Working on a new computer table. The frame is cherry with the top being
a piece of 24" x 42" 3/4" Cherry ply edged with a 3" band of Curly
maple with an inlayed 3/8" Greek key band on the seam. I finished the
frame last night and put several coats of Garnet shellac on it and it
looks great. I figure it won't really require a lot of protection beyond
the shellac. The top is a different matter. I was going to just satin
poly it since I know that will stand up to spilled anything and the
keyboard sliding and such but I really enjoy the look and ease of
shellac. Can I simply do shellac for the top then a really good coat of
wax or are there any other suggestions for a durable finish on top of
shellac. I'd like it to be matte or I'd just use some spar varnish I
Depending on how much abuse you expect the desktop to get, shellac might
be all you need. Poly doesn't prevent chipping or breaking through the
veneer when you roughly drop a monitor or systems unit on it.
With as much effort and cost as you have put into this desk, you likely
will be treating it pretty well. Here's my recommendation:
If you want to use the garnet shellac for the top, go ahead. Put on as
many coats as it takes to get to the correct color, and then switch to a
superblonde shellac, and put another three or four 'padding sessions' on
it. Let it cure for a week or so, then rub it out with Johnson's or
My wife has an oak schoolteacher-style desk, from at least the 50's,
maybe earlier. I think the finish is shellac. The computer table I
made three years ago has a shellac and wax finish, and looks as good as
it did the day I finished it.
I think I might go with this course of action. If it goes poorly I
think I could simply strip the wax with turpentine and use alcohol to
get rid of most if not all the shellac, a little sanding and then poly
You could even recoat with shellac, and then topcoat with a different
There are some super-hard waterborne coatings, which work well over
shellac. One of the characteristics some like about these is that they are
add very little color.
I am not real happy with my results, trying to apply these without a
sprayer. And I don't do enough to justify the expense and learning curve
of a decent spray rig.
If you can't find matte spar varnish, you could use gloss, and hit it with
0000 steel wool or 800-grit sandpaper after the varnish has dried. That'll
take the gloss off.
Doug Miller (alphageek at milmac dot com)
Nobody ever left footprints in the sands of time by sitting on his butt.
And who wants to leave buttprints in the sands of time?
What I understand about spar varnish is that it is supposed to remain
somewhat flexible (softish), in order to better resist the flexing and
weather-related issues common to outdoor and maritime uses. UV blocking is
also a design goal.
My only experience, limited, in with Helmsman (Minwax brand?), on garden
furniture. I would think there are better varnishes for indoor desk use.
Most computer items will have rubber or plastic feet, and the shellac should
be strong enough. I wouldn't use spar varnish, since that's formulated to be
flexible and most aren't nearly as hard as shellac. While there are hardeners
available for the better wb coatings, I don't think you need it.
For large and heavy items, you may want to put something under the feet to
spread the load, and prevent the oils in the plastic from marring the finish.
A light wax may also help, but make sure the shellac is very smooth.
And, as I recall, Patriarch once claimed his poly finish could handle throwing
keys on it, so if all fails you could always ask him what he used (he wouldn't
say then). After all, there's not much that's more destructive than tossed
Sorry. That must have been someone else. I've used maybe three quarts of
poly in the last 4 years, and none on a table top. Kitchen and bathroom
cabinet uses, mostly. (Varathane Diamond, Minwax Polycrylic waterbased,
and a Minwax fast drying solvent based satin. I'd use the Varathane again,
in the right application. But I'm neither a Jewitt, nor a Flexner. ;-))
I've been using Waterlox lately, when a project seems to need more
durability than shellac offers, and have been pleased so far. It seems
relatively easy, and the results are nice.
Keys go in baskets or drawers here...
Believe both Fuhr and Target make brushable WB finishes so spraying
isn't required. Check www.homesteadfinishing.com as Jeff carries
both. While there consider the Menzerna compounds for polishing,
On Mon, 21 Feb 2005 17:37:04 -0600, Patriarch
. The top is a different matter. I was going to just satin
Shellac has a fairly low melting point, or to whomever it was who took me to
task last time I used that term - goo point. It's also vulnerable to
alcohol and alkali that you might find in glass cleaners and such. Would
not be my choice.
Satin urethane probably as good as you'll get.
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