Reports and Material Rapport: Conversion Varnish

Chemical Makeup

Conversion varnish (CV) is made with polymers, mainly acrylic amino and alkyd resins. Conversion varnish features more solid resin (30-60%) than lacquers and pre-catalyzed varnish. The two main amino resins are melamine formaldehyde and urea formaldehyde. Conversion varnish uses an acid catalyst to cross-link the acrylic amino and alkyd resins. Cross-linkings, aka the chemical reaction, begins immediately after adding the catalyst. Users must know the POT life before mixing polymers with a catalyst. 


Conversion varnish history is a topic ignored by top academics--no papers outlining product development conveniently exist. Nitrocellulose lacquer was the go-to spray thirty-five years ago. Catalyst varnishes existed, but were not widely available. In 1964, preserved paintings were found with cross-linking polymers on them, but were not verified. Conversion varnish usage rose greatly in the 90s. Information available on the internet made CV application easier to understand to the public and CV became more widely used.

Relative Characteristics

Conversion varnish is the ideal choice for tabletops, cabinets, and office furniture that take abuse. The CV finish is durable and attractive. The CV seals the wood and protects it from water, water vapor, and outside elements, as seen by the chart below:

Local Retailers Carrying CV

Daly's Paint & Decorating (hotlink to Google Maps)
3525 Stone Way North
Seattle WA 98103
Phone: (206) 633-4204

Daly's Paint & Decorating
13238 NE 20th St. #400
Bellevue, WA 98005
Phone: (425) 454-3093

Rudd Co Inc
1141 NW 50th St.
Seattle, WA 98107
Phone: (206) 789-1000
Rudd Co. CV Expert: Dean (206) 550-1821

Equipment Required

Conversion Gun
Spray tip: ranging from size 04-14, depending on air supplier
Air Regulator
Air compressor/Airless system
Work area ventilation
Sander for minor touch-ups

Personal Protective Equipment:
NIOSH-approved air-purifying respirator
Chemical resistent footwear, gloves, apron, and/or whole body suit as appropriate
Chemical resistent glasses, goggles, and/or face shield when appropriate

**Wash thoroughly after handling and before eating or drinking**


  1. Prepare surface. Remove all contaminants and sand with 120-150 prior to staining. 220 or finer grit if sealers are used. Ensure surface is clean and dry. CV should be added within 8 hours of prep completion.
  2. Read product directions for POT life and mixing ratios 
  3. Mix varnish and catalyst in a one, five, or drum sized container. 
  4. Spray onto substrate at temperatures greater than 65 degrees Fahrenheit. Spray continuously with the grain aiming for a thickness of 3-5 mils. 
  5. Apply 2-3 coats. Drying time to sand/stack vary by product. 
  6. Unused material will continue to cure. Adding "virgin" material will greatly extend the POT life. Formula: add 2 parts uncatalyzed to 1 part catalyzed material. 
  7. At completion, clean all parts with a brush and gun cleaner. General clean-up with soap and water recommended. Rinse thoroughly with clean water. Do NOT use hot water as this will cause CV to harden. 

Special Considerations

  • Colder temperatures will thicken the viscosity of the product, never add a solvent to improve viscosity. Follow recommended temperature application and viscosity rating. 
  • Avoid contact with metal surfaces once CV is catalyzed.
  • Continually agitate catalyzed material to ensure proper sheen.
  • CV works well over most stains, except especially oily stains or oily woods like rosewood/teak. Vinyl, catalyzed vinyl, or catalyzed non-stearated sealers are recommended as a first coat. 
  • CV varieties are expanding. Water-based, color-tinted, and/or formaldehyde-free products are now available. 
  • Causes skin irritation. Causes serious eye irritation. May cause drowsiness. 
  • Highly flammable liquid and vapor. Keep away from all ignition sources. 
  • Do not extinguish a fire until the flow of the liquid is effectively shut off. This will prevent a possible vapor explosion. 
  • CV is a hazardous waste. Dispose according to local, state, federal regulations.   



As we were able to talk about, I am building a network that is using Yelp regularly to review. In time, the users will submit staggered reviews. and Google+ appear to be less invasive socially. Truthfully, I have not identified a demographic that uses Google+. 


I made sure to include that I'm a former painter to eliminate suspected collusion when I join later in February. 


That Bradley sure was satisfied!

Joseph SotkiewiczComment