Lacquer is a coating that is generally seen on furniture, guitars, and some wooden sculptures. It can be matte, glossy, or resinous and can come in clear or colored styles. The clear type will give the object a slightly yellow look, while colored varieties will give the desired hue. They are mainly applied to protect the surfaces of the object from moisture, oils such as from the hands, sunlight, and bacteria and fungus that can form on wood when it gets wet. It will dry very quickly after it has been applied, and will produce a durable finish. Many people confuse this type of coating with a varnish coating, but it is actually different because of the durability, color, and the chemical construction of it.
As with all other types of coatings, lacquer can be purchased as a natural or synthetic form. The natural type is manufactured directly from the lacquer gum tree, while the synthetic is made by dissolving nitrocellulose during the production process. Various other chemicals are also added to allow it to be used for different tasks and to add pigment to it. Synthetic lacquer is also mixed with various types of plasticizers so that it resembles the natural type, which makes it more popular because it can be mass produced in order to keep up with the public demand for it.
This type of coating has been around for decades, beginning in China during the Song Dynasty. It was then produced as a water based coating by using Urushiol. This lacquer took a long time to dry because the oxidization process was drastically slower when compared to the varieties now manufactured. Asian people also had a version of lacquer, consisting of a coating made from the gum found within trees. The industrial age that boomed in Europe was the location for the first synthetic type, from which color and durability began.
The easiest way for a lacquer coating to be applied is by spraying, but it can also be brushed or wiped on with a rag. When using a brush only natural bristles should be used, and when wiping it on a clean, cotton cloth should be used. When the spraying method is used, care must be taken to begin in one area and work outwards. These steps allow the lacquer to be applied in a uniform way that will not show bristle marks or runs caused by excess lacquer being applied.