poly or laquer?

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Forum topic by shelly_b posted 12-25-2012 10:28 PM 1441 views 0 times favorited 20 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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850 posts in 2358 days

12-25-2012 10:28 PM

What are the benefits of each and what do you prefer? I am finishing some cherry paper towel holders and am using a base of shelac then a few coats of poly. I have some laquer, which seems like it would be easier since you don’t have to sand between coats but am afraid to use it. I have done the shellac/poly on cherry before when i made my end table and love the results. I would hate to ruin these xmas gifts(yes they will be a little late lol) by ruining the finish. Thanks!

20 replies so far

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5819 posts in 3054 days

#1 posted 12-25-2012 10:39 PM

I prefer lacquer for its ease of use, and quick drying time.
However, in this case I would deal with the slow dry time and opt for poly because it has better protection against water. I sprayed Deft Poly on my front door, and it worked great. Takes forever to dry, but otherwise a great product.

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

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Monte Pittman

30153 posts in 2579 days

#2 posted 12-25-2012 10:47 PM

I use Danish oil and water based poly for most. Water based poly dries clear versus oil based that slightly yellows. My mother is 83 and has been using oil based for evr and just plans for the color change. I also prefer the clean up for water based.

-- Nature created it, I just assemble it.

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850 posts in 2358 days

#3 posted 12-25-2012 10:47 PM

I just got some rub on poly in hopes of avoiding drips since there are so many corners. I have never used it before so will probably test it out on a scrap first. Hopefully it will work as good as the brush/spray on kind. If so, I will be using it alot more. I love the depth of the cherry end table I made. It almost has a 3D look to it. I find my self staring at it sometimes lol.

View cutworm's profile


1075 posts in 3034 days

#4 posted 12-26-2012 12:41 AM

To me lacquer is much more forgiving and easier to apply. If you mess up wait about 30 minutes and sand and repeat.

-- Steve - "Never Give Up"

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1276 posts in 2351 days

#5 posted 12-26-2012 12:46 AM

I have some polyurethane that acts like lacquer…

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1727 posts in 2442 days

#6 posted 12-26-2012 12:47 AM

I really like Laquer cause it really brings out the beauty of wood. Dries quickly, easy touch up’s later if needed.

-- What we do in life will Echo through Eternity........

View Grandpa's profile


3261 posts in 2916 days

#7 posted 12-26-2012 12:58 AM

As stated above lacquer is very forgiving. It is easily repaired but it is not as durable. Poly is tough. Probably the toughest finish we have available today. It has all kinds of suggestions on the can but I have thinned it about 25% with paint thinner and sprayed it. I have applied a second coat in 20 or 3 hours. This might vary with the climate. I don’t mind working with it. Lacquer doesn’t run badly and is easy to apply. it isn’t as durable but on the other hand, I have a cedar chest with lacquer on it. It has not been handled roughly but the finish is still in great shape and it was applied in 1964. Of course if you are rough enough on cedar to mess up the lacquer finish you have probably messed up the soft cedar under it. I went to a seminat once. they were dealing with antiques. The man talked about all the finishes and finally said if I were going to use this table everyday, I would apply poly because it offers the very best in protection. If you want an antique then strip the poly and put the original finish back on it but dont use it every day.

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370 posts in 3418 days

#8 posted 12-26-2012 01:16 AM

I’d always been a big fan of gel poly and still prefer it on certain things. Recently I decided to try a wipe on poly for a new table I was building for my kitchen. Three coats over a couple of coats of shellac and it turned great.

-- If at first you don't succeed then maybe skydiving isn't for you.

View gfadvm's profile


14940 posts in 2931 days

#9 posted 12-26-2012 03:30 AM

You really don’t need the shellac. Make your own wipe on poly by mixing poly?mineral spirits at 2:1 ratio. Just wipe it on and wipe it off. Repeat when dry til you’re happy with the finish.

-- " I'll try to be nicer, if you'll try to be smarter" gfadvm

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Joseph Jossem

492 posts in 2509 days

#10 posted 12-26-2012 04:44 AM

I have used both over the last 15 years I prefer laquer faster easier and easier to refinish.

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1685 posts in 2865 days

#11 posted 12-26-2012 06:59 AM

The look and feel of Lacuer IMO is superior. The durability of Poly can not be beat. Use the product that best fits the project.

-- Made in America, with American made tools....Shopsmith

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839 posts in 3485 days

#12 posted 12-26-2012 07:56 AM

First let me congratulate you for taking up woodworking. Soon your home will be filled with your work.
As for finishes, I think I’ve tried them all, but I always go back to polyurethane. These days I use General semi-gloss from Woodcraft. Usually I spray it on with a Prevail can. That poly is thin enough to spray without reducing with mineral spirits. The sprayers available at most hardware stores and are just great. Since you are using cherry, you don’t have to work as much about filling the pores of the wood prior to achieving your final top coat. I would still spray a minimum of three coats. I usually will spray in one plane at a time. So I continually am rotating the piece to get the next side. The General poly can be recoated in 4 hours, but is not going to run after 30 or 40 minutes. So I turn the piece to the next side after that time and spray again. I also will hold up a piece of cardboard or a small piece of 1/4 ply (whatever I have lying around that I can sacrifice) and shield the the side that I sprayed previously to avoid overspray from the new plane of spray. I always use 400 grit sandpaper between coats on each side (after that 4 hour recoat wait time). If I start early in the morning, I can spray all 4 sides two times in one day. Don’t forget to wear a good mask, a smock and a painters hood-or a hazmat suit if you’d prefer with any finish. Good luck….......

-- cathyb, Hawaii,

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932 posts in 2595 days

#13 posted 12-26-2012 07:57 AM


It really depends on the grade of lacquer that you buy, there are actually several different grades, I use a professional lacquer that you can only get at a handful of dealers around, none of which are actually all that close to where I live, but they deliver so…

-- The mark of a good carpenter is not how few mistakes he makes, but rather how well he fixes them.

View shelly_b's profile


850 posts in 2358 days

#14 posted 12-26-2012 01:38 PM

thanks everyone:) i have never thought of making my own wipe on poly, probably b/c i didn’t know you could lol. but i will definately be giving that a try. if any kind of wipe on finish works/looks as good as a spray/brush on then i am all for it. i am a little…ok, very ocd when i finish my projects. there can’t be any drips, sags, brush marks or blemishes of any sort. if there are then i have extra sanding time lol so it can get time consuming. thank you cathy:) i have some spray cans of poly and laquer and would like to eventually get a sprayer. i am horrible about not using safety equipment. masks drive me crazy, i feel like i am suffocating, but i know i really need to start using them.

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Bill White

5149 posts in 4201 days

#15 posted 12-26-2012 03:41 PM

Just remember that shellac s a sealer is great as lond as ya use a dewaxed shellac. I use Seal Coat from Zinnser.
Rattle can lacquer is a good product for smaller projects. Quick and easy to apply/repair.


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