Trouble using tinted shellac

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Forum topic by pete79 posted 10-20-2009 03:25 PM 2125 views 0 times favorited 4 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View pete79's profile


154 posts in 3167 days

10-20-2009 03:25 PM

I’ve spent the better part of the past year building a custom wine cellar for my father in law’s 60th birthday. I’m at the final stages of finishing the woodwork. I’ve tried a few options on test pieces to match the wood color to other woodwork in thier house, and so far the best match i’ve found is the Amber tinted shellac from Zinser. I’m applying the finish to knotty pine, and chose shellac because of all the information i found on inconsistencies in staining soft wood such as pine. Here’s the problem I’m experiencing with this product:

I’ve tried brushing on the shellac as well as wiping it on with a lint free cloth – both methods are producing a “wave” in the finish caused by the shellac starting to get real tacky very quickly. I’ve tried working quickly, as well as adding some denatured alcohol to thin it out a bit – neither method helped. I’ve also tried applying a very thin coat, as well as a very heavy coat, and neither solved the issue.

Does anyone have any suggestions on working with this product so that I can get an even finish, or is using the amber tinted shellac just a bad idea?

-- Life is a one lap race.

4 replies so far

View MrHudon's profile


114 posts in 3237 days

#1 posted 10-20-2009 03:37 PM

Try thinning it out even more about 50/50 with denatured alcohol.

-- Mark,

View NathanAllen's profile


376 posts in 3171 days

#2 posted 10-20-2009 04:51 PM

Like MrHudon said, use a higher cut of denatured alochol. Also work with a natural bristle brush may help you with control.

One rag method is to use a lambswool batt wrapped tightly in lint free cotton. This lets you apply more pressure than a standard rag to push the shellac around.

Also, Amber Tinted is more waxy than clear or dewaxed. One option is to use a dewaxed and a dye to reach the same amber color. Easier to work with in lower temperatures. Keep your shellac in a warm spot in the house, but don’t go so far as to throw it in the oven.

To move shellac with a brush or batt you’ll want to first do figure eights, then on the second application run lines while keeping the brush on the surface, not too much pressure and move quick.

Also, higher cuts for your first (wash coat) then once you have a thin layer down you can move to lower cuts since the second and subsequent coats of shellac will melt into the layer below and give you a “hydroplane” effect.

View SteveB's profile


57 posts in 4084 days

#3 posted 10-20-2009 05:08 PM

NathanAllen hit the nail on the head. The technique is called “French Polishing”. I’m not great at it ‘cause I don’t get to practice. You can add a little mineral oil to the rag to keep it from dragging on the partially dried portions. You’ll find plenty of internet tutorials.

-- Steve B - New Life Home Improvement

View Critterman's profile


600 posts in 3837 days

#4 posted 10-20-2009 07:00 PM

Pete, I’ve learned french polishing and it is great for flat surfaces, but sounds like you are working with a lot of vertical surfaces, knooks and cranies as well. Padding, can also cause lines etc, but you can work them out with multiple layers. Shellac will build and work on itself, thus filling the low spots eventually. The french polish style of figure eights and, believe it or not, going against the grain after the first few layers will help level things out. A lot of work. Have you thought of spraying a couple of really thin layers and then working with the tinted (and you can add tint to shellac too) on top of that? The spray layers make the rest of the process less work, or it does for me. They sell shellac spray at the big box, and it may help you get into some of those tough spots, just do light-thin layers so you don’t get drips or runs. Oh, and most folks do use the dewaxed. If you want to add a top layer, such as ploy or lacquer, you must use dewaxed. And as everyone will tell you “test it first” and I think you’re already doing that. Hope this helps.

-- Jim Hallada, Chesterfield, VA

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