This past Christmas, I fell victim to an all-too-common seasonal disorder among woodworkers: gift-making procrastination.
Heard of it? If you haven’t—or haven’t caught it yet—you haven’t been woodworking long enough.
In my own defense, it wasn’t complete negligence … the gifts were assembled and the glue was dry; they just weren’t finished. So there I was, T-minus two days till gift opening and not an ounce of finish applied to my projects. To make matters worse, these were two little jewelry boxes intended for my school-age daughters. “Nearly done” wasn’t going to cut it. Once the packages were opened, I’d never get those boxes out of their clutches for a topcoat. And, my wife was counting on me getting these buggers under the tree in time. I promised. But, aside from a certain spousal pressure, I also just couldn’t live with them dry. That’s just not how a respectable woodworker does things, right?
Murphy could be my next-door neighbor, because his Law was in full effect. My shop was busy with other things, magazine related. Wet, slow-drying finish wasn’t going to work this time. It would have to be easy to apply, fast-drying and cured by St. Nick’s arrival. What could I do?
Cue the “Lone Ranger” theme: lacquer in a spray can.
Generally I’m a brush-finisher, tending towards one varnish or another. Shellac could have worked if I hadn’t drained the last of the denatured alcohol the week before. Now, in what was verging on a full panic, I reached for the spray can of lacquer. Honestly, it saved my nether parts in lots of ways. If you haven’t tried it, aerosol lacquer is extremely fumey stuff, but it cures regardless of temperature. So, I sprayed outside the shop in 30-degree temps, and that didn’t hamper drying one bit. Even better, you can recoat in about 30 minutes. Each layer partially dissolves and fuses to the layer below it, so lacquer has a nice leveling quality, once you’ve sanded the nibs out of the first coat.
That experience hasn’t turned me into a complete lacquer convert, because lacquer is pretty tough on the environment. But, I’m a firm believer in the holiday spirit. I even had a little time to rub the finish out before wrapping these little projects up. Lacquer worked like a charm when I needed it to.
Moral of the story: pace thyself. Secret weapon when the chips are down? Deft in a spray can, my friend.
Catch you in the shop,
Chris Marshall, Field Editor