How to Lacquer Furniture Using Aerosol Finishes

For small to medium size jobs, lacquer can be applied with aerosol spray cans. In this article we'll discuss application techniques and other points of interest.

Aerosol lacquers are a vital part of every finishing shop. While the amateur can use them for refinishing, pro's will use them more for spot finishing & touch-up. Toners come in so many shades it's sometimes hard to decide which shade to purchase.

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In this video from Fine Woodworking, learn how to apply an even, beautiful aerosol finish on woodworking projects. Visit for more woodworking technique.

Instructional video from Mohawk Finishing Products

Drying and Recoating:

Lacquer dries in no more than half an hour, but it should cure completely between coats. Let the newly sprayed wood dry for a few hours, or as directed by the manufacturer.  Then lightly smooth the surface with 320 grit silicone carbide sandpaper or a scotch brite pad, and clean it thoroughly with a tack cloth.

Apply a second coat of lacquer as above. For a smoother finish, let the second coat dry for a couple hours, smooth the surface with 320 sandpaper or a scotch brite pad, and apply a third coat of lacquer as above.

Runs and sags are usually caused by too much lacquer. If you get runs, don't touch them until the finish has cured for an hour or more. Then lightly scrape the run with the flat edge of a razor blade and then very lightly sand with 320 sandpaper before re-coating.

For a very rich, deep finish, use many very thin coats of lacquer. Let the lacquer dry completely between coats, and rub the surface between coats with a scotch brite pad. After applying the final coat of lacquer, let the piece of furniture dry for 24 hours before rubbing out.

Toning with Aerosols - We've supplied a link for toner aerosol lacquer here through Amazon

Toning is under-appreciated, especially among those who have never sprayed. It involves applying color to a surface by adding a pigment or dye colorant to the finish itself and spraying it. (Brushing a toner can create uneven coloring or very noticeable brush marking). Too much pigment will muddy the wood like a thin coat of paint, but dye will add coloring and be almost totally transparent.

Toning can be used to adjust the coloring of an entire object after a sealer or finish has been applied, or it can be used to adjust the coloring of just part of an object. Examples include blending sapwood with heartwood or a light wood species with a darker species. Another example is creating highlighting in some areas, such as the centers of panels, by spraying toner on the area around them. Most higher quality factory furniture has been toned.

Mohawk Brand Toner Aerosol Lacquer

Removing Water Rings

One of the most useful functions of an aerosol is as a “blush” remover (purchase here on Amazon). A blush is the milky white coloring that sometimes occurs when spraying in high humidity. It’s also the milky whiteness of a water ring, and it’s much easier to use an aerosol with the right solvent to remove the ring on-site than it is to take a table to your shop and use a spray gun.

Water rings are caused by moisture getting into a finish and creating voids that refract light and prevent it from passing through. The voids usually are near the surface, so abrading the finish with fine steel wool or rottenstone and a lubricant usually removes them. But this disrupts the sheen, causing the rubbed area to appear different.

A less disrupting method is to mist the damaged area with the very slow evaporating lacquer solvent, “butyl Cellosolve,” which is contained in aerosol blush removers (available from

Remember that you’re dissolving the finish, so don’t spray too much or touch the sprayed area before it’s thoroughly dry.

Whatever liquid an aerosol might contain, the cans themselves are pretty much the same – a nozzle (made up of a valve and an actuator), a dip tube and a gas to propel the liquid through the hole in the nozzle.