you spray out of an AAA with the settings shown below.

Worth noting here that water-based coatings (regardless of brand or type) spray much better out of larger AAA pumps (15:1 and up) as smaller pumps tend to overwork the coating resulting in micro bubbling.

HKR & HKA Recommended Settings:

Gravity- / Siphon-Fed Gun

  • Tip Size: 2.1 – 2.5 mm
  • Atomization Pressure: Refer to your gun’s literature as this setting can vary widely by gun and manufacturer.

Pressure Fed Gun

  • Tip Size: 1.8 mm
  • Atomization Pressure: Refer to your gun’s literature as this setting can vary widely by gun and manufacturer.
  • Fluid Pressure: 30-40 psi

Air-Assisted Airless Pump

  • Tip Size: 0.009 – 0.011 in
  • Atomization Pressure: 15 – 20 psi
  • Fluid Pressure: 600 – 900 psi
  • Note: Remember to divide the fluid pressure by the pump size to find the right setting for your pump.

HGA Recommended Settings:

Gravity- / Siphon-Fed Gun

  • Tip Size: 1.8 – 2.1 mm
  • Atomization Pressure: Refer to your gun’s literature as this setting can vary widely by gun and manufacturer.
  • Fluid Pressure: 30-40 psi

Pressure Fed Gun

  • Tip Size: 1.6 mm
  • Atomization Pressure: Refer to your gun’s literature as this setting can vary widely by gun and manufacturer.
  • Fluid Pressure: 30-40 psi

Air-Assisted Airless Pump

  • Tip Size: 0.009 – 0.011 in
  • Atomization Pressure: 15 – 20 psi
  • Fluid Pressure: 600 – 900 psi
  • Note: Remember to divide the fluid pressure by the pump size to find the right setting for your pump.

Tip #2: Catalyst IS Optional

Though the HKR/HKA (solid colors) and HGA (clears) topcoats are designed to be used as 2K, they can optionally be used as 1K. Granted, the overall durability of using as a 2K is superior to using as a 1K, but you may not always need 2K performance. We know many prefer to use as a 1K due mainly to the reasons listed below, but only you can ultimately determine if 1K provides the durability a given project requires.

There are three key benefits to not using a hardener:

No Potlife

Potlife is how much time you have to use the finish once the hardener has been added. For this reason, 2K products DO have a potlife and 1K products do NOT have a potlife.

When using the hardener in 2K applications, you have 2 hours to use the material before it starts to thicken (starts to turn into what some refer to as “cottage cheese”) and becomes unusable. This 2 hour limit becomes even more important when spraying through pressure pots and pumps.

Skipping the hardener avoids having to worry about this potlife.

Lower Viscosity

Note: Viscosity refers to how thick (or thin) a liquid is. Water has very low viscosity while honey would have a higher viscosity.

Though these products spray thicker than typical wood finishes even without the hardener, adding the hardener will noticeably thicken the material. If you have the proper equipment and settings, this is not a big deal, but is still seen as a benefit to some.

Cost Savings

Simply put, you do not have the extra cost associated with the hardener.

Tip #3: They Brush Surprisingly Well

Though designed explicitly (and exclusively) for professional spray applications, many have found that these products brush surprisingly well. This especially comes in handy for those cabinet refinishers who prefer to brush the boxes on-site versus taping off and spraying.

Tip #4: Thinning is Acceptable

Milesi, like most waterborne coatings, recommend a maximum of 5% thinning (with water of course). Note that distilled water is always best, but we rarely see issues using tap water. Keep in mind that, unlike solvent-based coatings, viscosity can decrease more quickly with waterbased. So, let’s say you are adding 1% of water to find the right amount. You start at 1%, then 2%, then 3% and you don’t see any noticeable difference, then you add another 1% and the viscosity drops noticeably. That is not uncommon with waterbased coatings. I am only using these percentages as an example. You will not have issues with the Milesi products in this article if you stay at or below 5%. Yes, some thin as high as 10%, but we stick with Milesi’s 5% recommendation. The main issue with “over-thinning” is you can start tunning into sagging on vertical surfaces.

Tip #5: Get Yourself a Wet-Mil Gauge

Note: 1 mil is equal to 0.001″ and a wet-mil just means how thick the coating is while it is still wet.

A wet-mil gauge is a simple, inexpensive and invaluable tool that surprisingly few finishers have in their “tool box”. Regardless of what you are spraying, you need to know how heavy you are laying the product. Virtually every wood finish technology is going to recommend a finish be sprayed at 3-5 wet mils per coat (check the product label or data sheet), and the Milesi 2K waterbased is no different.

Laying the finish too thin and it will not flow out properly. Lay it too heavy and it can sag, alligator, orange peel and in some cases solvent-pop.

OK, I am getting into a little more detail here than I had planned. We will dive deeper into some of these topics in future blogs.

As always, thanks for reading and please share any tips, tricks, questions or comments.

Available Milesi Water-based Products:

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