nitro cellulose lacquer?

celticmoonNovember 5, 2011

Stanley funiture replied that the finish on my mystery maple DR table is "nitro cellulose lacquer". Translation?

Given that, suggestions re methods/products for stripping?

Casey you suggested a non linseed oil, then a clear coat. What oil(s) do you recommend?

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google is my friend.

"Nitrocellulose lacquer is a flammable liquid used primarily as a binder in fireworks compositions, and as a water-resistant coating for fuses... Ping-pong balls are made of nitrocellulose [pyroxylin] (cellulose dinitrate), specifically celluloid that consists of roughly 75% cellulose dinitrate and 25% camphor."

so....stripping suggestions?

    Bookmark   November 5, 2011 at 1:49PM
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See what happens just using Lacquer thinner; it should get most of it off. Do it outside or in a well ventilated area. Wear gloves resistant to lacquer thinner and a synthetic steel wool pad.

    Bookmark   November 5, 2011 at 2:29PM
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Nitrocellulose lacquer, as you have discovered, is an organic finish. It has no poly or anything, and it's prone to break down and have moisture problems. In the world of commercial furniture it has been surpassed. Not that it's no longer in use! Deft is nitrocellulose.
Methylene chloride-type strippers take it off almost "on contact".
Oil: watco oil, or even minwax color "natural".

    Bookmark   November 5, 2011 at 3:44PM
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Looks like I'm gifted at least a couple more warm clear days here. I have lacquer thinner and heavy duty gloves. And I will check the contents of the several strippers I have on hand - there is a Rocklers and HD, Lowe's etc nearby. I may give it a go outside tomorrow.

Thanks much!

    Bookmark   November 5, 2011 at 10:06PM
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If the finish is not damaged badly applying another few coats of lacquer may very well restore it.

Lacquer (unlike poly or varnish) melts into the previous coats.
All the surface needs to be is clean, an paint thinner will clean it with no damage.

Deft clear Wood finish is a brushing type lacquer that is not hard to apply, or then rub out flat an to the desired degree of gloss (if you start with full gloss).

If you apply enough coats it is pretty resistant finish.

Alcohol and hot items are its chief weakness, but even alcoholic drinks are slow enough to allow clean up.

Repair is also very easy.

Apply another coat.

    Bookmark   November 6, 2011 at 10:03AM
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NC lacquer continues to be used in factory furniture for a number of reasons:

- It's fast to apply by spraying
- It's fast drying, making it ready to apply new coats, then wrap and ship in the same day. No sitting around in a dust-free environment for days.
- It's possible to buff to a high gloss on top end furniture, or any glass in between
- It's agreeable to repair, both in the finish room, prior to or after delivery.
- Provides a moderate amount of protection

There are other finishes that might surpass it in any property, for example, scratch resistance, but lack other characteristics, for example repairability. Some people think that because all they see in Lowe's is polyurethane, the new furniture must have poly on. I don't know of any production manufacturer who could afford to have finish rooms brushing on polyurethane finishes.

    Bookmark   November 6, 2011 at 1:49PM
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Brickeye, I cleaned up the top, but the finish was way too far gone, literally completely gone in some places. So I stripped down to bare wood. I don't know why this picture looks so dark and pink. It looks like, well, blonde, like unfinished maple.

Given there is nothing on there now, how should I procede? I can oil as Casey had suggested, then clear coat? There are several places where the wood color is lighter, possibly water damage where the finish had failed. Should I do anything to those areas? Or see where the oil gets me and use a toner if necessary.

I thought I had read somewhere that an oil layer eliminates the option of a water based top coat. I thought I also read that an oil layer can result in adhesion problems even with a poly/lacquer top coat. Any concerns or cautions re that - other than being sure the oil coat dries well, as in for days.

    Bookmark   November 6, 2011 at 2:40PM
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There are a couple of interesting waterborne finishes that can be brushed on by Enduro (General Finishes). Since I assume you are not spraying, then most lacquers are out with the exception of a few brushing lacquers. THey dry more slowly, but you'll have the advantage of a lacquer which is more easily rubbed out.

Yes, I would take care of the blemished areas first. If it is water caused blemishes, you might try a light wet sand (not too wet) before finishing first, it will knock down any grain that water can raise and perhaps allow the non-blemished areas to blend more with the surrounding area.

If the blemished area isn't caused by water, you might try wiping the entire surface with thinner, alcohol, naptha or acetone, any of which might extract (or blend) what's causing the color difference.

Since you aren't staining, a sanding sealer or a de-waxed shellac can be applied first. This also may help in evening the color of the blemished areas.

Once you choose your final finish. Get back here for more suggestions. I think the chemistry is very interesting in some of the very new waterborne finishes and they are easy to apply. Aside from that, I prefer lacquer (pre-cat), "oil based" varnish, wiping varnish, waterborne varnish, polyurethane. In that order.

    Bookmark   November 6, 2011 at 5:04PM
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I am a fan of General Finishes products. Have used Enduro, but I prefer wipe on to brush on (skill issue).

I put one coat of tung oil cut with mineral spirits on (real tung, not the Minwax fake stuff) and that did bring up the highlights. Unfortunately at some angles the bleached out areas are very prominent.

Should I try to mix some oil based stain with the tung on those spots?

For final I am thinking to try General Finishes Armour Seal (oil + urethene). Rockler guy said I can brush then wipe. I have used their Gel poly top coat on cabinetry and liked that.

    Bookmark   November 7, 2011 at 2:45PM
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The die is cast now. Once the tung oil went on, your options for removing the blemishes went to near zero. Unless you're a touch-up prodigy, correcting the color is a professional task.

    Bookmark   November 7, 2011 at 3:26PM
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"Since I assume you are not spraying, then most lacquers are out with the exception of a few brushing lacquers. THey dry more slowly, but you'll have the advantage of a lacquer which is more easily rubbed out. "

There are actually water based lacquers, but they have many of the same issues as poly and other varnishes in not melting into the previous coat very well.

I try to do large lacquer brush jobs in the winter to slow the setting.
The cold weather really helps (around 30-40 F).

Deft Clear Wood Finish is a brushing type lacquer that dries almost to quickly over 75 F, but handles well below 40 F.

Even lacquer with retarder added (a slower solvent) harden faster than anything but catalyzed finishes.

    Bookmark   November 7, 2011 at 3:27PM
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For the record, Arm-R-Seal is a wiping (highly thinned) varnish. I know the label says "Oil and urethane" but this is just what varnish is: oil + resin --heat--> varnish.

It's about as disingenuous as looking at a loaf of bread that says "Flour, water, and yeast" as a description of the contents.

Not that it's a bad product (it isn't), it's just got a misleading label. That is all to common in the world of finishing.

    Bookmark   November 9, 2011 at 7:20PM
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The die is cast now Ooo that sounds ominous. Couldn't I just strip/sand again?

RRM1, I'm no 'touch up prodigy'. Stubborn, patient and lucky though, so maybe I'll figure something out. Toying now with the idea of darkening the large square areas...maple doesn't take stain well, so maybe I could seal and layer some color and then varnish or lacquer? Or did I seal with the tung oil?

Again, this is destined to be a art/craft table, so I am not aiming to restore it to fine dining use. Just want it pleasant and durable.

    Bookmark   November 11, 2011 at 12:41AM
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Brickeye, plenty of 30-40 degree days coming up here! But varnish seems a better choice than lacquer for this piece given the durability need and my skill level (wiping vs brushing).

I have a couple smaller tables to do over the winter and lacquer may be right for them. Thanks for the temp tip.

    Bookmark   November 11, 2011 at 12:51AM
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Glad you found the help you were seeking Celtic!! Good replies Bobsmyuncle...other than that there is some pretty sketchy advise here....

With the direction you have choosen, Watco may be a good choice for your finish. Deft is soft and not good for a craft table that will get used. It will scratch and can't be easily repaired. Watco is very easy to repair if needed.

BTW...lacquer only burns into uncured lacquer...fresh lacquer will not burn into cured (old) lacquer.

Also, NC lacquer remains one of the most popular production finished to this day.

Best of luck!!!

    Bookmark   November 16, 2011 at 1:34PM
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Sorry, didn't mean to sound too ominous. Tung oil did seal it a bit, but it can still be tinted in the selected areas to match the surrounding areas. It is just not "easy". It won't be difficult, just time consuming and "hit and miss". Trial and error and lots of samples of dyes and stains will be needed to find the right one(s) to allow matching. It might even be better to put another coat of tung oil on to seal it more so any color you might apply that isn't right can be removed. Even a sealer coat of something else might allow more reversible application of color. Sorry, Celticmoon, anything is doable, if you've got the time and tools. A reminder, use good light and go slowly and you should be fine.

    Bookmark   November 19, 2011 at 10:42AM
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You should try coloring sapwood to match heartwood if you want a chore.

    Bookmark   November 19, 2011 at 12:38PM
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Lost my post... rats

Thanks Richard for tempering your words. I'm unsure whether to try to stain the problem areas, because the problem areas appear and disappear at different angles.

These pairs of shots are the same areas, different angles. Ignore the rosey center - my phone camera does that lately.

Now you see it. Now you don't. Weird. Is this something to do with maple?

I'm perplexed. If I darken the light areas with a stain, won't they look too dark from the other angle?

Explanations? Suggestions?

    Bookmark   November 20, 2011 at 10:37PM
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Seeing the light spots that are in the inner field, I might try removing the tung oil with solvent, or perhaps a finish remover, and bleach it with a two-part bleach. It may take you to a better place to start matching color. I think I would mask the outer borders and just do the inner field at first. Remember it's wood and good things can come from accidents too. But, be careful nonetheless.


    Bookmark   November 21, 2011 at 11:56AM
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Ah, so you think that the color on those lighter parts has been bleached out? I wonder why the color looks even from most angles?

I had wondered if it was a surface anomaly that was affecting the light refraction - the small spots from some sort of old spill etching and the larger area from my sanding...

    Bookmark   November 21, 2011 at 3:23PM
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It's hard to tell from a photo, but the light areas look too much like spots from a liquid that has partially bleached the wood. I suggested bleaching because it seems like the most expedient way to even out the color (and absorption characteristics)of the wood. What I thought it might do is even out the surface chemistry of the wood so future staining, or just oiling or clearcoat, will give more even looking results. All I can say from the photos is that it looks like something has leached out something from the surface to give it uneven absorption from anything you apply. The only other thing I could suggest is to try a number of different solvents (acetone, naptha, MEK, etc.) before bleaching. That said, I still think that a two-part bleach might be the best. There are other bleaching methods, including Chlorox and oxalic acid. Do some research and see what you come up with.

    Bookmark   November 21, 2011 at 4:02PM
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Thanks so much, Richard.

There is no hurry on this project. No pressure either, as the table will end up in use and covered like this 99% of the time.

I do like an interesting challenge, and this has me curious as to whether I can make it better.

    Bookmark   November 21, 2011 at 6:22PM
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CM, I forgot to mention it at the time, I believe, but I am a real fan of true tung oil. I would put a light coat on every couple of months for the the first year and then just yearly after that unless needed. Next to that I love tung oil varnishes. Beautiful wood deserves it.

Good luck with your project,

    Bookmark   November 21, 2011 at 9:41PM
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