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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
My 20yr old kitchen has cherry cabinets with a clear lacquer finish. Overall the cabinets are in great shape but the finish is worn near the sink and other high wear areas. The cabinets have also faded quite a bit so i would like them darkened a coulple shades so they match the inside of the door. I originally hired someone, who ensured me that he has done lots of this type of work to refinish them, but I am not satisfied with his quality of work on the sample door.

On the sample he lightly sanded and sprayed an oil based stain over the existing finish. He then followed that up with a poly top coat. My biggest complaint is the finish is not smooth and there are some fish eyes and other defects. Also, the areas where the lacquer was worn absorbed much more stain so they are significantly darker. Is he going to be able to get a good finish with this process or is it a lost cause?

After looking into it more, it seems that maybe a clear precat lacquer, or some other way to seal the damage bare wood areas, followed by a couple layers of tinted precat maybe the way to go. Do you guys agree or what do you recommend?
 

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My 20yr old kitchen has cherry cabinets with a clear lacquer finish. Overall the cabinets are in great shape but the finish is worn near the sink and other high wear areas. The cabinets have also faded quite a bit so i would like them darkened a coulple shades so they match the inside of the door. I originally hired someone, who ensured me that he has done lots of this type of work to refinish them, but I am not satisfied with his quality of work on the sample door.

On the sample he lightly sanded and sprayed an oil based stain over the existing finish. He then followed that up with a poly top coat. My biggest complaint is the finish is not smooth and there are some fish eyes and other defects. Also, the areas where the lacquer was worn absorbed much more stain so they are significantly darker. Is he going to be able to get a good finish with this process or is it a lost cause?

After looking into it more, it seems that maybe a clear precat lacquer, or some other way to seal the damage bare wood areas, followed by a couple layers of tinted precat maybe the way to go. Do you guys agree or what do you recommend?
You've picked a refinisher somehow, and you have your doubts to his abilities. So, on the basis of responses you get here, are you planning to inform him of what the suggestions are? That should be interesting.

It's my thoughts, that an oil base stain will not stick to a solvent base lacquer finish. Fisheyes, or evidence of coating failure are likely due to chemicals or debris on the current finish. The finish should be cleaned and lightly sanded.

I would suggest a lacquer based tinted finish to tone in the blemishes. Toning could also be used to darken what is there. If the cabinets are to be sprayed, that presents a PITA, even with an HVLP system. A Gel stain could be used to get a darker shade.

It's possible to do all the repair and finishing with wipe on/brush on methods if necessary. A lacquer finish would be preferred, but if prepared correctly, an oil base polyurethane, or, a waterbased polyurethane could be applied.






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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
It has already became a tough situation as I have expressed my disappointment in the quality of finish. He seems to think it looks fine which is concerning to me as the you can clearly see the defects. I'm not sure if I'm being to picky or if its just substandard work.

I am at the point where I can have him stop on the job as only 1 cabinet door has the poly coat.
 

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We just refinished our kitchen cabinets. We did how ever own our own refinishing business for 20 years. Took all the doors and drawers out side to strip, sand, stain and lacquer. Fish eye can be a real problem, I added "Smoothie" to every quart I sprayed. Sand between coats and give it at least 3 coats.
Inside the house cabinet parts we used a low VOC stripper sanded with vacuum attached to sander, stained and actually brushed the lacquer on. Looks really nice..... some times if you want the best you must do it your self.
 

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If he didn't thoroughly clean that door, that would be the reason of the fisheyes (silicone furniture polishes and such) and the reason to invite him to leave. Anyone who's done that work for "20 years" would be aware of that problem, and take the necessary steps. Consider this: whatever you do for a final coat, you can't go wrong with a good cleaning of the cabinets, then a barrier coat of dewaxed shellace, then whatever top coat you choose.
 

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The guy you hired doesn't have a clue what he's doing and I wouldn't let him do any more to your cabinets. You can't just lightly sand the finish on a lacquer finish and apply some more stain. The stain on the surface will prevent the topcoat from bonding. The old finish has to be completely stripped off with paint and varnish remover, then the wood sanded and then stained. The fisheye is a trivial problem which is caused by furniture polish. A wax and grease remover should have been used first but sometimes you can't get all the silicone off the wood. Then there is a additive you can add to the finish to make it flow out regardless of the silicone. I use Smoothie. It's available at automotive paint stores. More than likely the old finish was done with a nitrocellulose lacquer. It isn't the best thing to put a pre-catalyzed lacquer over the nitrocellulose. The pre-catalyzed lacquer is a better finish for your cabinets but for a recoat I would use nitrocellulose lacquer. If the old finish is completely stripped off then the wood should be sealed with a vinyl sealer and then topcoated with the pre-catalyzed lacquer. These finishes are available at Sherwin Williams. Some stores will have to special order it but that usually only takes a couple of days.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Quick update...I let the guy go this morning and he picked up all his stuff and ran. I think he was kind of relieved actually. I'm out my deposit which is okay I guess because he did a lot of prep work and some other touch up stuff. Chalk it up to a learning process.

Anyways, the more I look at the cabinets the more I like the finish on the back of the doors where they havent been exposed to the sun. They are a really neat color and have a lot of depth to them. Is it feasible to strip the faces with a laquer thinner, stain and then lacquer the fronts. Will I be able to get the same color and depth or do you think the sun bleach that out never to be seen again.

Thanks, I appreciate all your input and feel better about my decision to let him go.
 

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Lacquer thinner is too liquid and would be too hard to control. I would take the doors off the cabinets and use Kleen Strip paint and varnish remover. It's a lot thicker than lacquer thinner and will strip much better. With what you have planned I would just use the stripper on the face of the doors and use a sander to take the finish off the edges. That way you are not as likely to get the remover on the back of the door. Just follow the instructions except rinse with lacquer thinner on a rag. It would help with the fisheye to wash the cabinets and doors down with DuPont prepsol solvent prior to stripping. It will cut much of the silicone off so perhaps won't give you too much trouble.
 

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Post some pics so we can see what you are describing.

Being cherry cabinets, blotch is a major issue, if you do strip these clean, you need someone who finishes cabinets daily to do the job. You might want to start talking to some cabinet shops to see if they will share a name or two of their finishers or someone they could recommend as an expert refinisher. This is a time consuming process, but the pro's probably have dunk tanks for stripping that speeds the process. Stripping is nasty time consuming work!
 
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