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General Paint Safety

Hand Lettering topics: Sign Making, Design, Fabrication, Letterheads, Sign Books.

Moderators: Ron Percell, Mike Jackson, Danny Baronian

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Jamie Todek
Posts: 1
Joined: Wed Jan 02, 2019 3:53 pm

General Paint Safety

Post by Jamie Todek »

Hello from Michigan!
I'm a designer whos currently got the letter-bug. I bought some 1shot paint and went at it painting some wood boards. I recently became pregnant and in painting some signs for my little girl, became curious about the safety of 1shot paint and how I could best protect myself and my family.

I went to thin the paint and noticed all the warnings on the back. How would you best protect your skin from not touching the thinner or cleaner? Is there a specific respirator that works best for sign painting?

I had my first go at reverse gilding yesterday and am also now wondering about the back up paint.

Is there any resource where I can go to find the best non-toxic paints for sign lettering and reverse glass gilding? You all are so inspiring I can't wait to keep with my practice but am a little worried now with a 5 month old baby in the house and of course wanting to protect myself as well. I know its part of "industry hazards" but would like to minimize if at all possible.

Thank you
Danny Baronian
Site Admin
Posts: 638
Joined: Wed Apr 07, 2004 2:16 am

Re: General Paint Safety

Post by Danny Baronian »


best black back up paint is Naz Dar screen paint ink, FDE = fast dry enamel; can be thinned to brush on (screen print inks are thicker than 1 shot) and can be used out of the can for screen printing. If Naz Dar doesn't have it try Ink Dezyne both available from screen printing companies, some sign suppliers like McLogans, Denco, etc. Any others have supplier suggestions for the Michigan area chime in.

FDE has been available, has not changed chemistry that I'm aware, and used by many doing reversed glass work. Extremely stable and durable, works well for interior and exterior work.

Have you hooked up with any sign shops in your area, or letterhead meets? If not, look for any weekend meets, their usually reasonable priced for 3 days, and are attended by beginners as well as well established sigh shops, and are more than willing to help in any way.

As for face masks, I wouldn't rely on Lowes, Home Depot or most hardware stores regarding masks, the masks they generally carry are not sufficient for use with solvent based paints. Go to a local body shop supply that sell auto paints, body hardware, and safety masks that are made to properly filter paint fumes.

Danny Baronian
Baronian Mfg.
CNC Routing & Fabrication
Alex Sheldon
Posts: 23
Joined: Mon Jun 20, 2016 6:49 am
Location: Detroit, MI

Re: General Paint Safety

Post by Alex Sheldon »

Hey Jamie-
I’m a fellow Michigander and would recommend checking into Ronan Aquacote. It’s a waterbased enamel- it covers like 1shot and works great on wood, plastic, banners and glass. It dries to a high gloss insanely fast and won’t fume up your house. It smells kinda like tempera paint or clay. Pick up some Mack waterbased brushes from Andrew Mack Brush Company in Jonesville Michigan if you are close. They specialize in making brushes specifically for lettering with- and Chris Fast, the owner, is very helpful and knowledgeable about all the products there and can help you find a good brush to start with. You can buy Aquacote at most Blick locations now.

Danny is right about the Naz Dar- look for the 6100 fast dry enamel. It’s solvent is a higher flash and will fume up the house far greater than 1shot will.

As far as safety - I like 3M respirators and wear one when I use an airbrush or spray atomized paint. Wear nitrile gloves if you use hardener in your paint. Otherwise, paint in a room that has a fan window or door where you can promote airflow.

I’ve met a lot of old timers that are sharp as a tack and have been working with solvent and lead based paints their entire life.

I’m in the Detroit area and Mark Casey at Casey Signs (first gen letterhead) here does hand lettering classes through the Detroit School of Lettering. He has held small letterhead meets at his shop.
Lorenzo Petersson
Posts: 34
Joined: Fri Mar 23, 2012 12:11 pm

Re: General Paint Safety

Post by Lorenzo Petersson »

I’m pretty religious about this kind of stuff usually and i skipped the mask this afternoon and regretted it on my way home when i noticed i was swaying a little...

Second the 3M mask, i use one whenever i have open cans in my shop (15 msq) or on site work with the solvent enamels. Even if i do spray work outdoors. Graffiti/artist spray (acrylics acetone base most common even though bitumen black is available also) molecules are very big and they take a long while before they fall apart i’ve been told, which is why you should always wear a respirator when using aerosols. If that stuff goes in your lungs it stay there for some time releasing solvent directly to the bloodstream, yuck.

I’m in europe but i think the protection designation you’re looking for is global standard: A1 and/or A2, they usually have a brown stripe for marking and filter out organic fumes which corresponds to gum turps, mineral spirits etc. 3M makes an affordable (pricey but hey, it’s your health!) mask with replaceable filters, they are sold in pairs or in boxes of five pairs. Don’t forget to get some pairs of particle filters, they’re like pads you put outside of the filters that block large particles from obstructing the gas filters.

Remember to always put your mask in a plastic bag when you’re not using it, your filters will keep a lot longer since they’re active as long as they’re in the open air. If you end up not using your mask for a month or longer just replace the filters as a precaution. The mask will keep most of the smell out even if the filters are spent, but you’ll still be inhaling fumes.

I don’t think mild to sporadic exposure is that bad, but i think everybody here knows how you can get dizzy and absent minded after a few days of work in a confined place. If you just have an open window it helps, but i still use the mask when i work with solvent paint. If i’ve already gotten the damage why make it worse right?

I know my grandpop (house, church and sign painter) had some nerve damage and both my dad and uncle who worked a lot with him from when they were kids developed atypical parkinsonism late in life, but they used to haul and stack bags of DDT in the local grain silos for spending cash in the summers too so who knows what was worst... :shock:
However: it’s known that the brunt of damages from organic fumes tend to show up later in life and they can get pretty bad from affecting motor function to dementia, incontinence, lung stuff, liver stuff etc.
I used to do lettering outdoors without the mask but noticed a full day of one-shot slinging affected my driving noticeably so my advice to folks is to take precautions with what you breathe.

I generally prefer thinning with gum turps in small containers and dippers because they dont seem to evaporate as quickly as mineral spirits and you can smell it when the room needs airing out. If you can install a motorized outflow vent in your shop it will do ya lots of good.

A1 and A2, correct me if i’m wrong on the designation but either way: forget cheap gear for this. You wouldn’t buy the cheapest bullet proof vest if you knew you were gonna get shot at right? So you want professional grade protection, it should be available from most hardware suppliers, just ask your dealer for filters and particle filters that eliminate fumes from organic compounds.

Stay alive to keep the craft alive right? :)
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