View Full Version : Finishing with Lacquer and Denatured Alcohol

10-21-2013, 08:24 AM
I had a small accident in the spray booth yesterday when I mistakenly thinned Cardinal nitrocellulose lacquer with denatured alcohol instead of lacquer thinner (d’oh!). I didn't notice until I was done for the day as the alcohol-thinned lacquer sprayed and flowed out beautifully. It dried overnight to a hard, clear coat, and I can’t see any difference from previous finishes that used lacquer thinner as the solvent.

For you finishing experts out there: Is denatured alcohol considered an acceptable alternative to lacquer thinner? Should I continue spraying additional costs of the lacquer/alcohol mixture, switch to lacquer thinner for subsequent coats, or sand the off first coat and start over?

Skinny Money McGee
10-21-2013, 12:30 PM
I'd be interested to hear what Cardinal has to say about it. Give em a call and ask them.

Found this at Popular Woodworker:

"Solvents from five different families are used in lacquer thinners, including toluene, xylene and “high-flash” (meaning fast evaporating) naphtha from the petroleum-distillate family. The other four families are ketones, esters, glycol ethers and alcohols.

All the individual solvents from the ketone, ester and glycol-ether families dissolve lacquer on their own, but they evaporate at different rates. So manufacturers choose among them to make a thinner that evaporates in steps at the speeds they want. Alcohol doesn’t dissolve lacquer on its own, but it does when in combination with these other solvents. So one or more of the alcohols is usually added to the mix to reduce cost."

10-21-2013, 04:57 PM
you might be lucky I have never heard of thinning lacquer with denatured alcohol (on purpose) On a couple occasions when not using dedicated pots on a job, I have seen denatured alcohol, possibly also with some shellac residue, cause fisheyes in nitro-cellulose lacquer. Water can cause haziness. I think denatured alcohol has a low percentage of water?