Lacquer is Easy to Clean from a Spray Gun
Lacquer is such a wonderful and versatile finish. I think every professional I’ve talked to who has used lacquer and other finishes (with good exhaust, of course) loves lacquer. There are lots of reasons for this, including reduced runs and sags, relative ease of control in different weather conditions with the solvents available, relative ease of repair, and lacquer’s excellent rubbing qualities. But here’s a plus you may not have thought of.
A few years ago I had a running tussle with a professional who insisted that lacquer had to be cleaned out of the spray gun at the end of every workday. I disagreed, because I had often left lacquer in my spray gun for a week or two without problems.
One of the characteristics I’ve noticed about finishers and refinishers as a group is that they (we) tend to believe that whatever way we have discovered works is THE way and the only, or at least best, way. Nothing wrong with this, but it does lead to expressing absolutes when they aren’t warranted.
So here’s the stupid thing I did. At some point last fall I must have been spraying lacquer, and typical of me, I hung the spray gun up when I was finished, thinking I would be doing more spraying soon. So there was no reason to clean the gun (which amounts to nothing more than running lacquer thinner through it).
Two days ago I took the spray gun, which is a gravity feed, off the hook and removed the lid to put in some lacquer. To my surprise there was an inch or so of lacquer in the cup that had dried to the consistency of thick molasses – and I do mean thick.
I thought, OK, this is an extreme case of leaving lacquer in the gun overnight, so I’ll photograph it and do the cleaning with the least amount of work to prove that I don’t even need to take the gun apart to clean it.
I poured out as much of the thick lacquer as I could, then added an inch of lacquer thinner and started pulling the trigger. At first, small bubbles of lacquer oozed out and just stayed there at the tip of the fluid nozzle. So I left the thinner in for an hour then tried again. A little more lacquer came out.
I didn’t hook the gun up to an air source, which I knew would speed the process, because I wanted to see if just adding the thinner alone would work.
As I continued to pull the trigger, slowly emptying the pathway from the cup to the tip, the lacquer began thinning out until only the thinner came out in a stream that indicated the channel was clean.
I then put some lacquer in the gun and sprayed my project without problem.
I’m quite sure I could do the same with shellac and alcohol, but I wouldn’t leave other finishes in a gun for very long because they could harden and be very difficult or impossible to clean.