How to Lacquer Furniture Using Aerosol Finishes
For small to medium size jobs, lacquer can be applied with aerosol spray cans. Dust-free drying is not as much of a problem with aerosol lacquers because it dries quickly, and because lacquer dries so fast it is not difficult to work with. Lacquer fumes can be both toxic and explosive, so great care must be taken. Don't use near an open flame or heat source. Wear a protective respirator to protect yourself from breathing in the fumes. If working indoors, only use lacquer in a ventilated area, where the fumes can be removed by a fan.
Lacquer can be used on most woods, but it should not be used on teak or rosewood; the oils in these woods will bleed through the finish. Lacquer can be used over lacquer-base, non-grain-raising (NGR) and water-base stains and over lacquer-base fillers. It can be used over other oil-base stains and many fillers, assuming they are fully dried.. Thinned lacquer or shellac or a compatible lacquer-base sanding sealer should be used as a sealer under a lacquer finish. I happen to be partial to Mohawk brand for my aerosols. Aerosol lacquers are a vital part of every finishing shop. While the amateur can use them for refinishing, pro's will use them more for spot finishing & touch-up. I tend to use the Pre-catalyzed clears and the Toner aerosols, and for the most part those are the only aerosols I need. Mohawk makes great Aerosol lacquer in multiple sheens and the toners come in so many shades it's hard to decide which to buy. Here is the link to Mohawk.
Lacquer Application Techniques:
Wood to be finished with lacquer must be properly prepared, sanded, and sealed. Immediately before applying lacquer, clean the piece of furniture thoroughly with a tack cloth. Use only aerosol spray lacquer, and protect your working area with drop cloths or newspaper. Make sure ventilation is adequate.
Before applying lacquer, test the spray can on a piece of newspaper or cardboard. Spray cans have different patterns of spray; practicing and watching the test spray pattern will give you enough control to properly cover the surface you're finishing.
First spray the top edge of the surface; then cover the entire surface in horizontal strips, from side to side, top to bottom. As you work, overlap the lacquer spray patterns slightly.
The edges of each sprayed area are thin; the centers are thick. Overlapping equalizes the thickness of the lacquer film, keeping the surface even. Never try to equalize the film by brushing the lacquer.
Apply only a thin coat of lacquer; this finish must be applied in many thin layers.
Drying and Recoating:
Lacquer dries in no more than half an hour, but it should cure completely between coats. Let the newly sprayed wood dry for a few hours, or as directed by the manufacturer. Then lightly smooth the surface with 320 grit silicone carbide sandpaper or a scotch brite pad, and clean it thoroughly with a tack cloth. Apply a second coat of lacquer as above. For a smoother finish, let the second coat dry for a couple hours, smooth the surface with 320 sandpaper or a scotch brite pad, and apply a third coat of lacquer as above.
Runs and sags are usually caused by too much lacquer. If you get runs, don't touch them until the finish has cured for an hour or more. Then lightly scrape the run with the flat edge of a razor blade and then very lightly sand with 320 sandpaper before re-coating. For a very rich, deep finish, use many very thin coats of lacquer. Let the lacquer dry completely between coats, and rub the surface between coats with a scotch brite pad. After applying the final coat of lacquer, let the piece of furniture dry for 24 hours before rubbing out.