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Specialist paint products – don’t forget Europe

Listed under Blog, Mirka, products, suppliers Posted Oct 03 2011

When looking for up-to-the-minute or alternative specialist paint products and painting ideas, we painters are no different from the rest of the British population and tend to look across the Atlantic for inspiration. We are missing a trick.

Don’t get me wrong, I have seen plenty of evidence that the North Americans have many fantastic products and have mastered systems worth adopting and adapting – Wooster and Zinsser and spraying and masking to name but 4 outstanding features – but it is easy to forget that the majority of paints and potions and tools leading the painting world come from age-old companies located right on our own door step in Germany, Scandinavia, France, Holland, Switzerland.

Companies like Claessens, Kiem, Dalapro, Tikkurila, Alcro, Eico etc have products that blow the mind. Paint that lasts 100 years on exteriors; paint that goes over soot in 2 coats, no exceptions; paint that deals with -30 to +30C ; sprayable light-weight tub fillers when the UK barely even knew what a lightweight tub filler of any description was.

So near yet so far

Being so close geographically, you would think we were all over the space-age products in continental Europe, but a real impediment to progress is often the language barrier. Spachtel schmachtel. English may well be touted as the universal language of business, but if the UK painting trade is anything to go by, this is a baloney concept, and actually confirms mountains of evidence that English speakers are missing out on untold business-related opportunities overseas.

Of course many Euro companies are a part of conglomerates and have English language websites, and companies like Sikkens and Mirka are pretty well known to us Brits, but even so, we on the island don’t speak enough of the Euro lingos, and consequently miss out on so many of the products that our progressive neighbours take for granted.

You get what you wish for

Innovative UK companies are to be found scattered amongst the general blah of the decorating trade, but to be frank, the UK construction industry is mega conservative and still seems obsessed by price not value. Also, merchants are not very customer oriented. They seem happy to be serving up the same old kit dressed up in different seasonal colours, satisfied to peddle what has served us “well” for decades, while the rest of the world surges ahead.

Even if you don’t agree that British construction is slow to adopt new ways of doing, that is the perception in Europe. In the late 80’s I was told (quite gleefully) by an Akzo rep that they had so many products back home that they couldn’t release to the UK, because British decorators just weren’t open to such radical ideas! And Toupret, the French filler giant, I am told, even now have products the like of which we have never see on general release here.

And I was invited to attend a trade show at TDS in Derby to show kit that I have tried, tested and now use everyday. It was surprising to me how resistant people are, again, always asking how much it costs, not how much it saves or earns.

Same old – I remember attending a meeting of Gloucester painters in 1990, discussing acrylic paints for woodwork and wondered which cave everyone had crawled out from!

Acrylic paints had been in the US since the 50’s. In the 80’s I had used products in the states with 10 year guarantees, when nothing like that existed in UK at that time (except lead-based paint probably). Called to a trade meeting, I thought it would be exciting to get to grips with the possibilities of using this tried and tested technology in oil borne Britain. But it was the most depressing meeting I ever attended, with a barrage of reasons why not to adopt! “Water-based couldn’t withstand harsh UK weather, you can’t paint it on in the rain…” It was ill-informed madness. I am sure that the findings of those sorts of meetings of leading Brit professionals set us back 20 years.

So while I see a lot of merit in progressive decorators picking the brains and product lines of North America, (it is prefect that we don’t have to learn a language), it makes sense to me to try and focus more attention on our Euro neighbours and investigate their out-the-box thinking and improved approaches to decorating.

Here are some examples of European innovation.

Scandinavia

In terms of likemindedness and origins, we are closer to Scandanavia than our more obvious neighbours, France or our special relations in USA.

Fillers Ever heard of Dalapro? They are a Swedish fillers company, now part of the humungous Saint-Gobain conglomerate. Their speciality is ready mixed tub fillers.

We were the first company to launch light fillers (1981) and light spray filler for airless piston pumps (1990), which appreciably improved ergonomics and the working environment for painters and decorators.

All their products are based on Dolomite marble dust and microspheres. I have a couple of tubs of Dalapro rollable fine surface filler. It is weird, green, but for small jobs where you don’t want to spray on the filler, this is a useful addendum to the kit box.

Tikkurila This huge conglomerate are behind some of the most advanced coatings available to painters and decorators, and they have been following the same formulae for years.

Tikkurila stats

Abrasives Our Finnish friends at Mirka certainly know a thing or two about sanding.

Mirka Abrasives Ltd have been supplying traditional coated abrasives products to the UK Automotive Refinishing Market for many years. Recent developments in product innovation of Abralon®, Abranet®, Autonet™ and the NETsanding™ process has taken Mirka to the forefront of dust free sanding systems.

I think this company has cracked the oldest nut in decorating, how to sand to perfection without creating clouds of dust. Aluminium oxide on a paper roll, adios. Abranet is where automotive body shop practices meet painting and decorating. * Available online here

France

Fillers Toupret and Beissier are French filler companies, producing ranges of specialist products that the vast majority of Brits have no clue about. Like the Scandanavians, they too like their marble dust, and have developed powder fillers and tub fillers for every occasion and every level of fine finishing.

Toupret have a UK presence, but if you want to research what they do for the painting trade in France, where prep seems to have been taken to new levels, you need to know a bit of the old French. (Try Google translate.)

I have never used a Beissier product before. Plenty have since. A bit about Beissier filler

Holland

I was told at college that the masters of our trade were the Dutch. I have no reason to disbelieve this, judging by a couple of home grown Dutch companies, whose paints absolutely rock.

Sikkens

In 1792 house painter Wiert Willem Sikkens started the production of Sikkens lacquers in the town of Groningen.

Rubbol AZ lacquer, which is still an outstanding synthetic oil-based gloss, was introduced by Sikkens in 1934. The Dutch have had a long time to perfect the art of painting. The Dutch have also mastered preparation of woodwork! As Partick Baty pointed out, the secret to the fantastic painted front doors in Amsterdam is Gras a Lacquer filler.

Epifanes
The glossiest gloss paint I ever used was Epifanes Bootlak, one of several ultimate performance paints for the marine industry. The following claim is true, but the acclaim has not really spread to the painting fraternity on these shores.

world famous Epifanes Traditional Gloss Varnish, widely acclaimed as the finest of all varnishes.

Germany

Keim Mineral Paints

They are natural, water-borne, liquid silicate paints which produce an extremely durable, colourfast, sustainable protective finish with high vapour permeability, which work in harmony with the environment. Due to the unique way in which the system works, it ensures a longlife, colourfast, protective finish with low maintenance.

The unique longevity of the system has been proven in a number of cases where Keim has performed satisfactorily for periods in excess of 100 years. There are buildings in Europe which were decorated in the 1890s, these buildings are still in excellent condition today and have not been decorated since. An example of this is Schweiz Town Hall in Switzerland which was decorated in 1891.

Festool tools are made in Germany to exacting quality standards. 99ppm is the mantra in their QC department – only a maximum of 99 components per million can be defective ie a Festools sander, drill or planer will be 99.99% correct when it leaves the factory.

Switzerland

Claessens is the name and problem-solving is their game. Started in 1887, the founder was Belgian, but in 1925, VERNIS CLAESSENS SA set up at Renens in the French speaking part of Switzerland.

In 1955 they launched the Classidur range which has since been applied to over 1 billion sq metres of problematic surfaces. Quite simply, their paints work in the most difficult scenarios.

That is just a glimpse of what is out there, not to far from UK. Luckily merchants are following the lead of the mighty TDS, and setting their sights around the world, looking for brands to change the way we do things in the UK. Keep them coming, and keep looking!



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4 comments to “Specialist paint products – don’t forget Europe”

  1. Ross hutchison

    What a tremendous piece of info . Yes I see it. I started 2years back and once past the old talk “that’s we always use” I usually walk away. I use toupret fab, and started using zinster exterior water based paint for indoors! Thinking out the box – is fab. I am always on a search for fab products. I came across classifeur products at the painting and dec show and now trying to think of ways to capitalise on it!
    Recently I have come across breathable paints (scratching my head) ok let’s look at this! Silicate paint which was used on the White House! Buildings you have quoted! Also lotus leaf self cleaning paint! I am at the part of is this sales garbage or does it work? You are spot on when you say – it’s not what is cheapest it is will it save time and effort in long term. Would you be aware of youtube videos of these products in action or other information scources? Currently studying exterior paints! This article has reinforced the future of paint and other people see a short coming of the painting world – it’s now how do I make a difference to my working life and pocket! All the best Ross

  2. Andy Crichton Andy Crichton

    I would think most paint companies have product videos. We are problem solvers and because of the diversity of substrates and issues, we need a few tools at our disposal. Old ways were effective, but there is so much more to see out there now.

    Are you aware that exterior paints aren’t always tougher than interior, they may have a softer film as they aren’t expected to be so prone to wear and tear? Keep on searching 🙂

  3. simon

    Hi Andy,

    Spot on article, though since it was written, things are slowly changing…no?

    Do you know of a stockist for Dalapro products?

    Best regards
    Simon

  4. Andy Crichton Andy Crichton

    Changing for sure, which is good. Dalapro seem to have got to Germany, but no closer to UK, as far as I can tell.

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