Deft Brushing Lacquer

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Forum topic by Stevedore posted 04-26-2015 03:10 PM 1032 views 0 times favorited 11 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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62 posts in 1447 days

04-26-2015 03:10 PM

I’m starting to finish a serving tray I’ve been working on. The tray surface is a geometric pattern of several wood species (parquet?), with their grains running in a few different directions. The pieces are glued on to a plywood substrate, and my plan is to finish it before assembling it with the frame pieces, so I can easily sand it between finish coats, etc.

I decided to use Deft satin brushing lacquer, as I’ve used it before, & like the look & feel of the finish. However, I can NOT get a level coat of finish on this thing. I’m up to 4 coats, with wet sanding between coats, and every coat leaves brush marks, which are especially noticeable where I brushed across the grain. I’ve been letting it dry overnight between coats. The area I’m working in has been about 65 degrees or higher.

This may be obvious to some here, but I’m wondering if the can of finish I’m using is just too old. I bought it new 3-4 years ago, and used it without any problems on a small table I made. I used a little bit more of it about a year later for another small project, again with no trouble.

Would thinning it somewhat help it lay down smoother? Or, as I’m wondering, is it just too old to work properly?

Thanks for any suggestions!

-- Steve, in Morris County, NJ

11 replies so far

View Nubsnstubs's profile


811 posts in 1152 days

#1 posted 04-26-2015 03:19 PM

Get a spray can of Deft, and spray instead of brush. Problem solved…..... Jerry (in Tucson)

-- Jerry (in Tucson)

View Ripthorn's profile


1402 posts in 2407 days

#2 posted 04-26-2015 03:28 PM

Spray deft will never fully harden, in my experience. However, to get it to flow out better, get a pan of hot (not boiling) water and let your can of lacquer sit in that for 10 minutes or so before applying. This will help it to flow out better. If that doesn’t do it, you can cut it with a little bit of lacquer thinner.

Another possibly contributing factor is the wood species. You mention grain in different directions. Wood with deep pores will make it so that the surface doesn’t look as well finished and could contribute to noticing brush marks.

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

View exelectrician's profile


2327 posts in 1849 days

#3 posted 04-26-2015 10:54 PM

Work quickly working the wet edge from where you start to where you finish – Now do NOT go back over and over trying to get the last brush mark out. This is counter productive to the way the finish is designed.
In short – Put it on and let it flow down flat.

-- Love thy neighbour as thyself

View HerbC's profile


1568 posts in 2281 days

#4 posted 04-27-2015 12:40 AM

Put a little retarder in, just a couple ounces in a quart… The lacquer is drying too fast and the retarder will slow it down and give it a chance to level out a bit…

Good Luck!

Be Careful!


-- Herb, Florida - Here's why I close most messages with "Be Careful!"

View Stevedore's profile


62 posts in 1447 days

#5 posted 04-27-2015 03:23 PM

Many thanks for the replies. I’m planning to wetsand the current finish flat, then try recoating with my garage shop warmed up a bit. The easiest thing for me to try next is warming & possibly reducing the lacquer somewhat, as Ripthorn suggested.

-- Steve, in Morris County, NJ

View longgone's profile


5688 posts in 2730 days

#6 posted 04-27-2015 09:53 PM

Have you tried wiping it on instead of brushing it?

View pintodeluxe's profile


4825 posts in 2235 days

#7 posted 04-27-2015 10:07 PM

The best way to avoid brush marks is to spray the finish. If you already own a compressor, you can begin spraying for a $15-100 investment depending on what gun you buy. I like gravity feed HVLP conversion guns.
There is a furniture shop in my neighborhood, kind of a mom and pop operation, and they finish their own pieces. You can walk through their display room and feel the furniture pieces, and they feel rough like a teenager finished them outside on a summers day with the dandelions blowing in the wind. Then at the back of the shop was a beautiful reproduction Stickley table with Leopold chairs. One touch of the finish said it all. Smooth under the hand and a lovely satin finish. When I inquired about the table, I learned that was the one piece in his shop that he didn’t finish himself.

What was the difference? Sprayed lacquer topcoat, vs. brushed on topcoat.

If that is not in the cards for you, try wet sanding the final coat with a 1500 grit soft sponge. That will knock down the brush marks and leave you with a satin finish.

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

View bruc101's profile


1075 posts in 2964 days

#8 posted 04-28-2015 12:13 AM

In my opinion Deft is the best lacquer on the market and we’ve sprayed 100’s of gallons of it over the years. I think we first started using it in the mid 90’s. I talked to an engineer at Deft one time and she told me the reason it’s called brushing lacquer is because of California’s VOC laws.

When I use the Deft, or any other lacquer including pre cat, I always thin it with lacquer thinner. We never spray it straight out of the can and we build our coats not just stand back and have at it.I spray the lacquer at maybe light wet coats.

With the Deft, I’ll thin it about 25% for the first coat. All I do then is hold the gun about 2 feet above the project and more or less dust the first coat on. That will raise the grain in the wood. I’ll give it a couple of hours and then lightly sand it with 400 grit paper. That will lay the grain down and smooth out the surface.

I then thin the Deft about 10% and spray a normal light coat on it. Once again I let it totally dry before I sand it again with 400 grit paper.

I keep doing this until I have at least five coats on it. When I spray lacquer I’ll rotate each coat spraying one coat horizontal and the next coat vertical over lapping each coat by several inches. Hold the gun flat to the surface and don’t stop spraying until you have sprayed past the ends of the project. All this helps lay each coat down flat I never pull the trigger wide open either. I let experience and eyes dictate how much lacquer to atomize and leave the gun head by watching how the lacquer lays down. It’s going to look a little funky until it dries so don’t back up and try to make it look good right off the bat. I spray moving the gun at a steady, not to fast or to slow, speed.

When you spray like this you’re not flooding the surface with the lacquer making it more difficult to lay down flat and level and it’ll dry faster. I very seldom ever wet sand lacquer. I’ve never found it necessary to get a clean smooth and flat surface.

I’m 68 years old and started learning how to mix paint and pull the trigger on a spray gun when I was 8 years old. Two things I feel like my life was blessed with at an early age is when lacquer and a drum sander showed up in our shop.

-- Bruce Free Plans

View Dark_Lightning's profile


2620 posts in 2531 days

#9 posted 04-28-2015 01:35 AM

Willie and Bruce echo my experience with lacquer. For that matter, I also spray shellac and waterborne urethane, such as Minwax, though I have wiped a thinned waterborne urethane Minwax finish, on occasion.

-- Random Orbital Nailer

View jumbojack's profile


1667 posts in 2046 days

#10 posted 04-28-2015 04:59 AM

Spray your lacquer! I spray the very product you are brushing. Like a poster above my first coat is it about 25%. Normally I lay down two coats of the cut lacquer VERY thin. Knock it back with 400. Then spray at least two more coats cut at 10%. Some projects call for more coats (something that will be handled frequently). If more coats are called for after every two coats knock it back with 400. I use wet/dry sandpaper and will wash them, I don’t wet sand. The last coat is knocked back with 600 and then waxed with paste wax.
The feel is so smooth it begs to be touched.
My spray rig is a cheapie ‘Critter’ available on Amazon for under $40. While it is not the best it does an admirable job, and compared to rattle cans will save you a ton of money.

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

View Stevedore's profile


62 posts in 1447 days

#11 posted 04-29-2015 06:26 PM

OK, heating the can of lacquer in hot water for a while, and thinning it a bit seem to have helped a lot. The coat levels out almost completely before it begins to set. I suspect that any remaining issues are due to my brushing technique.

I’d like to spray my finishes, but with my garage being my workshop, I’d need to put together some kind of enclosure or booth to contain the spray. Probably a good idea, though, & maybe I’ll get to that point someday.

Thanks again for all of your suggestions & comments; all very helpful.

-- Steve, in Morris County, NJ

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