In a general sense, lacquer is a clear or coloured coating, that dries by solvent evaporation and often a curing process as well that produces a hard, durable finish, in any sheen level from ultra matte to high gloss and that can be further polished as required. In a narrower sense, lacquer consists of a resin dissolved in a fast-drying solvent which is a mixture of naphtha, xylene, toluene, and ketones, including acetone. The word "lacquer" comes from the lac insect (Laccifer lacca, formerly Coccus lacca), whose secretions have been historically used to make lacquer and shellac. In America today the word lacquer refers to nitrocellulose, and little else; most other coatings are known as "varnish". In the UK however, the general rule is if you spray it, it's lacquer - if you brush it, it's varnish. All factory finished furniture these days is therefore lacquer (pigmented, tinted or clear).
A polyurethane is any polymer consisting of a chain of organic units joined by urethane links. It is widely used in flexible and rigid foams, durable elastomers and high performance adhesives and sealants, fibers, seals, gaskets, condoms, carpet underlay, and hard plastic parts. Polyurethane products are often called "urethanes". They should not be confused with the specific substance urethane, also known as ethyl carbamate. Polyurethanes are not produced from ethyl carbamate, nor do they contain it.
Varnish is a transparent, hard, protective finish or film primarily used in wood finishing but also for other materials. Varnish is traditionally a combination of a drying oil, a resin, and a thinner or solvent. Varnish finishes are usually glossy but may be designed to produce satin or semi-gloss sheens by the addition of "flatting" agents. Varnish has little or no color, is transparent, and has no added pigment, as opposed to paints or wood stains, which contain pigment and generally range from opaque to translucent. Varnishes are also applied over wood stains as a final step to achieve a film for gloss and protection. Some products are marketed as a combined stain and varnish.
After being applied, the film-forming substances in varnishes either harden directly, as soon as the solvent has fully evaporated, or harden after evaporation of the solvent through certain curing processes, primarily chemical reaction between oils and oxygen from the air (autoxidation) and chemical reactions between components of the varnish. Resin varnishes "dry" by evaporation of the solvent and harden almost immediately upon drying. Acrylic and waterborne varnishes "dry" upon evaporation of the water but experience an extended curing period. Oil, polyurethane, and epoxy varnishes remain liquid even after evaporation of the solvent but quickly begin to cure, undergoing successive stages from liquid or syrupy, to gummy, to tacky, to "dry to the touch", to hard. Environmental factors such as heat and humidity play a very large role in the drying and curing times of varnishes. In classic varnish the cure rate depends on the type of oil used and, to some extent, on the ratio of oil to resin. The drying and curing time of all varnishes may be speeded up by exposure to an energy source such as sunlight or heat. Other than acrylic and waterborne types, all varnishes are highly flammable in their liquid state due to the presence of flammable solvents and oils.
· 1 decade ago