Better than Paint
Pigmented lacquer is smoother, brighter, and more durable for fine cabinetry
Synopsis: A crisp, classic white finish for bookcases, built-ins, and kitchen cabinets is usually sprayed on to achieve the very even application it needs. But if you aren’t set up for spraying, you can get the same look using pigmented acrylic lacquer and the right technique. Sean Clarke demonstrates how to prep the surface, filling all dents and holes, using shellac as a sealer, and sanding properly. Then he takes you through the steps of priming, proper brushing, and even padding on a final topcoat for a truly high-gloss result.
From Fine Woodworking #226
Whether in modern or traditional interiors, bookcases, built-ins, and cabinets sparkle when finished in a crisp, classic white. For maximum impact, this finish requires a very even application and a smooth finish, so it is typically sprayed on. But don’t despair if you aren’t set up to spray: I will show you how to get an off-the-gun-looking finish just by brushing and wiping. It will take longer than spraying, but the quality of this finish is well worth the wait.
While I could reach for oil-based or latex paint, I find that pigmented lacquer provides a superior look in terms of evenness and lack of residual brush marks. I prefer acrylic lacquers over nitrocellulose ones because they are non-yellowing and retain brilliance better.
I’m going to use a pre-catalyzed version here, which has better durability than a non-catalyzed lacquer and is easier to apply than a post-catalyzed lacquer. You can buy this type of lacquer from Sherwin Williams or M.L. Campbell paint stores and, if you like, they can tint it to match an existing color in your house.
The best woods for painting are close-pored, such as poplar, maple, pine, or birch plywood. The high-solids primer that I’ll use can fill…