Home Garden

Uses for Nitrocellulose Lacquer

Lacquer is usually defined as a coating that forms a continuous film by solvent evaporation. The earliest lacquers were made from the sap of a tree, and the Chinese used a type made from insect bodies dissolved in a solvent. Modern nitrocellulose lacquer is made by dissolving cellulose from a source such as cotton into nitric acid mixed with a little sulfuric acid. Lacquer is primarily used as a paint but it has other uses as well.
  1. Finish for Wood

    • Lacquer is perfectly suited as a coating for wood surfaces because it is made from cellulose, the same material found in wood. Lacquer adheres seamlessly to wood surfaces. Because each coat partially dissolves into the next one applied, it forms a continuous, integrated coating that can be highly polished. For this reason, lacquer is the preferred finish on fine furniture and wooden musical instruments. The fact that lacquer melts into successive coats makes it easy to repair the finish if it deteriorates from weather or abuse.

    Aircraft Dope

    • Nitrocellulose lacquer can be plasticized and painted onto fabric-covered wooden aircraft wings. It contracts when it hardens, tightening the wings and providing protection for the underlying material. It is also sometimes used for model airplanes.

    Acetate Discs

    • A thin coating of lacquer deposited on an aluminum disc was the norm for audio recoding mastering in the first half of the 20th century. This type of phonograph record was called an acetate disc. Though it did not have a long lifetime, its fidelity made it the standard for one-off or demo recordings. The advent of digital recording has rendered it all but obsolete.

    Traditional Lacquerware

    • Successive coats of lacquer can be piled on top of each other until the resulting finish is extremely smooth and has none of the contours of the original wood grain. This fact has been exploited for centuries by craftsmen in the Far East who create bowls and other items of refined quality. The lacquer used for this art form is traditionally obtained from natural sources, but nitrocellulose lacquer can be used with good results.

    Nail Polish

    • Nitrocellulose is an ingredient in nail polish but in contrast to industrial lacquers, it is dissolved in butyl or ethyl acetate. Only low-grade polishes use industrial-grade solvents.