Lacquer versus Polyurethane
Which to use? Lacquer must be sprayed and best done professionally. We spray top quality acrylic lacquer. Poly can be brushed so is touted for do-it-yourselfers.
A brushable finish widely touted to the do-it-yourselfer as the "be all" finish that is suppose to be water proof and superhard. The problem is that it is a thick finish that frequently shows brush marks and turns yellow with age. It is a hard finish but hard also means brittle, a finish that flakes, scratches and chips easily as a result, and is not repairable. Because it is rigid it does not flex with the wood and so any normal wood expansion creates hairline flaws, allowing moisture to get underneath causing white areas and finish lifting. When the finish does deteriorate, as it will eventually, it is extremely difficult to strip and refinish.
It a finish that normally must be sprayed and is widely used by furniture manufacturers and refinishers. It is water clear and never changes color. It is repairable. With the acrylic additive that we use, it is flexible. It becomes the most moisture, alcohol, chip and scratch resistant finish you can use.
Many furniture manufacturers now use water based lacquer in order to meet EPA regulations. It takes on a slightly cloudy or milky look, is very thin and brittle, and easily damaged. It is only moderately repairable.
There is a brushable lacquer product by Deft brand called "clear wood finish" that is a brushable lacquer that exists. It smells terrible while curing and it takes at least three coats. It is what we recommend to the DIYer. The secret to using it is to use a very good brush and apply thin coats. Minwax also makes such a product.
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