How to Refinish Wood Furniture with Lacquer

What You'll Need
Lacquer thinner
Denatured alcohol
Paint striper
Neoprene gloves
400 grit sandpaper
Paste Wax
0000 steel wool
Power buffer (rent)
Non-synthetic bristle paint brush
Flat edged scraper
Lacquer spray gun (rent)
Steel or glass bowl

For the prepared and diligent DIY’er to refinish wood furniture with lacquer, requires only a few hours over a single weekend. Follow these how-to directions to give an old antique or a recent but tired piece the brilliance of brand new.

Step 1 – Safety

Furniture refinishing solvents are flammable and toxic. Work in a well ventilated area and away from open flames. Wear safety goggles, neoprene or other synthetic gloves that the solvents won’t dissolve. Some solvents will burn if allowed to touch your skin so wear a long sleeved shirt for protection. Lastly but the most important: keep the children a safe distance from your project. Plan a supervised strategy that will keep them entertained and away from your work.

Step 2 – Remove the Old

Paint, shellac or lacquer: The type of solvent that you use depends on what finish you’ll strip. For paint use a paint stripper, shellac will liquefy with denatured alcohol and lacquer in lacquer thinner. Like your protective gloves these solvents may dissolve synthetic bristles on your paint brush. Ask the DIY clerk before you buy.

Brush the solvent onto workable sections of the furniture then allow the liquid a few minutes to do its job. Fill a steel or glass bowl 1/2 full with your solvent and then use 0000 steel wool like a dish rag to sop solvent then rub the target area. This method is especially effective in carved and other delicate or hard to reach portions of your work. Rinse and repeat until the area is completely stripped. Stubborn sections may need a flat scrapper but be gentle so that you don’t create a blemish that will need repair. Continue this process section by section until your piece is stripped.

Step 3 – Stain

Allow 24 hours for the solvents to completely dry. Follow the label’s directions to apply the stain of your choice.

Step 4 – Layer the New

Modern lacquers allow application by spray or brush. Brushing, no matter how practiced, leaves stroke marks in the lacquer. Rent a paint spray gun to allow the best possible outcome. After the first coat drys (consult label directions) apply a second coat.

Use 400 grit sand paper to lightly sand drips, runs or orange peel (a blemish that resembles soda fizz but is dry and hard to the touch). Use a soft dry rag to clean after sanding. Apply two or three more thin coats, allowing drying time before each. Less is more. Imagine yourself the fine artist, increasing perfection one layer at a time by applying just enough but not so much that the lacquer will run.

Step 4 – Wax and Buff

This last step will add a brilliant sheen to your weekend labor. To thoroughly dry lacquer, apply a single coat of paste wax. Hand or power buff to a bright luster.