Should I use Shellac?


I have never used shellac. I have used lacquer, varnish, polyurethane - both oil-based and water, danish oil, tung oil, mineral oil, but never shellac.
I have read that shellac will bring out the grain and depth of woods like cherry and walnut when used as a first coat. Is this true? What is the procedure? Can I/should I do this with cherry cabinets? Can I do it with water-based poly as the top coats? Is this a good idea?
Thanks, Harvey
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eclipsme wrote:

There was an article in FWW a month or so ago comparing oil, oil-based varnish, and shellac for accentuating figure. While this one article is certainly not the be-all, end-all scientific measure, the author's conclusion was that oil (and oil-based varnish) popped the grain more, shellac brought out more chatoyance, more subtlety.
I've used it and like it. It has a tendency to scratch a little more easily than many finishes, but it is the most reparable of them all, with the possible exception of oil.
You can use absolutely use *de-waxed* shellac under water-based poly...shellac is the best seal coat there is, and very commonly used as an in-between coat to keep incompatible finishes from fighting. But remember, if it doesn't *say* de-waxed, it isn't.
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I have an abiding love for shellac inherited from my mother who used it extensively with the furnitures she refinished. It is sad that it is so under appreciated in our polyurethane obsessed world. About the only thing I would caution you with shellac is that it can be addictive to use once you begin with it. As for how you plan to use it, if it is going to be an indoor piece there is no reason to ever use another finish over it with the possible exception of potential water damage as in table tops. My advice is use shellac under clear lacquer for that possible hazard. Remember to test your shellac on some scrap because shellac is not colorless and comes in a variety of cuts and colors. If you really want to know more about using it (and finishes in general) buy this book: Amazon <http://tinyurl.com/ot2oa Have fun and best of luck ...
eclipsme wrote:

--------------050404050209020509020800 Content-Type: text/html; charset=ISO-8859-1 Content-Transfer-Encoding: 7bit
<!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.01 Transitional//EN"> <html> <head> <meta content="text/html;charset=ISO-8859-1" http-equiv="Content-Type"> <title></title> </head> <body bgcolor="#ffffff" text="#000000"> <font face="Helvetica, Arial, sans-serif">I have an abiding love for shellac inherited from my mother who used it extensively with the furnitures she refinished.&nbsp; It is sad that it is so under appreciated in our polyurethane obsessed world.&nbsp; About the only thing I would caution you with shellac is that it can be addictive to use once you begin with it.&nbsp; As for how you plan to use it, if it is going to be an indoor piece there is no reason to ever use another finish over it with the possible exception of potential water damage as in table tops.&nbsp; My advice is use shellac under clear lacquer for that possible hazard.&nbsp; Remember to test your shellac on some scrap because shellac is not colorless and comes in a variety of cuts and colors.&nbsp; If you really want to know more about using it (and finishes in general) buy this book: <a href="http://tinyurl.com/ot2oa ">Amazon</a>&nbsp; Have fun and best of luck ...<br> <br> eclipsme wrote:</font> <blockquote cite="midx1etg.41332$ snipped-for-privacy@bignews3.bellsouth.net" type="cite">I have never used shellac. I have used lacquer, varnish, polyurethane - both oil-based and water, danish oil, tung oil, mineral oil, but never shellac. <br> <br> I have read that shellac will bring out the grain and depth of woods like cherry and walnut when used as a first coat. Is this true? What is the procedure? Can I/should I do this with cherry cabinets? Can I do it with water-based poly as the top coats? Is this a good idea? <br> <br> Thanks, <br> Harvey <br> </blockquote> <br> </body> </html>
--------------050404050209020509020800--
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DIYGUY wrote:

Even more problematic is alcohol (as is liquor and bars), the solvent for shellac. Otherwise, it's a versatile finish, as mentioned elsewhere.
--
JeffB
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Freshly mixed shellac is remarkably durable and very water resistant. I tested a piece of fir with a couple coats of 2# shellac by covering half the piece with foil and leaving it outside for the month of February. Rained most every day and after a month, the shellac showed no signs at all of any damage. In fact the only change in the piece was the color of the fir that darkened by being exposed to the light.
Things to avoid with shellac: 1. Old mixed shellac -- including what comes premixed in a can. Make your own, use it and discard the rest after a few months. Okay, use the old stuff for sealing knots before painting or something like that but why risk it on a project you've invested so many hours in?
2. Alkaline cleaners and ammonia will attack shellac. Use them for brush clean-up and the like but don't be scrubbing the fingerprints off your French-polished guitar with them.
3. Tequila (and other distilled spirits) will soften shellac and if a glass or bottle is left in a puddle thereof it will deboss a ring. So clean up before you pass out.
4. Heat. DAMHIKT. Mug of steamy beverage will soften a ring. So keep an eye out for classy coasters to use at the tea party.
Shellac is a natural, non-toxic resin that can be applied in such thin coats that the nature of the wood glows through. No shrink-wrap-effect with shellac. There really is nothing more attractive than a rubbed finish of shellac. Nothing. Just say no to petrochemicals.
If you're finishing a piece of work that you care about, caring for the shellac should be no problem. If the above restrictions don't make it, use something else. I liken it to the choice between high-carbon and stainless-steel knives in the kitchen. Sure, sometimes the stainless blade is more practical, and the high carbon requires a bit of care to keep it from rusting, but I know which one makes a better knife and I'm willing to exercise the care required.
DIYGUY wrote:

--
Ron Hock
HOCK TOOLS www.hocktools.com
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Ron Hock wrote:

My tests have proven the same. One thing I wasn't aware of, as stated by Jeff Jewitt, is that a shellac finish that has aged looses it's ability to resist water. The article didn't mention how old the finish has to be before it begins to degrade.
"Take a board that has been finished with fresh shellac and after it has fully dried (about a week), pour some water on the finish and let it sit overnight. When you come back the next morning you will still see the puddle of water, but the finish will be only slightly marred. Shellacs ability to withstand water decreases with the age of the film, so don't try this on old finishes.
An interesting feature of shellac is that it resists water-vapor very well. In tests done by the United States Forest Products Laboratory on the moisture-excluding effectiveness of wood finishes (the ability of a finish to prevent moisture vapor from entering the cellular structure of the wood called MEE), shellac rated above polyurethane, alkyd and phenolic varnish and cellulose-nitrate based lacquers."
See:
http://www.antiquerestorers.com/Articles/jeff/shellac.htm
--
Jack Novak
Buffalo, NY - USA
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no(SPAM)vasys wrote:

Nice article. Thanks!
Harvey
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Ron Hock wrote:

Ron,
I'm with you...I love the beauty that shellac imparts. My only complaint is the ease with which a shellac finish scratches. Is there anything I can do on the front-end to minimize this tendency?
TIA
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wood snipped-for-privacy@yahoo.com wrote:

the addition of various plant resins such as Manila Copal, Benzoin, sandarac, damar, and mastic but I've seen very little written about them and have done little of my own research. Anyone know more about these resins?
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HOCK TOOLS www.hocktools.com
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In my opinion, shellac is fast and easy, both in application and cleanup. Other than that, it's nothing special.

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Well, it looks good, it's forgiving of application errors, repairable and relatively economical, too.
Other than THAT, it's nothing special. ;-)
Patriarch
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>it's forgiving of application errors, I covered that in one word, easy.

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I agree, but add a word of caution: Shellac does not age well. If you mix up a batch, mix only what you expect to use, and discard unused. I am sure someone will be able to suggest shelf life for a batch of shellac.
Cannot find the link, but I think even the shellac flakes have some sort of shelf life, so you should purchase from a source that has high turn over of stock.
Phil

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Well, if it has a 'life', I haven't hit it yet. Over the last 5 or 6 years, I've disposed of more oils, varnishes, dyes and stains that have been 'past their prime' or otherwise unsuitable.
The shellac keeps on ticking. Gone through maybe 10 lbs of flake from three or four different suppliers, without a problem. There's a couple of pounds of Jeff Jewitt-supplied flake on the shelf, in a cool, dark place in the shop now, waiting for the craftsperson.
Certainly stuff gets old. I know I have. ;-)
Patriarch
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Have read MANY times 6 month shelf life is typical for mixed. Just mixed up small 2# cut using flakes bought from Jeff at www.homesteadfinishing.com 5 years ago and it dries hard as fresh would. Been stored in the refrigerator. Mixed with denatured in the garage straight out of the fridge and it mixed up in less than 4 hours.
On Thu, 13 Jul 2006 13:39:46 GMT, "Phil-in-MI" <NO Spam &

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Patriarch wrote:

As in M&Ms.
Other than THAT, it's nothing special :-).
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It's turtles, all the way down

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eclipsme wrote:

Shellac is one of the easier finishes to apply. It brushes nicely and dries quickly, reducing the amount of dust settling into and messing up the finish. It's much easier than varnish in this respect. It dries hard enough to sand overnight. I am looking at a chair I refinished in shellac a LONG time ago. It still looks good. For a cherry cabinet I'd give it three coats, sand between each coat. Finish off with a coat of paste wax (Butcher's wax). As others have mentioned, shellac is not water proof or alcohol proof. It's rugged enough for ordinary furniture but I would not use it for high wear things like kitchen cabinets, bar tops, or dining room tables. The final coat of paste wax is needed to protect the shellac from occasional spills. I have never mixed shellac from solid flakes. I buy it ready-to-go and make a point of buying a new can if there is any question about the age of that can sitting on the shelf from the last project. I apply it just as it comes out of the can. If desired you can thin it in alcohol (shellac thinner) which also cleans the brush. Should you forget to clean the brush and it hardens, you can still get the brush clean with alcohol. The alcohol will dissolve even the hardened shellac. Shellac gives an effect similar to varnish or lacquer except the finish looks "softer" and the film seems thinner. I like the look of shellac, however varnish and lacquer look very fine too.
David Starr
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Yes.
Just get some, a cheap bottle of ready-mixed, then try it out on samples. It's easy to work with, gives good results, and is unlike most other finishes. Pretty much anyone who tries it finds it useful for something.
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