Clear Finishing


I'm looking for a clear finish high gloss. Can someone tell me the difference between Shellac, Varnish and Lacquer.
2b
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Shellac is high-gloss, dilution and clean-up is with denatured alcohol. Very nice looking, but will get cloudy if exposed to water (remember the old coffee tables that would get the white rings if you didn't use a coaster) My personal favorite, but requires special caution. You can brush or spray it, and it polishes really well. Gives a tangibly better look than many other finishes.
Laquer has to be sprayed. If you try to brush it, it dries way to fast and you'll have brush marks and likely ruin the brush completely. It's tough and looks nice. Cleans up with laquer thinner, which is kind of foul stuff. If you have to brush and want laquer, you can use Deft. Otherwise, it does come in spray cans. Wear a mask.
I haven't used Varnish in a long, long time, so no comment.
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Just to fill in the last blank.
Varnish is usually a long, oil finish which is pretty forgiving in application whether it is sprayed or brushed.
Good abrasion resistance, but not the best. Exterior grade is pretty good as a UV protectant.
My dislike of varnish is that it doesn't dry really hard like lacquer, and yellows pretty quickly. It is also difficult to repair compared to the build finishes such as lacquer and shellac.
I am looking into the water based stuff myself for a lot of reasons on interior projects, certainly the biggest reason being the safety of the product around clients. And now they have hard water based products that don't glow, have great water resistance, and some that are actually harder than the old fashioned cellulose based lacquers it seems that they may have some viable products on the market.
Best of all with water based: no fumes.
Robert
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Shellac is high-gloss, dilution and clean-up is with denatured alcohol. Very nice looking, but will get cloudy if exposed to water (remember the old coffee tables that would get the white rings if you didn't use a coaster) My personal favorite, but requires special caution. You can brush or spray it, and it polishes really well. Gives a tangibly better look than many other finishes.
Laquer has to be sprayed. If you try to brush it, it dries way to fast and you'll have brush marks and likely ruin the brush completely. It's tough and looks nice. Cleans up with laquer thinner, which is kind of foul stuff. If you have to brush and want laquer, you can use Deft. Otherwise, it does come in spray cans. Wear a mask.
I haven't used Varnish in a long, long time, so no comment.
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2b wrote:

Shellac is the refined secretion of a little beetle dissolved in alcohol. It dries quickly, coats are thin, numerous required, no sanding needed between coats as the solvent melds new coats to old. It's a pretty finish - amber color - but not resistant to water (or alcohol). Fairly soft.
Lacquer is similar to shellac in as much as it dries rapidly and new coats meld with others. It used to be nitrocelluose (as in explosives) dissolved in an organic solvent; still the same solvent but not necessarily nitrocelluose. It is neutral in color, and - with sufficient buildup - reasonably resistant to water. Fairly hard. It is the most common commercial finish on furniture.
Traditionally, varnish is a resin dissolved in a thinner such as mineral spirits, turpentine, etc. The resin can be a natural one such as copal, damar, etc. or manufactured such as alkyd, polyurethane, etc. Varnish generally also includes an oil such as linseed oil; the amount of oil vs resin determines characteristics of the dried film...more oil (as in spar varnish) means softer, more flexible and less brittle. Varnish generally has a deep amber color and dries very slowly. A very good looking finish when well done but difficult. Good resistance to most anything common. There are also polyurethane varnishes with a water base...they dry more rapidly (as do poly varnishes generally) and have little if any inherent color. The poly varnishes are the hardest and most scratch resistant but have a "plastic" look and are difficult to repair.
IMO, the easiest clear finish for a home user is lacquer. If you can't spray, use Deft...it is a nice looking finish and is easy to use/repair.
--
dadiOH
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Good responses, to be sure, but I would go to the library and read "Understanding Wood Finishes," by Bob Flexner. I did just that; it is one of the first WW books that I ever read, and that knowledge has served me well throughout.
One of the first things Bob stresses in the book is that the finish, more than probably any other single step, has a dramatic effect on the look of the final effort, and finishes are not as well understood as they should be.
The great thing about the library is that if you need to reference the book, just go look at it and you don't have to crowbar your wallet open to do it. My new library doesn't have a copy :-(
-Phil Crow
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