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How long can clear lacquer last?

cjp54

Member
Messages
781
How long can clear lacquer remain usable when stored in temperatures from 40 to 110 F? I have a gallon of Behlens clear gloss lacquer I purchased about 12 years ago. It's been in my garage unopened in it's original container since then. Garage temps range from 40 to 110 F. When I shake the can it still sounds like it should as far as it's viscosity goes.
 

AdmiralB

Member
Messages
3,060
I've got a gallon can of "Dixie" brand nitro lacquer that I bought at a remainders sale at a paint store in 2002. It's lived in an Indiana garage since then (probably gets down to 40F at the very lowest), and I've still got about half of it left. It's aged some - it's kind of yellowed on its own, so I only use it for repairs now. Aside from the fact that the lid has rusted (so I have to be very careful about straining it), it still works fine.
 

K-Line

Vendor
Messages
8,481
May be fine or may not. That is the best way to answer it. If I were going to put time into finishing a guitar, I surely would not want old clear ruin it for me.
 

KGWagner

Member
Messages
3,243
I read somewhere by a finish factory chemist that lacquer lasts indefinitely, but I can't find it now. Also, he was probably talking about good old-fashioned nitrocellulose lacquer rather than any of the hybrid chemistries available today. Makes sense, though. Lacquer is basically just dissolved solids, so my guess is the worst thing that could happen is some of the solvent burns off over time, changing the viscosity of the material. If that's happened, it's easy enough to remedy - just add more solvent. You normally do that in the process of applying lacquer in the first place, so no heroics needed there. Thin it to where you want/need it to be and call it a love story.

Some of the modern pre-cats and/or acrylics I might be a bit more concerned about. They don't dry, per se, they cure. It's a chemical thing. For that kind of material, I would expect time to be much more of a factor in the length of its useful lifespan.

In any event, I agree with K-Line that some testing would be in order before application to something precious.
 

David Collins

Member
Messages
2,246
Nitro lacquer hasn't been around long enough for any of it to go bad since its invention.

That's of course a half-joke. Plain nitro doesn't go bad. As KGWagner pointed to, there are modern hybrids that may have components which limit its shelf life, so always best to shoot a test board of you're not sure. If you had a jar that had been sitting around since the 40's though, it should still be fine if it were pure nitro.
 

Laurent Brondel

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
3,324
Put a drop of lacquer on a piece of plastic, if it dries quickly and hard it should be OK. If it's gummy after a few hours, throw it out.
I have used McFadden lacquer that was over 10 years old without any issue.
 

K-Line

Vendor
Messages
8,481
Put a drop of lacquer on a piece of plastic, if it dries quickly and hard it should be OK. If it's gummy after a few hours, throw it out.
I have used McFadden lacquer that was over 10 years old without any issue.
You my friend are braver than I..:) But also new lacquer can have issues as well so nothing is fool proof.
 

Rhomco

Making UPS, FEDEX and USPS richer every day!
Gold Supporting Member
Messages
1,985
Until he'll freezes over and the forecast is hot hot hot for the foreseeable future.
 

John Coloccia

Cold Supporting Member
Messages
9,584
I can tell you from experience that Cardinal Instrument Lacquer does NOT last forever, and they will tell you that too. I gave a gallon to a friend/luthier to try. It was an old gallon. It did NOT go well. I felt terrible about it, but I think otherwise he liked it very much when he tried some good stuff.

Most others seem to last a long, long time.
 

vortexxxx

Supporting Member
Messages
11,208
The current brands of lacquer are all a bit different these days. Much of the quantity is made for automobile makers, so they put stuff in the paint to make it flexible for car bumpers and such, which might cause them to show less damage on a bumper if someone is involved in a minor crash.
 
Messages
23,963
There's so many other applications for old lacquer like that. You can shoot it on garden tools; equipment. Wicker, other lawn furniture. You don't have to throw it out, just don't use it on your best things.
 

Ringo

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
907
Try some on a test piece of wood, that's the easiest way to tell.
 

John Coloccia

Cold Supporting Member
Messages
9,584
FWIW, this lacquer shot and dried fine, but as it dried it there was some reaction with the dye in the wood, and the beautiful blue, quilted maple faded to the point of looking like crap. I think Cardinal said it had something to do with the solvent being much "hotter" than normal, and that they really do mean it with their expiration date. I'd take this particular one pretty seriously!
 






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