In Praise Of Shellac

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Forum topic by Dan Campebell posted 01-07-2013 02:22 PM 1047 views 0 times favorited 2 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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Dan Campebell

36 posts in 3345 days

01-07-2013 02:22 PM

Topic tags/keywords: finishing shellac turning milk paint

I have been setting up my new workshop for about 3 months (since Sept,2012); it’s taken that long because I can’t get beyond the temptation to play with all my “toys” and glory in my new ability to just got to a machine and start using without moving it to a spot I can work. It is great having dedicated machines and tools set up and ready to use. I no longer need to think so much about machines so, it allows me time to think about my projects and get more creative.
I work with my lathe more because I can use it to relieve the stress of making cabinets, tables or lately, Christmas presents for family and friends.
Like most woodworkers, I have always been ambivalent about the process of finishing and intimidated by all the types of finishes (what works best in the different applications). Recently I have found that shellac is probably the easiest and least difficult sealer and in some cases finish, for creating a base for other finishes and even stains. My latest project was a small drop leaf pine table (pine is difficult to finish!) which I built from a pciture I took while vacationing in N. Carolina. The table in the picture was a good design but more of a craft piece than an heirloom quality so, the piece I photographed was used for inspiration. Building the table was fun and very creative, finishing the piece was educational and challenging. I wanted to use milk paint but not so much as to look rustic as to create a wash that would allow the character of the wood to show through. Using General Finishes Milk Paint after applying a very dilluted coat of shelac (sand by hand with 220 grit using a flat block – shellac dries in about 2 hours). The single coat of shellac sealed the surface of the pine and allowed controled penetration of the milk paint. I cut the milk paint with water (wasn’t sure how water would effect the shellac but it worked fine) and appled it. Two hours later the paint was dry and I sanded with 220 grit paper and a nylon finishing pad. It worked very well and my wife’s table was as good or better than I anticipated. The final step in finishing that piece was to apply Bri Wax.
I use shellac as a base on most of my turning projects because it allows me to achieve a very fine finish which not only looks good but feels good to the touch.
If you don’t have a spray booth and and you’re still learning about the in and outs of finishing try shellac. With a little patience and careful observation you will find it to be a very useful and inexpensive general finish/sealer.
I will post picture of the table and s turning I useed shellac on later.

Hope it helps,
Dan Campbell

-- Dan Campbell

2 replies so far

View shipwright's profile


8133 posts in 2976 days

#1 posted 01-07-2013 04:47 PM

All this and French polish is still the best fine finish going if you want a glass like surface.
It’s definitely my first choice.

-- Paul M ..............the early bird may get the worm but it’s the second mouse that gets the cheese!

View Loren's profile


10477 posts in 3826 days

#2 posted 01-07-2013 07:26 PM

Shellac is more durable in furniture than many have been
led to believe. It is also not difficult to repair.

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