Oil vs. Film, Choose Your Finish
Easy to spray, harder to brush: Whether sprayed from a gun or an aerosol can, lacquer lays down a smooth, dust-free finish that dries quickly. However, high humidity can turn spray lacquer opaque, called "blushing." Slower-drying "brushing" lacquers provide another, though trickier, way to apply lacquer. Both types require a well-ventilated finishing area and lacquer thinner for cleanup.
Repairability/durability: Even old coats of lacquer can be dissolved with lacquer thinner for easy stripping. Or simply spray on a fresh coat to partially dissolve the uppermost layer and cover minor scuffs and scratches without refinishing. Lacquer dries to a hard surface that resists abrasion, moisture, and solvents less than varnish.
Success secrets: Customize lacquer to work in a variety of spray setups and climates by adding lacquer thinner to control viscosity and retarders to slow the drying speed. Don't have a spray gun? Aerosols work just as well, although they're thinned so much that more applications are needed. Apply spray-on lacquer in low humidity to avoid blushing. Lacquer's hardness makes it easier than polyurethane varnish to sand and then rub out the finish to a high shine. Avoid contaminating the wood surface with silicone -- found in some lubricants and furniture polishes -- which can produce small dimples in the surface, called fish eye.
Try it on all furnishings not subject to moisture contact or rough handling. Use CAB acrylic lacquer as a crystal-clear alternative to water-based finishes for a non-yellowing film.
But avoid it for high-abuse projects such as kids' toys and furnishings.
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