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Oil vs. Film, Choose Your Finish

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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.

Continued on page 5:  Water-based finish


Comments (9)
temblor4 wrote:

I find it impossible to get a smooth finish with modern polyurethane finishes. It used to lay down smoothly and evenly with no bubbles. No more. No matter how I try, what brush I use, how much I dilute it, I can't get the finish it used to give before modern federal regs. Minwax freely admits this and says there is no real solution. Their polyurethane wiping formula does work well, and lays down nicely. It's also quicker to apply than brushed regular poly.

1/29/2015 12:10:33 PM Report Abuse
3-j wrote:

Wetting and sanding off the "nibs" is not logical. The water-based product will simply create "nibs" again. Just save yourself needless effort and skip the non-nonsensical wetting/sanding step and apply the finish. When you sand after that process, you will see no "nibs."

11/7/2013 09:39:45 AM Report Abuse
dhellew21 wrote:

You also missed Tung oil (non-toxic) and Teak Oil. Mix these two together for Tung penetration, Teak durability, and you have a durable, easily repairable finish. Great for kitchen and bath cabinets including counter top trim behind and in front with porcelain tile tops. Holds up to the abuse of rental houses where a light coat make it like new. The blend is durable enough for outdoor use, best light re-coated annually like most finishes. Thanks to the Feds it is only imported, made in Canada.

11/11/2011 09:59:22 AM Report Abuse wrote:

For best adhesion you should lightly sand polyurethane between coats. Sanding also removes the dust nibs that may be on the previous coat.

4/15/2010 12:57:21 PM Report Abuse
geezerpa wrote:

What about PENOFIN oil, I find it exceptional. I believe its a california company. Does not raise the grain, so no sanding.

4/15/2010 12:38:02 PM Report Abuse
joecal wrote:

Anybody have any advice/thoughts on a product I receintly heard about - Australian Tree Oil?

4/15/2010 10:25:58 AM Report Abuse
jsmythe3325231 wrote:

Hi Great article and well written. Could you do an addendum for Shellac. Thanks

3/12/2010 01:12:19 PM Report Abuse
Mr. Frodo wrote:

I liked this article but I don't see how shellac could be left out of an article on finishing comparisons

3/11/2010 11:35:00 AM Report Abuse

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