Shellac's Durability Over Years

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Forum topic by Dchip posted 10-14-2009 05:49 PM 5120 views 0 times favorited 5 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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271 posts in 3277 days

10-14-2009 05:49 PM

Topic tags/keywords: question finishing

I posted this question as one of many in a previous forum topic, but did not get an answer, so I thought I would try one more time on its own. I know that Shellac is less durable, more vulnerable to alcohol and water, and more easily scratched than poly and lacquer due to it being a natural product. Can it still produce a finish that can be expected to last for years with some minimal touch ups (its a present to someone who may not be too keen on repair-work)? It seems to me that being the finish of choice on antique furniture should speak well for its longevity, but I was hoping to hear from someone who has been using shellac as a finish for some time and can personally attest to its long-term performance. Thanks in advance.

-- Dan Chiappetta, NYC,

5 replies so far

View a1Jim's profile


117115 posts in 3602 days

#1 posted 10-14-2009 06:29 PM

Dan Shellac Is a very old finish I believe dating back to ancient egypt. It has it’s limitations but has lasted centuries on some antiques,when you see furniture with french polishes that.s shellac. It’s a good finish but you have to consider what you use it on in the furniture’s intended use. You have already mentioned it’s limits so take that in account when using it.

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

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Dan Lyke

1520 posts in 4150 days

#2 posted 10-14-2009 09:48 PM

I think one of the big advantages to shellac is that when you do muck up the finish, you just get a rag with some denatured alcohol on it and re-smooth it. Maybe blend another thin coat into the surrounding bits.

Whereas fixing issues in a poly based finish is much much harder.

-- Dan Lyke, Petaluma California,

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1381 posts in 4152 days

#3 posted 10-14-2009 09:58 PM

My Oak Rolltop Desk desk was built in 1895 and still has the original shellac finish, plus a century of patina.

-- 温故知新

View Kindlingmaker's profile


2656 posts in 3551 days

#4 posted 10-14-2009 10:09 PM

A lot of people do not think about their household cleaners and polishes that will destroy the finish of shellac. You know the stuff that claims it will clean everything and leave a beautiful shine, it will also removed the finish. Been there, done that…

-- Never board, always knotty, lots of growth rings

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28 posts in 3178 days

#5 posted 10-15-2009 07:22 AM

I use shellac almost every day. I restore antiques and it is invaluable for making shallow scratches go away. It leaves a great shine and everyone thinks I have performed a miraicle. I also use it as a barrier coat between incompatible finishes, such as urethanes and new waterbase polys. The stuff is a magical cure all for so many situations. If anyone questions your use of “shlak” just tell them it was good enough for the Pharoes as the original fingernail polish. Consider the use for the piece. Tabletop= shlak sealer—then your choice of polys.
End table—shlak will be ok. Did you ever wonder what your great grandmother’s crocheted doileys were all about? They were about protecting the shlak finish on all that great furniture. They are worth big $ now. Don’t know if I answered your question but in my opinion shlak is #1 in my experience. KB1

-- KB1KnoB

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