09/11/2023 by MATTHEW J ELEMON, MJL Decorating Services
The Changing Ways, Tools, Methods and Materials Of Today's Professional Painter & Decorator
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I have been a painter and decorator since August 15th 1983, the first day I started as a young, willing, naive YTS trainee . I was eager to learn and wanted to soak as much information up as I could, My first job was knotting and priming, I loved it, I’m glad I did because that’s all I done for 6 months, knot, prime all day every day , but I got to learn how important both materials are, knotting to stop sap bleeding through from the knot and breaking through the paint film surface, The primer is and always is the most important coat, as it has to be applied correctly, minimal brush marks as these will show through every coat, most importantly the primer has to adhere to the substrate that’s is being painted, otherwise all the subsequent coats will also fail.
We always used to use an oil based pink primer, and because of its lead content it felt tacky still the next day, now a days Shellac based sealers Zinseer BIN is in my opinion the best sealer for knots, this can be brushed on or even sprayed from an aerosol can, leaving a far better smooth brush free finish.
As for primers there are numerous different types for each individual situation and specific job. Fillers have also changed immensely, putty or wood stopper was often used, for filling small nail heads, polyyfilla was a very well know powder based filler, There is so much more choice now, fillers dry quicker and are a lot more flexible . I personally like the French filler Toupret , they have a great range for different situations , and substrates.
Tools have changed massively over the years since I was an apprentice, My first tool bag was a few basic Hamilton Perfection filling and stripping knives, a hacking knife for hacking old putties out, hammer, and brushes, which were also Hamilton Perfection, I really rated the brushes, In my opinion they were the best at the time, and lasted for years, really didn’t like a new brush, always wanted to wear my brushes in, so they were great for cutting in, When I was an apprentice we were not allowed to use rollers, everything had to be brushed, which at the time was hard work, but has paid off dividends now , A huge 6 inch flat brush for ceiling and walls, cutting in with this was an art in its own right.
Todays brushes have changed so much , to accommodate the different paints, I now use Purdy & Pro form Blaze bot exceptional brushes , giving a great finish, of course walls and ceilings are generally rolled now , but occasionally I do get a customer wanting a traditional finish and I will brush walls and ceilings , which I personally think still is the best finish. But of course it takes a lot longer!
There are so many different rollers now as well, ranging in sizes and again different roller pile, for different substrates, little 4in mini rollers are a handy addition to any tool bag, especially the flock finish , giving a great finish for water based paints.
Preparation tools: what a difference there has been with these, We used to cut a piece of “scratch’ as we called it off the roll, and rub everything by hand, sometimes wrapping the’ scratch’ around a rubbing block to make it easier and flatter, At the end of a long day prepping the decorator would often be covered head to toe in white dust, especially if you had been rubbing ceilings and walls down all day, and of course de sheeting everything and then the cleaning could begin.
On really detailed work we often rubbed down with wet and dry, a lot of the time using soapy water to stop the scratching of the surface, this was a great way of prepping, and gave a really smooth finish but took a lot of time.I then started to use electric palm sanders, which at the time were a revelation, giving better quicker results than hand sanding, but noisy, and messy, as the dust wold be air bourn very quickly, but lots of it too.
Today’s modern decorator is virtually dust free. After investing heavily 3-4 years ago in specialised sanding machines that connect to a dust extractor unit. The difference is amazing, not only is the preparation far better, its quicker and so much cleaner , today I’m no longer covered in white powdery dust, because the different sanders have the dust extraction unit, and because of the way the sanding discs and pads are designed the dust gets sucked through tiny holes straight into the extractor, hence most of the dust is not left on the substrate either, Mirka & Festool are in my opinion the best dustless sanders and have different sanders for different items to prepare . The different abrasives obviously come in different grades, so if you need some old flaking paint removed there are the products for this, right down to the most finesse of preparation work , there are the products for this too . Because of the dustless sanding, this means cleaning up is quicker and a lot healthier for the decorator too. Here at MJL Decorating services ltd, we believe preparation is the most vital element of decorating, so we invest heavily in this side of things to bring the best possible results we can.
Spraying is becoming ever more popular, MJL Decorating services Ltd, have used spray equipment for over 20 years, the first machine I bought was a small Tiatn pump, which was great, I then progressed on to Graco machines, These are bigger, and I personally find them better, we have both airless pumps and HVLP set ups, for the more delicate work, trims ornate coving and mouldings etc, again with the majority of painting and decorating, everything is in the prep, and especially masking, once he masking is perfected, spraying becomes very easy, and very fast, keeping coast down and time scales met.
This is just a very brief view of how things have changed and are constantly changing for the
professional decorator of today, they are exciting times.
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