Minwax: It’s Spring and There’s a Smell of Varnish in the Air

Minwax: It’s Spring and There’s a Smell of Varnish in the Air

April is National Woodworking Month … the official/unofficial opening of the spring woodworking season. Since Minwax has enthusiastically sponsored this annual observance for the past ten years, we asked Bob Hammond, Category Director for Minwax and Formby’s for an update on the event and his company.

“During April, we encourage all our retailers to provide traditional rebates on Minwax products to their customers.” Bob explained, “And we distribute two million copies of our 36-page Wood Beautiful® Magazine. It’s intended to inspire woodworkers, give them ideas on how to decorate with wood, and encourage them to take on new projects.”

To support that out-burst of staining and finishing, Minwax has lately introduced a range of new products. Bob filled us in.

For years, woodworkers have complained about wood fillers not taking stain. Attempts to pre-color the filler have more miss than hit or. That’s what makes Minwax’s Stainable Wood Filler so unique. The product made its début last year at the late and lamented American Woodworker Shows and you should be able to find it at Menard’s and Lowe’s.

“We spent years developing it.” Bob told us, “For trim work and repairs, it’s fantastic. It comes out of a tube or tub a neutral, light color. Say you’ve done some door trim … you fill the holes with Stainable Wood Filler and it’s dry in a hour … then stain it all a golden oak, take two steps back and won’t see any filler.”

Hardwood floors and the folks who finish them are getting a break with the company’s new Super Fast-Drying Polyurethane for Floors. According to Bob, it dries about twenty-five percent faster than traditional oil-based finishes. It’s still affected by humidity and temperature, but it dries proportional faster. In another big improvement, it’s eliminated the need to sand between coats. And no abrading means not having to tack cloth the floor for dust. (If you wait more than 12 hours between coats, however, you will have to go back and roughen the surface for adhesion.) Perhaps most importantly, the finish produces a better looking floor.

“It has a new technology, with an anti-settling chemistry.” Bob explained (and this complicated but interesting), “All satin and semi-gloss finishes have anti-flattening agents in them (to reduce the cured finishes’ level of gloss). Without those agents, everything would be very shiny. When you stir up a can, you are dispersing these agents throughout the finish. But as soon as you’re finished stirring, those anti-flattening agents start to settle back down to the bottom of the can. Between the start and finish of a big project, if you don’t stir frequently, the finish may up-gloss and ruin the job. Our anti-settling additive makes good results less dependent on constant stirring.”

Bob was also excited about the company’s new water-based stain tints. They’ve been slowly rolling out with seven off-the-shelf wood tone colors and 60 custom tints that can be mixed behind the paint counter. Adding variety to the traditional “18 shades of brown” usually available for staining, the tints give woodstainers a new range of reds, blues, yellows and greens. Interest is growing in the product, according to Bob, especially for kid’s furniture. They also developed a crystal clear water-based finish that, unlike most amber-tinged coatings, won’t turn blue to green!

With all the competition in the big stores like Home Depot and Lowe’s, how has Minwax managed to hold onto 80% of the stain market and 60% of clear finishes?

“The key is staying in touch with the consumer.” Bob explained. “A lot of our customers remember those yellow cans of our stain or finish their father’s had in the basement. It’s a strong connection. We also try to stay in touch via our website. There’s lots of product and application information. On our online forum, you can ask us or share ideas with other consumers. For inspiration, we have project plans at three different skill levels. We’re going to ratchet up the content even more, when our new site comes out next year!”

How much wax does Minwax sell? Aside from two, paste wax finish products, not much. But Bob told us the name goes back to the start of the company almost 100 years ago. “The man who founded the company had a wax-like product that was being applied to the exterior of a building in New York City. As the stuff dripped down onto the wooden scaffolding, they noticed it was repelling water. That’s how we got started.”

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