New to Shellac: Spray vs Brush

  • Advertise with us

« back to Finishing forum

Forum topic by Nighttripper posted 08-27-2012 03:04 PM 10257 views 1 time favorited 53 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View Nighttripper's profile


41 posts in 2403 days

08-27-2012 03:04 PM

Hi guys,

I’ve been doing a ton of research on finish, reading various books as well as LJ and SawMill threads. I just finished a really nice Poplar Tea Box, and would really like to nail the finish. I am going to use CN Blotch Control and GF Water Based Antique Cherry, with a Shellac Finish.

I know I’m going to have to do a ton of practice to get decent with the Shellac. I hear first encounters with Shellac can be very frustrating.

Question: For a beginner, would I be better off starting with a really good brush, such as that sold by Jewitt, or just buy an HF spray gun, as I already have a compressor ?

53 replies so far

View Bill White's profile

Bill White

5148 posts in 4196 days

#1 posted 08-27-2012 03:07 PM

I’ve done both brush and spray, and find that spraying (for me) is easier. Practice first.


View Fred Hargis's profile

Fred Hargis

5233 posts in 2729 days

#2 posted 08-27-2012 03:10 PM

Did you consider padding? On pieces that don’t have a lot of details (like moldings, etc.) it may be the easiest. I can spray shellac, and I can pad it (and french polish…which is padding with 5X the work). But put a brush and jar of shellac in my hand and I can ruin a project faster than with any other finish. So, brush if you want…but be sure to practice (a lot) on scraps before you start on your Tea Box. BTW, if you choose to brush, dedicate one to shellac service, adn don’t bother cleaning it after use. Shellac only turns hard, so before the next use put the brush in some DNA for maybe 15 minutes and VIOLA, you are ready to go. (I’m pretty sure there is suppose to be an accent mark in that word somewhere).

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

View a1Jim's profile


117417 posts in 3813 days

#3 posted 08-27-2012 03:16 PM

I like spraying shellac. It takes some practice. If you have a spray gun you can practice by spray water first on some cardboard. Shellac does come in a rattle can. Make sure you use dewaxed shellac that way if you decide to put another finish over it.

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View Nighttripper's profile


41 posts in 2403 days

#4 posted 08-27-2012 03:25 PM

Thanks for the fast responses guys….I guess the verdict is in….spraying it is.

Now just have to hope for good temp/humidity next weekend here in NJ. I really hope to have some great pics to post when finished.

View Earlextech's profile


1162 posts in 2926 days

#5 posted 08-27-2012 03:36 PM

Spray it! Obviously.

-- Sam Hamory - The project is never finished until its "Finished"!

View Mainiac Matt 's profile

Mainiac Matt

8609 posts in 2564 days

#6 posted 08-27-2012 03:38 PM

Either way you go, just don’t get your coffee cans mixed up and use water to “clean up” your equipment…

or you’ll get a first hand introduction to the great white gum monster.

Don’t ask me how I know this.

-- I yam what I yam and that's all what I yam

View Loren's profile


10477 posts in 3883 days

#7 posted 08-27-2012 05:05 PM

I would brush or pad it on. Spraying is messy and wastes
finish. If you are already experienced with spray equipment
that could influence your choice though.

Shellac is forgiving actually. French polishing where the
shellac is compressed with friction and pressure using
oil as a lubricant in later coats is a challenging technique
to learn, but you don’t have to do a french polish to
get excellent results with shellac. You can just brush
or wipe it on, sand lightly between coats, and build it
up like most other film finishes.

View NiteWalker's profile


2738 posts in 2812 days

#8 posted 08-27-2012 05:10 PM

Spray on most projects; wipe on smaller ones.

-- He who dies with the most tools... dies with the emptiest wallet.

View lumberjoe's profile


2899 posts in 2484 days

#9 posted 08-27-2012 05:17 PM

I’m with Loren on this one. I think shellac is one of the most forgiving finishes. Wipe or brush it on and and sand lightly while building it up. I am pretty good with an HVLP gun but try to avoid spraying finish. It makes way too much of a mess.


View Nighttripper's profile


41 posts in 2403 days

#10 posted 08-27-2012 06:45 PM

In terms of appearance only (Sheen, Depth, Clarity), and not Protection/Durability or Speed, do you all think that shellac is worth it relative to the ease of say a GF Arm R Seal ??

View pintodeluxe's profile


5816 posts in 3049 days

#11 posted 08-27-2012 07:12 PM

A really bad spray gun is better than a really good brush.

Get a Woodriver gravity-feed HVLP and spend a Saturday learning to spray. You won’t regret it.
The gun costs $30.

-- Willie, Washington "If You Choose Not To Decide, You Still Have Made a Choice" - Rush

View jmos's profile


905 posts in 2605 days

#12 posted 08-27-2012 07:20 PM

I’ve had good luck brushing and padding shellac. My shop is in the basement so I really don’t have the option to spray. If I did, I would probably try it, but brushing is a lot less mess and waste.

I found the Gramercy shellac brush work great

I like the fact you can clean up with ammonia too.

-- John

View dhazelton's profile


2805 posts in 2532 days

#13 posted 08-27-2012 07:24 PM

Brush. Do you want the piece to look handcrafted or like it came from a factory? Do three coats and when done rub with 0000 steel wool and use pastewax. Shellac dries in minutes depending on how old it is and the humdity, so you can be done in a couple of hours, including the drying time. Clean you brush in alcohol when done.

View lumberjoe's profile


2899 posts in 2484 days

#14 posted 08-27-2012 08:17 PM

Nighttripper, I actually get better results brushing shellac than I get with Arm-R-Seal. Me and polyurethane don’t get along well though. For things that get handled a lot, like a box, I hate using poly. It makes the piece feel like plastic to me, not wood. I would use some shellac then maybe spray a coat of lacquer on after, or just simply do what dhazelton said. I generally rub out my finishes with wax applied with 0000 steel wool.


View gfadvm's profile


14940 posts in 2925 days

#15 posted 08-28-2012 02:04 AM

I always brush my shellac and it results in a great finish, easy to apply, dries fast providing you follow a few rules: I dilute my Zinsser Bullseye shellac 1:1 with denatured alcohol, use a good quality brush, DO NOT OVERBRUSH, sand between coats with 220-400 grit. I use Ammonia cleaner to clean my brushes (Much cheaper than DNA and reusable almost indefinately)

-- " I'll try to be nicer, if you'll try to be smarter" gfadvm

showing 1 through 15 of 53 replies

Have your say...

You must be signed in to reply.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics