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Thread: Kirby’s Paint Advice

  1. #1
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    Default Kirby’s Paint Advice

    Hi All,

    So I am struggling mightily with Kirby’s light gray semi-gloss. To keep things simple, let’s assume I’m doing tests in 70 degree temps on a clean piece of plate glass with a high quality natural brush. The paint straight out of the can doesn’t flow at all and any brush marks remain. I’ve tried thinning with various combinations of turps and penetrol and seem to get the best flow with about 4:1 paint to Kirby’s thinner. However, the paint then dries with a very uneven sheen that highlights the minute bristle marks.

    By way of comparison, I tried a test of some Brightside today and found that it laid down perfectly with a chip brush! I feel like I’ve tried everything I can think of with no real success, all while reading of people’s spray-like results with Kirby’s. I’m starting to wonder about this being a problem specific to the semi-gloss.

    Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

    Steve Zicree

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Kirby’s Paint Advice

    Call George at Kirby's.
    Ben Fuller
    Ran Tan, Liten Kuhling, Tipsy, Tippy, Josef W., Merry Mouth, Imp, Macavity, Look Far, Flash and a quiver of other 'yaks.
    "Bound fast is boatless man."

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Kirby’s Paint Advice

    ^ Ditto
    Simmons Sea Skiff build photos here:
    https://photos.google.com/share/AF1Q...92a21VWm02bmhR

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Kirby’s Paint Advice

    I did call a while back. He was very nice, and advised that the paint needs to be thinned. I said I would experiment with different ratios. I was hoping that folks on here could offer some first hand info on their own results.

    Seeing the flow characteristics of the Kirby’s vs. Brightsides today was quite an eye opener. A brushstroke with the brightsides self-levels in seconds; the Kirby’s does not even after thinning waaay down.

    I’ll give George a holler tomorrow to follow up.

    Steve

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Kirby’s Paint Advice

    Steve, did you try a foam roller, roll and tip? Or foam brush? The Brightside poly is quite thin, designed for multiple thin coats. And indeed there may be an issue with semi. I think the way they get semi is add some solid.
    Ben Fuller
    Ran Tan, Liten Kuhling, Tipsy, Tippy, Josef W., Merry Mouth, Imp, Macavity, Look Far, Flash and a quiver of other 'yaks.
    "Bound fast is boatless man."

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Kirby’s Paint Advice

    I just finished painting a Tolman Skiff with Kirby's green/grey semigloss. Prior to this boat I've always used Petit Easypoxy. I rolled the un-thinned Kirby's on with a hot dog foam roller. The roller left no bubbles, so I didn't bother tipping it. The paint didn't self-level like the Easypoxy, but in my golden years I don't worry about paint finishes much anymore. The Kirby's is what it is...a good old fashioned oil based enamel that goes on thick, covers well,miss gritty 7.jpg but still dries in a reasonable amount of time. Perfect for a wooden workboat like mine.

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Kirby’s Paint Advice

    I like the way Kirby's looks and smells, but I've switched to one part urethanes for better durability. Benjamin Moore sells them at sane prices. This year I used Rustoleum Marine paint on my dory. So far so good.

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Kirby’s Paint Advice

    I'm surprised George Kirby didn't recommend their proprietary conditioner. He sent me some when I was having a similar issue. Worked great.

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Kirby’s Paint Advice

    I have never used Kirby's; I have never even seen a can of it used here. I infer that it comes recommended by folks here because of its "olde tymey" can label and the folksy fact that one can reach George Kirby on the phone. And he is, by all indications, a nice guy. My old buddy Land Washburn did offer Kirby's at his Wooden Boat Shop in the 70s, but he was an East Coast guy like most of the Kirby fans here. Kirby does make colors that are appropriate for traditional boats, but any paint can be tinted.

    One should realize that there are all kinds of paint jobs. Kim Lazar, a champion painter in this area, could paint a car with a brush and you could not tell the difference. I rarely achieve that quality. The original poster should realize that paint generally needs to be thinned depending on the conditions at time of application. Use the thinner recommended on the can. I used to disdain Penetrol because I thought only duffers used it. However, it has its place. It will extend drying time and ease leveling. I am not sure about its suitability for polyurethane.

    Typically I have used Easypoxy but these days, I use Fine Paints of Europe...it's a Dutch company. Coverage is amazing and application is very easy. As they say down at Jensen Motorboat: "Put your worst painter on the job with Fine Paints of Europe!" http://www.finepaintsofeurope.com/

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Kirby’s Paint Advice

    It may be the semi, the gloss levels well in my experience. I’ve only sprayed the semi and it gave me the result I wanted but not what I expected. Much flatter than I expected.

  11. #11
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    Default Re: Kirby’s Paint Advice

    Have you tried it on wood? George says his paint goes on different, we used his thinner, about 10 percent and brushed it on a fiberglass boat. Also primed first. We were happy with the result, not perfectly flat but it covered well.

    IMG_6500.jpg

    IMG_6628.jpg

    IMG_6678.jpg
    Cheers
    Kent and Skipper
    Small Boat Restoration blog

  12. #12
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    Default Re: Kirby’s Paint Advice

    39B40B8F-F362-4009-B7CB-E2888090AE73.jpg

    Kirbys. The tan color is flat, the green semi gloss. Roll and tip, both foam. Capful of penetrol in @ a pint of paint.
    Fight Entropy, build a wooden boat!

  13. #13
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    Default Re: Kirby’s Paint Advice

    I appreciate all the ideas. Regarding roll and tip, I’m intentionally keeping that out of the mix for now. I’m simply trying to get the paint to properly lay down on a square foot of clean plate glass using a high quality natural bristle brush. I have tried every thickness of film and every ratio of conditioner I can, and I just can’t get it to flatten out. I realize that technique matters but I had no trouble whatsoever getting a perfect finish with brightsides.

    I talked to George about it and he didn’t have a definitive answer other than to thin it out till it flows properly. Currently that has me using about 4:1 paint to conditioner. At this level of reduction it seems as if the sheen becomes sort of finely streaked.

    To be honest, at this point I’m mostly motivated to solve the mystery of how anybody could claim that this stuff could be mistaken for a sprayed finish. My next experiment might be to try the gloss version.

    Steve Zicree

  14. #14
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    Default Re: Kirby’s Paint Advice

    Quote Originally Posted by Steve Z View Post
    I appreciate all the ideas. Regarding roll and tip, I’m intentionally keeping that out of the mix for now. I’m simply trying to get the paint to properly lay down on a square foot of clean plate glass using a high quality natural bristle brush. I have tried every thickness of film and every ratio of conditioner I can, and I just can’t get it to flatten out. I realize that technique matters but I had no trouble whatsoever getting a perfect finish with brightsides.

    I talked to George about it and he didn’t have a definitive answer other than to thin it out till it flows properly. Currently that has me using about 4:1 paint to conditioner. At this level of reduction it seems as if the sheen becomes sort of finely streaked.

    To be honest, at this point I’m mostly motivated to solve the mystery of how anybody could claim that this stuff could be mistaken for a sprayed finish. My next experiment might be to try the gloss version.

    Steve Zicree
    uh, try painting wood. just a guess.
    roll and tip is the way to go. use the very thin foam roller. I always advise newbys to use foam brushes until you get the way of things. like I said, penetrol would help.

  15. #15
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    Default Re: Kirby’s Paint Advice

    Quote Originally Posted by pcford View Post
    uh, try painting wood. just a guess.
    roll and tip is the way to go. use the very thin foam roller. I always advise newbys to use foam brushes until you get the way of things. like I said, penetrol would help.
    I did all of the above first and it looked like hell.

  16. #16
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    Default Re: Kirby’s Paint Advice

    Quote Originally Posted by Steve Z View Post
    I did all of the above first and it looked like hell.
    High quality painting is hard, much harder than varnishing. I suggest you try a different paint.

  17. #17
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    Default Re: Kirby’s Paint Advice

    What brush are you using?
    Cheers
    Kent and Skipper
    Small Boat Restoration blog

  18. #18
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    Default Re: Kirby’s Paint Advice

    I am wondering if it is the medium you are painting on. Glass is rather unforgiving, it lacks even the smallest of pores that might grab and trap the paint. I know back in High School, I tried painting a piece of glass with the same poster paint that looked great on posterboard but looked like hell on the glass itself.

    like said above, try a piece of wood similar to what you will be trying to paint.
    "If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito"

    -Dalai Lama

  19. #19
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    Default Re: Kirby’s Paint Advice

    Quote Originally Posted by Art Haberland View Post
    I am wondering if it is the medium you are painting on. Glass is rather unforgiving, it lacks even the smallest of pores that might grab and trap the paint. I know back in High School, I tried painting a piece of glass with the same poster paint that looked great on posterboard but looked like hell on the glass itself.

    like said above, try a piece of wood similar to what you will be trying to paint.
    Excellent point. That's all about surface tension. Poster paint is water-based. Water beads up on glass more than oil or grease does.

    It's very true that Kirby's has a neat old-timely label. (George III once sent me a selection of some of their old labels, which are even more "old-timey" than the present one.) You can get very good advice on the phone by "calling George." (I think they are on George IV now... they're all "Georges.") Kirby's is a family owned business of great longevity. They are located in New Bedford, MA and started out selling paint to the whalers in 1846. You can't get much saltier than that. But aside from the "Yaaar!" factor, Kirby's is just good paint and it's getting harder and harder to source decent basic oil-based enamel paint anymore due to environmental regulations. There used to be lots of small paint manufacturers mixing up batches of pigment, linseed oil, turpentine, and Japan drier back in the day. Kirby's is one of the very last of that breed. Hence, it's of interest to everybody across the US. (I think there's a similar outfit now making "real" enamel paint up in the Pacific Northwest these days, but they lack Kirby's historical chops.)

    Kirby's is a high quality traditional oil-based paint. That's what's good about it, but there's no mystery to it.

    I'm hearing a couple of things here that may explain the problems the OP is having.

    1) "Semi-gloss" paint generally contains material that needs to be evenly suspended when applied if the "flatness" is to be evenly dispersed over the surface. "Semi-gloss" is a "short-cut" product that tries to mimic a hand-rubbed finish, or an aged gloss finish. When I want "semi-gloss," I mix gloss and flat to taste. Kirby's gloss tends to be just a bit flatter than high gloss alternatives such as Interlux and Peitit alkyd enamels. So, if you are using a "semi-gloss' paint marketed as such, it needs to be well stirred (not shaken) before and during application. If the degree of gloss isn't uniform, it's because the paint hasn't been properly stirred to ensure that the flattening material is evenly dispersed in the paint. (It settles over time.)

    2) All paint needs to be conditioned. Kirby's is quality paint and they don't skimp on the expensive stuff, which is the pigment. Thus, it's thicker "in the can" than many other paints. Conditioning takes experience and doesn't lend itself to written instructions. Talking about thinning ratios as if they are some sort of recipe is a fool's errand because conditioning is entirely dependent upon the paint you are using and the environmental conditions, which will vary from day to day, hour to hour, and whether you are painting in the sun or the shade. Conditioning is a function of how easily you want the paint to flow from the brush and how fast you want it to dry, both of which determine how well it "lays down." If you have brush strokes, your paint is simply drying too quickly to allow the paint to level on the surface. There is nothing more to it than that. Of course, if your paint is too thick, it isn't going to level quickly enough and so will dry before it gets done leveling, leaving brush strokes. Brush strokes can be minimized by proper brushing technique and brush quality, of course, but assuming all that, the paint has to be properly conditioned before anything else.

    Traditional oil paint can be conditioned by 1) thinning... which is to say by adding (real) mineral spirits ("paint thinner") or turpentine. (Modern epoxy and "poly-" paints should be thinned with the manufacturer's proprietary thinners.) Thinning addresses how easily the paint flows from brush to surface and spreads and controls the thickness of the coat. 2) and by retarding or accelerating drying time. Adding raw linseed oil, which dries relatively slowly, will retard drying time, allowing the paint to level properly leaving no brush strokes. (Note that "boiled" linseed oil contains "drying" agents that accelerate the curing process of the oil.) Drying time is affected by the temperature on the surface being painted. The "sunny side" is going to dry a lot faster than the "shady side" of a hull and the shady side of a hull first thing in the morning is going to be a lot cooler than the ambient air temperature, just as the shady side may be a lot warmer than you think around noon time when it may have just changed from being the sunny side to being the shady side. In the sun, especially, a dark paint on the surface will heat up more quickly than a light or white paint will. (Penetrol is essentially raw linseed oil with a dash of naptha and ethylbenzene and possibly a smidgen of methylethyl ketone for flavor.) Drying time is accelerated by the addition of "Japan driers." Most Japan driers are about 97% naptha and 3% cobalt. It's used very sparingly, if at all, when conditioning "canned" oil-based paints these days. Up until the 1940's, painters generally mixed paint themselves on the job. The white lead oxide pigment then in use served the same purpose as today's "Japan drier" does. When pre-mixed paint sold in cans came on the market, they didn't keep in the can well and "site mixed" paint was preferred. Japan drier solved the shelf-life problems of canned paint. As we use canned paint these days, when we condition it, there's generally enough Japan drier in the product to suffice without adding more when conditioning.

    It is important to remember that oil-based enamel paint not only "dries" by the evaporation of volatile organic compounds (i.e. solvents,) but also "cures" as the oils solidify. Evaporation and curing speed is determined by temperature factors, but are different processes. In large measure, this is what creates the difference between "wet" paint and "tacky" paint.

    In recent times, environmental regulations have limited the "VOC content" ("volatile organic compounds," i.e. solvents that quickly evaporate) in paints and varnishes. Some manufacturers have decreased the VOC content of their products by not adding as much solvent to the mix, resulting in a thicker paint in order to comply with regulations... or so it is said. Suffice it to say that paint "straight from the can" is almost always too thick for proper application and must at least be thinned.

    So, none of this is going to be of too much practical help to the untrained painter, but I believe that through experimentation and experience, one can teach themselves. To condition paint, first stir it well, and it never hurts to keep a stirring stick in the "pot" (the container from which you are filling your brush) to give it a bit of a stir every now and again while working and always after it has sat still for any length of time. Oil-based enamels should be no thicker than the consistency of thin cream or "half and half." After stirring well, the paint should be tested on a piece of scrap material of the same type as will be painted to determine if the paint is "laying down" as it should. (Drips, "runs," and "curtains" are a function of too much paint applied to the surface, not of how thick the paint may be.) Properly applied finish paint should be a thin coat, generally requiring two or three coats of gloss over a properly prepared flat basecoat. Testing should include determining if the "wet edge" is lasting long enough to fair the working edges. This is a matter of whether the paint is drying too fast or not. The test panel should also indicate whether the paint is "leveling" properly. If brush strokes remain, the addition of a bit of raw linseed oil or Penetrol will retard drying (curing) and the lack of brush strokes will indicate when enough has been added. (Pentrol's instructions say "add a capful," but I've frequently added much more than that to get my paint to do what I want it to do. YMMV)

    It must also be remembered that as work progresses on longer jobs, evaporation in the pot may well require a dollop of thinner as one goes along. It's a matter of "feel" that one acquires by experience.

    Simply put, there's no magic formula for conditioning paint. You just have to play with it until it's doing what you want it to do on any given day at any given time.

    I hope somebody finds this useful.

  20. #20
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    Default Re: Kirby’s Paint Advice

    Quote Originally Posted by Bob Cleek View Post

    I hope somebody finds this useful.
    One of the most useful things I've read in a while!
    Cheers
    Kent and Skipper
    Small Boat Restoration blog

  21. #21
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    Default Re: Kirby’s Paint Advice

    Very useful. Some of it new to me, the rest of it: “… What oft was Thought, but ne'er so well Exprest…” (Alexander Pope, 1688-1744)

  22. #22
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    Default Re: Kirby’s Paint Advice

    I’ve used quite a bit of Kirby’s paint at this point. We did our Point Comfort 23 with the semi gloss in several colors. It was the color chart and choice of premixed sheen that attracted me to it. With the polyurethanes you have to use a flattener to change the sheen. I struggled with it at first, but finally learned to “dose” it properly. I found Penetrol to be more useful than the Kirby thinner, but I use both, in a ratio of 2 parts Penetrol to 1 part Kirby’s thinner. It’s a very sticky paint! It takes more thinning than you would ever think, but if you like the colors in a semi or flat, then stick with it. Easypoxy and Brightsides need thinning too, but are generally easier to handle. The Point Comfort, by the way, lives at the dock 6 months a year, uncovered except for the binnacle. The Kirby’s has held up well. It chalks a little, and flattens out, but still looks good. It’s worth the effort IF you want a premixed semi in a traditional color.Cricket

  23. #23
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    Default Re: Kirby’s Paint Advice

    I hope somebody finds this useful.
    I sure did! Thank you sir.
    "If it ain't broke, you're not trying." - Red Green

  24. #24
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    Default Re: Kirby’s Paint Advice

    Bob,
    Thanks a ton for taking the time. I realize you’ve given this info before and I’ve gotten a lot from reading all of it. I think my biggest trouble from the start has been all the contradictory info I’ve gotten. For example, the can says not to thin at all, or at most 1/2 pint per gallon. This works out to less than 6% thinner. Other sources have reported great success with nearly 50%. These are soooo far apart that they can’t possibly both work well.

    At this point I’m mostly focused on getting the paint to level quickly. My understanding is that I should be able to see brush marks self-level within a just a few minutes at most. I’ve used the Kirby’s conditioner up to about 25% and can stand there watching as the brush marks just sit there. I’ll admit that I haven’t thinned more than this mostly because of all the folks that report great results with no more than 10% thinner. I have also fiddled around with turps and penetrol, but began to think that I’d do better using Kirby’s conditioner.

    When I get back to the project I am literally going to bring a bowl of half and half out there with me and thin the paint until they’re the same. That’ll at least give me a reference.

    Steve
    Last edited by Steve Z; 08-03-2019 at 09:56 PM.

  25. #25
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    Default Re: Kirby’s Paint Advice

    This boat is all Kirby paint. Semi gloss, dosed with Kirby brushing liquid and Penetrol, as I stated above. Bob Cleek is correct in stating that you will have to add more thinner as you work out of a container as it evaporates. Particularly when it's hot out. I mix small batches at a time, and don't pour a used mix back in the original can. I'm sure you can make it work. Also, you will find that in use, all of the glitches seem to disappear.



    Try the Penetrol!

  26. #26
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    Default Re: Kirby’s Paint Advice

    Based on a recommendation in an Off Center Harbor varnishing video, I just got a can of Epifanes Easy-Flow. The expert in the video said that she preferred Easy-Flow over Penetrol as well as any thinner to improve the flowing capability.

    I haven't had a chance to try it out yet, but, in the video, the brush marks in the varnish could be seen to be disappearing in a matter of not very many seconds after the varnish had been applied. It says it can be used with any single part or half-synthetic paints.

    Might be worth a look.

  27. #27
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    Default Re: Kirby’s Paint Advice

    Any thoughts on spraying?
    "If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito"

    -Dalai Lama

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