The high-gloss sheen of lacquer is in style again. Stores are filled with shiny (and often pricey) products ranging from display trays to cabinets and tables. The good news: You can get the look for a fraction of the cost by doing a little work yourself.
Lacquer is a durable, rock-hard coating that's easier to apply than other finishes, such as shellac or varnish, but not quite as glossy. Colored and clear lacquer is available in spray cans at most hardware stores. Clear lacquer can be used as a topcoat over regular paint, as in the project here (start with unfinished wood for the best results, and try a smaller item before tackling a bigger piece like a cabinet). We spray painted the tray, let it dry for an hour, then applied the lacquer. Depending on the brand and temperature, lacquer dries anywhere from 2 to 20 minutes. You can apply the next coat as soon as each layer dries, and there's less chance of dust sticking to the wet finish.
Check the back of the spray cans for details before you start working; always wear a heavy-duty face mask from a hardware store and work in a well-ventilated area.
• 220-grit sandpaper
• Tack cloth
• Heavy-duty face mask (such as 3M's Facepiece Respirator)
• 1 can (about 12 oz.) colored spray paint
• 400-grit sandpaper
•1 can (about 12 oz.) clear spray lacquer
1. Lightly sand your piece with 220-grit sandpaper and wipe the surface with tack cloth, a gauzelike material coated with a gummy substance. It picks up small bits of dust to leave a clean, smooth surface.
2. Don the face mask and spray the piece with one coat of colored spray paint. Let it dry, then lightly sand with 400-grit sandpaper, wipe down with the tack cloth, and spray with a second coat of color. For a flawless, even finish, spray in short lines moving in only one direction rather than a continuous stream moving back and forth, which can create puddles.
3. After the second coat of paint has dried thoroughly, apply one coat of lacquer. Allow it to dry, then lightly sand with 400-grit sandpaper, wipe down with the tack cloth, and apply a second coat. Sand and wipe down again before applying a third and final coat.