As the UK’s leading specialist restorer and reupholstered of Ercol furniture, a question we are often asked is, “why do you hand finish all your pieces with a wax/oil blend, rather than sprayed lacquer”. It’s a perfectly reasonable question that I have tried to answer in this blog “Ercol furniture restoration – why we use a wax/oil finish”. I think that the advantages of an oil/wax blended finish over lacquer become clear when you compare various aspects of the two finish.
Look and feel
Wax/oil finishes are dissolved in a solvent (white spirit in our case). When they are applied two things happen. The oils are absorbed into the wood and , as the solvent evaporates, a thin film of wax remains on the surface. This means that both the look and the feel of the wood are enhanced. In contrast, a lacquer finish puts a thick protective coat over the wood, reducing the “feel appeal”. If you run your hand over the piece you only feel the thick layer of lacquer.
Long term durability and repair
Both finishes will last a long time but there is a crucial difference. A wax/oil finish can be easily reapplied at any time. The piece can be “freshened up” and minor repairs can be effected – even many years after the finish was applied. In contrast, a lacquer finish can’t be effectively repaired. The only practical solution is to remove the finish entirely and start again.
Wear and tear
The protective coat of lacquer is undoubtedly hardwearing and provides good protection against most day to day hazards, including heat. However modern wax/oil combinations, using hard waxes, are also extremely durable and will cope with all the day-to-day hazards of normal home life.
So, if as seems clear there are considerable advantages in an oil/wax finish, why do manufacturers use lacquer finishes? The answer is simply one of cost and practicality. In a factory setting a lacquer finish can be applied very quickly to multiple pieces of furniture. Hand finishing by contract is time consuming and labour intensive. But nothing beats the beauty of hand finished furniture.
As always – if you have any questions or would like to discuss any aspect of Ercol furniture restoration, please get in touch – you can contact me here.