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Correcting Fisheyes on lacquer

Sawdust4real's picture

I have asked to do some repair work on a lacquer finish over cherry wood. The problem is for whatever reason fisheyes have been popping up hence i need to fix them without disturbing the good areas.

KesslerCraftsman's picture

(post #107068, reply #1 of 20)

Get some Fish Eye Eliminator..or automotive paint store, Homestead Finishing, etc will have it.  A small bottle should last a lifetime.

Fish eyes are generally caused by wax or similar silicone on the surface or in the finish that you're finishing over...that little spot of wax breaks the surface tension in the spot..and the finish doesn't flow evenly.

FEE is just a high concentration of liquid silicone.  Put the required amount of FEE in your new finish (usually a squirt or so) and that evens out the surface tension.

Of course all future finishes applied on top of yours will also require FEE.

In anticipation of the question I'd ask, there don't seem to be any sort of adhesion problems when FEE is utilized.

Good Luck!


Sawdust4real's picture

(post #107068, reply #2 of 20)

Thanks for the advice bro......  another question , what causes cloudy spots in lacquer and how to fix them?                      

                                        Thanks for your reply.


KesslerCraftsman's picture

(post #107068, reply #3 of 20)


Glad to be of some help.  God knows folks on Knots have helped me!

My best guess is the cloudiness is "blushing".  Caused by spraying the lacquer in too moist/humid air.  The spray captures the moisture under the film of finish and dries before the water vapor has a chance to evaporate.

You have two options.  One is to only spray in dry conditions...which isn't always practical.  The better option is to put some retarder in your finish or to use a slower-drying lacquer thinner.  Both will not only prevent future blushing, but if you'll spray a very thin coat of lacquer that is heavily laced with retarder or slow-drying thinner, that should melt your previous coats and allow the water vapor to evaporate..unless it's under 30 coats of lacquer or something.

I buy slower drying thinner through Sherwin Williams or my Mohawk dealer (I use Mohoawk Nitrocellulose lacquer).  You used to be able to buy lacquer retarder by the pint or more at auto finishing stores..but I haven't checked those recently.

Please let us all know...Pass on the knowledge..even if this is bad advice, we'll know what doesn't work..and sometimes that's helpful!   Good luck!



HowardAcheson's picture

(post #107068, reply #4 of 20)

There is no way to repair fish eye damage without at least sanding the surface smooth.  You can't apply a finish over them without them showing through.  I would strip the surface using a good paint remover and start over.  But, you can also sand the surface flat to remove the craters and then remove as much of the contaminate as possible.

Let me warn you that once you begin using fish eye eliminator, you will have to use it forever.  It is pure silicone and it will contaminate your gun and the overspray will contaminate anything it settles on including you tools and any wood in the area.  I would not use it unless I had an efficient spray booth or separate finishing area.

Here's how I always try to deal with fish eyes.  Most often they have been caused by supermarket "polishing" products like Pledge.  First, wipe the stripped or smoothed surface down with mineral spirits changing the face of the paper towels often.  Then wipe it dry keeping a fresh face on the towel.  Do it again a second time.  Now spray a coat of dewaxed shellac onto the surface as barrier coat.  Do not sand this coat.  After the shellac is dry, spray your clear coat.  In most cases this will give you a perfect finish.  Only if that doesn't work would I consider a fish eye remover.

Kevin's picture

(post #107068, reply #5 of 20)

I'll second what Howie said. Good advice all around. One other thing that can cause fisheye is overly thinned lacquer that's applied too heavily. If it's too thin then it has very little surface tension and will pull away from contaminants or surface defects that it normally wouldn't pull away from.

When doing a repair on an unknown finish (ie: I didn't do the original) I always degrease the surface before proceeding. I prefer Naptha. But, Mineral Spirits is in the Naptha family of solvents and will do the trick. It's important to wipe the degreased surface off thoroughly with a clean dry cloth/paper towel/whatever while it is still wet with the Naptha/Mineral Spirits. This will ensure that you're actually removing any contaminants rather than just moving them around. Don't assume that the same cloth that you applied the solvent with will remove all of the dissolved contaminants. To do that you really need a fresh cloth that will absorb it all and thus remove any contaminants.

To be safe I also like to give the surface a quick wipe with a slightly damp cloth. Mostly because Naptha/MS will only remove oil-soluable contaminants. Going back over the surface with a damp cloth will remove any water-soluable contaminants too.

One approach to dealing with fisheye that will avoid the need to strip the surface is to adopt an automotive technique used with basecoats. Basically what you do when you've run across fisheye is to let the finish dry thoroughly and then spray light mist coats of finish over the cratered areas. Usually several coats, letting each one dry thoroughly. Essentially what this does is to deposit small particals of lacquer which are too small to pull away. These particals dry and form a bridge over the contaminated area. After a few coats of this there is a sufficient bridge to enable you to spray a normal, wet coat of lacquer which won't crater.

rccustom's picture

correcting fish eye (post #107068, reply #20 of 20)

thanks for the advice. ( the mist coats), sprayed several mist coats on drawer face that was plagued with fish eyes. did the trick sweet and easy thanks a bunch.

bobpowers's picture

(post #107068, reply #6 of 20)

I went through most of the procedures described here on a 50 year old cherry table. The fisheyes were caused by the silicone in Pledge. I wiped with mineral spirits. Bad results. I used fisheye remover. Bad results. I didn't want to strip, since that seems to inevitably remove some of the patina. A coat of dewaxed shellac solved the problem. Then use your finish of choice.

pms's picture

(post #107068, reply #7 of 20)

OK I added a new coat of laquer on my 2nd coat I started getting a fisheye-I cleaned it with mineral spirts let it dry-steel wooled the shine out of the fisheye--should I go any further-do another coat or just spray over it???

philip's picture

(post #107068, reply #8 of 20)

Allow me to put it another way: Zinsser dewaxed shellac sealer is magical stuff.

Philip Marcou

Philip Marcou
pms's picture

(post #107068, reply #11 of 20)

OK  How do I get rid of the fish eye??  Do I sand, buff with steel wool and then do I add another coat of laqure or use that stuff you told me about for the final coat-And do I spray the final coat with shellac as the final coat?  Thanks

philip's picture

(post #107068, reply #12 of 20)

If it were me I would sand back to the wood,since you have had problems with fish eyes re-appearing. Then a thorough clean out of the gun, check out your spray system i.e drain any moisture traps/filters including the compressor tank. Flush the gun through with thinners.Spray on the Bulls eye Zinsser dewaxed shellac sealer, sand lightly and then spray your lacquer, assuming it is in good condition and not contaminated.That shellac sealer is compatible just about all things, is a good barrier and conditioner before something like catlysed lacquer is to go on. I have found it to be much better than proprietory sanding sealers and can't recall the last time I had fish eye problems since using Zinsser.
Might be overkillthis time-but I bet you don't get fish eyes.

Philip Marcou

Philip Marcou
SteveSchoene's picture

(post #107068, reply #13 of 20)

I think Phillip has a good suggestion.  Only thing I'd add is to make the first lacquer coat over the shellac pretty dry since the lacquer solvents may also dissolve the shellac.  Some of that is a good thing--the finishes burn in together, but too much could dissolve enough shellac to let the contaminant causing the fish eye to resurface.  After that though spray as normal. 

Test your finish on scrap, FIRST, or risk having to scrap your finish.

pms's picture

(post #107068, reply #15 of 20)

THANK! For info , never used the zinsser shellic. also dealing with humiaty,in south FLA!

pms's picture

(post #107068, reply #16 of 20)


byhammerandhand's picture

(post #107068, reply #17 of 20)

Use their "Seal-Coat(tm)" - it's dewaxed. Available at Woodcraft, Rockler, better paint stores. You will generally get dumb looks at the big boxes if you ask for it there.

pms's picture

(post #107068, reply #18 of 20)

Thanks!! for help with Fish/eyeeeeeeeeeee .the stain isnt dark enough on the table.Want to make it a darker cheery ,want to mix the stain with laq .spray on the table for finish coat???

pms's picture

(post #107068, reply #19 of 20)

Thanks,with fisheye help.have adinning table,laq finish.dont want to stripp it.but want to make it darker .can i mix the stain/laq and sprayover it.???

bobpowers's picture

(post #107068, reply #9 of 20)

Seal it with shellac, then do whatever you wish.

pms's picture

(post #107068, reply #10 of 20)

OK Thanks, however do I sand it down or prep it any way before I do that?  or can I spray laqure over the shellac or just use the shellac for the final coat?

bobpowers's picture

(post #107068, reply #14 of 20)

Sand it enough to get rid of any dust nibs, and if necessary, dull the surface a bit. I use shellac for final coat frequently, but be aware that it has very poor alcohol and water resistance.