Olly Writes

Woodwork, writing, walks, DIY and more!

Chestnut Acrylic Lacquer

Jubbly-bubbly... Or not!!

Most of the past week has been spent finishing (literally!) various bits and pieces – look out for future posts in the next week or so. While I began lacquering my English cherry bookshelf several weeks ago, it just wasn’t going as well as I had hoped and the finish was less than satisfactory. Before binning the leftover lacquer and switching to Osmo’s hard wax oil though, I sent an e-mail to Chestnut directly, to see if they could offer any advice…

Terry Smart replied with his suspicions that this tub of lacquer may have surpassed it’s ‘best before‘ date… Along with the turning blanks mentioned in the previous post on this project, I also bought a tub of acrylic lacquer at one of Yandles’ woodworking shows, back in 2008. It’s been through two cold winters since then, where I’ve noticed other pots of water freezing within my garage/workshop, from time to time. Chestnut say this product (being water-based) has a shelf life of about twelve-months. Even varnish and oil finishes will tend to build up at the bottom of the can within that time. My initial attempts at spraying the lacquer didn’t go well at all, with a crystal-like formation clogging the gun at regular intervals. This confirmed what Terry’s suspicions. No amount of dilution was going to help me here – I blew the recommended maximum of 5% out of the water – there was probably as much as 30% H2O in the solution and yet, I still couldn’t get the gun to fire! Even with a roller, my attempts failed and I ended up with this bubbly “orange peel” effect, which you can see above.

Terry’s advice was then to purchase a brand-new bottle of lacquer and also a pack of foam brushes, which are supposed to be the best tools for applying lacquer (after a fine-tuned spray gun!). That arrived on Monday and I began removing the old finish with my belt sander and a 180g belt – I don’t know why I had such a fine abrasive for such a volatile machine but, it removed the lacquer relatively easily without stripping all the way back to bare wood. Another coat of sanding sealerwhich, bizzarely, seems to have survived two-years the cold?! – was applied first before the first fresh coats of lacquer…

After two coats with those foam brushes, I had a pretty high-gloss finish that I was happy with, as you’ll see below:

It even managed to highlight something beautiful in this odd bit of cherry I used for the drawer front:

Each coat was left for a good two-hours to dry, given a light sanding in between coats. Despite using a foam brush, some brush/stroke marks were still apparent in the dried lacquer. There’s no easy way to get rid of these other than to sand them out, really. It’s one of the reasons I’ve mostly avoided applying finishes with a brush (before now) and it’s also partly why I bought that spray gun. The sheen was a little too much for my liking, in this particular application so, I wasn’t worried about dulling it slightly at all. I used 0000-grade fine steel wool which, as I learned the hard way, here (!), should not be used on open-grained timbers like ash, as it will find it’s way in to the grain and speckle it black! I’ve also heard that these same fibres can cause a tannin reactions that’ll stain timbers like oak.

4in Rollers from Toolstation.

I was out all this morning but still managed to find an hour-or-so to mount the bookshelf on to the wall. My drilling wasn’t that accurate (I should have pre-punched the hole locations in the wall) so, I only ended up using the two upper screw slots to hang the unit. I’ve already “over-loaded” it with books and it seems fine. It even managed to support my own weight, briefly… 😯 Well, if those steel brackets and a bit of chipboard can manage for five-years, I’m sure there’s nothing to worry about here! 🙂

Although I would like to have built this unit with an additional shelf (as originally planned!!), with the way it’s already over-flowing on to the top, I think I’ll have to go through my collection seriously, soon, and decided on which titles I ‘need‘ to keep. I’m sure there are plenty there, from which I’ve already exhausted my need for – and which could do with re-homing in with another woodworker’s collection… Still not decided on what will live inside the drawer, just yet. For now, it’s full of pencils – I never seem to have enough in the workshop! At least the book-matched chestnut base came out quite well:

[Sorry, the lighting indoors is almost as bad as in my workshop!!]

I left a 25mm/1in gap down the between the adjacent wall and other side of the bookshelf. This is because we have a pretty serious damp problem in our house at the front. Although, I do admit this is probably a bit overkill and is certainly no solution to that problem…

Before fitting I almost forget to glue and pin the drawer stops in place! 😳

Drawer stops.

You may think these are unnecessary with the unit fixed against the wall. Well, you may be right… But still, it didn’t take long to do and I’d rather have the drawer front bashing against these than to have the rear edge of the chestnut base crashing against the wall every time!

So, this acrylic lacquer is definitely something I’ll be using again – and within the next twelve-months!! 😉 My preferred sanding sealer is generally the shellac-based sealer (also from Chestnut), which is as easy to apply as an oil finish; wipe it on with a rag. But, also like most oils, it does darken the wood slightly. Therefore, next time I’m working with sycamore or something equally ‘white’, I’ll probably use the acrylic sealer. Being water-based as well, it’s easy to clean up and the fumes won’t get you high! On a few projects last year, I sprayed a couple of coats of melamine lacquer. The fumes are horrid and I can’t see myself reaching for the spray gun any time soon.

That’s the books (almost) sorted, then. Though, I still have a DVD rack to look at, which has been overflowing since the day I made it, five-years ago… When I get a chance, I might re-make that one (currently in pine) from American cherry; purely to see how it compares to our native species. It’s one of the few imported timbers I’ve been wanting to get my hands on for a while… Actually, I can’t think of what the others might be, right now, either! Perhaps I should try wedged through tenons next time, with an Arts & Crafts flair…

Thanks for reading.

I hope you’ve enjoyed following this one and that you’ve learned something along the way!

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2 responses to “Chestnut Acrylic Lacquer

  1. Paul 20/01/2011 at 22:08

    Hi Olly, I’d just like to say thank you for writing your article because we were looking for ages to find a good finish to use. We bought some Chestnut Acrylic Lacquer after reading your article and used the NyWeb (orange) pads between coats which worked well as they didn’t clog up with any dust. Thanks again.

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