Getting a high gloss with lacquer

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Forum topic by Purrmaster posted 11-05-2012 12:16 AM 27356 views 8 times favorited 18 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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915 posts in 2332 days

11-05-2012 12:16 AM

I did some searching on the Internet and on these forums and couldn’t find the information I was looking for. So here I am.

Can someone please tell me what the steps and sequence are for getting a very high gloss finish with lacquer? I am using the Deft gloss brushing lacquer. I want to achieve a high gloss and smooth finish.

The Deft sanding sealer I slapped on there has dried so it’s time to start putting on the lacquer.

I expect that I will need to put down more than one coat and do some polishing/sanding. That’s fine. But I want that lovely lacquer gloss and smoothness.

Please note: I don’t have spray equipment and am not going to get it anytime soon. So spraying isn’t an option.

Thank you.

18 replies so far

View pintodeluxe's profile


5817 posts in 3052 days

#1 posted 11-05-2012 12:44 AM

Just put on three coats for a high gloss finish. I never mess with sanding sealers, because lacquer acts as its own sealer.
If the gloss is too much, stopping after two coats will yield a nice satin finish. I use satin sheen Valspar lacquer, but after three coats it stars to look glossy. I prefer the satin sheen, so I either stop at two coats or buff it with walnut wax and #0000 steel wool. Regarding spraying – if you already own a compresser, you can start spraying for a very low price. Woodcraft offers a gravity feed HVLP gun for $40. It works great.

-- Willie, Washington "If You Choose Not To Decide, You Still Have Made a Choice" - Rush

View Dark_Lightning's profile


3367 posts in 3348 days

#2 posted 11-05-2012 01:37 AM

Spraying is the quick and easy way to a glossy, smooth finish. But you can still do it with a brush. It may take a little more time to cut through the brush marks, is all. I lacquer wood projects and wet sand them just like sanding an automotive paint job, including using polishing compound. Just make sure you don’t cut all the way through to the wood and get it wet. You can get the satin finish, as has been mentioned, by just using two coats. But you can also get it by sanding the surface with the right grit. I have all the way to 3000 grit.

-- Random Orbital Nailer

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Clint Searl

1533 posts in 2600 days

#3 posted 11-05-2012 02:27 AM

1. After the first coat, sand back the nubs with 320 or rub out with a maroon scotchbrite.
2. Add additional coats to get a good build.
3. Sand to full flat with 400 and 600 lubed with soapy water.
4. Power buff to high gloss with auto polishing compound on a lambswool pad.

-- Clint Searl....Ya can no more do what ya don't know how than ya can git back from where ya ain't been

View Purrmaster's profile


915 posts in 2332 days

#4 posted 11-05-2012 03:08 AM

I don’t have a power buffer. Can it be done by hand? Are there particular auto polishing compounds to use?

When you sanded up to 3,000 grit, what kind of sandpaper did you use? I’ve seen the 3M “Trizact” sanding foam stuff but that’s about it.

Is lacquer any easier to polish up than shellac? I found myself having great difficulty polishng shellac.

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Clint Searl

1533 posts in 2600 days

#5 posted 11-05-2012 01:27 PM

Forget the 3000; it’s wasted effort. You can hand rub with auto rubbing and polishing compounds. I’ve used du Pont and 3M products. Follow directions on the cans.

-- Clint Searl....Ya can no more do what ya don't know how than ya can git back from where ya ain't been

View Ripthorn's profile


1459 posts in 3224 days

#6 posted 11-05-2012 01:38 PM

On my guitars, here is my process for a high gloss lacquer finish:

1) Make sure the wood surface is as perfect as you can possibly get it, then clean it off well with Naptha or mineral spirits and let dry

2) If using sealer, put on one or two good coats and let dry
3) Wet sand the sealer with 400 grit, being carefule not to get any water on any unfinished portion (especially screw holes and the like).

4) First coat of lacquer should be a lighter coat, mostly just to give the following coats something to stick well to (keep in mind that for me, this is all sprayed, but the same principle applies to brushed, though a lighter coat may not be strictly necessary depending on the product).

5) Put on several good coats of lacquer. You want enough material for it to flow out well, but not so much that it runs or sags. Wet sand out imperfections as necessary.

6) After all your coats are on, the surface should be smooth enough to start wet sanding at 600 or 800 grit. I then wet sand at 1000, 1500 and 2000

7) I begin polishing with Meguiar’s showroom polish (I think that’s what it is). This can be done by hand, but expect to invest about 10 minutes rubbing per square foot.

8) Use a swirl remover (I use a turtle wax swirl remover). Again, expect about 10 minutes per square foot.

In the end, a guitar wetsanded and polished by hand takes about 2 hours or so. Could you cut some of the steps above? Sure, but it depends on what your definition of gloss is. For me, it’s like a mirror.

-- Brian T. - Exact science is not an exact science

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915 posts in 2332 days

#7 posted 11-05-2012 07:21 PM

Mirror would be my definition as well. If I do get runs or sags should I sand them out or just slap more lacquer on? I ask because I know that coats of lacquer will melt into each other.

As I said, I don’t have the facilities to spray. What about using the Deft lacquer in rattle cans?

View Don Johnson's profile

Don Johnson

704 posts in 3020 days

#8 posted 11-06-2012 05:18 PM

I recently watched a video by stevinmarin on how he achieved a mirror-like finish on his chessboard, and it went through all the stages with clear explanations and demonstrations of each step – but it took me a while to track it down.

It is the last part of his 7-part blog on the chessboard construction, found here

He managed to achieve a super result, so perhaps viewing his video – if you haven’t already done so – may help in your quest.

-- Don, Somerset UK,

View RussellAP's profile


3104 posts in 2526 days

#9 posted 11-06-2012 05:30 PM

You could (on some woods) do a wet sanding to get that sheen which is sometimes a better way to go.

-- A positive attitude will take you much further than positive thinking ever will.

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915 posts in 2332 days

#10 posted 11-06-2012 10:43 PM

I did look through videos and couldn’t find one on lacquer. Thank you for that. I have Meguiar’s showroom glaze #7, Scratch-X, and some Turtle Wax polishing and rubbing compounds. I’d used those on shellac and (with the exception of the glaze stuff) they caused more harm than good. Are there particular lotions and potions that are better than others?

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404 - Not Found

2544 posts in 3208 days

#11 posted 11-08-2012 03:45 PM

Any of those automotive products will work on lacquer. You need to have a good build that is fully cured before you start rubbing out the finish. It’s important when you are applying the lacquer to build up a good coat – apply coats within a couple of hours of each other so each coat will dissolve into the previous one instead of sitting on top of the last one, otherwise, if you rub thru one coat, you will get a halo or ghost where you go between one coat and the previous one. Take care with the edges not to rub thru.

I nearly ruined a job once by going over it with paste wax – it’s my belief that I did the rub out too soon and the toluene in the wax had some kind of effect on the lacquer, it put swirls into it.

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915 posts in 2332 days

#12 posted 11-09-2012 05:23 AM

Most of what I’ve read online about brushing lacquer (what precious little there is) and they strongly suggested a badger hair brush.

I’ve been looking and can’t find a true badger brush. And from what I read they are exceptionally expensive.

I got a “badger style” brush from Rockler. Which is apparently china bristle with a stripe painted on it. It was my own fault for not checking more closely.

Anyone know where to find finishing brushes made of badger fur? Assuming it’s even worth the expense.

View Luke's profile


545 posts in 3533 days

#13 posted 11-09-2012 05:38 AM

All of the above is correct but is all missing one important step. If you want the super high gloss mirror like finish that you see on CHEAP furniture you will have to fill the pores/grain of the wood prior to putting on the lacquer. There are woods that wouldn’t require this step such as maple and others that have no surface grain. But the secret to it is to fill those grain/pores with a filler. I’ve had great success in the past with a clear epoxy. Just wipe a thin layer over the whole surface to be finished and then once it’s dry sand it back down till you just barely hit wood. Then do all the above finishing and you will have a piece of glass. Not everyone’s cup of tea (me) but it is desired by some.

-- LAS,

View oldnovice's profile


7380 posts in 3607 days

#14 posted 11-09-2012 06:00 AM

I do almost what Steve Ramsey does but I don’t use the rottenstone I use NOVUS, a plastic scratch remover ,which IMO works as well but is not as cheap!

I use that because I have it for my plastic work!

-- "I never met a board I didn't like!"

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915 posts in 2332 days

#15 posted 11-09-2012 08:29 AM

Ok, I’ll bite. If a super high gloss finish is what you see on cheap furniture, what kind of finish would good furniture have?

I guess I’m not so much looking for a super high gloss (with the lacquer) I’m looking for transparent. I’d like the finish to look like a piece of very clear glass is on it.

I have used polyurethane in the past and will use it again. Put a poly finish looks like the wood was dipped in plastic. I don’t like that. Perhaps I’m screwing up the poly somehow.

Hence why I am experimenting on different finishes like lacquer and shellac.

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