I need to apply some new finish over a light oak finish on an old desk. My
favorite choice is some old oil based polyurethane (varathane) I already have.
Unfortunately, I don't know what the origional finish was. I sanded the old
finish to remove the problem spots, and would like to just coat it with my poly.
Is it likely that the origional finish will cause problems with the oil based
It is not always safe to put poly over lacquer. So if the current
finish is lacquer then you may have a problem.The problem is that
lacquer can dissolve from the solvents in the poly and then the
lacquer dries faster than the poly and it makes wrinkles. This is the
same principle they use with crackle paint. However, sometimes the
lacquer won't dissolve depending on the solvents in the poly. You
really never know in my experience.
1. You can try a small test area. Best if you try it on an area where
the original finish is pretty thick still so the problem will show up
for sure. What you will see if there is a problem is the poly will
start to wrinkle up after just a few minutes if it is lacquer
underneath. This doesn't always happen but it is a real possibility.
2. You can apply a coat of dewaxed shellac as a barrier layer, then do
3. Make sure you have sanded it pretty well to minimize the amount of
No, no problems are likely. If you've sanded, there may be bald
though, so re-sealing (with shellac) would be an appropriate first
It all has to be CLEAN first, of course. And, the writing surface
should be filled if the oak is open-pored.
It's midwinter here; are you going to be applying an oil-based
1. Your desk - unless you finished it - is most likely lacquer. The solvent
in oil poly is mineral spirits. That won't affect lacquer. Going the other
way - lacquer *over* poly - may well mess up the poly.
2. Shellac is another (not likely) existing finish. Shellac will go over
anything and can be topped with anything.
3. A third possibility is alkyd/phenolic varnish. Same deal as #1.
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