I promised to make a table for my wife. All went well until I realized my
partial gallon of High Gloss polyurethane by Deft had thickened (I assume
repeated use allowed some ingredient to evaporate, guessing the metal lid is
no longer properly sealed after repeated opening and pounding shut).
Initially I thinned part of the can with paint thinner and this worked fine
on another project (baseboard trim).
On the large table surface however, I was able to see small hardened
particles in the poly. Additionally the thickness made it difficult to work
with and I made the mistake of allowing it to dry rather thick on one
portion of the table. The result, wavy distortions of the woodgrain. So I
sanded, intending to start over.
When I arrived at the store, the clerk no longer sold the same product.
They said I have my choice between Minwax brand CLEAR polyurethane or
LACQUER or SHELLAC or VARNISH. They recommended Deft brand clear lacquer.
Another store recommended CLEAR polyurethane by Minwax.
I went back to the 1st store and bought clear lacquer (maybe a mistake?).
After spot sanding, and applying LACQUER, the table top is again smooth. The
wavy distortions are gone, but some areas of the table are shiny and some
are dull. What are my options? When dry, what are the appearance and
performance/endurance differneces between Lacquer, Shellac, Varnish and
Polyurethane? Also what should I know about working with each? Will clear
polyurethane, give me the shiny finish I wanted and previously got with the
"High Gloss" polyurethane? If not can I buy Deft "High Gloss" poly through
Thanks in advance,
Just to clarify, all poylurethanes are varnish, but not all varnish is
Shellac is a wonderful finish that has been around hundreds of years. It is
not alcohol resistant though and will dissolve in its presence. Don't spill
a drink on the table if you use it. Shellac is used to coat M & M's and
many pills. It is made from a secretion of the Lac beetle.
Clean poly comes in satin, semi gloss, high gloss. One of them should suit
Lacquer is nice, durable, most often sprayed, but brushing lacquer does
For better info, ask over on rec.woodworking.
I agree with all of the above and will add that while I love shellac I
would not choose it for a table that will see a lot of service or is likely
to receive alcohol spills. Shellac is very nice to work with.
I would not suggest lacquer. It takes some skill to do right.
I'm no laquer expert, but I have had success hand rubbing with
"rottenstone" and oil. Rottenstone is a very fine abrasive. I actually
used a felt pad attached to a wood sanding block, applied a bit of a
light oil as a lubricant, and used liberal amounts of elbow grease.
/Kinda time consuming, but the results were great!
All clear "top coat" finishes consist of two primary components: the
vehicle and the resin or solid which is dissolved in the vehicle. The
ones you will encounter as a consumer dry/set by evaporation of the
The resin for varnishes is normally either alkyd or polyurethane. The
vehicle is mostly paint thinner/oil (both) or water (only poly AFAIK).
The water based polys dont color the wood like the oil based ones; i.e.,
they don't make the wood much darker or the grain/figure more apparent.
Oil based varnishes will impart a slight amber coloring as well as "pop"
Lacquer is various plastics dissolved in a fast evaporating vehicle.
The "plastic" used to be nitrocelluose, nowadays it can be lots of
things. They are water clear but pop the grain like oil base varnishes
but less so.
Shellac is a refined secretion of a beetle dissolved in alcohol. The
color is determined by how refined the resin is. It can vary from dark
brown to orangeish to almost clear. It is normally bought in flakes
which are then dissolved in alcohol as needed.
Poly varnish = hard but "plasticky looking. Takes a long time to dry
(up to a month for complete dry). Should be sanded between coats. Hard
Alkyd varnish = not as hard but better looking IMO. Takes a long time
to dry too. Should be sanded between coats, sands easier than poly.
Hard to repair.
Lacquer is probably the most used commercial finish. Since it dries
rapidly, several coats can be applied in a day. There are varieties for
both spraying and brushing. Complete drying is several days depending
on how thick/many layers there are. Doesn't have to be sanded for
adhesion, one coat melts into the next. Normally sands easily. Can be
very hard, can be relatively soft...normally about like alkyd varnish.
Very easy to repair.
Shellac is like lacquer in as much as it dries rapidly and sands easily
but doesn't require sanding between coats. The coats are very thin and
it takes many to build a nice finish. When done properly by someone who
knows how, it gives a beautiful finish...often used on musical
instruments including pianos. Very easy to repair.
It also makes a good "barrier" coat because it can be applied to any
other clear finish and any other clear top finish can be applied to it.
You cannot apply lacquer to varnish (vehicle eats the varnish) but you
can do vice versa.
The sheen of any clear finish as it comes from the can is able to be
varied. All are normally glossy. If a flatting agent (often powdered
talc) has been added it diminishes the shine. Add more and it is
diminished more. Same effect can be achieved with mechanical
abrasion...0000 steel wool, pumice, rotten stone, rubbing compound, etc.
The best high gloss finishes aren't "out of the can"...they are worked
up by rubbing out with finer and finer materials. That not only gives a
glossy finish, it gives a smooth, flat one.
IMO the best/easiest clear finish for home projects is brushing
lacquer...it is easy to work with and builds rapidly. It is very easy
to repair too. The one I particularly like is Deft Clear.
Unfortunately, the can says nothing about it *being* lacquer but it is
(you can tell by the smell). Comes in glossy and semi gloss.
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The poly didnt cure before the laquer, there is a chemical reaction
that is why you have gloss areas. It could take months to cure the poly
but since you now have laquer wait a few weeks then try laquer again.
Mixing products is never a good idea in finishing when they are new. You
are lucky it could have pulled up the poly.
Deft makes brushing lacquer that has GREAT self leveling attributes.
Would work well for a tabletop as it's horizontal. Check label for
material used to cleanup.
On Wed, 23 Feb 2005 23:01:32 GMT, "1_Patriotic_Guy"
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