Used shellac for the first time - need advice

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I just finished the fir base for a new workbench I'm building with commercial Zinsser Bulls Eye Shellac (Clear). I was surprised when I open the can because it looked like milk - a white suspension. I'm not sure if this is wax (I thought clear Shellacs were dewaxed) or if the stuff was spoiled in some way. The manufactured date on the bottom of the can is 8-18-03 so it is pretty fresh stuff. I let a few drops of it dry on the can lid as an experiment and it gave a hard film after drying overnight but VERY cloudy. I tried warming the stuff by putting the closed can in some hot water for a while. No change - none of the suspended solids appeared to dissolve. So I diluted part of it from a 3 lb cut to a 1 lb cut, and filtered it though a coffee filter. Very slow to filter but it gave a nice amber solution which was just slightly cloudy. The filter contained lots of white solids. I use the filtered stuff to finish the base. Put on one coat and let it dry overnight and sanded smooth with 220, then put on two more coats without any additional sanding. The results are quite nice - the wood is slightly darker and has a nice somewhat glossy clear surface. I mainly did this to put a water vapor barrier on the base to minimize wood movement due to humidity change. I don't think I would have gotten this nice appearance if I'd used the stuff out of the can. Is this par for the course with premixed Shellac or did I get some bad stuff? Are the white solids wax or something else?
In the future I plan to mix up my own Shellac and hopefully avoid these problems. Can anyone recommend a good source for dewaxed Shellac flakes?
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http://www.shellac.net /
Steve James wrote:

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I seem to recall a post saying it is not dewaxed. www.homesteadfinishing.com and www.woodfinishingsupplies.com also have flakes. I buy 99% anhydrous Isopropyl at printer supply house.
On Tue, 04 Nov 2003 14:20:30 GMT, The Guy

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Steve,
Yes, it will look cloudy. that's the wax. if you leave the can undisturbed for a couple - 3 days and carefully decant it, you basically get dewaxed shellac! OR you can make your own (PITA), OR you can buy Zinnser's Seal Coat, which is dewaxed. A quart is about $8-9 where I buy it at ICP.
dave
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What he said and I HIGHLY recommend using SealCoat (nope, not affiliated, just a believer)
good luck Rob
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How do you figure that? When I am in the final stages of a project, I always make up a fresh batch. All it takes is a little kitchen scale and a measuring cup (and I'm anal about it compared to some folks). 1 cup of alcohol to 1 ounce of shellac flakes equals a 1 lb. cut. Adjust as necessary to make the amount and cut you want. (I usually use a 1-1/2# cut for brushing.)
Recipe for "instant" shellac: Put your alcohol in a glass jar. Take your flakes and grind them up in a coffeee grinder or wrap them in t-shirt material and pound them to pulverize the flakes. Sprinkle the flakes into the jar and give them a good stir. Close the jar and set it aside. In the meantime, run some hot water in the kitchen sink and fill a bucket partway (just enough to go up the sides of your shellac jar to about even with the shellac level inside). Set your shellac jar in said bucket of hot water and give flakes another stir.
Go back to work on your project and every so often give the shellac a stir and maybe change the water as it cools. (Be careful not to get water into your shellac jar.) When the shellac has dissolved, I like to strain it through cheesecloth to remove any impurities that might be in there (but with Paddy's super-blonde, there are very few), but I'm anal about it.
Total prep time: 10 minutes. Total cooking time: 3-4 hours. Fat content: 0 grams.
Chuck Vance Just say (tmPL) Shellac: It's not just a furniture finish, it's a dessert topping.
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:) Well, the way I figured it is by reading books on the preparation method, and on folks' comments here! They have to crush, heat, wait, wait some more, stir, wait, strain, and then they have shellac. OR they can grab a can, give it a few shakes if it's waxed, pop the lid and pour some into a working container. I haven't brewed my own yet, because of all the prep hassle it appears to be. If you find it's not as hard as advertised then I defer to your experience! (and you've still got that 3-4 hours cook time...)
dave
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Bay Area Dave wrote:

If you need it "right now" then it is not convenient.
When I'm working on a medium-large project, I mix up a batch when I'm starting the final assembly. It takes about 3 minutes to measure & mix the alcohol and flakes. Then I shake it 2-3 times per day and it's ready in a few days.
If you shake it every 5 minutes, it should be dissolved in about an hour. Note: I've never bothered to grind the flakes into powder -- it _may_ be possible to get it ready even quicker, that way.
YMMV
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How long will the stuff last after being mixed by the user? When I use Zinnser, it should last longer in the can then it takes me to use it up. I buy by the gallon now, after going through a few quarts. The dewaxed I picked up recently I got in a quart as I don't think I need too much of that kind.
dave
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On 05 Nov 2003, Bay Area Dave spake unto rec.woodworking:

Gesundheit.
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Bay Area Dave wrote:

I've read varying accounts. IIRC, Flexner says 6 months after mixing. I think the package of flakes had a different recommendation...but can't remember what it was. I only mix it up as I need it (8-16oz at a time), so I've never had any last more than a few months.
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OK, let's look at this more closely. You've spent days, weeks or months on a particular project. You've spent hours on the design, chosen your wood carefully, dimensioned it all precisely, surfaced it to baby's butt smoothness and done all the joinery so it fits perfectly.
Now you're telling me that in order to get some shellac that you know is fresh, de-waxed and the proper cut, it's too much of a hassle to take some flakes, stir them in a solution of alcohol and wait overnight?
Uh ... yeah ... OK ...
Chuck Vance
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Chuck,
just talking about the "relative" delay of making it vs opening a can. I can do some projects in a few hours and want to finish them with shellac on the spot. Pop open the can, wipe or brush it on. let it dry.
Other projects from start to finish takes months. granted. but not always. work with me a little on this one. I'm not saying I'll never use flakes, as I can see a legitimate need. Just don't discount the "need" for quick and easy too. Deal?
dave
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Hah! You wouldn't believe some of the saps on this newsgroup. They buy wood, square it, thickness it, cut it, smooth it, join pieces together, and more! Me, I just get in my car and go to the furniture store and buy it. No prep hassle at all.
Ken Muldrew snipped-for-privacy@ucalgazry.ca (remove all letters after y in the alphabet)
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Ken, I do all that stuff, so don't preach to the choir.
Ken Muldrew wrote:

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My only point was that while preparation can sometimes be a hassle, it is more often the whole enchilada for recreational woodworkers.
Ken Muldrew snipped-for-privacy@ucalgazry.ca (remove all letters after y in the alphabet)
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On Thu, 06 Nov 2003 19:08:39 GMT, snipped-for-privacy@ucalgazry.ca (Ken Muldrew) wrote:

When was the last time a house guest exclaimed "You MADE that?" to you? <G>
I rest my case.
Barry
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to which he replied sheepishly, "no that's from Ikea..."
dave
B a r r y B u r k e J r . wrote:

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Bay Area Dave wrote:

Guys, you may need to have your sarcasm meters calibrated. Ken is a longtime contributor to the wreck and a woodworker. He was just making light of the fact that someone who ostensibly woodworks for fun would be complaining about the "prep hassle" involved in mixing up a finish.
Not to speak for Ken, but it seems he's saying that it's part of the whole process. And if we don't enjoy the process, then maybe we should just buy our stuff at the store and consider another hobby.
Hey, I used to *hate* finishing. Ironically, that was when I was using the pre-mixed junk from a can. Now that I mix my own and can control the cut, freshness, and method of application, I find that I look forward to it.
Chuck Vance
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What he said.
I know that irony can be a bit hard to spot in ascii, but surely when someone says that they "just buy furniture" in a woodworking group they don't need to add a smiley. :-)
Ken Muldrew snipped-for-privacy@ucalgazry.ca (remove all letters after y in the alphabet)
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