Is there a spray alternative to Arm R Seal for large projects?

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Forum topic by Sabre posted 08-23-2019 01:21 PM 968 views 0 times favorited 22 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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17 posts in 1117 days

08-23-2019 01:21 PM

Good morning. I’ve just completed a large hexagon breakfast table made from hickory, the top is 69” wide with a hex base that is 28” wide and 36” tall.  I made the base with six panels similar to door panels and one of those is hinged that provides access to the inside which will allow my wife to store items on the base and a center shelf.  Needless to say this is a lot of area to cover with a lot of contours and hard to reach areas.  I have used Arm R Seal in the past based off of research I’ve done on this site and others and though it provided a beautiful and very tough final finish it was extremely difficult to apply with out streaks and ridges and a lot of sanding and reapplication to get it right. I’m very hesitant to attempt it on a surface as large as the top and bottom of this table top and all the contours of the exterior and interior of the base. 

Has anyone had any success in spraying Arm R Seal? The few comments I’ve found, including from general finishes themselves states it can be done but is not recommended?  If it cannot be sprayed successfully does anyone have any recommendations for an alternative that comes close to ARS? 

22 replies so far

View SMP's profile


1335 posts in 385 days

#1 posted 08-23-2019 03:04 PM

View CaptainKlutz's profile


1750 posts in 1973 days

#2 posted 08-23-2019 04:41 PM

Have sprayed Arm-R-Seal a couple of times.
With large enough tip on HVLP, can spray it straight from can. But it works better thinned by 10-20%. Use paint thinner in summer, and fast solvent like naptha in winter.
It is not made for spray application, and it is very easy to create runs on vertical surfaces.
There are better options for spray application. Lately most types can be found in both solvent system, or water based. Such as:
- Pre-cat lacquer
- Catalyzed Lacquer
- 2K Polyurethane
- Catalyzed Conversion Varnish

To be blunt, there are so many choices in spray coatings for wood, it will make your head spin. Everyone has a favorite, which is usually it’s the one with least number of bad habits, or least objectionable to use; the one they can get most easily/cheap when needed.

Suggest the best way to pick one is via working with a local industrial coatings supplier.
[Yes, skip big box stores, Woodcraft, and Rockler – go to an expert finish supplier to professionals]
Use google maps and look for a Sherwin Williams, Mohawk, Sikkens, PPG, Lor-Chem, M.L. Campbell or Chemcraft; wood finishing products distributor. Go talk to the folks at your local finishing store and they will help you pick a product that works for your capabilities and project needs.
If you are one of those buys only on internet; Target Coatings has a loyal following and many different WB spray products as well.

PS – for a table top, I like to use a KCMA rated table top finish. Getting best table top durability has always been a challenge for water based coatings. The best are generally catalyzed (2 part) solvent based polyurethane systems. In the last couple years, mfg have finally released some WB coatings that are almost as durable as solvent based system. These are nice as they reduce the burden for full body suit PPE when spraying nasty chemicals. If you are making tables for restaurant, probably still want solvent system; but for home table – water based chemistry will be lot less of hassle.

As always,
YMMV and
Best Luck.

-- I'm an engineer not a woodworker, but I can randomly find useful tools and furniture inside a pile of lumber!

View ChefHDAN's profile


1440 posts in 3328 days

#3 posted 08-23-2019 05:58 PM

FWIW, I restored a table over 17 years ago for our kitchen. When it finally got inside the house it was/is still used daily, although it had several years of exponential abuse while three children grew into adults. Two of which are girls so there were nail polish and nail polish remover accidents. The table is a late 1800’s QSWO split pedestal table with 4 leaves that can seat 12. I finished it with WB poly from a blue can I bought at the HD, and applied it with a brush in several coats and lots of sanding. I’m sitting at the table now and while there are a few dents and dings from the last 17 years the finish is fine and does not have a “plastic-y” finish. Since then I’ve gone over to spraying with my HF HVLP guns and still have good success with the same poly out of the gun, without needing to thin. I suppose if I did go to some of the higher end products I might kick myself and call myself a fool but for all of these years I’ve gotten good results without any real PITA processes or expensive products.

just my $0.02, Nice shop space and a nice build, is that a PSA sign in the back with the crossed cannons?

-- I've decided 1 mistake is really 2 opportunities to learn.. learn how to fix it... and learn how to not repeat it

View Andybb's profile


2024 posts in 1082 days

#4 posted 08-23-2019 06:07 PM

I have come to like the water based products for large pieces. If the project is level it seems to smooth itself out very nicely. WB Varathane is my favorite.

-- Andy - Seattle USA

View PPK's profile


1504 posts in 1288 days

#5 posted 08-23-2019 06:48 PM

I’m kind of right there with ya. I’ve been tempted to spray Arm R Seal many times. But the cost is a little prohibitive. You end up using a lot more material when spraying. I’ve just ended up biting the bullet and wiping it on.

You know though, when I stop to think about it, if money isn’t the issue, you should try it out. One some test pieces (vertical) and see what you can do. Time is money, and spraying saves a LOT of time…

Really sharp looking table. My favorite wood is hickory. I’m in process of building a hickory dining table right now.

-- Pete

View RobHannon's profile


304 posts in 1010 days

#6 posted 08-23-2019 07:38 PM

Not quite the same as Arm R Seal, but I am using the High Performance waterborne from General for the first time and am quite impressed. Sprays easily out of my cheap HF gun from the can. Pre-finished all my plywood on this project with it before final cutting and assembly. I will see how it does on vertical surfaces when I do the final topcoats before delivery.

View LesB's profile


2169 posts in 3922 days

#7 posted 08-23-2019 08:15 PM

I have not used Arm R Seal but I have had good results from Varathane brand water bases poly. For table tops I like their floor grade finish for its durability. I apply it with a good quality brush however ambient temperature and humidity can be crucial to it’s drying to a smooth finish. Be aware unless it is labeled otherwise water based poly is crystal clear where as oil based is usually amber.

With water based poly I have found that a room temp of close to 70 degrees F is best. That temp allows the finish to flow out smooth before it starts to dry. High temps or Low humidity will cause it to dry faster and may not allow it to level out leaving brush mark ridges. You do have to watch for drips and runs but they are easily spotted because they are white in color. I have only sprayed it from a pressure rattle can so I don’t know how it would work in a HVLP setup but I would expect it to be fine, particularly if you were careful to use multiple light applications. The first coat will definitely need a light sanding. I usually apply 3 or 4 coats rubbing the last coat out after it has cured for several days with white 3M pad and paste wax.
Here is a web site describing how to use water based poly:

-- Les B, Oregon

View Sabre's profile


17 posts in 1117 days

#8 posted 08-23-2019 09:41 PM

Thank you all very much! I appreciate the options, links and guidance you’ve sent! I’m retired now so I have plenty of time (well, within my sweet hearts patience) to walk through each of your recommendations on some scraps and see which works best for me. Thank you also for the comments on the shop, I appreciate it.

ChefHADEN, your correct the cross cannons are a Springfield Armory sign I picked up at the Camp Perry Matches in Ohio last year (first time there, went to watch not shoot). My other hobby is target shooting and that’s where I ran into the issues with the Arm R Seal in past when applying it to a new benchrest stock I had purchased. I’ve attached a picture of the finished stock.
Again, thank you everyone for your advice and sharing your knowledge with me.

View joey502's profile


553 posts in 1997 days

#9 posted 08-24-2019 12:04 AM

I would recommend against anything oil on hickory. I do not care for the yellowing an oil finish leaves on light colored woods.

I do not think high performance is a good choice for this application either. HP is too pale and dead looking for my taste when applied to hickory. I know a lot of people bash minwax but i have had good experiences with polycrylic on light colored woods when the topcoat is the only finish used. It seems to add a little more depth to the wood. It also sprays very well and is readily available at home centers.

View Sabre's profile


17 posts in 1117 days

#10 posted 08-24-2019 11:42 AM

Thanks joey502, I just finished re-reading everyone’s advice and the links they provided. I have minwax and Arm R Seal on hand, and I’ve ordered the HP and WB Varathane from amazon yesterday. I will cut out some test boards today and try spraying and hand wiping each on test boards.

View Robert's profile


3516 posts in 1960 days

#11 posted 08-24-2019 02:50 PM

Good choice on WB. I prefer water based top coats on large projects like this.

Too late but thought I’d mention the Target Coatings catalyzed product, specifically EM8000

Its really an excellent finish for a table top, sprays very nicely, and did I mention, water based? ;-)

You can add the crosslinker for even more durability.

-- Everything is a prototype thats why its one of a kind!!

View Sabre's profile


17 posts in 1117 days

#12 posted 08-26-2019 11:19 AM

Thanks Robert I will check it out now.

View Sabre's profile


17 posts in 1117 days

#13 posted 08-26-2019 11:21 AM

RobHannon, can you tell me what size spray nozzle you are using? I have a devilbiss gravity feed with a 1.3 and 1.8 nozzle.

View hkmiller's profile


156 posts in 561 days

#14 posted 08-26-2019 12:51 PM

Go with 1.3 tip.

-- always something

View Rich's profile


4807 posts in 1068 days

#15 posted 08-26-2019 01:48 PM

Go with 1.3 tip.

- hkmiller


-- There's no such thing as a careless electrician

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