All Replies on Anyone using shellac these days

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View GoPhillies's profile

Anyone using shellac these days

by GoPhillies
posted 11-02-2011 08:42 PM

24 replies so far

View richgreer's profile


4541 posts in 3280 days

#1 posted 11-02-2011 08:46 PM

In the past I have only used Shellac when I was in a hurry, because it dries so fast.

However, Tommy Mac (from Rough Cut) has me convinced that I should consider Shellac on some of my finer projects (jewelry boxes and things like that). I will soon be experimenting with Shellac from flakes.

-- Rich, Cedar Rapids, IA - I'm a woodworker. I don't create beauty, I reveal it.

View Fred Hargis's profile

Fred Hargis

5180 posts in 2699 days

#2 posted 11-02-2011 08:49 PM

I use shellac frequently…and would use it more if wasn’t so hard to apply. Right now I can pad it on (I can also do a French Polish) or I can spray it. But put a brush and a jar of shellac in my hand and I can ruin something much more quickly than I can with almost any other finish. With the padding technique, it’s very hard to apply finish into corners and nook/crannys on moldings and other details. Spraying solves that but I typically only spray larger projects. Besides, shellac isn’t durable enough for a lot of stuff; but it is a lot more durable than most folks think, and it’s so easy to repair.

-- Our village hasn't lost it's idiot, he was elected to congress.

View PurpLev's profile


8547 posts in 3854 days

#3 posted 11-02-2011 09:08 PM

yes, unless I need a hard protective finish for something that sees constant use shellac is great! and dries super fast that I can apply multiple coats in a matter of a day or 2.

-- ㊍ When in doubt - There is no doubt - Go the safer route.

View Richard's profile


1922 posts in 2896 days

#4 posted 11-02-2011 09:13 PM

I like shellac because it dries very fast and is easy to sand and get several coats on in a day and as you found out it gives a very smooth surface that has a good gloss but dosen’t look like plastic like moost of the poly does. I don’t think it would be as good as poly for a surface like a table or something that is going to get a lot heavy use, but for the jewerly boxes and other things like bookshelves and lamps Etc. it is very nice and also is cheaper that most of the poly finishes. I havent done a lot of finishing but I have not had the problems with useing a brush with shellac, but I mostly use the foam brushs if I need to get into a lot corners.

View dbray45's profile


3320 posts in 2983 days

#5 posted 11-02-2011 09:21 PM

I use it

-- David in Damascus, MD

View tr33surg3on's profile


21 posts in 2630 days

#6 posted 11-02-2011 09:26 PM

Not that I have experience with any other finish, but I’ve been using it because the fumes aren’t bad at all. I’m using dewaxed shellac, so it should be compatible with many harder finishes on top (Specifically, I’m looking at a water-based urethane varnish and the shellac layer should fill the pores and help a bit with grain raising).

I actually am using a brush with good results, but I hear the key is to use a good brush to get very thin coats and to not brush more than one pass until it dries. Mine’s a natural squirrel brush from an artist’s supply store, so I probably paid more for it way back when than I paid for some of my chisels. Cleans up with high-octane booze too. One other tip is I work from small jars so water and congealed bits don’t get in to the main batch, which would make it cloudy and require straining. Also stirring and anything that could cause bubbles is to be avoided.

-- Tim -- Tools to make tools to's tools all the way down.

View NBeener's profile


4816 posts in 3380 days

#7 posted 11-02-2011 10:47 PM

Scott Phillips—“American Woodworker.”

His blood type is (spray) Shellac +

-- -- Neil

View Jonathan's profile


2609 posts in 3256 days

#8 posted 11-03-2011 03:03 AM

I think there is certainly a learning curve associated with using shellac successfully, just like everything else. The rapid drying time of shellac is a bit less forgiving, but it can be feathered out/removed afterward with denatured alcohol. It isn’t as durable as some of the more modern finishes, but it’s so easy to repair that for things not getting a lot of use, it can be a great finish.

-- Jonathan, Denver, CO "Constructive criticism is welcome and valued as it gives me new perspectives and helps me to advance as a woodworker."

View blackcherry's profile


3338 posts in 4029 days

#9 posted 11-03-2011 03:18 AM

French polishing is a wonderful finish but take a bit of practice but once you get it you’ll be hook…Blkcherry

View Ripthorn's profile


1458 posts in 3191 days

#10 posted 11-03-2011 03:27 AM

I recently did my first shellac finish and fell in love with it. It’s not the only one I use, but I don’t shy away if I think it will work (pardon the photo size)

-- Brian T. - Exact science is not an exact science

View Alongiron's profile


649 posts in 2899 days

#11 posted 11-03-2011 03:32 AM

I use shellac on all my arts and craft period projects. 2 quick coats within 15 minutes of each other…Let that dry over night…Lightly sand with double aut (0000) steelwool followed by one more coat of Shellac….lightly sand one more time…2 coats of wax and I am good to go

-- Measure twice and cut once.....sneak up on it! Steve Lien

View William's profile


9950 posts in 3048 days

#12 posted 11-03-2011 03:33 AM

I use more shellac than any other finish. I love the stuff.
I used to have application issues as others have suggested. A friend (SuperDave, a fellow lumberjock) suggested something for me to try. I got a quart of Zinsser clear shellac. I cut it down with a quart of denatured alcohol. Yes, I know the can says not to thin it, but I do it anyway. This makes it quite a bit thinner, but it dries a little slower and with a smoother finish. Since I started cutting it down this way, it is by far my favorite finish.
I have to admit though, I recently tried brushable laquer on a project, and with some practice, this may give shellac a run for its money as my favorite.


View a1Jim's profile


117342 posts in 3783 days

#13 posted 11-03-2011 03:39 AM

I think shellac has it’s uses but it does not have very good protection against moisture so I don’t think it’s a good finish for large projects, even though it was used on many classic furniture pieces from days gone by, but there choices of finishes in the 19th centry and before was very limited. But Shellac does have it’s positive attributes that includes: it’s easy to use and apply plus it’s quick drying and the fact that almost any other finish will adhere to it makes it a great tool to use when you need to apply a different finish over an existing finish that other wise would not be compatible. I think Tommy Mc Donald uses shellac because he does not have a good working knowledge of finishing. At least that’s what he has stated in the past ,I’m guessing the same is true with Scott Philips.

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View William's profile


9950 posts in 3048 days

#14 posted 11-03-2011 03:47 AM

You know what A1Jim, you just made me realize WHY I like shellac so much. You hit the nail on the head.
I, like the other example you stated, do not have a good working knowledge of finishes. I like shellac because it is easy to me. Most of the finishes I try besides shellac wind up turning into a lesson in what NOT to do while I unwillingly start sanding my @$$ off trying to remove the mess I’ve made. I am getting better with some finishes (I recently used poly on a project almost successfully). If I want something to turn out nice though, I know I can go to my trusted shellac.


View a1Jim's profile


117342 posts in 3783 days

#15 posted 11-03-2011 06:23 AM

Your not alone William. If shellac works for you great There are worse finishes out there.

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View David Grimes's profile

David Grimes

2078 posts in 2846 days

#16 posted 11-03-2011 06:44 AM

I’ve done head to head comparisons of lacquer, shellac and poly to see which pops the wood the best. Shellac, IMO… hands down. I just finished a project that is several coats (3 – 4)of de-waxed shellac over stains (sanded between coats with 0000 synthetic steel wool, then lastly two coats of wipe urethane.

I, too just got some brushing lacquer to try on the next project. We’ll see.

Also, on the lathe, I have really liked using “Cap’n Eddie’s O.B. Shine Juice recipe on turned goods. Both raw wood and over stain. It’s 1/3 DNA, 1/3 shellac, and 1/3 BLO. Then I either wipe urethane over that or Dreft spray it.

Shellac is good stuff.

-- If you're going to stir the pot, think BIG spoon or SMALL boat paddle. David Grimes, Georgia

View dbray45's profile


3320 posts in 2983 days

#17 posted 11-03-2011 04:03 PM

I have used shellac as a sealer for a lot of projects. It takes on a very nice warm tone, seals the grain well, and I can go over it with most finishes after a few minutes.

-- David in Damascus, MD

View Dan's profile


3630 posts in 3086 days

#18 posted 11-03-2011 04:19 PM

I use the Shellac all the time. More then any other finish. I use the Zinsser Bullseye clear and amber shellac. As others have said, the fumes are not that bad and it drys fast…. Its easy to work with and I like that you can darken wood if wanted with the Zinsser amber shellac….

I know I can make my own but I like just buying the finish ready to go…

-- Dan - "Collector of Hand Planes"

View GoPhillies's profile


45 posts in 2874 days

#19 posted 11-03-2011 04:31 PM

Thanks for all and responses and suggestions. I usually finish my projects with a oil/varnish mix but I can only get one coat on a day and have to let it dry for 24 hours. I used the Zinseer sanding sealer shellac which I think is about a 2lb cut and I cut in in half with alcohol to get a 1lb cut. Made it very easy to apply but left very thin coats which didn’t bother me since I could put on 6 or more coats a day. Not the most “protective” finish I understand but it was easy to apply and looks great. I think I’m hooked when used on the right projects.

View Bertha's profile


13551 posts in 2899 days

#20 posted 11-03-2011 04:32 PM

It’s my favorite finish by far. Especially on the lathe, you can’t beat that dry time.

-- My dad and I built a 65 chev pick up.I killed trannys in that thing for some reason-Hog

View TheBossQ's profile


100 posts in 2899 days

#21 posted 11-03-2011 04:35 PM

I like Shellac for the fact that under Poly, it takes away the tendency for the piece to look like plastic. I made a small jewelry/trinket box for my Niece. I finished it with multiple coats of wipe on poly. While the finish came out smooth, it honestly made the walnut look like Walmart garbage. It looked fake. Maybe it was the Minwax product, but I hated it and tossed the box in the scrap pile.

I made a second box and finished it with Shellac and topped it with one coat of the same Poly and the difference was quite noticeable.

Yes, I suck at finishing. Guess it’s time for that Charles Neil book.

View a1Jim's profile


117342 posts in 3783 days

#22 posted 11-03-2011 04:49 PM

Hey BossQ Charles Neil has some great videos on finishing” like Finishing beyond the books A-Z and I think he has a book in the works.

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View Jonathan's profile


2609 posts in 3256 days

#23 posted 11-03-2011 06:34 PM

As Jim said, Charles Neil does have a 10-disc set of DVDs out on finishing. Although I have not made it through every DVD, I am through half of them and will vouch that there is a lot of good information on them, with tips, tricks, etc. as well as demonstrations. Here’s a link to the set of 10-DVDs, some of which can also be purchased separately.

-- Jonathan, Denver, CO "Constructive criticism is welcome and valued as it gives me new perspectives and helps me to advance as a woodworker."

View Bill White's profile

Bill White

5135 posts in 4166 days

#24 posted 11-03-2011 10:28 PM

Once I discovered shellac, a lot of my finishing probs went to the “cloud”. I use it a bunch both as a final finish and as a sealer. LAC BUGS RULE!!!!!


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