Recently, Sherwin-Williams’ Industrial Wood Coatings Division invited industry professionals at the AWFS® woodworking fair in Las Vegas to participate in a challenge to determine if they could tell the difference between waterborne and solvent-based finishes. The challenge consisted of 14 wood panels finished in a variety of light and dark stains and paints. Participants were asked to identify which panels were finished with a waterborne topcoat and which with a solvent-based topcoat.

The results show that with the improvements in today’s waterborne finishes, it’s not easy to tell the difference by the look or feel. The results were exactly in line with a random coin toss – 49 percent of responses were incorrect and 51 percent guessed correctly. No participant reached 80 percent, with the highest scorer identifying only 11 correctly.

“The outcome of the Waterborne Challenge is a good indication of what we’ve been saying all along – if you haven’t tried waterborne today, you haven’t tried waterborne,” said Joe Kujawski, Global Director of Marketing, Sherwin-Williams Industrial Wood Coatings. “Shops currently using solvent-based finishes are in for a pleasant surprise when it comes to waterborne coatings. These finishes are light years ahead of what was available even five years ago.”

To support that claim, Sherwin-Williams has developed an infographic that dispels popular myths surrounding waterborne coatings, including:

  • Myth #1 – Waterborne coatings are more expensive than solvent-based coatings;
  • Myth #2 – Products finished in a waterborne coating have a poor look and feel;
  • Myth #3 – Waterborne coatings don’t perform as well as solvent-based coatings;
  • Myth #4 – Waterborne coatings won’t help you grow your business.

Several of the articles in this issue of PCI also help to debunk these myths. Clariant focuses on a new water-based intumescent product that protects almost all wood surfaces, including solid wood, medium-density fiberboard, chipboards, plywood and veneered wood. Reichhold’s article discusses a shift from conventional solventborne oil-modified urethane (OMU) technology to waterborne technology. The waterborne OMU retains all of the advantages of the solventborne technology and even overcomes the shortcomings of low-VOC solventborne OMUs. BYK Additives and Instruments discusses two new wetting and dispersing additives that offer viscosity reduction and other advantages in the formulation and application of matted, solvent-free, UV-cure lacquers.  And an article from a retired coatings technologist reports on the development of an innovative class of pollution-free, rapid-dry organic coatings suitable for multiple purposes, but investigated in this issue for architectural wood exteriors.

The innovations keep coming. It will be interesting to see what is possible with waterborne wood coating technology five years from now!