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best black lacquer technic

- 05 Aug 2009 -
28 posts / 0 new

Hi could someone please describe how to best refinish wood furniture in a black lacquer finish. I see so many pieces that have been refinished in a black lacquer from the original wood finish with varying results. Most dealers on Ist dibs will simply say "newly refinished" or "restored" without any mention of how exactly they restored or refinished. I think it is safe to assume that dealers are going the easiest or sometimes the only route by slapping on some black stuff to cover prior damage. My real point though is, I want to refinish some vintage pieces in a black lacquer, and while having tried in past with pretty good results by simply using india ink and then top-coated with a Deft spray lacquer. I would still like some feedback from the pro's out there. Thanks in advance!


- 05 Aug 2009

Black lacquer
is an opaque finish, typically sprayed, over the appropriate primer, on wood or metal surfaces. This is best accomplished in a facility operated by professionals, employing a spray booth.

A so-called "ebonized" finish is today virtually identical to a sprayed black lacquer finish. Originally, ebonizing involved staining the wood.

My advice has been to prepare for these finishes by staining wear surfaces -- corners and edges -- with black stain, under the prime coat, so that chipped or worn lacquer will not immediately reveal lighter-colored wood. A black marker will perform this step quickly and easily.

- 07 Aug 2009

That is a good tip about staining the wear edges. When I was spraying curved plywood the best finish I could get was to undercoat and finish as normal, steel wool this back (0000) and then use a compatable automtive clear coat. I'm not sure how that would go on solid timber though or if you have access to a compressor.

Test first on scrap...if in doubt pay someone else to do it. If its a large flat surface a short nap proffessional roller and an enamel paint (you can get hardeners) can look good with very careful preperation. I live in the sub-tropics and spray insecticide or burn a citronella candle to discourage the winged little bastards and if you are feeling really fanatical dust everything around you first. Most of all don't panic if something goes wrong, walk away and sand it back later.

And if you have a beard comb it:)

- 07 Aug 2009

Ha --
good point !

A tack rag is a good idea, too, to remove those last bits of dust before the final coat.

I've used Deft brushable lacquer. It makes a nice (pleasantly waxy-feeling) clear coat. But it isn't very good at resisting water. I don't know if the spray material is similar in that regard.

- 08 Aug 2009

yeah a tack rag is a good...
yeah a tack rag is a good idea, alternatively given that its black a bit of old bed sheet wiped over and over and over again until it stays white will work too.

If the piece you are finishing or restoring has been pulled apart consider painting (spraying is obviously best for things like chair arms and legs) the bits seperately and then regluing, support each section in a frame by tapping a sewing machine needle or similar into the ends. You can tape off the areas that will require gluing with blue masking taps, the type that auto sprayers use, it leaves little or no residue but you can wipe over with acetone just to make sure. That way you'll also avoid painting over a joint.

A really high gloss black finish is difficult to do well, compared to white it shows up every surface flaw, perhaps a gloss level of about 60%.

There are other ways of getting a very black finish, some timbers respond very well to older methods which I'm not too knowledgable on, apparantly timbers that are high in tannins blacken well by using steel wool and vinegar or you could look at ammonia fuming...these though probably won't give you a totally opaque finish but at least you'll
avoid any problems with a chipped surface.

Good luck!

- 08 Aug 2009


Fuming and the traditional chemical staining mentioned (using something homemade called "Black Jack") won't produce anything as dark as black, of course, but they do have their place.

I wonder if anybody ever tried singeing with flame ? (See adjacent thread. . .!)

- 13 Aug 2009

Another quick idea, yesterday bought an old woodturning magazine and a very black finish was described in it using indian ink, never worked with ink and always thought the 'black' was indigo, but this finish looked very black and quite opaque. I'd suggest finishing with wax and buffing, in a hurry but here is a quick link, again, good luck.

Its a technique I'll try myself one day.

- 15 Aug 2009

Good link Heath.
Simply described and to the point.

I've used all the described methods and various combinations
with experimenting. I always do a test and with every failure something
is learned.

Black Laquer could be so many things. Traditional, Oriental, the so-called
'faked'. The auto body finish?

The real crime is the silicone based furniture polish that some antique shops
slather on everything. The horror. One is Liquid Gold.

Not sure what final finish you are looking for but I've stockpiled a list of
various methods i run across from car forums to audio.
Even violin makers.

If someone wants a certain finish i usually send them to Google Image.
Helps to narrow it down a bit before doing samples.

India ink is a good method i'm fond of. Trans-tint is in my arsenal.
Black nail polish for a tiny chip, etc.

I have saved my Fine Woodworking mags from the 90's and an issue has
a very well done article. (i'm not home at the moment) It may be on their
website. My internet is fast, slow, gone. Mostly gone.

Please share your successes. The one i've linked is an Audio forum.

- 15 Aug 2009

ebonizing with India ink
I ebonized this Danish chair with India ink. The original finish was damaged so I stripped it and then tried the vinegar/steel wool home brew. All it did was turn the walnut an ugly greenish color with black flecks from tiny bits of steel wool that escaped the cheesecloth straining.

So then I tried India ink. SO much easier! I applied it with a small foam brush and it covered beautifully and the stuff went amazingly far, like maybe 3 oz. for the entire chair. I did one coat, let it dry for a day or two, then sanded lightly to smooth the raised grain, then did a quick second coat. That was it.

It did take a few weeks for it to stop shedding pigment when rubbed. Once the ink seemed stable, I gave it a light coat of beeswax and a good buffing.

It is completely opaque while letting the grain show through. It has a soft lustre that is very beautiful and touchable. I couldn't be more pleased with the results. I have a Drexel table whose finish has been destroyed that I plan to strip and ebonize, too.

I think ink and five or six coats of shellac would look interesting. Amber shellac would be fun to try---would be a very warm black, I would think.

- 15 Aug 2009

What do you all think
about this lacquer situation? The movers damaged my Diamond and Baratta table that has a high lacquer marine blue finish. The piece that they "tweaked" is still attached, but just barely. The insurance company sent out an appraiser who has recommended a PIANO refinisher. Do you think he/she will be the appropriate person to fix it? I will try to take a clear picture of the damaged chip.

One more thing, in case you think I am being too anal, this table weighs about 800 lbs (the round glass alone is 62" in diameter). I just know that when we have to move back to the US from Switzerland in 3 years that those future movers will break off the piece when they take the table apart simply because it is an absolute beast to move.

- 16 Aug 2009

Pianos are often finished...
Pianos are often finished with black lacquer and they do get bumped and dinged when moving even within a concert hall, so yes, I would say that a piano refinisher is the person you need.

- 16 Aug 2009

I will watch
my piano guy with an eagle eye and report my findings. Anything you want me to specifically look for regarding his technique?

- 16 Aug 2009

I don't know anything about...
I don't know anything about lacquer refinishing, sorry. I just happen to be a music conservatory graduate (not a pianist) and have seen many, many black lacquered grand and baby grand pianos in varying states of dinged-ness.

I also looked into getting a piano refinished (and thought about doing it myself) and that's when I found out that there are people who do that as opposed to people who merely refinish furniture. That's when I abandoned the idea altogether. It's a specialized job.

- 12 Feb 2010

Repairing a chip on black lacquer furniture
I bought a black lacquer table in China. I observed the method in which these peices are made - recently reinforced by a trip I just finished to Thailand. The wood is covered with a very black lacquer paste and then allowed to dry for several days. It is then recovered again and again until the disired thickness/strength is obtained. A shine is put on it using some kind of lacquer finsih. Isn't this paste available someplace in the U.S. that can be used to fill in the chipped area and then a shiny lacquer put over the top.

I understand using Indian ink to match the black color but that does not fill in the indentation left by the chiped black lacquer base.

I may have missed the point but their method did not seem to be as complicated as I am reading in these messages.

Any comments someone has would be appreciated.

- 12 Feb 2010

Repair of black lacquer table
I have seen your message on repairing the black lacquer table. I have a similar situation. Can you tell me what you have done to fix your problem. I am just getting started at trying to solve a crack and a chip on a black lacquer table I got in China.


- 12 Feb 2010

The traditional way to 'black...
The traditional way to 'black lacquer' furniture is to use black french polish (sometimes called ebony polish). People on here won't like me saying it but applying it is a skill i.e. something which takes talent, practice and patience.

- 12 Feb 2010

The India ink and wax came out really well, congratulataions and I'm glad you tried it so we could see, much easier to repair than an enamel finish too.

Looks like all those those not quite up to it 'Danish' chairs will live again with the black widow treatement.

- 31 Mar 2012

Primer for ML Campbell's Maganamax
Hello, I am thinking of spraying a pair 60's walnut dressers. At this point all checks filled and pieces sanded to 220. I'll use Turbinaire hvlp. First I'd like to spray w ML black microton (to minimize and make future dings easily corrected) and than I'd like to prime with BLANK?? , sand, reprime with BLANK?? and then finish with ML Campbell's Maganamax in black. I'm looking to achieve a high gloss black lacquer finish. I do not want to see any grain - so please someone tell me what the BLANK primer should be ?? Fill in the blank for me -thanks !! I am tired of paying the local body shop to do this custom work for me! I'm looking for "that easy perfect formula" that I can repeat over and over with different colors down the road. Can somebody please suggest a heavy bodied primer to use before the application of ML Campbell's Maganamax

- 31 Mar 2012

Hello, Has anybody tried...
Hello, Has anybody tried Mohawk Heavy Bodied Sanding Sealer and/or Mohawk Colored Lacquer Black Gloss to achieve a black lacquer finish? I'm thinking of giving these a shot out of the gun. any thoughts? thanks

- 31 Mar 2012

Happy to see
this up again. First, why does Heath tell us that an ink-and-wax finish would be easy to repair ? Wouldn't the wax inhibit removal or addition of further ink ?

I wish I knew more, to be of some use. I've worked with people who used Mohawk materials, but I never took the trouble to learn their methods. I know enough about spraying to know that it's not a fool-proof technique. Too little material = dry finish. Too much = sags. But it's fun when it's done right.

- 01 Apr 2012

"Piano Finish"
Yes, there are specialists, and, sometimes, they are worth it.

The minor repair necessary for the damage illustrated in the photo above can be effected by gluing down the chip with carefully applied cyanoacrylate and proper clamping with blue painter's tape. If there are no noticeable losses, a little sanding with the appropriate grits of "wet or dry" papers followed by a careful waxing should disguise the repair enough to fool all but the closest inspection.

There is usually sufficient thickness of the lacquer layer on production pieces to tolerate this approach. If not, a "piano finish" repair specialist will earn his/her keep.

- 01 Apr 2012

Right on.
One might add, that if the chip cannot be readily pressed, dry, into the divot from which it came, so that the surfaces are *flush*, then gluing will be futile until material has been removed from the surfaces of the split material -- loose or torn fibers, grit, etc. Torn wood is often difficult to compress completely, without the removal of some excess.

- 01 Apr 2012

I've been away of late so hav...
I've been away of late so have hardly been through any threads, there are heaps of automotive dewaxers/greasers available, It'd be no great shakes to get the wax off that way and then lightly sand if necessary and re ink it and wax again but I doubt that would be necessary for all but the worst gouges, tinted black wax is also available.

I did have some good luck a few years ago getting a piano like finish by spraying car clear coat over acrylic paint, it looked damn fine but the clean up and solvents weren't pleasant.

Also tried the vinegar and iron filings a few weeks ago, was pretty good on high tanin stuff but raised the grain a bit and stank to high heaven, I think it was sulphur dioxide...don't leave the lid on tight.

- 01 Apr 2012

and on a side note I've recen...
and on a side note I've recently found that a good metal finish is to coat with penterol, let dry then coat with equal parts boiled linseed oil, mineral spirits and pentetrol, its not the hardiest but just another coat wiped on and any scratches just disappear, this was for the aluminium sides on my pickup.

- 22 Oct 2015

I'm bumping this thread because I just tried my first ebonizing... went with India Ink, but I must have gotten the wrong kind? It was much too thick, almost like paint after a couple coats. Ended up wiping it all off and using Fiebings Leather Dye... definitely wish I'd used it to begin with. Alcohol-based, really dark. Still able to make out the grain up close. Picked it up at a leather shoe shop. Used one four ounce bottle for both of these chairs. Thanks for the inspiration!

- 23 Oct 2015

Very nice!

I have used several brands of India ink, the most recent being Speedball permanent that is in an 8 oz bottle and it defiinitely went on thicker than the other brands. The brand you used sounds even more thick than that. Interesting.

I wonder if the leather dye is just aniline dye..?? Did lap marks show? I've used alcohol-soluable aniline dye on wood with nice results (not black, though) but it was nerve wracking to do because lap marks showed and could not be wiped off, not even a second later.

ETA: I also recently had a professional put a black lacquer finish on a chair of mine. It was available in black lacquer so I didn't want to just ink it black. I must say, it was worth every cent I paid for that finish! It's gorgeous.

- 23 Oct 2015

It behaved a lot like aniline dye, spanky. I didn't have lap marks, though. In the past when I have dyed wood, I have sprayed it and then hit it with a wet rag. But I have used water-soluble dyes, not alcohol. It was kinda annoying, because the alcohol in the dye would start gumming up the faint residue of leftover India Ink, and I would have to work fast. I sealed it with Waterlox. We'll see how that holds up. I might try these dyes again in the future... I feel like you could dilute them in half and still have a strong solution.

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