I'm testing a few different finishes for a new cherry project I'm working on
and one involves shellac. This is my first adventure in shellac and I'm not
sure what's going on in the mixing. I'm using blonde dewaxed shellac flakes
from Hock, which I just mixed with 8 oz of the denatured alcohol they
provide to make a 2lb. cut. I've read that it's best to crush the shellac
flakes to speed the process, so I had an old coffee grinder in the garage
that was unused and used that. I thought I was on the cutting edge of
shellac flake grinding until I was doing a ng archive search today on this
problem and came upon a post from Paddy describing the same thing. In any
case, it's been mixed for about 12 hours and right now I have a lightly
colored alcohol solution with about 3/8" of goo in the bottom. I've read
the suggestions to immerse in hot water, which I haven't tried yet. Am I
being too impatient? I expected the whole thing to dissolve by now, even
without the addition of heat.
That's the natureof the stuff. This weekend I mixed up a 1 1b batch( 4 oz
make to 1 qt with Becktol). As we speak, there are still a few chunks in
the bottom of the jar. I set it in the sun to warm it up and shook it
every 3-4 hours or so. Anyhows, after a few more days of shaking it I would
go ahead and filter it then use it.
I usually mix it all up and set it in the sun as well. Then every
half hour or so, give a good shake to try to loosen anything that has
coagulated at the bottom. I can typically get a full dissolve of the
stuff in a few hours. If it gets really bad, you may need to take a
small piece of scrap wood or dowel to it to loosen the mass at the
I have been using shellac myself for the last 10 projects, great stuff.
I grind the flakes to dust in my coffee grinder, then add to alcohol,
shake it up good, and it dissolves in an hour or less sitting in the
sun. So the only thing I can think of is you need to warm it up some,
and maybe grind it a bit finer next time, and shake it more often. I
shake the solution every 10 minutes or so, while it is dissolving. I
have never had to wait more than an hour before the shellac was
I think I probably need to a) warm it up and b)shake it more often. After
grinding in the coffee grinder, it was a dust consistency. Only way to get
the particles any smaller would be to take them over to Fermilab. I've
transferred the whole mess into a quart Mason jar and it's sitting in hot
I found a simple and effective method. Put the flakes in a jar. Add the
alcohol. Replace the jar lid.
Next, take the jar to your wife. Say "Honey, this is the shellac I'm going
to use on your new (fill in blank) so if you just shake it once in a while
I'd appreciate it." Takes about for to five chapters of whatever book she
is reading at the time.
Obviously, you don't have a 4-month old and 2-year old at home if your wife
is reading books ;-). A better alternative for me would be to give it to
the 2-year old and say, "now, be very careful with this and don't shake it".
It seemed to work for her chocolate milk yesterday.
What I usually do is wrap the flakes inside an old (clean) t-shirt
and then break them up by pounding with a deadblow mallet. (Hey, it's
Then I pour alcohol into the container and add the flakes to it.
In the meantime I run some hot water into a bucket (just enough to
cover the jar to the level of the shellac). Then I put the jar in the
bucket, stir, cover and place in the sun.
I stir it every time I think of it (maybe every 15-30 minutes for a
couple of hours), and replace the water a couple of times as it cools.
If I'm not in a hurry, I'll let it sit overnight.
Disclaimers: I recommend just using hot tap water. (Don't use
boiling water, etc., as heat sources and alcohol don't mix.) You
might want to tighten the lid on the jar completely and then back it
off a bit, to release any pressure that may build up. Be careful not
to get water into your jar, either from the bucket, or from letting
your stir-stick come in contact with the water before or after
stirring. If you prefer to shake the jar, you may want to put some
plastic wrap over the threads of your jar mouth before tightening the
lid. This will keep things from getting stuck. (I prefer to stir,
and use a jar with a plastic lid, and have never had any problems with
the lid sticking, but YMMV.)
Just say (tmPL) I stole most of what I know about shellac from
Paully Rad (who's probably looking on and smiling about now) and Paddy
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