What is Catalyzed Conversion Varnish – How it’s Different?

catalyzed conversion varnish

Picture this: You bought a handmade piece of solid wood furniture that looks raw and dashing. But when you inspect closely, you realize that the wood is not properly protected – it’s dry, porous, and susceptible to damage from water or moisture.

I accept that handmade pieces of solid wood furniture aren’t cheap, and you have already invested quite a decent amount on its purchase. But to protect your investment, you must apply a layer of sealer or varnish.

CCV (Catalyzed Conversion Varnish) is one excellent choice that can help you get a premium quality much like solid wood Amish furniture’s finish that’s unmatchable and highly durable.

But what is CCV, its benefits, how is it different from traditional varnishes or lacquer, and how should you apply it correctly?

I will explain all of these in this article. So by the end; you’ll hopefully know everything about Catalyzed Conversion Varnish.

What is Catalyzed Conversion Varnish?

Catalyzed Conversion Varnish, popularly known as CCV, is basically a two-part finish that contains the liquid finish and a hardener commonly called the catalyst.

It’s the catalyst or hardener in the Catalyzed conversion varnish that makes it different from other regular varnishes. The catalyst is a fast-drying agent that’s considered the gold standard for varnish. It’s generally mixed in the varnish before the application.


Catalyzed conversion varnish is a furniture finish designed to be more durable than other types of finishes while protecting the wood against scratches, heat, and moisture.

The finish has a shorter dry time, hardens rapidly, and retains its color and texture better than other finishes, making it a popular choice for furniture makers.

Amish furniture uses a catalyzed conversion varnish over the finish color as standard because, quite frankly, it is simply the best option available.

Buying Options

If you are looking to buy and are searching for the best brands that sell genuine catalyzed conversion varnishes at a good price, here are some top recommendations you can look at:

  • Woodwright Brand Catalyzed varnishes
  • Sherwin Williams Sher-Wood® Conversion Varnish
  • General Finishes Enduro Post-catalyzed Urethane Conversion Varnish

These are all clear-drying, two-component topcoats for professional use that can be used for projects where ultimate durability is the priority.

Catalyzed Conversion Varnish vs. Lacquer

When it’s time to compare the two types of finishes – catalyzed conversion varnish and lacquer – CCV is generally thicker, more durable, and elastic, which is beneficial for the natural movement of the wood.

Catalyzed conversion varnish also requires fewer coats and has a shorter dry time than lacquer.

Lacquer, on the other hand, is a single-element finish with no hardener mixed in and lower solid content. This finish is comparatively softer, more susceptible to damage, and will require additional applications.

Regarding the price, CCV costs more than lacquer, but it’s worth it because it lasts longer and looks better.

Difference Between Catalyzed Conversion Varnish vs. Lacquer

Can I DIY Apply Catalyzed Conversion Varnish at Home?

Applying catalyzed conversion varnish requires precision and professional touch. In addition to the application process, it is essential to mix the ingredients correctly so that the varnish hardens appropriately.

So, in my opinion, hiring a professional is critical to get your furniture refinished rather than going a do-it-yourself route.

If you want to do it yourself, make sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully, use high-quality tools, and always test the finish on a small area before applying it to the entire piece of furniture.

Here are the essential steps a woodshop generally takes when professionally applying the catalyzed conversion varnishes…

  • Sand the furniture nicely from all sides and edges
  • Stain the furniture and rubbed in carefully by hand
  • After the stain is dried, stain sealer is applied
  • Furniture is then moved to an open area for drying
  • After drying, it’s sanded lightly one more time
  • Then the catalyzed conversion varnish is applied and dried in a heated area before its sold and delivered to the customer.

Remember, the catalyzed conversion finish might take up to 30 days to fully cure and harden, so be careful with your newly varnished wood furniture during that time.

The Bottom Line

Catalyzed conversion varnish is one of the best finishes available for furniture because it’s thicker and more durable than lacquer and doesn’t require as many coats. It also retains its color and texture better than other finishes without getting damaged soon.

The only downside is that a catalyzed conversion varnish costs more than lacquer. But it’s definitely the way to go if you are looking for a premium finish for your high-end expensive furniture pieces like Amish furniture.

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