Commonly found in Asian style furniture, Lacquer is one of the more exquisite and, in my personal opinion, more beautiful finishes for wood. It’s also one of the easier (and more fun) types of finishes to apply to wood.
You can go the traditional paint brush method, or you can lay down a little extra money and get yourself a spray gun and blast the finish onto the wood at high pressured close range.
I feel, however, that it’s one of the more infrequently used finishes since people aren’t sure exactly how to apply it correctly?.
That’s why in this guide, we’ll go over not only the correct ways to get that luscious lacquer glow out of your furniture or flooring but also the simplified step by step way to reduce the fear caused by an unfamiliar word or technique.
Materials & Tools
- Lacquer Thinner
- Mixing Bowl (for paint, not food)
- Soft-Bristle Paint Brush (we recommend a Taklon brush if you want a perfect finish)
- 320-Grit and 1000-Grit Sandpaper (1000-grit only applies to the second method)
- Tack Cloth
- 0000-Grade Steel Wool or Pumice Stone
- Paint Towel (or a towel you aren’t too concerned will get stained, make sure it’s cotton)
- Spray Gun (We recommend the Kawasaki 840762 High-Pressure Spray Gun, only applies to the second method)
METHOD 1: Brush Technique
Step 1: Mixing The Lacquer and Lacquer Thinner
In order to prep your wood for the coat of lacquer and to ensure the longevity of the wood, you will want to apply a “primer” to the wood. This primer consists of half lacquer and half lacquer thinner (Do not use all of your Lacquer. Use just enough to cover each piece once).
Once those two are thoroughly mixed, take your brush and apply one coat to each piece of wood. Try not to apply more than one coat of primer to the wood, as this will cause unsightly brush marks.
Step 2: Sanding the Wood
After properly applying the ‘primer’ of lacquer and lacquer thinner, use the 320-grit sandpaper and lightly sand each piece. This will help the pure lacquer sink right into the wood, give the wood a much more rich color and remove some of the brush marks made by the primer, giving the wood a more authentic, and natural look.
Brush away any debris made from the sanding with the tack cloth.
Step 3: Applying The Lacquer
Let the brush steep in the lacquer so the brush can absorb as much lacquer as possible. You want to be able to cover an entire piece of wood without going back for more lacquer.
After a good minute of soaking, apply the brush to the piece in one, smooth stroke from end to end.Try to avoid waving the brush back and forth on the wood, as this will make for unsightly brush lines, only these will be harder to get out.
If you don’t get into every crack of the wood with the first coat, don’t worry. Instead of trying to go back and fill in that one spot, wait for the lacquer to dry, sand the wood with the 320-grit sandpaper, and hit that missed or cracked spot with the second coat.
You don’t need to clean the brush off after each coat, but you can use the lacquer thinner and the towel to allow the brush to effectively soak up enough lacquer for the second coat. Make sure you sand the piece between each coat to minimize the number of brush lines.
And don’t forget to use the tack cloth to wipe away debris before the coat, unless you like the aesthetic of wood dust mixed into the finish. You can add as many coats of lacquer to the piece of wood as you want, depending on how dark you want the wood to be (more coats equals darker wood).
Step 4: Sanding the Wood Again
After applying the last coat of lacquer, take your steel wool or pumice stone and give the piece one last sand.
This final sanding will give the piece of wood a nice shine and luster, as well as get the tricky imperfections out of the wood that was initially impossible to get out when using the sand paper. Make sure the wood is in a well-ventilated area when drying.
METHOD 2: Spray Technique
For this method, follow the previous method up to Step 2. Instead of sanding the wood with the 320-grit sandpaper, buff the wood using the steel wool.
Make sure you wait at least 20 minutes and allow the mixture of lacquer and lacquer thinner to dry before applying the steel wool to the pieces.
Step 2a: Applying The First Coat
Set the pressure of the air regulator of the gun to 30 PSI. Fill the gun with about ? Lacquer Thinner and ? Lacquer. Apply the mixture of lacquer and lacquer thinner to the entire piece of wood. Make sure you do this in a well-ventilated area.
Try your best to avoid spraying too much in one section. Don’t worry if you do; it’s natural for even the best to spray too much in one area. Wait at least 2 hours before going back with the steel wool to buff the pieces of wood.
If lacquer gets caught in the steel wool, stop immediately and try again tomorrow. The lacquer need to be completely dry buffing again.
Step 3a: Applying Additional Coats
Repeat Step 2a and apply three more coats of the same mixture to the piece of wood. Once all three coats are applied, add more lacquer thinner to the mixture, flipping the values for each (now it should be ? lacquer thinner and ? lacquer).
Add a coat of this new mixture, and then quickly add another coat less than five minutes after the first coat. Wait two more days after applying the coats.
Step 4a: Cleaning The Wood
After two days, take the steel wool to get all of the dust and bugs off your lacquer (bugs love lacquer, don’t get too concerned). Get your 1000-grit sand paper, wet the paper with either water or a couple drops of dishwasher soap, and sand the entire piece of wood.
Then polish your wood with the pumice stone. Make sure to wet your pumice stone for better results. Clean off the wood with either soap and water or some lacquer thinner. This won’t affect the lacquer that’s already on the wood.?
The spraying technique is definitely the more fun option of the two, but it definitely requires more waiting than with the brush option. It’s up to you to decide which method is more suitable to your style.
If you’re the kind of guy that likes to take things slow, then I strongly recommend the spray technique, but if you’re good with a brush and you want the job done today, leave the spray gun alone and pick up the brush!
With these simple steps, your furniture or another type of woodwork is sure to shine out brighter than all the other furniture!