PaintPRO , Vol. 7, No. 3
May/June 2005
PaintPRO Vol 7 No 2

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Other articles in this issue:
Primers of the Future
Coloring Concrete
Deck Stains: Using Low-VOC Products
Painter Profile: Phillip Emmerling
Manufacturer Profile: Smith Paints
Product News
Product Profiles
Faux Techniques: Lusterstone
The Perfect Coverup
Painting Tips
Toolbox: Painter's Gadgets





PaintPRO Archives — Manufacturer Profile

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Chuck Brunner Sr., left with Chuck Brenner Jr.



Smith Paint Products, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania

by Jeff Woodard

Specific coatings for specific applications. When it comes to pinpointing priorities, the Brunner family’s mantra for Smith Paint Products is tried, true and time-tested.

The family has owned Smith Paints for the past 32 years, during which time the company has grown from a local paint manufacturer focusing on common products such as latex paint to an international manufacturer of high-quality products for taxidermists, wood carvers, concrete statuary manufacturers and most recently, architectural concrete contractors.

The Brunner’s 1973 acquisition of Smith Paint was not exactly the result of a long-term plan.

This wooden fish, by an artist from the Netherlands, was winner of two top awards at the 2005 Fish Carving Championships. Smith Paint’s Wildlife Colors were used.

As a civil engineer in the early 1970s, John Brunner was working on a project for Harrisburg Steel. During an assessment of a paint supplier, the company owner asked Brunner whether he would like to buy the coatings business. Brunner declined. But after talking it over with his son, Chuck, they decided to make the purchase.

Smith Paint, founded in 1929 by Eugene Smith, a former employee of Harrisburg Steel, started out as a manufacturer of Red Oxide Primer. In 1945, a new owner took over and shifted the focus to the then-new latex paint technology. Around the time the Brunners bought it, the face of the paint industry began to change. Small manufacturers were unable to compete based on price and volume. So the Brunners turned to niche markets in water-based paints.

“Rather than try to be cost-oriented from the get-go, we try to make the best product, and then take it from there,” says Chuck Brunner, whose son, Chuck Jr., joined the business in 2001. “Forget about the resin cost or the pigment cost. We ask ourselves, ‘What’s the optimum way we can make the product?’ And then we try to improve on that.”

Making their mark
A few years ago, a taxidermist came to Chuck Brunner Sr. in search of specialty paint. He needed a product fine enough to go through the small orifice of an airbrush. People often use art paint for this purpose, taking a little acrylic paint and mixing it with water. The result is a thin coat that is neither consistent nor durable.

“Developing the product took about three years of intensive work on how well it sprays, which colors we were going to use, etc.,” says Brunner Sr. “We now have 120 to 130 colors in that line. We do everything from elephant colors to turkey head colors. All the fish, game heads, everything in between. I have to say, the best taxidermists in the world use our product.”

Soon after, a regional manufacturer called on Smith Paints to produce a coating for concrete that would be water submersible as well as UV- and alkali-resistant. “Now that was a challenge, I gotta say,” says Brunner. “It took close to three years to make that product. Fortunately, we had a guy down the street who was willing to be our guinea pig. He was constantly giving us feedback, letting us know what it looked like after a year. It was kind of like baking a cake — you just keep on baking them until you get the right thing.”

Based on advancements in water-based resin technology, Brunner Sr. created Ornamental Art Coatings, a paint formula specifically designed for concrete statuary.


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