I've never used shellac before, and I need some advice. I'm finishing a
set of bunk beds for my kids, and I want to use shellac as the finish,
"blonde" shellac in particular. I'm in a time crunch, so I have to be able
to apply it quickly; I'm planning to use an HVLP conversion gun for this.
I've read that spraying shellac is tricky.
· What # cut should I use for spraying?
· Will I need an additive to minimize "fat edges" or improve flow-out if
· Do I need an additive to slow the drying time down if I spray?
· How many coats are "normal" for a sprayed shellac finish? I am
mindful that the bunk beds will go to some rambunctious boys.
Any help from those who have navigated the minefield before me would be
TIA for the replies,
Not an expert on either shellac or spraying, but just finished spraying a
large project with shellac the past two weekends.
I used 1# cut through a cheap HVLP sprayer and it worked well. FWIW, I used
'off the shelf' BullsEye amber.
I thinned from 3# cut to 1# cut with 99% isopropyl alcohol to minnimize
blushing (relative humidity here was in the 90's) and orange peel. I had no
problem with denatured alcohol from the BORG during test of the spray gun,
but went with the isopropyl on the project itself with good results ... I
believe it may have given me a bit more drying time.
I would say that would depend upon a number of factors, including your
climatic conditions when you go to spray. You may find that the 99%
isopropyl is sufficient. Do some test spraying first to get your mix and
technique matched to the current conditions.
From my recent experience, technique is a big part of insuring that you
aren't spraying dried, atomized shellac that will orange peel. Most critical
thing for me was maintaining a uniform distance from the work piece and not
spraying in an arc. Starting the gun off the work piece and keepin it on
past the work piece was also important for me.
You will be surprised how many coats you can spray in one day. I sprayed the
first coat lightly, went over the project _lightly_ with 600 grit about an
hour later, then three more coats at intervals of about two hours each ... i
could have kept going, but the finish was what I wanted after four coats.
Each coat on the 42" X 25" X 84" project took less than five minutes.
If you get white dust when you rub out, you can just about bet that the
shellac is dry. It has been about a week now and I just went over the entire
project lightly with 1200 grit sandpaper and came up with a lovely, and very
Good luck ... and let us know how it comes out. Hope this helps a bit.
I just have to throw this in here:
Once mixed with alcohol, shellac starts to esterify which reduces it's
film hardness, ability to dry quickly and water resistance. Therefore it
is always best to mix it fresh from flakes. Dewaxed flakes are easiest
to use (the wax that is naturally in shellac is usually considered an
impurity.) Shellac's reputation has suffered in the last few decades
from the bad experiences people have had while using old, pre-mixed
shellac from the can (along with the hoopla about polyurethane.) They've
only recently started to date the cans and claim a three year shelf life
while most finishing authorities start to worry about their shellac
mixture after about six months. Shellac is a beautiful, non-toxic,
easily applied, durable and repairable finish that is at it's very best
A shameless shill (but still good advice) from another happy shellac
HOCK TOOLS -- http://www.hocktools.com and http://www.hockfinishes.com
I doubt the boys will notice or care about scratches...when they're
done with the beds a light touch-up sanding and a new coat of shellac
and you've got a good garage sale item with minimal amount of work...
Many, many thanks for the advice.
To answer some of the questions that were raised and to clarify a little,
my first choice for the bunk beds was wipe-on poly. It's easy to apply,
and I've had very good results. However, the wipe-on poly would present
· Time: I've found I have to put on at least four or five coats to
get the equivalent of 2 or 3 brushed coats. The beds are
Mission/Arts & Crafts style with lots of slats; it would take a
while to get one coat on, let alone 4 or 5 with either poly or
shellac. I could spray poly, but I am left with the impression
it would not be as easy to correct newbie HVLP mistakes as it
would be with shellac.
· I used poly on the crib and, although it is wonderfully durable,
warm finish, repairs are difficult (lots of teething marks).
· Because I'm pressed for time, off-gassing from the poly curing
is a concern. I went through this with the crib.
I chose shellac for the following reasons:
· It offers enough protection to keep crayon art from becoming
a permanent decoration.
· Time: I can apply more coats in less time, particularly if I
· It dries quick without the noxious off-gassing.
· It's easy to fix if I screw up spraying it.
The beds are made of ash, so it's likely the only thing that will ever get
damaged will be the finish.
I'm not inclined to experiment with mixing my own shellac at this point due
to time, although I'm sure that's part of the fun of using it. I'm leaning
toward's Swingman's suggestion and getting some pre-mixed "clear" BullsEye
off the shelf (June '03 manuf date at the BORG last I checked - yes,
knowing shellac has a short shelf life, I checked) and thinning it 1:1 with
some denatured alcohol to spray.
I realize this could become a glorious fustercluck given I've never sprayed
a finish before, but shellac seemed to be the best finish to spray in this
Should I take the hit on time and just use wipe-on poly? You guys got me
second guessing myself....
On Thu, 31 Jul 2003 00:47:13 -0400, Dave wrote:
Now that you described the project, I see your reasoning for spraying on the
shellac. I've never done it, but I've heard, and fully believe, that spraying
poly is an ungodly mess, as it sticks to everything it lands on. I'd now vote
with you to go the spray shellac route and if the kids are old enough to
understand, ask them to be gentle on the beds. (yeah, right, like they are gonna
listen <g>). Doing multiple coats of finish on slats would be a RPITA, if not
I just mixed my first batch...couldn't be easier. Takes several hours
for the flakes to dissolve completely - I left it and completed the
mixing process the following day (stirring occasionally).
So why spray? According to Flexner, it can be brushed
on...that's what I'll be trying!
(remove the ZZZ to contact me)
Sorry, I mixed up this shellac thread with the other one...
(remove the ZZZ to contact me)
Spray away Dave. It sounds like you have it all worked out. Shellac is
super user friendly. Spray it thin and try to get an adjustment and
rate that allows you to do single overlapping passes. Resist the urge
to over spray to try and flatten it out. Just lay down enough on the
first pass. Also try to use a sequence that will minimize overspray
onto areas that have already been sprayed.
Finally, if you get any runs or sags, just wipe them down a few hours
later with some alcohol on a lint free rag before re spraying them.
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