We hope the following glossary is useful:

Accent: Enhance areas for colour contrast.

Acrylic: A family of synthetic resins made from acrylic acids.

ADHESION: The amount of attachment or holding strength between finish and the layer underneath.

ALKYD: A family of synthetic resins made from organic acid, combined with oils and acids used as a vehicle in coatings to increase toughness and flexibility.

Alligatoring: A reference to a certain failure in paint that looks similar to an alligator hide. Also known as wrinkling.

ANILINE DYE: A deep penetrating dye used to colour wood, made soluble in alcohol, water, oil or lacquer thinner.

APPEARANCE: The way an object looks; the colour, gloss and texture.

APPLICATION: The process by which finishes are applied. Such as spraying, brushing, dipping, etc. Each time a layer of finish is applied to a surface, it is known as a coat.

ATOMISATION: The atomising or breaking up of the liquid coating into a fine mist as it is sprayed. Good atomisation is necessary to produce a quality finish.

BARRIER COAT: A coat or layer of finish material that acts as a barrier between two materials which may be incompatible with each other, but compatible with the barrier coat. Example: Shellac as a barrier coat will prevent bleeding of a dye stain into a lacquer finish.

BINDER: The non-volatile part of a finish that forms the film and binds the pigmented particles together after the film is dry.

BLEED-THROUGH: Bleeding – A reaction in the stain or dye that causes the colour to wick into subsequent coating applications.

BLISTERING: The forming of bubbles on the surface of the finish caused by air that is trapped underneath the surface.

BLOOM: A bluish haze of a film usually caused by insufficient drying of the oil stain before top coating.

BLUSHING: A greyish haze that forms in the finish due to entrapped moisture. A common occurrence when lacquers are sprayed under high humidity conditions. The finish dries too quickly, leaving the moisture entrapped.

BRIDGING: The covering (bridging) of a crack or gap in the substrate with finish. This condition produces a weak area that can cause finish failure.

BRIGHTNESS: Both the saturation and lightness of product colour.

BRITTLENESS: A condition of the finish that causes it to flake-off or crack when it is scratched.

Bubbles: the entrapment of air in the finish.

BURN IN: The process of melting in a coloured resin to fill voids. Originally “shellac stick” patching. Modern resins have replaced the shellac, resulting in longer lasting, easier to perform repairs.

CATALYST: A finish additive that creates a chemical reaction in the coating which aids in quicker curing and promotes good durability and mar-resistant qualities.

CHATOYANCE: Refers to the depth and shimmer that some woods exhibit under the right finish and lighting conditions. Related to the phenomenon of “flipping” of colour from dark to light as the angle of view changes.

CHECKING: Hairline cracks that show up in a finish caused by applying too heavy a coat or too many coats. Also known as spider webbing.

CHROMA: The attribute of colour used to indicate the degree of departure from a grey of the same value. A measure of the purity of the colour. Similar to Saturation.

CLOUDINESS: A condition of the finish material not being transparent or clear.

Coat: The act of applying a finish to a surface.

Cold Checking: The cracking of a finish due to repeatedexposure to temperature extremes.

COLOUR RETENTION: The ability of a finish not to change colour when exposed to sunlight.

COLOUR VALUE: The lightness or darkness of a colour.

COLOUR: Visual response to light, consisting of hue, saturation, and luminescence;

COLORANT: Any substance, usually a dye or pigment, that provides colour to a material.

Cow Tail: Finishing technique adding irregular lines of colour.

CRATERING OR FISHEYE: Small, round depressions formed in the finish film. Usually associated with the presence of a silicon contaminate.

CRAWLING: The condition of the wet film crawling or pulling away from the different areas of a substrate. This normally happens when the surface has been contaminated.

Crayon: Short irregular crayon marks, (hard wax).

CRAZING: The appearance of minute, interlacing cracks,crystalline patterns, or checks on the surface of a dried film.

Cross Linking: The molecular reaction in a finish from adding catalyst or heat that causes the finish to harden and have greater film performance properties.

CURE: When a finish has completely dried, the cure or curing process brings out the desired characteristics and properties of the material.  

CYANOACRYLATE: The class of adhesives that includes superglue, crazy glue and many industrial adhesives. Characterized by tenacious bonding, and instant curing.

DEPTH: In some woods, and some finishes, the observer seems to be able to look down into the wood. When the angle of incidence (to the light) and the viewing angle (relative to the wood surface) change, the wood seems to change colour. Figured walnut, crotch mahogany, satinwood, birdseye maple, all show depth. Basswood, pine, oak (exceptions include quartersawn white oak) do not show depth. Dye stains enhance that appearance while pigmented stains lessen it.

Distressing: Intentionally marking, gouging, or scratching the substrate or finish to give an antique appearance.

DRAWDOWN: A laboratory procedure wherein a liquid is “drawn down” over a standard substrate with a calibrated rod that spreads the liquid at a specified wet thickness. Used to maintain standard thickness of material for testing and quality control.

Dry Hard: The elapsed time at which a coating has reached its optimum hardness.

DYE: A colouring material that is totally dissolved in a liquid in order to make a stain that soaks into the wood instead of being left on top like a pigment.Dyes are transparent, and can make a deeply penetrating stain. Some dyes are not very lightfast.

Fading: The loss of colour due to exposure to light.

FILLER: A very heavy bodied, slow drying pigmented binder used to fill in grain and create a flat, smooth surface to topcoat. A finish material used to fill the pore. It gives the wood a smooth or full-fill texture. Associated with the look of high quality finish systems.  

FILM FORMER: Any substance which will change from liquid to solid in such a manner as to form a film over a surface. Usually a resin or combination of resins and other ingredients.

FINISH: A decorative and/or protective coating applied to a substrate.

Fish Eye: A small crater or depression in the finish, most often caused by silicone or oil contamination.

FLASH OR FLASH-OFF: The point at which the faster evaporating solvents are leaving the film and, therefore, a sprayed coating stops flowing or levelling. It is often the described as the time to become dust free. When the finish will no longer flow, the flash-off is considered completed.

FLATTING PASTE: A finish additive used to reduce the gloss or sheen.

Flash Point: The minimum temperature at which a material will ignite when exposed to a source of ignition.

Flood: The act of very heavily applying a coating to the substrate.

Flow-out: The ability of a liquid to level as it dries.

Ford Cup: A style of viscosity cup.

French Polish: A shellac-based coating that is applied manually by “padding” it onto the surface polish with a dampened cloth.

FULL WET COAT: If the droplets are sufficiently wet, and of such a low viscosity that they can flow together (coalesce) they will form a uniform film on the surface.

GEOMETRIC METAMERISM: Phenomenon exhibited by a pair of colours that appear to be a colour match at one angle of illumination and viewing but that no longer match when the angel of illumination or viewing is changed. Caused by gloss and or texture differences (caution, this may not always be the case)

GLAZES: Dispersions of pigmented colours in a slow setting, free wiping vehicle. Basically they are slow setting heavy bodied pigment stains that are used over a seal coat as an overtone colorant to accent grain or for other colour accents like antiquing, highlighting, cow-tailing, brush-marking, and adding contrast.

GLOSS: (1) a subjective term used to describe the relative amount and nature of a mirror like (specular) reflection. Different types of gloss are frequently differentiated, such as sheen, distinctness of image gloss, etc. (2) Numerical value for the amount of specular reflection relative to a standard surface under the same geometric conditions.

GRAIN: For touch up, the grain is the pattern of (usually) darker and more distinct lines present in the appearance of the finish.

GRAIN RAISE: The roughness of a wood substrate caused usually when the first coat of finish is applied. The finish can have a tendency to swell or raise the short fibres of the wood, which produces the roughness.

Highlight: Creation of light and dark areas buy adding or removing colour.

HOLDOUT: The amount of resistance a finish has to soaking or absorbing into the surface of a wood substrate. Good holdout is a desirable attribute of a sealer.

Holiday: An uncoated area of a coated surface usually missed unintentionally

HUE: The attribute of colour by which we distinguish red from green, blue from yellow, etc.

HVLP: High Volume Low Pressure spray equipment uses the concept of increasing the volume of air under reduced pressure to atomise the finish. The advantage of HVLP is the reduction of overspray which produces less air pollution and maximizes the finish material.

Incompatible: Used in reference to coatings and/or stains which are not capable of being mixed with each other.

LACQUER: A finish material that dries as its solvents evaporate, and can be redissolved in its own solvents. Most lacquers are either nitrocellulose or acrylic base.

LENETA CARD: A standardized card, white or black and white in color, coated to make it non absorbent, used for evaluating properties of coating and coloring materials. These cards are made by the Leneta Company in Mahwah, NJ USA.

LEVELLING:The act of applying a coat which will smooth out a previously rough (orange peel) coat.

Lifting: The softening and repenetration of a previous coat resulting in a wrinkling effect. This is caused by strong solvents in the topcoat attacking the partially cured or crosslinked undercoat.

LIGHTNESS: Colour variable denoted by purity or departure from greyness. Also Value.

Mar: A scratch or rub mark on the surface.

Mar Resistance: The ability of a finish to resist scratch and rub marks.

MASSTONE: When examining colorants, the masstone, or body colour, is paint applied so it totally covers the surface. No other colours from below show through. Many pigments, in masstone, appear black.

METAMERISM: Variation of colour in different light sources by choice of pigmentation that causes two or more samples that match under one set of viewing conditions not to match under a different set of viewing conditions for the same person.

METALLIZED DYES: More modern than anilines, these dyes are more lightfast and permanent, with less likelihood of bleeding through a coating.

MICRO-BALLOONS: Micro-balloons are a lightweight free-flowing white powder consisting of microscopic, hollow, glass balls. They are added to resin systems to reduce the weight (density) of the finished item, and improve some workability characteristics such as sanding, sawing, drilling and staining. In repair they may be added to epoxies and polyester fillers.

MOIRÉ: Usually a type of fabric, but descriptive of the reflective nature of a wood’s surface. As we look into the wood we are actually seeing into the wood cells as if we were looking from a height over a wheat field whose stalks were swaying in the breeze.

Mottle: Creation of irregular pattern by blotting a pad stain with solvent.

MYLAR: A readily available plastic which will not adhere to polyester or epoxy resins, or to cyanoacrylate glues.

N.G.R. STAIN: Usually refers to a certain dye stain that does not raise the grain of the wood. A non-grain raising type of dye stain contains no binders or solids. Usually soluble in alcohol, it does not have very good colour retention properties unless it is a metalized dye.

NITROCELLULOSE: A form of cotton waste or linters of wood pulp with a mixture of nitric and sulphuric acids. Used in the manufacture of lacquers.

Non-volatile: The solid material that is left after total solvent evaporation.

OPAQUE: Term describing a substance through which visible light does not pass.The opposite of transparent.

ORANGE PEEL: The rough surface of a sprayed finish, similar to an orange’s surface, due to poor flow out.

OVERSPRAY: The finish material that does not reach your wood as a liquid. It may land on unfinished wood, on the finish you have already applied, or may not land on the piece at all.

PIGMENT: A finely ground, insoluble powder that contributes colour, filling or sanding properties to a coating. Because of the solid nature of the pigment, pigmented stains are surface stains.

Pinholes: Small holes in a finish.

PLASTICISER: A softening material added to a finish to impart elongation, elasticity, and flexibility.

POT LIFE: The period of time a finish remains useable after it has been catalysed.

PRE-CATALYSED FINISHES or PrecatsFinish material that is already catalysed from the manufacturer and needs no addition of catalyst.

Primer: A specialized coating made for application to raw wood as the first step in a finishing process.

PRINTING: An impression that may be left in the cured finish after pressure is removed.

REDUCER: Any material used for lowering the viscosity or decreasing the strength of colour to a workable viscosity

RETARDER: A solvent that is slow evaporating, used as an additive to slow down the drying of a coating. Used to improve flow out, or to avoid blushing.

RUB-OUT: An informal colour evaluation procedure wherein a coloured product, such as a fill stick, universal colour, touch up marker, Blendal powder is rubbed out by hand on a surface for the purpose of comparing colour to another product or surface.

Sag: a ripple in the coating caused by excessive film thickness when sprayed. Usually seen on vertical surfaces.

SATURATION: The attribute of colour perception that expresses the degree of departure from a grey of the same lightness. Also referred to as intensity. Same as Chroma.

SEALER: Any coating used for the purpose of reducing the absorption of succeeding coats. (See hold-out)

SETTLING: When the pigment and vehicle of a coating separate after standing.

SHADE: (of a colour) A colour with black added. Also, the process of adding colour to darken a finish, as in shading a piece of furniture. The colour is usually added by spraying on a thin, lightly coloured coating.

SHADE STAIN: A stain used to even the overall colour of a panel before the final topcoat is applied.

SHEEN: The amount of light reflection on the surface of a finish. Gloss or sheen is measured in sheen units. Below a 10 sheen is considered true flat and above 75, a gloss.

SOLIDS: The part of the coating that forms the finish film and does not evaporate.

SOLVENTS: Any substance, which will dissolve another. In finishing, the solvents constitute a large part of the coating that will evaporate, and will not remain part of the dried film.

SPRAY STAIN: Stains that are sprayed on the wood substrate but are not wiped. (no-wipe stains)

STAIN: Any substance applied directly to the wood to change its colour. Generally a dye or pigment dissolved or suspended in a vehicle and used to impart colour directly to wood.

SUBSTRATE: Any material, wood, MDF, particleboard or other, underlying a finish to be coated.

SUSPEND: To hold in suspension.

SUSPENSION: The condition of a substance whose particles are dispersed through a

fluid but not dissolved in it.

TEXTURE: The appearance created by a surface structure, or topography, of a material. A finished surface may be said to be “pebbly”, “smooth”, glass smooth, rough, orange peel, striated, brush marked, scratched, rubbed.

TINT: To add white to a colour. A colour with white added, as a “tint of blue” To add colorant to a base material.

TINTING STRENGTH: This is the ability of a colour to change the character of another colour. We determine this by adding the same amount of Titanium White to each colour and observing the resulting strength of the colour mixture. Weaker tinting colours create light pastel mixtures. Stronger tinting colours create darker mixtures.

TONE: A colour with black and white added. To add colour to a finish by spraying a thin coating with a small amount of colour added.

Toner: A lightly pigmented thinner, sealer or topcoat that is used to stain or help uniform parts of wood.

TOPCOAT: Any coating material that is used as the final coating. The coat that most directly resists abrasion and chemical action.

TRANSFER EFFICIENCY: How well a finish material transfers to the substrate compared to what is sprayed. Expressed as a percentage of the material sprayed.

TRANSLUCENT: Said of a substance through which light will pass, but through which an image cannot be clearly seen.

TRANSPARENT: Said of a substance through which images can clearly be seen.

UNDERTONE: The undertone of a colour is visible when we spread the colour very thinly over a white surface. This can be done by scraping the colour over a surface or by thinning the colours dramatically. Certain colours, such as the Cadmiums and Cobalts, have similar masstones and undertones. With the transparent organic colours like the Quinacridones or Phthalos, the undertone can be quite different from what might be expected by looking at the masstone. These shifts in hue positionsprovide some of the incredible richness and magic to working with colour.

VISCOSITY: Resistance to flow.The flow properties of a finish material at a certain temperature. How thick or thin the material is, in its liquid state, measured in seconds through a viscosity cup.

Viscosity Cup: A small cup used to measure the liquid thickness of a coating

VOC: (volatile organic compound) – The solvent ingredients in a coating.

Volatile: The solvent portion of a coatingor those coating components that evaporate when drying.

Washcoat: A reduced solids sealer that is applied over bare wood to reduce stain penetration or over stains to protect them from subsequent coatings.

WATER WHITE FINISH: A high grade of lacquer that shows very little amber tone when applied and is more resistant to colour change. Not to be confused with non-yellowing finishes.

WATER BASED: A coating that uses water as the volatile carrier for the solids of a coating.

WIPING STAIN: A pigmented stain that is wiped off after spraying. Normally has an extended drying time.

YELLOWING: A condition of the finish whereby the film turns yellow or amber with age.

Zahn Cup: A brand of viscosity cup convenient for use in factories.