Spraying and brushing furniture with lacquer

Caution: Lacquer is volatile. Work with good ventilation away from sparks, high heat, or flames (including pilot lights).

Modern lacquer produces a durable, clear or colored finish with good resistance to spills. Clear lacquer is notably free of amber overtones, making it a good choice for light-colored or delicately figured woods. But you may find lacquer tricky to apply since it quickly sets and begins to dry.

Prepare wood for lacquering by filling and sealing. Sand with fine paper and wipe clean with a tack cloth. Never lacquer over varnish or paint; strip it off first .

Because of its fast drying time, lacquer is usually sprayed on. Use an aerosol can for a small piece. For a larger one, use a siphon-feed spray gunwith an external-mix nozzle. Suspend or prop the piece so that you can spray all of it without shifting it. Use a movable backdrop to catch overspray. Move the sprayer back and forth in a long, horizontal path. Keep it parallel to the surface and make passes that overlap by a third. Wear a mask and practice first on cartons.

Brushing lacquer dries slower than spray lacquer, but you still must work rapidly. Use a large, soft brush and flow the lacquer on generously. Apply each brushful quickly in one long, continuous stroke. Brush out any imperfections promptly with a single, smooth stroke. Apply the next stroke before the previous one starts to set, just barely overlapping the edges.

Most pieces need two or three coats of lacquer-and more on heavily used surfaces like tabletops. Sprayed lacquer dries for recoating in 1 hour; brushed lacquer in 2. After three coats, let a piece dry overnight. Sand between coats only to remove defects.