Need help with Zinsser Shellac

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Forum topic by Joel_B posted 05-28-2016 01:51 AM 1044 views 0 times favorited 9 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View Joel_B's profile


347 posts in 1527 days

05-28-2016 01:51 AM

I am close to assembly of the night stand I am building from white oak.
I want to pre finish some of the surfaces before I glue it together.
The finish will have three different elements:

1. Something to cover the bare wood and bring out the grain.

2. A coat of GF white milk paint which will be distressed so the wood will show through in places.

3. A final coat of flat poly to protect it from moisture.

For the first finish I am considering an oil type finish like Watco danish oil, I have used it before and it will be easy to apply. But then I started thinking shellac might look better, but I have no experience with it and read it can be difficult. So I have the following questions:

I bought a quart of Zinsser clear shellac (Not Seal Coat). Is it dewaxed? Can I apply paint and poly over it?

Do I need denatured alcohol to apply it?

Should I use a brush or pad? The surfaces are all flat but the legs are already glued to the sides so there are some corners.

I wish the finish wasn’t so complicated but it is what my wife requested.

-- Joel, Encinitas, CA

9 replies so far

View bondogaposis's profile


4993 posts in 2498 days

#1 posted 05-28-2016 02:09 AM

No it is not dewaxed. I don’t understand why you want to bring out the grain and then paint it?

-- Bondo Gaposis

View CharlesA's profile


3341 posts in 1944 days

#2 posted 05-28-2016 02:17 AM

No it is not dewaxed. I don t understand why you want to bring out the grain and then paint it?

- bondogaposis


Zinsser is a little confusing on the waxed/dewaxed bit if you haven’t used it much. The sealcoat specifically states that it is dewaxed. The amber or clear shellac is waxed, but it’s not clear just from looking at the can.

-- "Man is the only animal which devours his own, for I can apply no milder term to the general prey of the rich on the poor." ~Thomas Jefferson

View conifur's profile


955 posts in 1298 days

#3 posted 05-28-2016 02:52 AM

All is true about Zineers, the Seal Coat a 2lb cut has no wax, the other ones do, and they area 3lb cut. A cut is 1lb of Shellac to one gallon of Alcohol, I would mix a 50/50 mix of BLO and MS, to pop the grain, let dry, a coat of Seal Coat, then do your final stuff.

-- Knowledge and experience equals Wisdom, Michael Frankowski

View Fred Hargis's profile

Fred Hargis

5095 posts in 2640 days

#4 posted 05-28-2016 11:08 AM

I suggest you do a scrap piece with that schedule and show it to the boss first, my fear is that a top coat on the milk paint will make it look like it’s not milk paint. That aside: I agree with what’s been said above, but if you choose to go ahead with this: shellac can be hard to apply with a brush. I’ve used quite a bit and still can’t brush. But padding it on and using a small brush for tight corners is very easy. Cutting it back (adding DNA is a good idea for this and if you do need to clean up something use household ammonia. One last suggestion for your final sentence: buy Flexner's book (or the one by Jeff Jewitt). Very good info in both, I believe one (or both) of them should be required material in an hobbyist shop.

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

View Joel_B's profile


347 posts in 1527 days

#5 posted 05-29-2016 03:19 AM

So I guess Zinsser shellac isn’t the right thing to use since it is not dewaxwd but maybe Seal Coat is?
It is true mostly it will be covered with white paint but with the bare wood showing through in places. Maybe I should just go with the paint and then flat poly and be done with it. I have been working on this forever and my wife is getting impatient and threatening to sell my tools. I just have not had time and I have made tons of mistakes that took extra time but I am learning from them and its looking pretty nice. Here is an example of the finish I am trying to achieve, this piece started with a dark stain so maybe I should try that to give it some contrast.

-- Joel, Encinitas, CA

View Fred Hargis's profile

Fred Hargis

5095 posts in 2640 days

#6 posted 05-29-2016 12:50 PM

Seal Coat is also a Zinnser product. Here’s the thing: the dewaxed only becomes an issue with urethane products and some waterborne finishes. Milk paint isn’t waterborne (it’s actually water based, at least real milk paint is) and I do not know first hand whether you need dewaxed shellac under it. I still wonder about the need for the shellac, but some test pieces will answer many questions.

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

View Logan Windram's profile

Logan Windram

347 posts in 2608 days

#7 posted 05-29-2016 01:31 PM

Few thoughts:

- don’t put anything under milk paint, no reason to.
- water based poly makes milk paint look like plastic
- hand oil, dirt and grime over time give milk paint that genuine old look
- if you feel the need to top coat, use an oil but keep in mind is will yellow white a little.
- do a a few coats of black and brown under that white coat of milk paint- that will give it the old look as well.
- try soap flakes as a finish over milk paint- I haven’t tried it, but it seems like it would be cool finish over the milk paint.

Don’t complicate finishing- milk paint is about as easy a finish.

View xeddog's profile


205 posts in 3154 days

#8 posted 05-29-2016 04:05 PM

Just to stir the . . . shellac . . . a bit. If you really wanted a dewaxed shellac, couldn’t you remove the wax from the Zinsser product? (or buy some dewaxed shellac). I have used shellac only once that I can recall, but I was thinking about using it on a project I am working on. I did a little reading and it seems as though you can remove the wax simply by letting it set for a few days, and siphon off the top part which would give you dewaxed shellac. I seem to remember that there are faster ways to dewax it too.


View Joel_B's profile


347 posts in 1527 days

#9 posted 05-30-2016 05:02 PM

So I am now thinking just use stain and then milk paint. GF has video where they apply stain or milk paint and then two coats of WB poly followed by the final coat of milk paint. The poly undercoat helps to protect against sanding through the stain when doing the distressing. Since a dark color doesn’t fit our bedroom colors I am thinking of something like this pecan stain, or course I will be doing some testing on scrap.

-- Joel, Encinitas, CA

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