Mere Mini: How to apply a really nice finish – quick and easy. | Mere Mini


One of the challenges to building  a project every week is applying a finish. A lot of fine finishes require days or even longer to complete. I simply don’t have the time to wait for coats of polyurethane to dry and sand between each one.

The solution is spray lacquer which dries extremely fast (usually within a few minutes) and requires no sanding between coats. Over the years I have developed a technique that produces high quality results in a fraction of the time it takes other finishes.


The main drawback is that spray lacquer can be expensive. A can will cost between $8-$12, making it impractical for large pieces or furniture. If you have a lot of finishing to do, a spray gun and a compressor is a better purchase. I am also fond of brushing lacquer, but it is a bit trickier to apply.

A lacquer finish can look too “plastic” for some projects. Tung oil or linseed oil will produce a warmer, homier result and can also be applied quickly, but they don’t offer as much protection for the wood.

The key to a fine finish

Whether you use lacquer, varnish, or polyurethane, always give it a light sanding before applying the final coat. A large part of how we perceive a finish is tactile. It needs to feel smooth. This means sanding off tiny dust particles that will inevitably settle on the finish while it is drying and give the finished piece a bumpy, gritty feel.

Since lacquer dries so quickly, dust particles are much less of a problem that other finishes. For a super-fine finish you can buff out the final coat with finishing wax. I have found that with lacquer, this is not usually necessary.


  1. Thanks so much for all your great videos. Man I can’t stop watching them and I’m getting psyched to do some of them when I get some time. Love the bench with 2 by 4’s and 1 by 3’s . Their fun to watch and I love that you show your human like the rest of us.

  2. I put the finish on the bottom first and that way when it’s sitting on the nails (I like “painter’s pyramids”) the top is up and any little dimples the nails might leave are on the bottom.

  3. HI Steve .. big fan of WWMM.
    I use 0000 grade steel wool on some pieces sometimes with a light oil. Do you think that 320 grit is even smoother ??

  4. Thanks Steve – – I took a finishing class and for lacquer finish to “de-nib’ the finish – rather than just use a really high grit, or as some old books would suggest using “worn out 180 grit” we just used the paper backing side of the sandpaper – – oldtimers would just rub the surface with a brown kraft paper grocery bag (back before everything went plastic).

    The kraft paper is just the right grittiness to smooth the surface with little risk of cutting through the finish.


  5. Hi Steve, I was thinking about this post on the drive in to work this morning, and thought I would chime in. I do a lot of refinishing on teak since we have a boat, and much of the interior wood has spar varnish on it. I learned early on to sand down the teak, then apply a layer of varnish cut with varsol or mineral spirits. A second coat would be pure varnish, then a third coat would be cut with mineral spirits again. The reason for this is that the natural oils in the teak will repel most finishes and it will flake off in a few years. The oil in the first coat wil lallow th efinish to penetrate deeper and bond to the teak oils. The final coat gets cut so that it will bond better to the second, and so that it will run better to fill any inconsistencies. Between each coat, I sand with successively finer paper.

    Any thoughts on this? There is an example at the end of this post…

  6. Steve, I found something the works just as good as tack cloth, I use the micro-fiber clothes that I spray with a fine mist of water (not wet but very lightly damp). The cloth is rubbed together and after a few minutes, I wipe off my boards. The clothes can be washed and reused.

  7. […] Without question, lacquer from a spray can is my my go-to finish. It’s easy to apply: Just spray it on in a back and forth motion, being careful not to get too close or too slow where it develops drips or runs. For small projects, spray lacquer is an absolutely fantastic finish. You don’t need any brushes or lacquer thinner. Click here to learn more about my technique for getting a great spray lacquer finish. […]


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here