Lacquer vs Varnish: What’s The Difference?

Lacquer vs Varnish is one of the most done discussions among woodworking businessmen who offer wood finishing services.

Do you know the difference between lacquer and varnish? If not, you’re not alone! Many people don’t know the difference or use the terms interchangeably. In this blog post, we will discuss the differences between lacquer and varnish, and when you should use each one.

But before we begin with the differences, let us discuss the basic definitions of both terms.

lacquer vs varnish

What is Varnish?

Varnish is a clear transparent hard protective sealant that is primarily used in woodworking. It is durable and provides a beautiful lustrous finish. Varnish is made up of resins, oils, and solvents.

What is Lacquer?

Lacquer is also a clear transparent sealant with a beautiful lustrous finish. It is durable and dries quickly. Lacquer is made up of nitrocellulose, lacquer thinner, and plasticizers.

Lacquer Vs Varnish: All The Differences

Now that we know the basics of lacquer and varnish, let’s discuss the differences!

1. Durability

Varnish is more durable than lacquer. This is because the varnish has a higher resin content than lacquer. The higher resin content makes varnish more resistant to scratches, chipping, and water damage. You will be able to place different types of saws while doing any kind of woodworking job through the table without any fear of damage.

Lacquer is also durable but not as much as varnish. Lacquer’s durability can be increased by adding a lacquer hardener to the lacquer.

So, if you’re looking for a more durable option, the varnish is the way to go. If you’re looking for a less expensive option that is still durable, lacquer is a good choice.

2. Sheen Level

The sheen level is the amount of light that is reflected off the surface of the wood. The higher the sheen level, the more light that is reflected.

Varnish has a high sheen level because it has a high resin content. Lacquer has a lower sheen level because it has a lower resin content.

So, if you’re looking for a high-gloss finish, the varnish is the way to go. If you’re looking for a low-gloss finish, lacquer is a good choice.

3. Reliability

Varnish is more reliable than lacquer because it has a higher resin content. The higher resin content makes varnish less likely to yellow over time.

Lacquer is also reliable but not as much as varnish. Lacquer’s reliability can be increased by adding a lacquer retarder to the lacquer.

So, if you’re looking for a more reliable option, the varnish is the way to go. If you’re looking for a less expensive option that is still reliable, lacquer is a good choice.

4. Usage

Varnish is typically used for outdoor projects because it is more durable and has a higher sheen level.

Lacquer is typically used for indoor projects because it dries quickly and has a lower sheen level.

So, if you’re looking for an option to use for an outdoor project, the varnish is the way to go. If you’re looking for an option to use for an indoor project, lacquer is a good choice.

Now that you know the major differences between both finishes, let us discuss the advantages and disadvantages of using both finishes.

Advantages of Using Lacquer

There are certain advantages of using lacquer. You just need to be sure of them before applying.

1. Dries Quickly

Lacquer dries quickly which is an advantage if you’re looking to complete your project in a timely manner. Lacquer can be applied in thin coats which allows for a faster overall job completion time.

Keep in mind that lacquer does have a learning curve and it’s important to practice before using it on your project.

Applying lacquer in thin coats is the key to a successful lacquer finish. Thick coats of lacquer can cause runs and sags.

A lacquer that is applied too thick will take forever to dry and will never fully cure which can lead to problems down the road.

2. Easy to Use

Lacquer is easy to use once you understand the basics. It’s important to practice before using lacquer on your project. Applying lacquer in thin coats is the key to a successful lacquer finish. Thick coats of lacquer can cause runs and sags.

A lacquer that is applied too thick will take forever to dry and will never fully cure which can lead to problems down the road. Lacquer can be applied with a brush, roller, or sprayer.

Brushing lacquer is the most common application method because it’s the easiest to control. Rolling lacquer is a good choice for large surfaces. Spraying lacquer is the best choice for large surfaces because it’s the fastest application method.

Lacquer can also be applied with a rag. This application method is best suited for small projects. Applying lacquer with a rag is a good way to get an even finish without brush strokes.

3. Less Expensive

Lacquer is less expensive than varnish which is an advantage if you’re working on a tight budget. Lacquer can be purchased in aerosol cans or quarts. A quart of lacquer will typically cost around $15.

A consol can of lacquer cost around $25. Varnish can also be purchased in quarts or gallons. A quart of varnish will typically cost around $30. A gallon of varnish will cost around $60.

So, if you’re looking for a less expensive option, lacquer is the way to go.

Advantages of Using Varnish

Using varnish can be certainly beneficial as well. Take a look at some of the benefits of using varnish.

1. More Durable

Varnish is more durable than lacquer which is an advantage if you’re looking for a finish that will last. Varnish has a higher resin content which makes it more resistant to scratches, scuffs, and moisture.

Lacquer can also be quite durable but not as much as varnish.

2. High Sheen Level

Varnish has a high sheen level which is an advantage if you’re looking for a shiny finish. The higher the resin content, the higher the sheen level. Lacquer can also have a high sheen level but not as much as varnish.

3. Easy to Apply

Varnish is easy to apply once you understand the basics. Varnish can be applied with a brush, roller, or sprayer. Brushing lacquer is the most common application method because it’s the easiest to control. Rolling lacquer is a good choice for large surfaces. Spraying lacquer is the best choice for large surfaces because it’s the fastest application method.

Varnish can also be applied with a rag. This application method is best suited for small projects. Applying lacquer with a rag is a good way to get an even finish without brush strokes.

Conclusion

We hope that this blog post has helped you understand the difference between lacquer and varnish. As you can see, there are many differences between the two finishes. It is important to know these differences so that you can choose the right finish for your project.