Linseed oil vs shellac

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Forum topic by kikkicurio posted 06-01-2012 03:13 AM 2600 views 0 times favorited 8 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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7 posts in 1646 days

06-01-2012 03:13 AM

Topic tags/keywords: shellac linseed finish appropriate steelwool mortise tenon keyed chair

I am just about to add a finish to a chair that I have been working on for quite some time. The chair has alot of keyed tenon joints and I am wondering what the most appropriate finish would be. I have used shellac in the past, on dark Tasmanian blackwood and the finish was beautiful rubbed back with a bit of ultra fine steel wool. But for this project I have reservations about the shellac because there are lots of little nooks and crannies + mortises which I’m worried that the shellac will collect in. I have never worked with linseed oil before—so any tips would be appreciated/ any suggestions other than linseed oil. I am after a very natural finish that alters the colour of the wood as little as possible.

8 replies so far

View Rick M.'s profile

Rick M.

7699 posts in 1800 days

#1 posted 06-01-2012 07:34 AM

You could use tung oil which is a little more protective than linseed. Spray rattle-can lacquer, in light coats it will not pool. Or rub on the shellac so that it doesn’t pool.


View rivergirl's profile


3201 posts in 2258 days

#2 posted 06-01-2012 11:28 AM

You can mix the linseed oil with turpentine and add a little extra japan drier to speed it up a little.

-- Homer : "Oh, and how is education supposed to make me feel smarter? Besides, every time I learn something new, it pushes some old stuff out of my brain."

View Don W's profile

Don W

17875 posts in 1987 days

#3 posted 06-01-2012 01:43 PM

there are more BLO reciepies that you can use than you can shake a stick at, both commercial and home brewed. Most work well. If you plan to use BLO straight, use light coats. Timing between coats really depends on the wood. I can coat some old plane handles 2 or three times in a day, but normal kiln dried lumber is typically a multiple day dry time.

-- Master hand plane hoarder. -

View RogerM's profile


747 posts in 1819 days

#4 posted 06-01-2012 02:19 PM

I am not sure what wood your chair is made of. If it is maple or cherry or something similar I would start with thinned BLO as noted above. After a few days drying time put on a dilute coat of Zinser’s Seal Coat (Shellac Base) [50% Seal Coat and 50% alcohol]. After a few hours, rub this down with #0000 steel wool then wipe on several coats of diluted polyurethane (50% poly and 50% mineral spirits). Rub this down with #0000 steel wool and finish with Minwax Finishing wax rubbed in with #0000 steel wool then buff.

-- Roger M, Aiken, SC

View Fred Hargis's profile

Fred Hargis

3841 posts in 1913 days

#5 posted 06-01-2012 02:55 PM

Shellac wouldn’t be my first choice for a chair, but you can get rattle cans of shellac that would help with the nooks and crannies. I spray it anywhere I can’t pad it on…..which is those things with nook and crannies, and it turns out very nice.

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

View Clint Searl's profile

Clint Searl

1533 posts in 1781 days

#6 posted 06-01-2012 04:54 PM

Take wormil’s advice. Linseed oil is for starting fires…....that’s all!

-- Clint Searl....Ya can no more do what ya don't know how than ya can git back from where ya ain't been

View a1Jim's profile


115172 posts in 2997 days

#7 posted 06-01-2012 05:01 PM

I agree Linseed oil is a poor product . If you finish it in dewaxed shellac you can always add a poly later if you don’t care for the shellac finish because shellac will allow almost any finish to adhear to it. Shellac is a far better product than Linseed oil but still is not the water resistant. If you can spray on the finish with a paint gun or rattle can and that should help you control how much finish goes where.

-- Custom furniture

View Rick M.'s profile

Rick M.

7699 posts in 1800 days

#8 posted 06-01-2012 11:17 PM

I wouldn’t use shellac on an outdoor chair but it is plenty tough for an indoor chair unless people will be resting their drinks on the arms (in which case you should kick them in the shins). People used shellac on floors for years until varnish became readily available.


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