One of the challenges to building a project every week is applying a finish. A lot of fine finishes require days or even longer to complete. I simply don’t have the time to wait for coats of polyurethane to dry and sand between each one.
The solution is spray lacquer which dries extremely fast (usually within a few minutes) and requires no sanding between coats. Over the years I have developed a technique that produces high quality results in a fraction of the time it takes other finishes.
The main drawback is that spray lacquer can be expensive. A can will cost between $8-$12, making it impractical for large pieces or furniture. If you have a lot of finishing to do, a spray gun and a compressor is a better purchase. I am also fond of brushing lacquer, but it is a bit trickier to apply.
A lacquer finish can look too “plastic” for some projects. Tung oil or linseed oil will produce a warmer, homier result and can also be applied quickly, but they don’t offer as much protection for the wood.
The Key to a Fine Finish
Whether you use lacquer, varnish, or polyurethane, always give it a light sanding before applying the final coat. A large part of how we perceive a finish is tactile. It needs to feel smooth. This means sanding off tiny dust particles that will inevitably settle on the finish while it is drying and give the finished piece a bumpy, gritty feel.
Since lacquer dries so quickly, dust particles are much less of a problem that other finishes. For a super-fine finish you can buff out the final coat with finishing wax. I have found that with lacquer, this is not usually necessary.