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MMD > Archives > November 1998 > 1998.11.19 > 12Prev  Next

Determining the Finish - Varnish or Lacquer?
By John A. Tuttle

Hi All,  This is primarily directed at refinishers.

I'm trying to determine if a finish is varnish or lacquer.  It's
a satin finish.  It's three years old.

Having located a couple of 'drips' hanging around the bottom edge
of the instrument, I pinched one and broke it off with my fingernails.
I was also able to split it into three pieces with my fingernails.
It was not brittle.

I took two of the three pieces and put each into a small glass jar.
To one I added lacquer thinner.  The other turpentine.  After about
five hours, the lacquer thinner seems to be dissolving the piece of
finish.  The turpentine hasn't touched the stuff (there were a few tiny
pieces along with the big piece and they are still intact).

I expected that the lacquer thinner would dissolve either varnish or
lacquer.  What I'm wondering is: will the turpentine dissolve lacquer?
Anybody know for sure?  And if so, how long might it take before some
sign is noticeable?


John A. Tuttle (

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Key Words in Subject:  Determining, Finish, Lacquer, or, Varnish

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