View Full Version : Water based lacquers

dave g
10-22-2009, 04:43 AM
Anyone have any experience with this (these)? Product recommendations?

10-22-2009, 06:17 AM
I used the Stew-Mac product on a guitar and was quite satisfied. It doesn't produce a high gloss - more of a satin finish - but has held up well and was really easy to work with. On top of that, there wasn't any risk of blowing my basement workshop up to the second floor.

10-22-2009, 06:25 AM
Gordon of Mya-Moe writes about his method here:


10-22-2009, 06:30 AM
I've used the StewMac water based laquer (filler,seal coats and top coats) on a dreadnought and was very impressed. The final finish was very high gloss. I will use it from now on.
Two small downsides:
1. Filler takes many coats before it does it's job.
2. On dark woods such as Rosewood you may see a slight bluish tint in strong sunlight. This is not an issue with me as the safety factor and overall results are outstanding to me.

StewMac has a great book "Finishing Guitars - Step by Step" that has a special section detailing the application of water based finish. Water based finishes have come a long way.

Moore Bettah Ukuleles
10-22-2009, 10:26 AM
I used Color-Tone water borne finishes about ten years ago. While they were easy to use they were never really clear and I had experienced some adhesion problems. A good vinyl sealer would probably take care of that. Timing of coat application might be a critical factor since the coats don't "melt" into one another like nitro does. Sanding and buffing procedures are also different from other lacquers. The Color Tone dries very hard and there is little shrink back. I think it's worth trying, especially for the occasional builder.

10-22-2009, 11:19 AM
...the coats don't "melt" into one another like nitro does...

Nitro is no longer available around here for legal/health reasons :rulez: according to German product distribution act of 1693, ammendment 2006 paragraph 2738503456830, part 34539605.23. You gotta love 'em.

We do use acrylics sometimes, with excellent results at times, but not always.

My impression is that the entire process from grain fill to final coat and all the steps and timing in between has to be right to get really good results - no surprise really, but what works for one kind of lacquer may not for another.

Always keep sand paper handy, in case you decide you're not happy with the final finish and want to sand it all off and start again. I've done it, and yes, it was a pain in the lower quarters. But I was glad afterwards and ended up with a much better result... :)


Pete Howlett
10-22-2009, 11:27 AM
They still allow cellulose here thank goodness. tried waterbourn and couldn't get on with it. The LMII product comes with many good recommendations and detailed notes on how to apply etc...

dave g
10-22-2009, 02:56 PM
Thanks, everyone. Yeah, I want to get away from nitrocellulose lacquer... mainly for health reasons, especially with winter coming on. All those fumes in the same room with a wood stove is kinda worrisome :rolleyes:

I couldn't find anything billed as "lacquer" today locally, but have been experimenting with a water borne polyurethane this afternoon, mainly to get the hang of using a new little spray gun (I've been using spray cans to date). I'm actually pretty pleased with the finish I'm getting.

Perhaps I'll break down and try the StewMac stuff.

10-22-2009, 03:02 PM
Hi Dave, don't forget masks if you're spraying. Water based lacquers are excellent but us human beings are also water based so breathing them in is a no no.

10-22-2009, 08:48 PM
It's been a few years, but I did try a few brands of water based finish. The only one I can remember is M.L. Campbell. Mostly because that was the only one I didn't hate. Overall, it was okay, but not something I could see doing on a production basis. Our spray room gets pretty hot in the afternoon and blushing was a potential problem during the high humidity days.

Supposedly the water based finishes have become better since then, but I'm hesitant to try some again. While I like the idea of being more earth friendly, it would be a step down in finish durability for us.