"Hobbit Holes in MyWorld" --by RusticWoodArt #35: Lets Test Art-Full Shellac

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Blog entry by frank posted 09-27-2008 07:26 PM 1820 reads 0 times favorited 2 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 34: Tales of A Wood-Worker's Tools Part 35 of "Hobbit Holes in MyWorld" --by RusticWoodArt series Part 36: Prepping Wood and Shellac for Rain »

Lets Test Art-Full Shellac

All that meets the eye with shellac, is more then enough to sustain my love of this finish.”
—-by flp

And so I started by writing some thoughts of my own down on paper, where the proper thing to do, seemed to be to get out and do some more tests. If one is not testing….and by this I mean constantly testing their own thoughts//opinions and, the thoughts//opinions of others, then how will one learn. A closed mind is a sad place to be….but, sadder yet is a mind that has no-time to formulate their own path in this area I call wood finishing.

I stopped counting years ago the folks that will come up and ask me how to do a wood finish….and after I take the time to explain one way or many ways, I see in their eyes that I’ve lost them. And so what is it that loses them….two points really, the time factor and having to go and learn by doing. How many I come across at shows and exhibits that think ‘wood finishing’ is too much work and so these are the ones who are all-ways asking and hoping that some-one will give them a secret wand, that they can just wave over their wood and presto….the finish is done.

A.) Wood finishing is never done, before the project is done and assembled, unless one is doing testing of a finish….

Here are some thoughts that are waundering around within my head:

1.)—shellac, de-waxed and waxed….mixing your own and store bought….
2.)—tinting your own shellac….
3.)—how to apply and the many coats or few, like when is enough-enough….
4.)—what types of brushes are you going to use….and you might be surprised….
5.)—surprises and myth busters and all that mis-information out there, that has been promoted to make us think we can’t do or should not use shellac….
6)—and experience. Maybe I will not all-ways agree with those books that we read and maybe after reading what I have to say, you will decide to not follow what I write and that’s all-right with me, but you will be informed and then you can choose your own path. And then also, my experience level with shellac amounts to….should I say. I mean when we start thinking about shellac, maybe we should also consult with the lac bug….

I’ll start with a test of shellac on a slab of maple and then see where this one is going. I might add that were I to sell this slab of maple, I would be asking around $800.00 fully cured and that price does not include delivery. However the fact remains that should this test gain some character in the wood….then as I all-ways tell folks the price goes up. And yet, I may just keep this one for a woodworking table myself or who knows, if my wife sees it….she may want a new kitchen table. When building slab tables, I believe and say; ”what use is a table that one can-not jump up onto and start dancing….

One slab of maple, (rock maple….sugar maple, both are the same species of wood) which I chainsaw milled this past early summer and since then has been suspended on the saw-horses and covered by black plastic. The black plastic will add heat to the wood under the summer sun and occasionally I will take the plastic off to let the wood air out. I also will place stickers between the wood top and black plastic which allows for air flow under the plastic and keeps the wood drying. In my estimation this process can really speed up the natural air-drying time of a piece of wood this size.

So here’s one slab of maple, fresh cooked off the solar grill and waiting ready and eager to test some ideas, theories and myths about shellac. Also lets remember that what is happening here is not being done inside under a controlled environmental habitat, but that the testing is being conducted outside under the watch-full eye of nature, in a 360 degree natural work-space…. I’m showing two cans here which contain liquid mixes, the one on the left contains denatured alcohol for washing out the brush. While I do not need to clean my brushes fully when using mixtures of shellac, (since if the brush dries out, it just a matter of setting the brush in the denatured alcohol and it will soften back up) I sometimes will do a fast preliminary wash. Can on the right is just what the can says, and this is the mix I will be using this afternoon for the maple slab. Brushes are just common cheap throw-a-ways, except I never throw them away and will use them over and over…. now I can post a picture after the first coat application of shellac (amber//orange). You will notice that this first coat is showing some lap marks, especially since I was doing the brushing in the sun-light, but to tell the truth….those lap marks don’t concern me since I know how to deal with them latter….

....second coat….

....third coat….

....with an-other view and one will notice that the lap marks are starting to blend in….

....fourth coat….

.....different view….

....fifth coat….

....and all coats completed in about 2-1/2 hours….

....and a close-up of the finish on the wood…. now I’ll wait a few days and see how the wood and shellac accept each other in this marriage of wood finishes. I did this application last Sunday afternoon….so we are now in a time warp. At least I know were this test is going….some-what, and if the weather decides to work with me, I can hope for a few days of sun and then I’m going to be needing some heavy-long rain.

This morning (Saturday) I am happy to say that we just finished about 24 hours of rain with more on the way, which is just great for the test. I’ll leave you with a photo I took this morning of the area up and outside the barn and I’m also happy to add that for this test of shellac, there is expected more rain coming in this afternoon and maybe we can bust some myths about shellac and water. At least I all-ready know some out-comes, while you will have to wait for the next installment of this story, which I will try and get up in the next day….

More to come….

Linking back to in this series to:
1.) All Good Wood Projects Need….
2.) WoodWorking Vision
3.) Drupes and Drupaceous Nuts as Tung Oil
4.) Go Ask The Lac-Bug About Finishing Wood
5.) Tales of A Wood-Worker’s Tools

Thank you.

’’ smart, work safe, and live, to work the wood....’‘

-- --frank, NH,

2 comments so far

View Scott Bryan's profile

Scott Bryan

27250 posts in 3851 days

#1 posted 09-27-2008 08:58 PM

Thanks for the post. As always you are a wealth of information. Lately I have come to appreciate the versatility and beauty of shellac as a top coat. In the past I have largely used it as a sealer for a top coat of poly but now I am using it by itself and am enjoying the finish it produces.

-- Challenges are what make life interesting; overcoming them is what makes life meaningful- Joshua Marine

View daltxguy's profile


1373 posts in 3943 days

#2 posted 09-27-2008 10:20 PM

Thanks Frank for the info so far. I’m curious about the outcome but I like it so far.

I assume that there was nothing done to the maple slab between shellac coats?

The last pic shows show some beautiful fall colors coming through already. It made me pause and remember my days living to the north of you in Quebec – but it’s more than just colors, it’s earthy smells, a coolness in the air, a certain light and a foreboding silence that tells of nature’s preparation for the coming winter…

-- If you can't joint it, bead it!

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