Wax over shellac question

All,
Working on a new computer table. The frame is cherry with the top being a piece of 24" x 42" 3/4" Cherry ply edged with a 3" band of Curly maple with an inlayed 3/8" Greek key band on the seam. I finished the frame last night and put several coats of Garnet shellac on it and it looks great. I figure it won't really require a lot of protection beyond the shellac. The top is a different matter. I was going to just satin poly it since I know that will stand up to spilled anything and the keyboard sliding and such but I really enjoy the look and ease of shellac. Can I simply do shellac for the top then a really good coat of wax or are there any other suggestions for a durable finish on top of shellac. I'd like it to be matte or I'd just use some spar varnish I have.
Thanks Allen
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The wax, at only a few molecules thick, isn't going to offer much in the way of protection. Shellac is tougher than many people think but poly would be much more durable on a desktop surface.
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Depending on how much abuse you expect the desktop to get, shellac might be all you need. Poly doesn't prevent chipping or breaking through the veneer when you roughly drop a monitor or systems unit on it.
With as much effort and cost as you have put into this desk, you likely will be treating it pretty well. Here's my recommendation:
If you want to use the garnet shellac for the top, go ahead. Put on as many coats as it takes to get to the correct color, and then switch to a superblonde shellac, and put another three or four 'padding sessions' on it. Let it cure for a week or so, then rub it out with Johnson's or Butcher's clear.
My wife has an oak schoolteacher-style desk, from at least the 50's, maybe earlier. I think the finish is shellac. The computer table I made three years ago has a shellac and wax finish, and looks as good as it did the day I finished it.
And enjoy.
Patriarch
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I think I might go with this course of action. If it goes poorly I think I could simply strip the wax with turpentine and use alcohol to get rid of most if not all the shellac, a little sanding and then poly to recover?
Allen
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<snip>

You could even recoat with shellac, and then topcoat with a different varnish.
There are some super-hard waterborne coatings, which work well over shellac. One of the characteristics some like about these is that they are add very little color.
I am not real happy with my results, trying to apply these without a sprayer. And I don't do enough to justify the expense and learning curve of a decent spray rig.
Patriarch
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Patriarch wrote:

Just out of curiosity -- what about spar varnish over shellac?
--RC
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I've read that would work but all the spar varnish I've used ended up with a very glossy finish and I'd like to end up matte. Allen
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If you can't find matte spar varnish, you could use gloss, and hit it with 0000 steel wool or 800-grit sandpaper after the varnish has dried. That'll take the gloss off.
-- Regards, Doug Miller (alphageek at milmac dot com)
Nobody ever left footprints in the sands of time by sitting on his butt. And who wants to leave buttprints in the sands of time?
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<snip>

What I understand about spar varnish is that it is supposed to remain somewhat flexible (softish), in order to better resist the flexing and weather-related issues common to outdoor and maritime uses. UV blocking is also a design goal.
My only experience, limited, in with Helmsman (Minwax brand?), on garden furniture. I would think there are better varnishes for indoor desk use.
Patriarch
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Most computer items will have rubber or plastic feet, and the shellac should be strong enough. I wouldn't use spar varnish, since that's formulated to be flexible and most aren't nearly as hard as shellac. While there are hardeners available for the better wb coatings, I don't think you need it.
For large and heavy items, you may want to put something under the feet to spread the load, and prevent the oils in the plastic from marring the finish.
A light wax may also help, but make sure the shellac is very smooth.
And, as I recall, Patriarch once claimed his poly finish could handle throwing keys on it, so if all fails you could always ask him what he used (he wouldn't say then). After all, there's not much that's more destructive than tossed keys.
GerryG
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<snip>

Sorry. That must have been someone else. I've used maybe three quarts of poly in the last 4 years, and none on a table top. Kitchen and bathroom cabinet uses, mostly. (Varathane Diamond, Minwax Polycrylic waterbased, and a Minwax fast drying solvent based satin. I'd use the Varathane again, in the right application. But I'm neither a Jewitt, nor a Flexner. ;-))
I've been using Waterlox lately, when a project seems to need more durability than shellac offers, and have been pleased so far. It seems relatively easy, and the results are nice.
Keys go in baskets or drawers here...
Patriarch
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Believe both Fuhr and Target make brushable WB finishes so spraying isn't required. Check www.homesteadfinishing.com as Jeff carries both. While there consider the Menzerna compounds for polishing, great stuff!
On Mon, 21 Feb 2005 17:37:04 -0600, Patriarch

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Thank you! My recent purchase (of shellac) from Homestead was quite agreeable, and the product and service first rate.
Patriarch
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Shellac was used as finish on floor for years prior to varnish and is much easier to repair. Check www.homesteadfinishing.com articles about selecting a finish using search option.
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Ton of good info there Bob, Thanks for the link. Allen
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. The top is a different matter. I was going to just satin

Shellac has a fairly low melting point, or to whomever it was who took me to task last time I used that term - goo point. It's also vulnerable to alcohol and alkali that you might find in glass cleaners and such. Would not be my choice.
Satin urethane probably as good as you'll get.
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If the garnet shellac you used is de-waxed then poly would go over it no problem. Gene

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