Shellac Application

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Forum topic by KenBee posted 11-11-2011 07:07 PM 1702 views 0 times favorited 9 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View KenBee's profile


109 posts in 2603 days

11-11-2011 07:07 PM

I am working on a project using shellac as a finish. I am a beginning woodworker and failed to read up on applying finishes and now have a question. I have been applying Zinsser Bulls Eye Clear Shellac straight from the can as opposed to cutting it which I just learned should be done. The project is made of oak and walnut and actually looks very good with the uncut shellac and a final wipe down after at least 3 coats rubbed out with 320 sandpaper with 0000 grade steel wool and wax. The wax is wiped down with a soft paper towel before it drys and leaves a seriously slick and beautiful finish. After having said all that is all that important to cut shellac? I honestly can’t see how cutting it would create a better looking finish than what I accomplished with uncut shellac.

-- If it won't fit get a BIGGER hammer.

9 replies so far

View Fred Hargis's profile

Fred Hargis

4954 posts in 2460 days

#1 posted 11-11-2011 07:21 PM

If you were successful with it uncut from the can, then there was no reason to thin it. Thinning is done to facilitate application, and if you had no problems you’re good to go. Should you try to pad it on, or spray it, or do something else you might find thinning it would be advantageous. But do remember that shellac is meant to be a thin finish, so you might experiment a little with it and see if you like the thinned version better for whatever reason.

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

View Dan's profile


3630 posts in 2847 days

#2 posted 11-11-2011 07:22 PM

For what its worth I use the Zinsser Bulls Eye clear and amber shellac all the time and I have never cut it with anything. I always use right out of the can. I am pretty sure its ready to go that way… I have never had any problems with the finish, its one of my favorites…

-- Dan - "Collector of Hand Planes"

View David Grimes's profile

David Grimes

2078 posts in 2607 days

#3 posted 11-11-2011 07:58 PM

It is a 2# cut straight from the can, so I rarely cut it.

I, too have found that 3 sanded coats looks great. However, I use the Zinsser de-waxed so I can put a thin wipe coat or two of polyurethane in my choice of satin or gloss for a protected final surface.

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

View KenBee's profile


109 posts in 2603 days

#4 posted 11-11-2011 08:11 PM

Thanks for the replies.

As far as the way I apply it, I did it at first with a foam brush on the walnut which worked just fine. Yes I know they suggest using an expensive bristle brush, but I think these people get a cut from brush companies for that suggestion. :) On the oak I have been padding it on with store bought pads. I just bought some cheesecloth and cotton pieces to make my own pads and from now on will pad the shellac except in certain areas where padding won’t work. I have never tried any other finish and honestly don’t intend to since I have seen the results from shellac and the ease of application.

-- If it won't fit get a BIGGER hammer.

View KenBee's profile


109 posts in 2603 days

#5 posted 11-11-2011 08:24 PM

Hi David….Are you saying polyurethane can’t be applied over shellac with a wax content? Actually I guess that is a moot point because I use wax as a final coat. I guess I really need to get a good book on finishing and educate myself before asking so many questions. But then again a book doesn’t always answer each and every question you get from fellow woodworkers in a forum.

-- If it won't fit get a BIGGER hammer.

View Bill White's profile

Bill White

4907 posts in 3928 days

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

Natural shellac does have wax. The Zinnser SEAL COAT is de-waxed. I use the Seal Coat on most of my work as a sealer. Then, I can top coat if I wish. You don’t automatically need to cut shellac as you have found.
Shellac is a great finish for objects that won’t be subjected to great deal of wear or water/alcohol. I only use urethane on top of the shellac on these projects. Rest of the time I use wiping varnish.with a buffed wax finish.
Congrats on your first successful finish, and don’t get caught up in the “let’s put polycrapithane on everything” mind set.
It has its place, but not on everything. Think about what the old masters used. Those finishes are still good.


View Sawdust4Blood's profile


403 posts in 2989 days

#7 posted 11-11-2011 09:23 PM

I too love using shellac both as a finish and a sealer. Depending on your application, you may or may not want to cut a pre-mixed shellac (like Zinnser) but the cut has more to do with flow rate and drying time than the final result since the solvent should all evaporate eventually regardless of cut. I like less than a 2# cut because I most often spray my finishes. The bigger issue for me with the pre-mixed stuff is esterification and the age of the product. If you really want to play and experiment with shellacs, I would suggest buying shellac flakes and mixing your own. This will allow you to do a lot of different things with various colors and both waxed and de-waxed shellacs. Freshly mixed shellac is also such a joy to work with in comparison to the canned stuff.

-- Greg, Severn MD

View ChuckV's profile


3111 posts in 3494 days

#8 posted 11-11-2011 09:37 PM

Like other above, I often use shellac as both a finish and a sealer, if I am going to top it off with something like polyurethane.

You mentioned looking for a finishing book. I really like Understanding Wood Finishing by Bob Flexner. The book is very well organized, filled with useful hints and myth/fact boxes. There are also many tables and charts that I refer to over and over. It also goes enough into the chemistry of finishing so that you can really understand what is going on.

-- “Big man, pig man, ha ha, charade you are.” ― R. Waters

View KenBee's profile


109 posts in 2603 days

#9 posted 11-11-2011 10:38 PM

ChuckV…Thanks for the heads up on the book. I will go Amazon shopping shortly.

To the other replies thanks for your valuable input.

-- If it won't fit get a BIGGER hammer.

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