Catalyzed Finishes | Popular Woodworking

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Spraying. There’s nothing special about spraying catalyzed finishes; they spray similarly to nitrocellulose lacquer.

Apply a professional, quick-drying and durable finish at home.

You may have heard of catalyzed finishes: pre-catalyzed lacquer, post-catalyzed lacquer and catalyzed or “conversion” varnish. These finishes are commonly used in industry and in cabinet and professional refinishing shops. But there’s no reason you can’t use them also.

The primary advantages of catalyzed finishes are their durability, which is similar to oil-based polyurethane, and their fast drying, which is similar to nitrocellulose lacquer. The fast drying significantly reduces dust nibs on horizontal surfaces, and runs and sags on vertical surfaces, and it makes possible the application of all coats in a single day.

The disadvantages are the more irritating solvents and acid catalysts used (so you need a good exhaust system and maybe an organic-vapor respirator mask), the fast drying that makes application with a spray gun almost essential, and the availability only in gallon-or-larger sizes. Also, compared to lacquer, shellac and water-based finish, catalyzed finishes are much more difficult to repair invisibly if they should get damaged.

Catalyzed finishes are usually available at paint stores and distributors that cater to the professional trades.

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