Lacquer is a finish that is made from natural materials. It is transparent and highly desirable for woodworking and furniture, particularly for woods that have beautiful grain patterns, which lacquer shows well. However, lacquer is somewhat difficult to use and scratches easily. Lacquer thinner is a mixture of chemicals designed to remove damaged or incorrectly applied lacquer. Lacquer thinner has three basic ingredients.
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Lacquer thinners are mixtures of different chemicals that dissolve lacquer. The specific composition of lacquer thinners vary by brand. However, the three primary ingredients are acetone, toulene and methanol. These are the ingredients that dissolve the lacquer. Lacquer thinners often also include thickeners or waxes. This is because the main ingredients evaporate quickly. Waxes and thickeners prevent the thinner from evaporating before the chemicals have dissolved the lacquer.
Acetone is a colourless liquid that dissolves in water. Chemically, it is a member of the ketone group, and ketones are important for dissolving finishes. It is found in nature, in plants, gases from volcanoes and forest fires. It is also found in small quantities in the human body, because it is produced from the breakdown of fat. It also can be manufactured and is used to make plastics, medicines and chemicals. It is also often used as a solvent. Aacetone is commonly found in daily life in the form of nail polish remover.
Toulene, like acetone, is a colourless liquid. It is found in crude oil, occurring naturally, like acetone. Its main use is for the production of benzene, another chemical. However, toulene has many other uses, such as the production of aviation gasoline, paints, medicines, adhesives, rubber and antifreeze. It is also commonly used as a solvent, and is usually an ingredient in paint thinner.
Like acetone and toulene, mehanol is a colourless liquid. It is derived from wood distillation, and as such is also often called wood alcohol. Methanol is often used in varnishes, shellacs, windshield washing fluid and antifreeze. It is also often used as a paint remover. It is highly toxic and is broken down into formaldehyde when it is absorbed in the human body. Because of the toxicity, it is sometimes replaced with ethanol, which is chemically similar but less toxic.
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- Antique Restorers: Furniture Tips and Tricks; George Utley; October 1998
- WoodZone.com: Understanding Common Paint and Finish Strippers
- "Furniture Coatings"; Solvents and Solutions; Donald C Williams
- Delaware Health and Social Services: Acetone
- National Library of Medicine: Toluene
- Minnesota Poison Control System: Methanol