Tips in Applying Lacquer Finish

For centuries, people have been applying lacquer finish to their woodworking projects to create a durable, water resistant, and clear finish. Today, you can use the traditional brush-on types or even use a spray to apply it. Both have been known for being the fastest in drying time among all the woodworking finishes. Brushing on a lacquer may take up more of your time and a bit of effort but it is a cleaner option compared to spraying.

What is Lacquer?

Although there are similar similarities between shellac and lacquer, they're different from one another. Lacquer is created out of the resin from a type of tree commonly known as a "varnish tree". This resin is harvested from tree sap, refined, and mixed with a thinner to create the woodworking finish we know today. Lacquer is also used in some types of pain to give it a strong and durable finish.

Lacquer today typically contains another type of resin known as nitrocellulose and is mixed with other ingredients. This allows each coat of lacquer to just dissolve with a previous application. After you've created a number of lacquer coats, you'll find that the finish is quite hard and even a bit flexible. The only problem you have with the nitrocellulose is that it can be more susceptible to ultra-violet light and you've got to protect it from the sun.

Applying Lacquer Finish

Again, you may choose to apply lacquer using a brush or spray. However, it is not good if you'd try both methods on just one project because lacquer that is sprayed dries faster. Although the brush-on type of lacquer also dries fast, you need a bit more time before you can apply another coat and even out the finish. For this case, use high-quality brush with natural bristles to apply the lacquer and be sure you work quickly and make a thin coat. Remember that you should never over-brush your work because you can always apply more coats as needed to help you even things out.

If you're using a spray to apply the lacquer finish, these come in aerosol spray cans which can be bought directly or you could also use a pneumatic (airless) sprayer. Although the aerosol cans are a bit expensive, these will do the job if you're working on smaller projects. When spraying lacquer on a project, be sure that you're working in a well-ventilated are as the solvents are known to be flammable and have a strong odor.

Lacquer vs. Polyurethane Finishes

Compared to polyurethanes, lacquer finishes are a lot easier to use because they're a bit more forgiving, especially when you're brushing them on. Lacquer finishes however, are not as durable compared to polyurethanes but are easier to repair and maintain if the surface gets damaged. As a bonus, you get to use lacquer finishes for all of your projects, an even protect metals too. Finally, an important thing you must always remember is that, polyurethanes and lacquer finishes will not blend correctly. That said, in applying lacquer finish, do not even try to apply a coat of polyurethane on the project because it just will not do you any good.