What Is Lacquer Used For?

January 3, 2022

Applying wood lacquer finish on wood floor.

Lacquer is a durable, lustrous finish for wood or metal that’s applied using a brush or cloth. The term “lacquer” came from the word lākshā (लाक्षा) which means “one hundred thousand,” in Sanskrit. It was used to describe both the lac insect and the scarlet resinous secretion. Lac is rich in shellac that it secretes, both of which were utilized as wood finishes in ancient India and the neighboring countries of the world.

Major Uses & Applications of Lacquer

  • A clear or colored wood finish is sometimes referred to as lacquer, and it is used to give woodworks a more polished appearance while also protecting them. Lacquer is a sort of wood finish that normally signifies a paint that dries as the solvent evaporates, leaving the object hard, durable, and lustrous.
  • Many Asian-inspired or modern furniture uses lacquer to give them a very glossy appearance. Even though it provides protection that is highly durable and resistant to damage, the scratches, and discolors are inevitable over time.
  • In Asian lacquerware, which may be referred to as “genuine lacquer,” Toxicodendron vernicifluum or a similar tree sap is processed, dyed, and dried before being applied in many coats on a substrate that is often made of wood. After finishing, you’ll have a surface layer that’s incredibly durable, waterproof, and visually nice to look at.
  • A variety of methods are used to adorn Asian lacquer, including painting, inlaid shells or other materials, carving, and many types of decoration, such as gold dust.
  • In modern methods, lacquer is a phrase that refers to a range of clear or colorful coatings that dries by evaporation of the solvent, resulting in a hard, durable surface that may be painted over.
  • The sheen degree of the finish may vary from ultra matte to high gloss, and it can be polished even more if required to get the desired shine. Compared to lacquer finishes, oil-based and latex paints are softer and more flexible, whereas lacquer finishes are stiffer and brittle in comparison to other finishes.
  • To distinguish them from synthetic lacquers, modern finishing products dissolved in alcohol are referred to as “shellac” or “lac” in order to avoid confusion. In the production of lacquer, synthetic polymers such as acrylic resin and nitrocellulose are mixed with a lacquer thinner, which is a mixture of multiple organic solvents.
  • Although synthetic lacquer has a longer lifespan than shellac finishes, traditional shellac finishes such as French polish are still extensively used. Traditional shellac finishes, such as French polish, provide both aesthetic and strong durability, as well as the benefit of being “all-natural” and often suitable for food preparation.
  • In the case of lacquer, the term refers to a paint that hardens as the solvent evaporates, creating a hard, durable, and glossy surface on the object after it has been painted. It is often used to refer to the clear or colored wood finish that is applied to woodworks in order to give them a more polished look while also acting as a sort of protective coating.
  • Lacquer is a clear, long-lasting finish that dries quickly and is transparent. By hand-rubbing your lacquer finish, you may get a glossy shine that is similar to a mirror. Dust nibs may be used to erase brush marks and other surface imperfections by hand-rubbing them away (the unavoidable dust particles picked up during the finish application).

Lacquer Vs Polyurethane: What’s the Difference?

Dry time

Because of the heavier components of polyurethane, it takes a longer time to dry out completely. Water-based polyurethane dries more quickly than oil-based polyurethane when it comes to polyurethane variances. Many woodworkers like lacquer because it dries quickly and is easy to work with. While polyurethane takes many hours to dry, it takes just 10 minutes to dry lacquer with no smell or residue. Because lacquer dries more quickly than polyurethane, it makes it simpler to apply many applications of the coating.

Ease of application

Because polyurethane has thicker components, it must be applied with a brush. It’s possible that some brush strokes may appear on your surface after you’ve used it. The use of a fine brush might help to prevent this situation. On the other hand, if you want to apply lacquer to a surface, you’ll need a sprayer with a high volume and low pressure. Despite the fact that the spray is more expensive, it applies more consistently than the brush. Lacquer application is thus less complicated than polyurethane application.


Despite the fact that polyurethane is available in a broad variety, it is more durable compared to lacquer. A significant layer of film is left behind by it, indicating its great thickness. Lacquer is a thin coating that permeates into the grain of the wood and protects it from the elements. However, even though it is durable and long-lasting, it may get damaged or soiled with time.

Multiple Coats

The application of many layers of lacquer is easy to do. When it comes to polyurethane, more work and sanding are required to guarantee that the multiple layers adhere properly.

Is It Safe to Seal With Lacquer?

The sealer is only required since it makes sanding easier, which is why it is used. When zinc stearate is added to the sealer layer, it softens the sealer layer and diminishes the water-resistance of the lacquer topcoats, making it easier to sand and finish. Every time you finish a painting job, you should use a little coat of lacquer to seal it. In order to spray, it is not necessary to have two distinct setups.

Lacquer is quite durable and can tolerate a lot of damage. Lacquer, in contrast to other materials such as varnish, polyurethane, and shellac, does not yellow with time, as these other materials do. Because lacquer is thinner than other products, it penetrates deeper into the wood, resulting in a long-lasting barrier that protects the wood from all directions.

Various Usage of Lacquer

A major decorative art form in Asia utilizes lacquer, which is an opaque, colored varnish applied to metal or wood. In certain cases, but not all, lacquers are made from a resinous fluid secreted by particular scale insects, known as lac.

What is the Effect of Lacquer on Wood?

Being thinner than other compounds, lacquer penetrates wood more deeply and forms a long-lasting barrier that protects it from inside and outside surfaces. Lacquer may be applied in as little as two coats to get the desired sheen. This helps to keep both the buildup of dust and the cost connected with it to a minimum.

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