(for those who prefer two or three line postings
- skip this one)
I'm a moderate shellac / bug spit freak - I'll admit it.
Platina will make a nice piece of wood look better,
garnet will give it a rich, deep, warm look - without
hiding the grain. Ten or fifteen coats, brushed on,
sprayed on or french polished on will give a depth
to the finish that can turn a nice piece into a real
eye grabber. Shellac is amazing.
The riitual of weighing and grinding the shellac (OK,
so I use a power coffee grinder - a Braum to be exact
- with green, orange and red LEDs to indicate the
grind), the mason jars with their two part lids, the
measuring of the alcohol, the liquid changing color
as the finely powdered shellac is carefully poured
into the alcohol, the stirring and waiting and stirring
some more - all put me in a calm frame of mind. It
is very much like preparing to do Japanese Sumie -
laying out the cloth, the brushes, the ink grinding/
well, the ink stick, the porcelin mixing and cleaning
trays and bowl - and of course the paper.
The process of woodworking is better than half
the fun of it and preparing a batch of shellac is
the beginning of the "home stretch" of a project.
The shellac ritual is the calm before the potential
storm, for it's the finishing that is frought (sp?)
with possible calamities, especially with shellac,
for every flaw and ding will soon become apparent.
And even though there are "test pieces", the
wood of the actual piece may contain hidden
disasters - or very pleasant surprises - the
BLOTCHIES may be hiding somewhere on the
most visible part of the piece. Or - a beautiful,
hidden grain pattern may appear from nowhere.
A slip of the brush, an errant drop of shellac, a run
or sag - all lurk - waiting.
But when things go "just so" - well, the results
can be stunning - a sow's ear into a silk purse!
A glass like surface a mile deep - yet still
clearly showing the wonders of the wood's
grain and/or figure - that my friend is a FINISH,
or so I thought.
And then I found The Loss of Gloss.
The coopered doors, which took over my
"quick and dirty" router bit cabinet, had
8-10 coats of hand rubbed garnet shellac.
The finish was almost perfect - almost.
I'd brushed on a thin last "final" coat to
get rid of the fine swirl marks.
There was a brush stroke on each of the
doors, a lapse in technique late at night.
But some carefull 400 grit sanding would
make it right. Got carried away with the
feathering around the sanded flaw and
soon both doors had a flat look.
Rather than apply a final thinned shellac
coat, with the possibility of again leaving
a brush stroke, I went out and got some
steel wool, actually some 00 copper wool
and, for good measure some 0000 steel
That's how I found enlightenment - The
Loss of Gloss. The resulting finish looks
soft and very pleasing, and, unlike a high
gloss finish, begs to be touched. The
surface doesn't feel like glass, but rather
it feel like wood. Who'd of thunk it -
a piece that feels like it's real honest to
god wood. It's amazing how sensitive
your finger tips are and how good this
finish feels. One of the neighborhood
kids, after running her fingers over the
finish actually picked up a door and
rubbed her cheek on it, with a smile like
kids get when rubbing their blanky against
So, if you've always thought that a glassy
high gloss finish for your work is perfection,
get some 0000 or 00000 steel wool and
discover The Loss of Gloss.
Off to the woodworking show. Taking
the MIata because a) it's fun to drive,
b) it's a nice sunny day in NorCal and
c) its size will prevent me from buying
anything big (which often means
expensive). Tooling along at 80 mph,
with the top down, the wind through
were my hair use to be - on the way
to a woodworking show - it's going to
be a great day!