Shellac Questions

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I put up some pine wainscoting in a rec-room. I would like to use shellac because I don't want it to darken and yellow as would p-urethane.
Plus, I like the look of it.
But is shellac reasonably washable, if someone were to get something on it? Also, does shellac provide any moisture sealing to minimize moisture absorption through the seasons?
Thanks.
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I wouldn't call shellac washable. You can use a waterbased acrylic and it will not darken the wood much and will be washable. Water based acrylic is also available in an exterior grade.
cm

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I wouldn't call shellac a very tough finish especially if you're planning to wash it. That being said, it's easy enough to re-coat if you need to. Keep in mind that pine is going to naturally yellow anyway so it may be mute point. Cheers, cc
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|I put up some pine wainscoting in a rec-room. I would like to use shellac | because I don't want it to darken and yellow as would p-urethane.
You can use a water based (acrylic) polyurethane... you'd get the durability without the yellowing and darkening. I used it on white oak floors a dozen years ago and it's still clear and is holding up to the wear.
John
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"Buck Turgidson" wrote:

Shellac is used to seal wood; however, that being said, it's not as durable as some other finishes, but you are dealing with vertical surfaces, not flooring.
Wiping with a wet sponge should be NBD.
That said, it can easily be repaired, and probably the best reason for using it is that you like it.
Start with 1/2 lb, dewaxed shellac and go from there.
Probably 3-4 coats before you are done.
Have fun.
Lew
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rec.woodworking:

Shellac is a delicate finish, and it's a bear to apply. I just delivered a table that I refinished with shellac.
Shellac comes in three main colors: amber, orange, and blonde. None of them are colorless, and the actual color varies from by manufacturer and from batch to batch. I used blonde shellac, the lightest color, and it was significantly yellow in my mixing jar.
Shellac is easily damaged by alcohol. If you think someone will ever spill a drink on your wainscoting, or clean it with Windex, or if it's in a bathroom, then you won't be happy. The old shellac on the table I refinished had deteriorated to the point that pieces were flaking off where glasses had sat, and applying alcohol to the existing finish caused it to turn white. (I won't be refinishing one of these again any time soon.)
Go to a real paint store and ask for advice and samples. They'll have a finish that will suit you.
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Steve B.
New Life Home Improvement
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Wow so much misinformation.
One of the easiest finishes to apply. I can't believe you think it is a bear.
Windex contains ammonia, it doesn't degrade shellac. I use it quite often.
Shellac is the easiest to repair since it remelts the previous layer.
I pretty much use it exclusively, except where I need a more durable finish, but I usually start with shellac.
Steve wrote:

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tiredofspam wrote:

often.
In the article listed below Jeff Jewitt states, "Household ammonia cleans shellac brushes because the alkaline ammonia dissolves the acidic shellac."
http://antiquerestorers.com/Articles/jeff/shellac.htm
I prefer alcohol but I have used ammonia to clean my shellac brushes.
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Nova wrote:

Yeah, I caught that one too. Maybe he just wanted to add his own bit of misinformation :-).
Believe us folks, ammonia and shellac are not compatible!
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I think the problem arises because some products have such low concentrations of ammonia etc., that the first few times you don't notice a problem unless you're looking closely. Develops sort of a false sense of security. Personally, I always take the advice of the manufacturers; who better to know, right? When they tell me a hot coffee cup is likely to leave a ring, I tend to believe them, etc., <g>. Although I have been known to repeat their tests, just to "see" what it looks like.
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Twayne

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Wow so much misinformation.
One of the easiest finishes to apply. I can't believe you think it is a bear.
Shellac is the easiest to repair since it remelts the previous layer.
I pretty much use it exclusively, except where I need a more durable finish, but I usually start with shellac.
You can dewax waxed shellac using a large syringe and removing the top after the wax settles to the bottom.
Steve wrote:

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Sounds like some bad experiences, probably from not reading up on the cuts, waxed/dewaxed, age, etc. etc.. Once you get used to the ins and outs of shellac, it's a great product for many applications. I just wish it would keep longer; I'm always buying too much 'cause I don't use it often enough to keep a stock rotated. IFF I even remember to rotate it<g>! I've recently been experimenting with some water-borne urethanes too and they're impressing me. But that's OT; I'll leave it for another thread<g>.
Twayne

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When I was a kid, many years ago (1948 or so) the instructor at the Boy's club where I learned some woodworking, had us finish every project the same way, ie: 3 coats of shellac, sanded between with a coat of varnish for protection. I haven't used shellac since. It isn't going to help you to avoid yellowing or darkening IIRC.
Pete Stanaitis -----------------------
Buck Turgidson wrote:

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It's a great sealer. Better than anything else FWW tested at that job. Blessing and curse, depending on how well moisture can get to the rear of the wainscoting. Doing both sides two (1#) coats would be best.
Don't wash it with alkali or alcohol, as indicated. Renew as it gets chewed and be glad you aren't feathering chips and flakes to try and get a new surface, but re-blending the shellac. Vertical application should be good.
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I have also used the water based finishes on Pine flooring, works great, fairly hard finish, but it does still yellow a bit, I do not think you can get away from some darkening of the wood.
Mike H

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I just used Hydrocote from Hood Finishing Products on some pine shelving, and it was great--super clear, easy to apply, quick drying and seemingly very tough (have to wait to see on that one, of course).
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Actually, poly more turns amber than yellow; minor distinction to most I suppose but ... Water born poly is hard, dents without breaking, stuff like that, very hard. Shellac softer, easier to repair, easier to apply, more forgiving of mistakes.

With care and very, very mild detergents; better water only. If it stays wet it'll mark.
if someone were to get something

Likely leave a black or dark discoloration. Doesn't like anything strong on it.
Also, does shellac provide any moisture sealing to minimize

Yes.
I'd say it depends mostly on how the area will be treated. Constantly bumped, scraped, rubbed, etc? Shellac makes it very easy to repair, no sanding necessary, often unnoticeable repairs when done. Shellac will "melt" into prevous coats. Poly will need gloss removed, spot repairs are more visible, more prone to scratch since it's a harder surface, but at same time harder to scratch. Shellac scratches less noticeable.
Got some extra pieces? Poly one half and shellac the other. Put it down on the floor and walk on it for a few days in the garage, driveway, anywhere that'll mar it up. Then look it over, see what you think. Maybe try a couple spot repairs. Make decision. It's a definite ymmv situation.\
For me, I'd use the water born poly; hard, takes dents without breaking the coat, looks good. ALL finished are harder to apply to vertical surfaces. Use several thin coats so they don't run.
Regards,
Twayne

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Buck Turgidson wrote:

I read some of the answers you got. There sure are a lot of different opinions out there :-). I'll add mine. I teach finishing classes at the local Woodcraft store, so supposedly I'm not a total novice at finishing.
As to moisture resistance, shellac is the best at slowing moisture vapor exchange, with the possible exception of epoxy. If you want to minimize seasonal expansion/contraction shellac is the finish to use even if you overcoat it with something else.
Shellac has a reputation of water spotting. It certainly will if the shellac has wax in it. OTOH, I've tried to get water spotting with dewaxed shellac and have never managed it. Use dewaxed shellac and you'll be OK.
BTW, always use dewaxed shellac if you're going to use it over/under/between other finishes. Many won't stick to the waxy shellac. The only reason I know of to ever use waxy shellac would be to repair/emulate an antique finish using a very dark shellac which isn't available dewaxed.
The easiest to find dewaxed shellac is Zinssers SealCoat. Sold as a sealer, it's actually, as the fine print discloses, a 2 pound cut of dewaxed shellac. Just check the manufacturing date on the bottom of the can as it does degrade in a couple of years. OTOH, you could always mix your own from flakes - the flakes last forever.
Someone said shellac was hard to apply. It is, if you apply it with a brush. Especially on vertical surfaces. I take 3 or 4 of my wife's cosmetic pads, wrap them in a piece of old T-shirt, and wipe on very thin coats. By the time you get from one end of the work to the other, you can go back and start over, at leas for the first 3 or 4 coats. After that you may have to wait a half-hour or so between coats. I usually put on 8-10 thin coats which I can do in one day. Don't sand between coats, it's a waste of time. After the final coat, wait at least a week before any rubbing out is you fell that is necessary. Two weeks would be better.
Shellac is also completely non-toxic once the alcohol has evaporated. It's used on pills and foods. And if you need to repair it, just wipe on another thin coat. Sometimes I can repair a scratch by just using alcohol to melt and redistribute the existing finish.
It isn't the world's toughest finish, and it doesn't like extreme heat, alcohol, or alkaline cleaners (including ammonia). But none of those would appear to be a problem in your application. I say go for it.
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Was sorely tempted to French polish the last 600 sf oak floor I shellacked. Would have looked cool, even if it took forever. Used a 4" pighair brush and 2 lb cut orange. Goes on easy if you load the brush heavy and work fast and forward. Let any skips wait for the next coat, or you'll have ridges to scrape back with a razor blade.
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I used "Seal Coat" and love the look on the wainscoting. Sounds like a good compromise is to go over it with some water poly rather than a waxed shellac.
That way I'd have the best of both worlds - a nice color with depth, but a non-yellowing finish.
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