I'm trying to use Shellac flakes for the second time and am having some
trouble. The first time I used it they dissovled after about three days
without much fuss, but this go-round I've got a big blob of gelatin at
the bottom of my bottle that I can't get to dissolve. Here are the
facts of the case:
* Bought blonde dewaxed shellac from Woodcraft on Thursday
* About an hour later, I smashed it to smithereens with a hammer and
added it to brand new alcohol (in a well sealed plastic bottle, also
from Woodcraft) in a 2# cut
* I tried adding it to the alcohol slowly and letting it dissolve, but
it just sat at the bottom and stared at me desipte repeated stirrings,
so I dumped it all in.
* The bottle is a very well sealed glass jar with a rubber grommet and
a metal latch - no chance of moisture getting in that I can see.
* I put the bottle in a bath of warm water to speed the reaction
* Come back four days later, and there's goopy shellac gelatin on the
bottom, maybe about a quarter of the original volume, undissolved. I've
spent the last couple hours breaking it up, warming it, shaking it, and
repeating, and it's still just gelatin--the undissolved portion hasn't
Is this shellac no good? Should I return it? Did I blow it in step 3 by
being impatient? I still have another bottle of flakes in the fride and
I don't want to screw up another batch.
The reason for my flippant response was I used to be a mix your own guy
myself. Once I started using the Bulls Eye from HD, I never looked
back. HD wouldn't keep it on the shelf if it sat there for 6 months,
they wouldn't carry it, and some locations don't.
They (Zinser) claim they have a longer shelf life due to specific
additives or processes. The longest I've kept 1/2 a can was a year and
it was fine when I used it again. I've been through probably 10 gallon
cans and have never had a bad experience with it. While mixing my own
was about a 50/50 proposition.
My point was, mixing is a hassle. I know it seems kinda cool and is
convenient. But I haven't found it to be a better solution then
grabbing a quart from HD...personally
I'm steering clear of premixed because all the books agree that it goes
bad in six months, and if the flakes I'm buying are possibly bad, I
can't even imagine how bad the situation is at home depot. I need help
to figure out if my current batch is salvageable and what I should do
differently with my next batch.
Bullseye has a "born on" date, and promises a 3-year shelf life.
I've never tried to push it, but it's cheap enough.
Flakes can go bad, but mixed shellac WILL go bad. My understanding is
that bad flakes are the result of too warm or damp a storage situation,
but I've never had bad flakes.
What's not dewaxed? The Zinsser? If you want dewaxed Zinsser, buy the
SealCoat sanding sealer. You _could_ decant/dewax the other, but that's an
awful lot of hassle, IMHO.
If you got the flake at Woodcraft, what brand was it? I've gotten Hock and
Liberon from them, retail. Both worked well for me, as does/did the
Zinsser canned stuff.
If you thinned your mixed batch with more solvent, can you get more of the
gel to disolve?
To solve the wax problem, either use Seal Coat, or just de-wax it yourself.
Seal Coat is a 2# cut, and it's dewaxed out of the can. (I've heard...
Haven't used it.) The regular Bullseye stuff is a 3# cut.
If you're mixing down some 3# into a jar to make a 2# cut, say, then pour
off some of the 3#, add a suitable amount of alkie-haul, and shake it all
up. After it's mixed, let it sit a bit. Probably overnight should do it.
You'll wind up with goopy yellow stuff at the bottom of the jar, and amber
liquid on top. Pour off the amber liquid, and that's your dewaxed shellac.
Of course, having said all that, I didn't bother to decant the shellac I
used on my chess box last year. (Wow, it has been over a year since I
finished a project. :( ) It came out just fine.
Michael McIntyre ---- Silvan < email@example.com>
Linux fanatic, and certified Geek; registered Linux user #243621
If your books all agree on that, you're reading the wrong books. Sorry, but
there's simply no rule that always holds, here or anywhere. In general,
shellac you mix, or premixed shellac, will go bad somewhere between 6 months
and about 5 years. While it varies with the specific shellac, it primarily
depends on the storage temperature. When I had a cold workshop, I mixed
shellac and easily kept it for years, and never saw any go bad. A friend in a
warmer climate (and heated workshop) got just under a year.
Further, the new Zinsser has demonstrated it will remain good for much longer
than natural shellac. They sent me a test sample when it first came out, and
it lived up to their claims. Only more recent books are aware of this.
Further, I use different shellac colors which I mix from flakes. These are
stored in sealed container, in a refrigerator, and I've used some over 15
Finally, you may just have a bad batch of shellac. I don't know what cut
you're trying to mix, or what type of alcohol, but if some stirring together
with a pot of hot water doesn't do it then something's wrong with it. (I
assume you're not trying for a 12# cut, of course.)
I mix my own in small batches, and I use the see it shake it method. I make
in the morning, shake every time I can, and it's dissolved by afternoon.
Two things you can do to hurt your chances are decrease the surface area
actually exposed to alcohol by making a bunch of small grains and allowing
the to clump to form, and attempting a two or three pound cut direct, rather
than adding flakes to a made one-pound. Try larger pieces and one-pound, to
be enriched later.
On 28 Dec 2004 11:16:18 -0800, " firstname.lastname@example.org"
I am confused by the very last phrase above ("in a 2# cut.")
How much shellac (by weight) do you have in how much alcohol
I suspect that you may just have more shellac than you can
get into solution.
You may already be aware that 2# cut would mean two pounds
of shellac in a gallon of alcohol.
Is that the ratio you actually have?
Why did you have to smash it with a hammer? Wasn't it flakes to begin
with? If it was clumped up, there may have been something wrong with
it (moisture?) to begin with.
Unheated, shellac does take a long time to dissolve, IME. Sometimes a
couple days to become completely dissolved, with some intermediate
shaking and stirring. But if it's still a gloppy mess after four
days, that's not normal. Try heating it in a pan of hot -- not just
warm but almost boiling -- water for an hour or two. I find that's
the best way to dissolve it.
(As I'm sure you now, alcohol fumes and an open flame are a bad
combination, so you want to do the heating with a hotplate or on an
electric range, or boil the water and turn off the gas before putting
the shellac in the pan.)
On 28 Dec 2004 11:16:18 -0800, " email@example.com"
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It was a little clumpy as flakes, which worried me, but I crushed it
because that would increase the surface area. I've been keeping it in
hot water all day and it's mostly dissolved, so the situation isn't
quite as grim as I thought this morning, although I certainly won't
dare use it until testing it.
I did see on person say that heating it up makes the final finish more
brittle. But since only one person has said that, I'm choosing not to
believe it for now :)
Shellac has organic acid components. Over time, the acids react with alcohol
and form esters --- which won't dry properly. I'd guess that heating the
mixture would just speed up the esterification recation.
I'd suggest to just mix the flakes and alcohol and shake it occasionally. I'd
should dissolve in a day. Also, have you considered the alcohol? Maybe it
contains too much water. Try again with different alcohol and see if that
While I agree with your reasoning, it's a matter of degree. A few hours in a
pot of hot (tap hot) water will really shorted the time for it to dissolve. I
don't believe that will have a significant impact on the shellac. I believe
you'd find Jewett and other finishing authors in agreement on this.
I also suggest you could add considerable water to the alcohol, and not see
the problems he reports. (This is a very easy thing to try, if you disagree.)
On 29 Dec 2004 02:11:20 GMT, firstname.lastname@example.org (Joeljcarver) wrote:
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