The Best Way to Apply Lacquer

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What You'll Need
Unfinished wood
Lacquer (there are some spray-on lacquers, but for these purposes well be using paint on lacquer)
Tack cloth
Drop cloth
Steel wool (a pumice stone may also be used)
Mineral oil
Lacquer thinner
Dust mask
Protective clothing

Lacquer can be very difficult for the novice furniture finisher to apply. It is a material that creates a great finish and is versatile when working with wood. Lacquer can be used to create anything from a deep matte finish to a very high gloss shine. It is also very durable and is used to protect the wood from the elements. Once applied, it also holds polish very well and can be polished for an even better finish. Applying lacquer does not have to be as daunting of a task as some make it out to be. With a little patience and some practice, you can apply a nice finish to any unfinished wood in no time.

sanding block

Prepare the Wood

Use sandpaper to prepare the wood by getting rid of any rough edges and any previous traces of lacquer or finish that may keep the lacquer from adhering. You can use a power sander, block sander, or sheets of sandpaper to prepare the surface. Beginning with rough sandpaper, use increasingly finer sandpaper for a smooth finish. Seal any major pores or imperfections before applying the lacquer. You can also use the tack cloth to wipe down the wood to remove any sandpaper residue before applying the lacquer.

Apply the First Coat

Be sure to use even strokes to make sure a firm coat goes on as a base coat. Do not use a back and forth motion, instead use quick, long strokes to ensure an even coat. Each stroke needs to meet up with the wet edge of the previous stroke. Work your way around your project to ensure all surfaces are covered.

Allow it to Dry

Each coat of lacquer needs several hours to dry, so be patient with this. As each coat dries, use the sandpaper to remove any imperfections. This will make subsequent coats easier to dry.

tack cloth

Clean and Repeat

In addition to using the sandpaper to get rid of any imperfections between coats, use the tack cloth to remove any residue. This helps avoid a gritty texture when you apply more lacquer. Once done, apply another coat and allow it to dry. Repeat as necessary until you have as dark of a finish as you are looking for. This may take several coats depending on how dark you want the wood to be.


The steel wool and pumice stone will help immensely with the finishing process. They will help to create a sheen as well as remove any larger imperfections that the sandpaper cannot remove. Once done, wipe down the lacquered piece with paint thinner in order to eliminate any leftover oils. The lacquer thinner can be used to clean the brushes left over, as well as help remove any excess oils.

Once the lacquer is applied, be sure to maintain your finished piece regularly with over-the-counter furniture polish. Lacquer can be brought to a high luster with commonly available products such as Pledge.