How to fix lacquer finish - Woodworking Talk - Woodworkers Forum
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post #1 of 17 Old 09-16-2019, 09:39 PM Thread Starter
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How to fix lacquer finish

I got a basically free Ethan Allen Canova set of furniture late 20th century. It has some deep scratches in it. I am familiar with stripping or sanding and refinishing furniture, but haven't actually repaired furniture finish before.

What is the best way to deal with these scratches? It is a thick high gloss finish (I'm assuming lacquer finish) over solid cherry. Any help is appreciated

Each piece has 3-4 small to big scratches on top & few chips out of the finish, with the rest of the finish in good shape. I included a photo of a close up of the biggest scratch that goes to the wood and a photo of it farther away.How to fix lacquer finish-img_0860-1-.jpg

How to fix lacquer finish-img_0861-1-.jpg
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post #2 of 17 Old 09-16-2019, 10:51 PM
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These type of cross grain scratches are almost impossible to repair without stripping and refinishing the whole piece.
I haven't done it in several years but there is a product called a "Flo-Out" blender. It comes in an aerosol can. I don't know how to describe it to you in words on how it works but it takes a lot of skill to not make a mess. Basically, you spray it on and it re-melts(for lack of a better word) the existing finish and lets it flow out evenlly and then hardens again. When i used to do moving damage claims, this was a big item. You make the repair in the customers location. But like I said, if you dont knw what you are doing, you can make a real mess of things. If that dont work there are graining pens where you actually build up the finish and draw the grain.
In addition to that, the piece quite possibly could have the finish tinted which will make the color match difficult.

Another method would be burn in sticks, that too would require painting in the grain, getiing can of tinted aerosol lacquers.

There are refinishers that will come into you home and make the repairs. They will never be truly invisible

You can posssibly get away with a decent repair if the surfaces are not on the tops of tables, dressers, etc. When i say "you", I mean a qualified repair person.

For you personally to do it yourself, you most likely will make it worse. When i used to do this, I would have to bring several boxes of different types of chemicals and graining brushes into their home. then move the piece into the garage to work on it. All my chemicals were in decent size tubs so if anything spills it would land in the little plastic tubs and not on their furniture or floor. Even at that, I worked on the piece in their garage.

So, my final recommendation is find a qualified person or just learn to live with it.
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post #3 of 17 Old 09-16-2019, 10:53 PM
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Welcome to the forum! Add your location to your profile so it shows in the side panel. Add your first name to your signature line so we'll know what to call you.

About the only way I know to fix that is to strip the finish, steam the dents/scratches (assuming the fibers aren't cut), and then refinish. At least that's the way I would do it...

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post #4 of 17 Old 09-17-2019, 02:57 AM
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Those are deep scratches!

I don't think refinishing or stripping alone will get rid of those scratches. In my opinion, it will also take some sanding or scraping with a card scraper to get down that deep. Tony's advice is great for repairing and hiring a professional may be the best answer. David's advice is also great as he works with lacquer almost exclusively on instruments.
I mentioned a card scraper as it is often a forgotten method of removing thin amounts of finish OR thin amounts of wood below the finish. I also use it to "level" a finish to get rid of tiny dust bumps. The difference is amazing just after a few light passes.
Do us a favor and document your repair process so as to benefit other with similar issues!


Some advice and the use of a card scraper on lacquer refinishing here:
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post #5 of 17 Old 09-17-2019, 04:13 AM
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A scratch in the finish is generally a pretty easy repair. On a solvent-based finish, like shellac and lacquer, this can be as easy as buffing with a fine compound or misting the surface with the appropriate solvent to remelt the finish and let it flow back out. Urethanes and the like are a bit trickier, but even then a scratch in the finish is seldom more complicated than a sand and top-coat. All potentially tricky work, but not horribly so.

Unfortunately your picture goes way beyond a scratch in the finish, instead being a scratch through the finish and into the wood. As has been mentioned, no easy fix for that. The damaged and severed wood fibers will show through any finish you can add on, and the best option for a good looking result will be to strip the piece down, sand the wood down to get rid of the damage, and then recoat. Its a fairly involved process, doable for a hobbiest but not easily, and easy to screw up if you arent well versed in finishing in general. If you consider your skill level high enough its something to consider, but honestly consulting a professional will really be the better option

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post #6 of 17 Old 09-17-2019, 03:08 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks for all of the timely input and advice! Really appreciate it, along with the video for the lacquer card scraper.

Sounds like I will have to break down and strip/sand the set. I was hoping not to because it's a few large pieces of furniture & a lot of work, but I don't want to see scratches on the repair. I've refinished quite a few pieces of furniture over the years by stripping/sanding, staining, then poly. I usually just do the furniture top to match the base but have also done whole pieces. I just tried shellac this month and it went pretty well.

I've never done lacquer or high gloss poly, which seems less forgiving, but I guess it's time to try that out! Have you had any luck doing just the top on pieces like this, or is it usually necessary to do the whole thing so it matches?
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post #7 of 17 Old 09-17-2019, 05:17 PM
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It depends on the piece and your skillset. I have done tops by themselves many times but I only use lacquer, never tried poly.

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post #8 of 17 Old 09-17-2019, 05:24 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Fwill View Post
....................Have you had any luck doing just the top on pieces like this, or is it usually necessary to do the whole thing so it matches?
I have done just the tops before. The real trick is to match the color.
First remove the top and move the rest of the unit out of the way so as not to get any stripper and other chemicals on the lower unit.
If for some reason, the top does not come off, which hopefully it would then mask of the unit with Butcher paper.
In my shop I always had rolls of butcher paper that I buy at Sams club to wrap around the unit leaving the top only exposed. This can be done neatly assuming the top overhangs the front and sides. The preferred method is to remove the top completely.

After you strip the top, you will have to repair the damaged area. Depending on the extent of the damage, you can make repairs according to the suggestions above. After the wood has been repaired, wipe a sample portion of the top with lacquer thinner It will evaporate in seconds, but this will give you an idea of what the top would look like with a clear finish such as lacquer. Then you will have to make the decision as to which stain to use and which toners to use, the toners go in the lacquer mix. With luck, the top is solid wood and you can experiment with the stains and toners/tints on the underside of the top.

Anyway, after you strip the top and implement the repairs, get back on here and let us know what is going on.

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post #9 of 17 Old 09-17-2019, 05:43 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by difalkner View Post
..................... I have done tops by themselves many times but I only use lacquer, never tried poly.
David
I wish all woodworkers used lacquer. It is easy to acquire the skill of spraying and now with self contained units like Earlex, HVLP is readily available to woodworkers at a very reasonable cost.

I think lacquer offers the most options as to tints, dyes, colorants, toners and flattening agents to make a high gloss a semi gloss, satin, flat or dead flat finish, plus a whole bunch of other options. no other finish other than high tech finish's gives you so many options. With lacquer, either pre-cat or catalized, you start your spray finish and in less than an hour you are done! AND cleaned up. Even the work area for spraying lacquer using an HVLP set-up stays clean. The lacquer overspray is literally dust before it hits the ground. This is not an exaggeration by any means. That means you just use your air hose to blow the dust off your shoes. Just sweep up the dust.
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post #10 of 17 Old 09-17-2019, 07:29 PM Thread Starter
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The advice on adding a bit of clear finish on a piece of it was helpful. I did that and it helped me see that I needed to shade the light wood strips darker before I stained the rest of the top.

So steps:
1) Sanded the whole top. With more focus on the scratch.
2) Added a bit of clear to see how it looked.
3) Mixed different colors using chestnut color stain, powder pigments, and clear poly. Tested different stain combos on a junk piece of wood to check colors. Chose 1 for the lighter wood, 1 for the darker wood.
4) Stained with a brush only the really light wood.
5) Stained all of it with the stain brushed on. Built up a couple thin coats.
6) Let dry and added more color where needed.

Now I have to add the high gloss finish to the top and see how it looks. Sometime I'll have to try spraying lacquer. That sounds like a good skill to learn.
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Last edited by Fwill; 09-17-2019 at 07:31 PM.
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post #11 of 17 Old 09-17-2019, 07:54 PM Thread Starter
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Here is a better picture of the stain job.
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post #12 of 17 Old 09-18-2019, 04:00 AM
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WOW! Very Impressive

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post #13 of 17 Old 09-18-2019, 06:23 AM
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Clear gloss lacquer in a spray can!

I use either one of these on small keepsake boxes and other smaller projects when it's too much trouble to break out the spray gun:

https://www.homedepot.com/p/Rust-Ole...6830/100194482


https://www.truevalue.com/acrylic-la...E&gclsrc=aw.ds

For best results have the surface horizontal, have some bright lights above at an angle to reflect the wet area as you spray across in overlapping passes. You need to be able to see where you have just made the last pass and slightly overlap the next one by reflection!





The answer to your question will only be as detailed and specific as the question is detailed and specific. Good questions also include a sketch or a photo that illustrates your issue. (:< D)

Last edited by woodnthings; 09-18-2019 at 06:26 AM.
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post #14 of 17 Old 09-18-2019, 11:00 PM Thread Starter
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The feedback and assistance were helpful! The top color is pretty well matched to the base so I don't think I'll have too much trouble with that part of it. I think I'm going to have to try lacquer finishing over the stain.

The poly gloss doesn't seem like it would be glossy enough to match the high gloss of the base. I'll try the spray on can of lacquer first to test it out, but it sounds like the sprayer is the way to go. Especially since I have 5 more larger pieces of furniture to fix in the set...

Do I need to do anything to make the lacquer high gloss, or is it naturally like that?
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post #15 of 17 Old 09-19-2019, 02:02 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Fwill View Post
The feedback and assistance were helpful! The top color is pretty well matched to the base so I don't think I'll have too much trouble with that part of it. I think I'm going to have to try lacquer finishing over the stain.

The poly gloss doesn't seem like it would be glossy enough to match the high gloss of the base. I'll try the spray on can of lacquer first to test it out, but it sounds like the sprayer is the way to go. Especially since I have 5 more larger pieces of furniture to fix in the set...

Do I need to do anything to make the lacquer high gloss, or is it naturally like that?
Most finishes start out as a high gloss, and have flattening agents added to dull the finish. So, as long as you dont intentionally buy a matte or semi-gloss lacquer them youll get a gloss finish

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post #16 of 17 Old 09-19-2019, 07:10 AM
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Glad you are happy with your staining. usually the craftsman who does the work is his own worse critic.
Yes when you buy lacquer the can will say "High Gloss".
I don't know how familiar you are with any kind of spraying so I will throw in this bit of info: You will make steady passes with the lacquer and half overlaps, just like you mow a lawn. You must practice keeping your passes the same distance across the entire surface. That is to say, don't swing in an arc. As your arm is going across the surface, you will be moving your wrist with each pass to keep the spray can the same distance from the surface and always at right angle to the surface. Also, very important is to start the spraying before you reach the surface and shut it off after you pass the surface. Otherwise you might get thick and thin places. You can give it a few practice tries without actually spraying or give a few shots using a cardboard to get the hang of it. It is not difficult at all.
When I would teach classes, I would tell the students to take a deep breathe and relax and convince yourself that you have done this before. Then, don't 'try' to do it - just do it.
And most importantly - have fun.

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Last edited by Tony B; 09-19-2019 at 07:13 AM.
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post #17 of 17 Old 09-24-2019, 04:50 PM Thread Starter
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Yes I am my own worst critic. I decided it was too red and started over.

I used a more brown color with some red. It is a mix of stain/pigment/shellac. It is taking a while to dry but is almost dry now. I think that because of the stain/shellac mix.

I'm not sure it is dark enough because it is hard to see how it will look with the lacquer on top. I used a spray can of lacquer and really like it. It was hard to get poly so glossy and lacquer isn't hard to use. Should I make this color darker or will it be right with the lacquer on top? (Don't want to do it again for a 3rd try)
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