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Encyclopedia > Lacquer

In a general sense, lacquer is a clear or coloured coating, that dries by solvent evaporation only and that produces a hard, durable finish that can be polished to a very high gloss, and gives the illusion of depth. 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. Resin of a pine Insect trapped in resin. ... A solvent is a fluid phase (liquid, gas, or plasma) that dissolves a solid, liquid, or gaseous solute, resulting in a solution. ... Naphtha is a group of various volatile flammable liquid hydrocarbon mixtures used primarily as feedstocks in refineries for the reforming process and in the petrochemical industry for the production of olefins in steam crackers. ... The term xylenes refers to a group of 3 benzene derivatives which encompasses ortho-, meta-, and para- isomers of dimethyl benzene. ... Toluene, also known as methylbenzene or phenylmethane is a clear, water-insoluble liquid with the typical smell of paint thinners, reminiscent of the sweet smell of the related compound benzene. ... Ketone group A ketone is either the functional group characterized by a carbonyl group linked to two other carbon atoms or a chemical compound that contains this functional group. ... In chemistry, acetone (also known as propanone, dimethyl ketone, 2-propanone, propan-2-one and β-ketopropane) is the simplest representative of the ketones. ... Lac is the scarlet resinous secretion of the insect Laccifer lacca. ... Shellac is a brittle or flaky secretion of the lac insect Coccus lacca, found in the forests of Assam and Thailand. ...



Urushiol-based lacquers

Lacquer box with children, from Qianlong period, Qing Dynasty, 1736-1795, from National Museum of China, Beijing, PRC.
Lacquer box with children, from Qianlong period, Qing Dynasty, 1736-1795, from National Museum of China, Beijing, PRC.

The earliest known lacquers were either made in China or Japan, with earliest discovery dating back to 7000 B.C.[1] These lacquers, made from the resin of the tree Rhus verniciflua, produce very hard, durable finishes that are both beautiful, and very resistant to damage by water, acid, alkali or abrasion. They do not, however, stand up well to ultraviolet light. The active ingredient of the resin is urushiol, a mixture of various phenols suspended in water, plus a few proteins. Download high resolution version (2048x1536, 1833 KB)Lacquer box with children, from Qianlong period, Qing Dynasty, 1736-1795, from National Museum of China, Beijing, PRC. Photo by Andrew Lih. ... Download high resolution version (2048x1536, 1833 KB)Lacquer box with children, from Qianlong period, Qing Dynasty, 1736-1795, from National Museum of China, Beijing, PRC. Photo by Andrew Lih. ... Resin of a pine Insect trapped in resin. ... Binomial name Toxicodendron vernicifluum (Stokes) F. Barkley Lacquer Tree (Toxicodendron vernicifluum or Rhus verniciflua), also call Varnish Tree, Japanese lacquer Tree, Japanese Varnish Tree and Japanese Sumac, is a species of genus Rhus and Toxicodendron that grows in East Asia, in regions of China and Japan. ... For information on urushiol poisoning, see Urushiol-induced contact dermatitis. ...

Urushiol-based lacquers differ from most other lacquers in that they are slow-drying, water based, and set by oxidation and polymerisation, rather than by evaporation alone. In order for it to set properly it requires humidity and warm temperature. The phenols oxidize and polymerize under the action of an enzyme laccase, yielding a substrate that, upon proper evaporation of its water content, is hard and fairly resistant to mechanical stress. Lacquer skills became very highly developed in India and Asia, and many highly decorated pieces were produced. The process of lacquer application in India is different from China and Japan. There are two types of lacquer: one is obtained from the Rhus tree and the other from an insect. In India the insect lac was first used from which India first extracted a red dye, later what was left of the insect was a grease that was used for lacquering objects. Insect lac was introduced to India from Persia (Iran). The fresh resin from the Rhus trees causes urushiol-induced contact dermatitis and great care is required in its use. The Chinese treated the allegic reaction with shell-fish. The most fundamental reactions in chemistry are the redox processes. ... Polymer is a term used to describe molecules consisting of structural units and a large number of repeating units connected by covalent chemical bonds. ... This article or section is in need of attention from an expert on the subject. ... Toxicodendron pubescens (poison-oak), one of a large number of species containing urushiol irritants. ...

The contemporary theory held that from China, knowledge of lacquer technology was introduced to Korea, and from there to Japan. It was believed that Japan had also been using lacquer from ancient times, but the systematic process of application was developed by the Chinese. With the discovery of lacquer ware in Japan dating back to Jomon period, conflicting theories claim that technology may have been independently developed in Japan or imported from Japan to China. Trade of lacquer objects traveled through various routes to the Middle East. Known applications of lacquer in China included coffins, plates, music instruments and furniture. Lacquer mixed with powdered cinnabar is used to produce the traditional red lacquerware from China. Korea (Korean: (조선 or 한국, see below) is a geographic area, civilization, and former state situated on the Korean Peninsula in East Asia. ... A map showing countries commonly considered to be part of the Middle East The Middle East is a region comprising the lands around the southern and eastern parts of the Mediterranean Sea, a territory that extends from the eastern Mediterranean Sea to the Persian Gulf. ... Cinnabar, sometimes written cinnabarite, is a name applied to red mercury(II) sulfide (HgS), or native vermilion, the common ore of mercury. ...

The trees must be at least 10 years old before cutting to bleed the resin. It sets by a process called "aqua-polymerization", absorbing oxygen to set; placing in a humid environment (called "furo" or "muro" in Japanese, means "a bath" or "a room") allows it to absorb more oxygen from the evaporation of the water.

Lacquer mixed with water and turpentine, ready for applying to surface.
Lacquer mixed with water and turpentine, ready for applying to surface.

Lacquer yielding trees in Thailand, Vietnam, Burma and Taiwan, called Thitsi, are slightly different; they do not contain urushiol, but similar substances called "laccol" or "thitsiol". The end result is similar but softer than the Chinese or Japanese lacquer. Unlike Japanese and Chinese Rhus verniciflua resin, Burmese lacquer does not cause allergic reactions; it sets slower, and is painted by craftsmen's hands without using brushes. Image File history File linksMetadata Download high-resolution version (1280x960, 600 KB)[edit] Summary Photo of lacquer in liquid form, mixed with water and turpentine. ... Image File history File linksMetadata Download high-resolution version (1280x960, 600 KB)[edit] Summary Photo of lacquer in liquid form, mixed with water and turpentine. ... For the band, click Turpentine (band). ...

Raw lacquer can be "coloured" by the addition of small amounts of iron oxides, giving red or black depending on the oxide. There is some evidence that its use is even older than 8,000 years from archeological digs in China. Later, pigments were added to make colours. It is used not only as a finish, but mixed with ground fired and unfired clays applied to a mould with layers of hemp cloth, it can produce objects without need for another core like wood. The process is called "kanshitsu" in Japan. Advanced decorative techniques using additional materials such as gold and silver powders and flakes ("makie") were refined to very high standards in Japan also after having been introduced from China. In the lacquering of the Chinese musical instrument, the guqin, the lacquer is mixed with deer horn powder (or ceramic powder) to give it more strength so it can stand up to the fingering. Iron oxide pigment There are a number of iron oxides: Iron oxides Iron(II) oxide or ferrous oxide (FeO) The black-coloured powder in particular can cause explosions as it readily ignites. ... The guqin (Chinese: 古琴; Pinyin: ; Wade-Giles: ku-chin; literally ancient stringed-instrument) is the modern name for a plucked seven-string Chinese musical instrument of the zither family (中華絃樂噐/中华弦乐器). It has been played since ancient times, and has traditionally been favored by scholars and literati as an instrument of great...

There are more than four forms of urushiol which is written as thus:

R = (CH2)14CH3 or
R = (CH2)7CH=CH(CH2)5CH3 or
R = (CH2)7CH=CHCH2CH=CH(CH2)2CH3 or
R = (CH2)7CH=CHCH2CH=CHCH2CH=CH2 and others. Image File history File links Urushiol. ...


Nitrocellulose lacquers

Quick-drying solvent-based lacquers that contain nitrocellulose, a resin obtained from the nitration of cotton and other cellulostic materials, were developed in the early 1920s, and extensively used in the automobile industry for 30 years. Prior to their introduction, mass produced automotive finishes were limited in colour, with Japan Black being the fastest drying and thus most popular. General Motors Oakland automobile brand automobile was the first (1923) to introduce one of the new fast drying nitrocelluous lacquers, a bright blue, produced by DuPont under their Duco tradename. Nitrocellulose Nitrocellulose Nitrocellulose (also: cellulose nitrate, flash paper) is a highly flammable compound formed by nitrating cellulose through, for example, exposure to nitric acid or another powerful nitrating agent. ... Japan Black is the name of a lacquer used extensively in the production of automobiles in the early 20th century in the United States. ... An ad for the 1926 Oakland The Oakland was a brand of automobile manufactured between 1907-1909 by the Oakland Motor Car Company of Pontiac, Michigan and between 1909 and 1931 by the Oakland Motors Division of General Motors Corporation. ... This article is about the DuPont company. ... Duco was a trade name assigned to a product line of automotive lacquer developed by the DuPont Company in the 1920s. ...

These lacquers are also used on wooden products, furniture primarily, and on musical instruments and other objects. The nitrocellulose and other resins and plasticizers are dissolved in the solvent, and each coat of lacquer dissolves some of the previous coat. These lacquers were a huge improvement over earlier automobile and furniture finishes, both in ease of application, and in colour retention. The preferred method of applying quick-drying lacquers is by spraying, and the development of nitrocellulose lacquers led to the first extensive use of spray guns. Nitrocellulose lacquers produce a very hard yet flexible, durable finish that can be polished to a high sheen. Drawback of these lacquers include the hazardous nature of the solvent, which is flammable, volatile and toxic, and the handling hazards of nitrocellulose in the lacquer manufacturing process. Lacquer grade or soluble nitrocellulose is closely related to the more highly nitrated form which is used to make explosives.


Acrylic lacquers

Lacquers using acrylic resin, a synthetic polymer, were developed in the 1950s. Acrylic resin is colourless, transparent thermoplastic, obtained by the polymerization of derivatives of acrylic acid. Acrylic is also used in enamels, which have the advantage of not needing to be buffed to obtain a shine. Enamels, however, are slow drying. The advantage of acrylic lacquers, which was recognized by General Motors, is an exceptionally fast drying time. The use of lacquers in automobile finishes was discontinued when tougher, more durable, weather and chemical resistant two-component polyurethane coatings were developed. The system usually consists of a primer, colour coat and clear topcoat, commonly known as clear coat finishes. It is extensively used for wooden finishing Structure of methyl methacrylate, the monomer that makes up PMMA Polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA) or poly(methyl 2-methylpropenoate) is the synthetic polymer of methyl methacrylate. ... Polymer is a term used to describe molecules consisting of structural units and a large number of repeating units connected by covalent chemical bonds. ... A thermoplastic is a material that is plastic or deformable, melts to a liquid when heated and freezes to a brittle, glassy state when cooled sufficiently. ... This sign at Leytonstone tube station is a typical enamel-painted metal sign An enamel paint is a paint that dries to an especially hard, usually glossy, finish. ... A polyurethane is any polymer consisting of a chain of organic units joined by urethane links. ...


Water-based lacquers

Due to health risks and environmental considerations involved in the use of solvent-based lacquers, much work has gone in to the development of water-based lacquers. Such lacquers are considerably less toxic and more environmentally friendly, and in many cases, produce acceptable results. More and more water-based coloured lacquers are replacing solvent-based clear and coloured lacquers in underhood and interior applications in the automobile and other similar industrial applications. Water based lacquers are used extensively in wood furniture finishing as well.



As Asian and Indian lacquer work became popular in England, France, the Netherlands, and Spain in the 17th century the Europeans developed imitations that were effectively a different technique of lacquering. The European technique, which is used on furniture and other objects, uses varnishes that have a resin base similar to shellac. The technique, which became known as japanning, involves applying several coats of varnish which are each heat-dried and polished. In the 18th century this type of lacquering gained a large popular following. In the 19th and 20th centuries this lacquering technique evolved into the handicraft of decoupage. In the 17th century the word Japanning was used to describe the European imitation of Asian lacquerwork, used on furniture and other objects, applying several coats of varnish which were each heat-dried and polished. ... Mrs Mary Delaney achieved unexpected fame at the age of 71 in the court of George III and Queen Charlotte of England thanks to the 18th century decoupage craze. ... It has been suggested that this article or section be merged into Applied art. ... Decoupage (or découpage) is the art of decorating an object by gluing colored paper bits onto it in combination with special paint effects, gold leaf, etc. ...



  • Kimes, Beverly R., Editor. Clark, Henry A. (1996). The Standard Catalog of American Cars 1805-1945. Kraus Publications. ISBN 0-87341-428-4. p.1050
  • Paolo Nanetti (2006). Coatings from A to Z. Vincentz Verlag, Hannover. ISBN 3-87870-173-X. - A concise compilation of technical terms. Attached is a register of all German terms with their corresponding English terms and vice versa, in order to facilitate its use as a means for technical translation from one language to the other.

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