I've started working with shellac recently and am still learning about
how it works. The only problem I have at this point is that my shellac
finishes are staying a little bit soft for a long time -- several weeks
up to a couple of months depending on the thickness of the shellac. It
dries quickly and gets somewhat hard, but sitting an object on it or
pressing with a fingernail will result in an indentation. A
moderately heavy object left sitting for a week or so will push its way
down to bare wood.
I started with the zinsser shellac (and the exp date was ok) but after
doing some reading here I switched to shellac flakes purchased online.
Both types of shellac are giving me exactly the same problem. I have
been using denatured alcohol in a blue and red gallon can from home
depot, and have had the same problem with several different containters
of that, so I have ruled out the possiblity of a 'bad batch' of
alcohol. Also I have used the shellac on several projects and at a
variety of temperatures and have had the same problem consistently.
So my conclusion is that it has to be either a tecnhique issue or the
denatured alcohol I am using is not good enough. Or maybe it's another
problem that I haven't considered. What should I do differently?
Thank you in advance for any advice.
Fri, Jan 19, 2007, 9:53am (EST-3) email@example.com (neilc) doth
Hi, <snip> What should I do differently? <snip>
You're stirring clockwise, rather than counter-clockwise, aren't
you? That's the whole problem.
Way too many details lacking to give a viable response to your
A problem adequately stated is a problem well on its way to being
- R. Buckminster Fuller
More details would be a good thing. But as a shot in the semi-dark,
go to a good paint store and buy anhydrous alcohol. It is supposed to
be 99.9% water free, and certainly works the best.
On the other hand, shellac is not a hard finish. If you are looking
for something like "bar top" hard or even some of the polys, you need
to switch to another product.
With that in mind, my personal experience is that when it stays soft
for a while it was put on too thick, or the shellac itself was too
thick for your application. I have also found that shellac stays a
little more pliable in our South Texas heat than I would like, but
behaves nicely when temps go into the Fall range.
> The only problem I have at this point is that my shellac
> finishes are staying a little bit soft for a long time -- several weeks
> up to a couple of months depending on the thickness of the shellac.
Like you, I'm on a learning curve with shellac, so can relate to your
If you look at the Zinsser shellac container, you will notice that it
contains 3# shellac and they suggest cutting it to 2# shellac before
For me, that works after a fashion.
I have found that if you cut it to 1# shellac, I get better results,
especially when applying additional coats.
As a result, have started using equal parts of 3# shellac and
denatured alcohol, which yields slightly less than 1# shellac.
This mix is providing good results.
My motto has become, "If in doubt, add more alcohol".
> Zinsser's "Bullseye" shellac is high in wax content. Decant the
> of the mix or try their "SealCoat" which is dewaxed.
Are you suggesting that dewaxed shellac provides a better finish,
especially if multiple coats are used?
I wouldn't go _quite_ that far for simple finishes, but it's certainly
a lot easier to screw up a shellac finish with a waxy shellac than a
If it's taking really long to harden though, I'd replace it. We can't
see what the real problem is, but old shellac that refuses to dry is
such a common problem that it's certainly worth a try.
I don't know if he is, but I sure am :-). Not only is it harder, it's much
more resistant to the infamous white water rings. In fact I've taken a glass
of ice water and sat it on a test board for several hours without any marking
BTW, a friend has stated that shellac continues hardening for a very long
time. My experience has been that it hardens to the touch very rapidly and
can be sanded (carefully, without generating too much heat) the next day.
I also apply shellac with a "rubber" or a rag. No brush marks and I can apply
the first 3 or 4 coats with almost no pause between them. Then about an hour
between each of several more coats.
Larry Blanchard wrote:
> I don't know if he is, but I sure am :-). Not only is it harder,
> more resistant to the infamous white water rings. In fact I've taken
> of ice water and sat it on a test board for several hours without any
> at all.
> BTW, a friend has stated that shellac continues hardening for a very long
> time. My experience has been that it hardens to the touch very
> can be sanded (carefully, without generating too much heat) the next day.
> I also apply shellac with a "rubber" or a rag. No brush marks and I
> the first 3 or 4 coats with almost no pause between them. Then about
> between each of several more coats.
Thank you for the info.
BTW, "Rag" I understand, but "rubber"?
aka "tampon" if you're reading French books -- and George Franks is the
best book to read on such things.
Making a rubber is a key skill in french polishing (English style) and
even more critical for doing it French style.
Take a pad of cotton waste (not cotton wool), which is collected
strands of cotton or worsted that are loosely packed together. Make an
egg of this with a pointy end. Now wrap it in a piece of cloth. Linen
is the best (tea towels, handkerchiefs) or top-quality long-staple
cotton from old dress shirts or boxer shorts. Nothing else works.
Splash some meths onto the cotton waste and then twist the cloth
tightly around it. Dribble some of your shellac onto the rubber and set
to work on some smooth scrap timber. It takes a good while for a rubber
to "bed in", which is why you store them in a closed jar at the end and
keep them for the next day. Just wake them up with a splash more meths
Really you need to see pictures for how to get the proper "strangled
mouse" look to it. Read a good finishing book.
French-style polishing uses pumice as an abrasive on the rubber itself
(English does it separately, once hardened). This is why a top quality
fabric is essential. Anything else (cotton canvas, soft cottons, cotton
jersey, denim, linen blends, synthetics, Cordura, Kevlar) just doesn't
work. I've tried them!
> aka "tampon" if you're reading French books -- and George Franks is the
> best book to read on such things.
> Making a rubber is a key skill in french polishing (English style) and
> even more critical for doing it French style.
<snip details of a lot of work>
Think I'll let someone else do it, it is way too much for me.
Thanks for the info.
As in "that which rubs". In fact the term "rubber" for the stuff made
from latex-sap comes from it's earliest applications as an eraser as it
rubbed off pencil marks. Honest.
Yes. Look at the clarity of dewaxed/decanted shellac verses that
straight out of the can. Dewaxed/decanted shellac will be clear.
Shellac out of the can is very cloudy.
Most complaints common to a shellac finish are wax caused. These
complaints include poor wear resistance, water rings, moisture
resistance and a soft finish.
> Yes. Look at the clarity of dewaxed/decanted shellac verses that
> straight out of the can. Dewaxed/decanted shellac will be clear.
> Shellac out of the can is very cloudy.
> Most complaints common to a shellac finish are wax caused. These
> complaints include poor wear resistance, water rings, moisture
> resistance and a soft finish.
Thanks for the info.
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