She's crafty. But not really.
December 9, 2008 6:37 AM   Subscribe

Will clear finish/gloss still work in the cold?

I want to spray a bunch of handmade Christmas ornaments with a finish to protect them (it's acrylic on wood) and I have a can of "Design Master Clear Finish Gloss" which comes with a series of warnings on the can about how toxic it is and how in the case of overexposure, it can cause "cardiac sensitization" and other fun things.

I'm thinking I'd rather not inhale it, but it's cold outside (there's snow on the ground) and it says to use it in 70 degree or higher weather.

What do I do? I can do it in the basement, but a) it's the world's creepiest basement and b) I'm concerned that the fumes will just come through the vents and floor anyway.

I'd like to just use it in the garage, but what will happen? Does the instruction to use it in warmer temperatures mean it will just take longer to dry in the cold, or should I spray them out there and then bring them in to dry after spraying, or does this mean that in either case the finish won't preserve it as well or will crack or something and I should finish my Christmas tree ornaments in June?

It's supposed to take three minutes to dry, and you're supposed to do multiple coats.

I'm not very crafty and I've never done this before.
posted by A Terrible Llama to Home & Garden (5 answers total)
don't do it in the basement, you will fumigate your house... especially if a bunch is greater than, say, 3.

honestly, you should buy a mask ($20-30) if you are doing a significant amount of spraying, regardless of where you are doing it. useful for big graffiti projects too...

the bigger factor for the finish curing correctly is probably humidity rather than cold. the only real way to find out is to test it out before you spray the ornaments.... see how it dries, and how long it takes.
posted by geos at 7:13 AM on December 9, 2008

If it's ordinary polyurethane varnish, it doesn't do anything special to "cure" - the solvent just evaporates away. If the temperature is low and/or the relative humidity is high, this may take an unreasonably long time, resulting in your ornaments still being tacky after DAYS and thus probably collecting crud and bugs and such. But it will still, eventually, happen.

I'd do it in the garage and just put a fan heater in there, pointing at the ornaments from an appropriate distance, for a couple of hours.
posted by dansdata at 7:16 AM on December 9, 2008

...should I spray them out there and then bring them in to dry after spraying...?

This would probably work well. I'd only bring one ornament outdoors at a time, so they stay warm. It will only take a few seconds to spray each coat. Bring them back indoors immediately and you'll have kept most of the fumes and overspray outdoors but still get good results. Expect the drying time to be longer than the can suggests.
posted by jon1270 at 7:49 AM on December 9, 2008

Yeah, it'll just take a long time dry and as it's doing so collecting dust that'll make the finish not quite as nice as it could be.

Your best bet will be to somehow heat them to speed up the drying. I'd probably do something like put them in a cardboard box with an incandescent bulb. Don't get too carried away because there is a slight fire risk. But what would really do the trick would be to have them on some sort of platform or table, with a light bulb underneath, and a cardboard box big enough to fit over the top everything. You'll have to balance bulb size and box size, but the platform should be high enough that the top of the box just clears the ornaments.

Do this in your garage (and it wouldn't hurt to get a real mask, not just a dust mask). Be sure to test this first, make sure things are getting warm but not too hot, that things dry evenly.

Totally doable, though.
posted by 6550 at 11:35 AM on December 9, 2008

Spray outside and bring in to dry. It will be fine.
posted by luckypozzo at 4:09 PM on December 9, 2008

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