I've read the books and online articles and anything else I could find. The
consensus is: for shellac, use a pad or a high-quality brush. Foam brushes
are strongly rejected.
Cut to the chase: I tried a 4" FOAM ROLLER, and it's working perfectly. I
got off-the-shelf rollers from the Borg: white, much denser and
finer-grained than the typical gray-black foam brushes, and labeled for
"ultra-smooth paint surfaces" (Shur-Line brand). I tested them in pure
solvent (denatured alcohol, same source); no degradation of the foam
what-so-ever, even after sitting overnight after saturation.
I've been padding a 2 lb cut on a large area (~22 sq ft), but the
application and between-coat sanding times became excessive (I like joinery
and construction, I HATE finishing). I admit my padding technique is
probably less then perfect; I've been ending up with small ridges and
imperfections, causing increased time for between-coat sandings (see
The method is not for the faint-of-heart, die-hard shellac aficionados.
When first rolled out, there are A LOT of tiny bubbles (per expectations
from Google search). But the bubbles dissipated before the finish set up
(except for one spot about 8" X 10", on the 2 lb cut application; 60 deg F;
40 % rel hum), and produced the flattest, smoothest coat of any method I've
tried. The method seems to produce a very slight orange-peel texture over
the surface, but it sands out with minimal effort. And you have to be
careful about slopping over onto the vertical edges. The bottom line: I'm
able to coat 22 sq ft in 10 minutes (per Jewitt's spec's: coat w/ the grain,
work the wet edge, re-coat, etc.), and the between coat sanding time is
reduced BY 3/4. I'll acknowledge that for the final coats, I may go to a
quality brush. But I may go back to the roller.
The only reason I even considered trying this method (aside from the fact I
hate sanding and finishing) is that the shellac I've been using had similar
application "feel" (i.e. "wet edge" considerations, set-up time, viscosity,
etc.) to epoxy resin I'd used previously on the wherry I'm building. The
Gougian Bothers recommended foam rollers for that use; it worked perfectly.
Anyway, all you shellac proponents out there, I'll bet a (one, ) beer
that you'll marvel at this method, if for nothing else than wash-coat and
early finish coats.