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How to finish wood with clear lacquer

Updated February 21, 2017

Lacquer is a useful wood finish due to its quick drying time, durability and crystal-clear coverage. However, the difficulty of applying lacquer properly causes some people to shy away from using it on DIY projects. Spraying on clear lacquer is the easiest application method but, in many cases, this requires a professional-grade spraying machine. With proper knowledge and preparation, you can use spray can lacquer and save the expense of hiring a professional or buying or renting a sprayer.

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  1. Prepare the wood surface. Remove any rust or paint with a wire brush or sandpaper. Wipe the surface with a cloth to remove debris.

  2. Shake the spray can of lacquer. Once the mixing ball begins to rattle, shake at least one minute more.

  3. Position the spray can between 20 and 30 cm from the wood surface and press the button. Spray a light coat evenly from side to side to cover the entire surface. Overlap each stroke to reduce a streaking effect.

  4. Allow the lacquer to dry on the wood surface for two to three minutes, then apply another coat in the same manner. Most manufacturers recommend three coats for best results. The surface should be completely dry within 24 hours of the final coat's application.

  5. Once you're finished lacquering the wood surface, hold the can upside down, away from the wood surface, and press the button. Hold it until only air escapes from the nozzle. This prevents the nozzle from clogging before future applications.

  6. Tip

    Apply spray lacquer when the temperature ranges between 10C and 32C, with a humidity below 85 per cent.

    If spraying outside, wait for a wind-free day before applying.

    Clean up any over-spray with white spirit.


    Apply spray varnish outside or wear a mask and ensure proper ventilation if spraying inside.

    Extinguish any pilot lights or other flames in the area prior to applying lacquer. It is highly flammable.

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Things You'll Need

  • Wire brush
  • Sandpaper
  • Cloth
  • Lacquer spray cans

About the Author

Michelle Skidgel

Michelle Skidgel has worked as a writer and editor since 2001. She earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in English at Oklahoma State University and is currently raising and homeschooling five children with her husband. Her articles for various websites specialize in parenting, green living, gardening, cooking and frugal living.

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