poly varnish top coat over dewaxed shellac

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Forum topic by Grover1 posted 653 days ago 767 views 0 times favorited 5 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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5 posts in 720 days

653 days ago

I’ll be applying the finish to a cherry desk in early December, in a shop only heated during the work day; the desk then will go directly to the client’s office…a space likely to be closed off to fresh air b/c of winter cold. My concern is that my typical finish of multiple coats of wiping varnish has a lingering residual varnish odor that may take weeks to dissipate, which would be obnoxious in the client’s closed office space.

So, my thinking is to use dewaxed shellac to build my primary finish, b/c of quick curing time in a shop that gets cold quickly after hours and b/c of no lingering odor problem, and then apply a coat of wiping varnish for added protection, which I’m assuming will have minimal residual odor that would dissipate much sooner since it is only a single top coat.

Sound like a sensible game plan?



5 replies so far

View NiteWalker's profile


2696 posts in 1172 days

#1 posted 653 days ago

IIRC, you don’t want to build a thick finish with shellac.

My approach: Use dewaxed shellac to give the wood a warm tone and to seal it (I use zinsser sealcoat), then spray it with a waterborne finish. I really like crystalac super premium. It’s sold at mcfeely’s who has $1 shipping and is extremely durable. Super premium is spray only; they make another hard wearing finish called polyoxide. It’s not picky about how it’s applied. It’s also very durable. Recoat times are 30-60 minutes.

You’ll need to keep the finish area above 50* for 72 hours for full cure.

The lingering odor with oil based finishes is one of the main reasons I switched to crystalac.

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

View Fred Hargis's profile

Fred Hargis

1638 posts in 1089 days

#2 posted 653 days ago

Nite Walker’s plan makes sense….shellac is meant to be a thin finish, building it very thick may lead to alligatoring. Also consider most wiping varnish coats are considered to be 3 wiping coats = 1 brushed coat. So putting 1 wiping coat on the desk may not provide the protection you want. As you consider your choices, I guess there is no option to keep the shop heated for a day or 2 to allow most of the varnish to cure? The waterborne will solve your problems, in terms of drying and odor.

-- I long for the days when Coke was a cola, and a joint was a bad place to be (Merle Haggard)

View Grover1's profile


5 posts in 720 days

#3 posted 653 days ago

Thanks, Nite and Fred. I didn’t know about the Crystalac product line, so I’m checking that out at McFeely’s. I don’t have spray equipment, so looks like I’d go with the brushable version. It’s a wood stove heated shop, so for the duration of the finishing process, I can keep up a good temperature at least day/evening; the shop’s well insulated, so overnight temp wouldn’t drop too badly.

View Clint Searl's profile

Clint Searl

1380 posts in 956 days

#4 posted 653 days ago

Conventional wisdom has it that new wood should be “sealed” with shellac to start the finishing process. That’s pure baloney promoted by Zinsser to sell their products. Any kind of resin finish will “seal” itself. For an expose of the shellac hoax, check out Bob Flexner’s article in the September issue of Woodshop News.

-- Clint Searl.............We deserve what we tolerate

View NiteWalker's profile


2696 posts in 1172 days

#5 posted 652 days ago

Clint, that is simply not true. See my post in the thread you started.
Plain and simple, dewaxed shellac/sealcoat is a great sealer.

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

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