Here is How to Lacquer Finish Your Furniture
Working with lacquer to coat your furniture can be both easy and difficult. It is easy to apply but is less forgiving with regards to weather conditions. Humidity can cause problems to your project. If there are small imperfections in your work it will be very noticeable.
Lacquer dries quickly compared with most types of finishes on wood furniture. It adheres effectively on almost any kind of wood but is not recommended on mahogany and rosewood. These types of wood have a kind of oil that bleeds through the finish.
If you are not familiar with lacquer I would suggest not using a brush in applying it on your furniture. Use a spray gun instead. It is quite difficult to avoid imperfections when brushing with lacquer.
Types of Lacquer
Some people might think that when we talk of lacquer paint it only means one thing. The truth is there are three basic classes of lacquer. Each of this class has its own characteristics as well as downsides.
The type most used in woodworking nowadays is nitrocellulose. Several coatings of this lacquer will make your finish durable. The downside of nitrocellulose is that it is sensitive to ultra violet rays. When still wet, exposure to sunlight will result in blisters and bubbles on the surface. Another drawback is it has the tendency to turn yellow after some time so it is not advisable to apply on light colored wood.
CAB- Acrylic lacquer
As the name implies, it is made of acrylic resins. It this does not turn yellow but rather “watery white” after drying. Together with a vinyl sealer CAB-acrylic lacquer will bring out a deep luster quickly with just a couple of coats.
This type of lacquer has two versions namely, pre-catalyzed and post-catalyzed. The other two lacquer types cure by evaporation only. But catalyzed lacquer besides curing by evaporation also cures chemically. And because of the additional means of curing the resulting finish becomes very durable.
Applying Lacquer on Furniture
Make the necessary preparations before doing the actual work of whether you will spray paint your furniture or using a
paint brush. Spread out some newspaper or drop cloth to protect your flooring from paint spills. Make sure the area is well ventilated.
If the furniture is new and had no prior finish use a 60-grit sandpaper to smoothen the rough surfaces. Wipe out the dust from sanding with a tack cloth and apply sealer. Shellac would be a good choice to seal the wood if it has an open grain. You can apply 2 or 3 coats using a spray gun and sand with a 320-grit sandpaper between applications.
After the preparation you can now put the finish. Before applying lacquer paint test by spraying or brushing on a piece of cardboard. (But as I have mentioned earlier, I would not recommend a brush if you are a newbie in brushing lacquer). This is to see how the pattern will look like on the wood, and then you can have the proper control to cover the surface.
When spraying, apply
lacquer paint slowly, evenly and in several thin layers. Hold the spray gun or can perpendicularly as much as possible, about 17” away from the wood surface. This is to avoid “orange peel” on your work.
Most problems that may arise when applying lacquer can be solved easily if you understand their characteristics. All types of lacquer are basically cellulose which is reduced to a liquid form by means of a solvent. So, a lacquer finish that hardens can be made soft again by adding more solvent.
When water vapor condenses at the surface or under the finish while spraying, and as the paint dries, it causes a white cloudy appearance at that part of the finish. The solution would be to add a retarder to the thinner. The retarding agent causes the thinner to evaporate slowly, giving the moisture time to escape.
Orange peel is a condition wherein the finish has several bumps resembling the surface of an orange fruit. This happens when the distance between the spray gun and the surface during the spraying is farther than the allowable gap. It can be remedied by spraying pure lacquer thinner on the affected part. The defect will be corrected as soon as the surface dries because of the emulsification.
Some defects need drastic action like stripping off the finish to remedy the situation. If craters develop on your finish stripping it would be the best option. Craters are formed when silicone is present in wood. Before re-spraying your furniture wipe down the wood with lacquer thinner and add a flowing agent to the lacquer paint to assist in leveling. An example of flowing agent is acrylic polymer.
Here is a video showing how to refinish wood furniture with lacquer:
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