How to Make Nitrocellulose Lacquer

What You'll Need
Sulfuric acid
Nitric acid
Fast drying solvent

Making your own nitrocellulose lacquer can be done using cotton and treating it with sulfuric and nitric acid. This type of lacquer, which dries quickly is used in auto finishes and on wood. It is admired for its high sheen and glossy quality. Nitrocellulose lacquer is also very toxic and can be flammable if not handled properly. This type of project should only be pursued by those individuals who are aware of the dangers associated with using flammable and toxic materials. Under no circumstances should an unsupervised minor engage in this project without the expressed permission and supervision of an adult. This how-to article will help you make your own nitrocellulose lacquer for use in whatever type of project you intend to use it for. This article will provide a step-by-step guide along with the tools and materials needed for the project.

Step 1 - Acquire Materials

You will need to find a retailer that will sell you sulfuric and nitric acid, as well as a fast drying solvent needed to create your nitrocellulose lacquer. You may need to go to several different retailers who are willing to sell each of these items to you. You may also need to be prepared to explain the purpose for the purchase and assure the retailer that the purpose is for reasons other than making a toxic concoction used in some type of illegal activity.

Step 2 - Create the Pulp Material

Once you are able to successfully acquire all of the materials for your nitrocellulose lacquer you can proceed with this step in the process. Place cotton in an acid resistant bucket or container and soak it with an equal proportion of sulfuric and nitric acid. Allow the mixture to soak for awhile so that it creates a pulpy resin in the bucket.

Choose a container that is appropriate for use with the acid and will not degrade or leak while the cotton soaks in the solution of sulfuric and nitric acid. 

Step 3 - Strain the Pulp Material

Pour the contents of the container into another acid resistant container slowly and carefully through a wire strainer. This will separate the resin material from the pulpy goop that is let in the container. Once you drain the resin into the second container properly dispose of the pulp material in accordance to the disposal standards for your community. Do not, under any circumstances, flush the materials in a drain or throw it directly into the trash.

Step 4 - Add Solvent

To the container that contains the strained pulp resin, add a fast drying solvent. This mixture will create the nitrocellulose lacquer that you can now use with your project. Use the amount of lacquer that you need for your wood or metal finishing project, being sure to store any unused amount in a container that is rated safe for storing this compound.