Varnish or Lacquer?

susan205April 17, 2008

I am having my kitchen cabinets built by a local cabinet maker, and then stained/finished by someone else. They are a rustic cherry, with a natural finish, and black glaze. Can someone tell me the appropriate finish for this...varnish, lacquer, something else? I just want to make sure it is finished correctly

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It's all a matter of trade-offs. There is no one universal best finish. Some of the things to consider:
- Protection from water
- Durability
-- scratches
-- heat / steam
-- solvent resistance
-- acid / alkali resistance (including acidic and alkaline foods)
- Ability to repair
- Ease in stripping & refinishing
- Ability to rub out to a sheen and blend out scratches
- Ease and/or ability to apply => cost to apply
- Availability of finishes (a concern in places like CA)
- Appearance

Most likely your finish shop will have a finish or two that it's set up to do and will lean to that as a preference.

Here is a link that might be useful: Finish options

    Bookmark   April 17, 2008 at 6:49PM
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Thank you bob's nephew for the link. It is the beginning of my education. I have a project in mind which i think will be very difficult and wonder if I need to be talked out of it. I have an old couch (white) with a top border, arm scrolls and legs in a dark wood. I was hoping to find a way to create a high gloss black lacquer on the wood, in a kind of chinese lacquer effect. Is that the same kind of Lacquer that most people are referring to? Also how would you recommend protecting the fabric when spraying on the lacquer (with a compressor right?) I'm afraid to ruin it but I'm really sick of the wood stain.
Many thanks.

    Bookmark   April 17, 2008 at 9:27PM
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Interesting concept. I just got a call yesterday from my largest client. One of their customers had furniture on order and as soon as it arrived, it was to be put in a sea container for their move to Bejing. (This is the modern equivalent of carrying coals to Newcastle.) Well it came in wood tone and needed to be antique white with glaze, at 2pm, "Can you have it done tomorrow at 8am?" When I stopped laughing, I said no. They did find someone who spent half the night doing it. I have done a lot of furniture for them that "was the wrong color" -- dark brown to black, green to black, white to yellow, etc. etc. etc.

Chinese lacquer is different than nitrocellulose lacquer that we use. But yes, you can use a gloss NC lacquer. Most NC lacquers need to be sprayed as they dry too quickly to brush or rag on. So you have to mask off the upholstery. I use the Green Lacquer tape #2060, as the adhesives in most other tapes are attacked by lacquer thinner.

If you don't have a compressor and gun, you can do small areas with aerosol lacquers. These are generally highly thinned, but they will work.

I would have a tough time trying to convince myself that I could mask off white well enough to spray black on it, though. I guess it really depends upon how the upholstery was done

    Bookmark   April 17, 2008 at 10:34PM
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Chinese lacquer is not a plant based finish.
The plant is actually related to poison ivy.
The sap is used and allowed to harden by oxidation.

You can also use brushing lacquer.
Deft now marks their cans of 'clear wood finish' as 'brushing lacquer'.
Spraying of nitrocellulose lacquer is not for the faint of heart.
The spray and fumes are VERY flammable and explosive.

    Bookmark   May 3, 2008 at 9:31AM
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"Chinese lacquer is not a plant based finish."


Chinese laquer IS plant based (as the rest of the response states).

It is NOT a nitrocellulose lacquer, what the western world calls 'lacquer'

    Bookmark   May 15, 2008 at 9:49PM
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The guy that built and installed my cabs uses MAC precatalyzed lacquer. He said the precatalyzed isn't quite as water resistant but it's easier to re-apply when it comes time to fix any water stains or other blemishes, which he happily does for free at any time. After three years, we did get some water stains, mostly on the lower cab door and drawer upper edges and he just finished the re-coating and they look new. Nice to find a contractor who stands behind his work.

    Bookmark   May 28, 2008 at 8:33PM
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