This Mystifies Me Every Time I See It - Popular Woodworking Magazine

This Mystifies Me Every Time I See It

 In Flexner On Finishing, Flexner on Finishing Blog

What’s the matter with this picture?

I’ll probably get pushback on this, but here goes anyway. I’d love to hear your objections.

Look at the above picture. What seems odd to you? It’s not something small. It’s jumping right off the screen.

The spraying technique is entirely correct, especially with the opposite hand holding the hose out of the way. Not doing this is the most common mistake I see when teaching a class. The student leaves the hose dangling straight down so that it can rub against the just-applied finish and smear it.

The thing I notice immediately are the gloves. Why wear gloves when spraying? I see this often in magazines and on the web. It might be that the editor of producer insists on this, overcompensating on the safety side. But I fail to see any need for it. I’ve been spraying finishes for over 40 years, and I think I can confidently say that I have never worn gloves and I have never gotten finish on my hands. The gloves seem to introduce an element of unwieldiness into the process.

It’s not only spraying. I often see pictures or videos of people brushing a finish onto a horizontal surface with gloves on also, and I don’t think I’ve ever done this either. Vertical surfaces could be an exception if the finish is running down the brush handle.

Applying stains and oil finishes is another matter. I’m usually wiping them on and wiping off the excess. Wearing gloves is a very good idea here.

– Bob Flexner


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Showing 18 comments
  • TreeGrower

    Late to the party here. Two responders touched on the answer. It is PC to wear proper PPE when engaging in any potential harmful activity. What’s potentially harmful in spraying a solvent? Let’s assume the spray contains mineral spirits solvent, whose atomized spray could land on your bare skin.

    First learn about dermal absorption:

    Second, read the mineral spirits SDS:

    The SDS PPE recommendation includes gloves. And, the SDS warns that mineral spirits can have both acute and chronic effects. Disclaimer… I’ve been using mineral spirits for over 4 decades with only casual worry about possible side effects. And, SDS’s exist for common products like table salt and warn of possible side effects also. Its up to every individual to access how PC correct they want to be vs. real possible hazards.

  • Dale Barnard

    Mr. Flexner, Let me take this opportunity to compliment you on your excellent books, and vast finishing knowledge that you share on different magazines throughout the country. THANKS! I am the guy in the Video wearing the offending gloves. You are right, the gloves do indeed look out of place. This was my first video on finishing and I wore the gloves out of a desire to promote safety. I don’t normally wear them, but I don’t normally make videos either. I didn’t really think it was that big of a deal and I thought that by wearing them I would avoid viewers complaining about my dangerous technique. Abe Lincoln was right about not being able to please all the people all the time. I stand corrected.

    • Bob Flexner
      Bob Flexner

      Hi Dale. Thanks for your support in this issue. As I stated, wearing gloves in a picture while spraying with a spray gun has become ubiquitous. I surely don’t blame you for doing it because you wanted to avoid criticism, which probably would have come. And I wasn’t criticizing either. There’s surely no reason not to wear gloves. I was merely pointing out that I couldn’t see any safety reason to wear them.

  • AlexTheThird

    Probably for safety. Can air spray gun cause high pressure injection injury?

    • Dale Barnard

      Probably not, usually less than 45 lbs.

      • Bob Flexner
        Bob Flexner

        I agree with Dale. It’s airless spray guns, most often used by painters, that are the danger if you put your hand in front of the spray. But we’re talking 2 to 3 thousand psi.

  • MikeV

    I sometimes wear disposable gloves when mixing finishes, and if I go straight to the gun I might leave them on out of laziness. But I agree they are not necessary when spraying or brushing clear finishes.

    I often see photos of people operating table saws or jointers with gloves, and that strikes me as dangerous. I’d rather risk a splinter than have a loose fitting glove (and most are loose) get snagged on a blade.

  • C. Stanley Plane

    I have seen folks wear work gloves wile using a table saw. It mystifies me, in the same way that wearing gloves wile spraying mystifies you.

  • thectgrower

    So I’m a beginner. Maybe even less than that… I have sprayed a lot of pesticides in my life as a professional horticulturist though. The epa breaks down the exposure categories pretty significantly when comparing toxicity between regular laborers, applicators, and mixers. The more you’re around concentrated product on a regular basis, the more the protection standards increase. No clue what osha standards are for pro varnish applicators, but that guy is wearing almost exactly what a pro pesticide applicator would wear for a spray app. From a long term exposure (chronic) protective view point, I would assume he’s well dressed for the job until I know more about the relative toxicity of the product. And just because you don’t see it on your hands, doesn’t mean it isn’t there. Little bits add up over time… Just a noobs 2 cents.

    • Dale Barnard

      Valid comments here. If anyone knows osha requirements please let us know.

  • ccmac65

    I don’t wear them. My dad was used those guns for his business spraying glue for vinyl roofs back in the 70’s and 80’s. He taught me (his daughter) to spray. When I took up woodworking 21+ years ago, I just never even thought about gloves. I’m weird and probably “wrong”, but, I put the hose over my shoulder. But again, as a woman, I do that with the vacuum cord 😉

    If it doesn’t hamper the end result, does it matter?

    • Dale Barnard

      I agree, it really doesn’t matter and it is up to personal preference.

  • Loxmyth

    I don’t know about anyone else, but Im a bit sloppy when finishing. I expect to get finish on myself at some point. Gloves ensure that I can immediately have clean hands if/when I need them, by simply taking them off or switching to a new pair.

    The alternative is sticky fingerprints n possibly annoying places.

    Some day my technique will improve and all the finish will go onto the wood. Until then gloves remain a sometimes useful tool.

    • Bob Flexner
      Bob Flexner

      The phrase, “Wearing gloves while finishing” was added. I didn’t write this. Please try to read the text without this phrase and you’ll see what I was trying to do. I wanted you to look at the picture and see if there was something odd. Not something small, but jumping off the page at you. It’s the gloves while spraying (not “finishing,” spraying), while holding a spray gun and pulling the trigger. The rest of the text explains further why I think it’s odd that someone would wear gloves in this situation.
      But if you disagree, would you please explain how you can get finish on your hands while spraying?

      • PatrickR

        I usually wear disposable thin nitrile gloves while using a spray gun. I agree with you that your hands should remain clean while spraying. I guess I usually wear them more for before and after. That is putting finish into a gun and clean up. I guess I see no need to remove them just to spray. As far as dexterity is concerned they’re not as big and bulky as the ones in the picture.

      • gilgaron

        I have somehow done it with rattle can spray paint in a trigger dispenser. It is always best for PPE to become a habit, so perhaps many people used to it end up using it when it isn’t necessary. If it were me, I’d be wearing (appropriately sized) nitrile gloves, which don’t inhibit dexterity the way those in the photo would. I’d habitually put them on anytime anything with solvent in it was in use.

      • Bob Flexner
        Bob Flexner

        The phrase, “wearing gloves while finishing” in the title was removed, so the post and the title are now back to the way I wrote them. So please ignore my comment.

      • Dale Barnard

        Asa final note I sometimes spray small parts that would fly around the room if not held down in some manner. I will sometimes hold the part with my other hand and get overspray on that hand, and even worse, on my watch so I use the gloves in that case.

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