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Shellac as final finish?

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Forum topic by ScottinTexas posted 449 days ago 2270 views 4 times favorited 78 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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ScottinTexas

108 posts in 449 days


449 days ago

Topic tags/keywords: traditional finishing mahogany cherry question

I am making a dart board cabinet that is Sipo with Cherry inlay. My plan was to seal it with a thin (~1 lb) layer of dewaxed shellac and then use some wipe-on polly (Watco Danish oil… same thing? ) I tried this on a test piece and it worked ok (I thought the shellac would have prevented the oil from sticking.) But now that I have the shellac “seal” coat on there I’m thinking I could just keep it simple and add more layers of shellac with sanding in between. Possibly switch to orange shellac. Then maybe a wax on top of that. Is there any reason not to do this? Being a dart board cabinet rather than a table may be a factor – probably wouldn’t consider it for a table. I just haven’t run across anyone doing that (other than French Polish and I’m not looking for a high-shine.)

Just wondering if anyone has any insight. Thanks.


78 replies so far

View Loren's profile

Loren

6760 posts in 2149 days


#1 posted 449 days ago

Shellac works great as a final finish in most applications.

French polish is easily misunderstood.

View Fred Hargis's profile

Fred Hargis

1475 posts in 995 days


#2 posted 449 days ago

Shellac really isn’t give it’s due as a final finish, IMHO. In a lot of uses, it works just fine…..and that’s true in your case.

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

View HorizontalMike's profile

HorizontalMike

6701 posts in 1415 days


#3 posted 449 days ago

I just started MY first project with a shellac finish, just yesterday. The first thing I see is that the application process is much quicker/faster. I am learning as I go. I have some streaks I will have to deal with. Will be trying to sand (320grit) with multiple coats.

How does using denatured alcohol work on smoothing the finish, once applied? Tips?

-- HorizontalMike -- "Woodpeckers understand..."

View Cosmicsniper's profile

Cosmicsniper

2199 posts in 1660 days


#4 posted 449 days ago

Shellac it and be done.

BTW, no, wipe-on poly and Watco Danish oil are different things. The Watco is a drying oil which really doesn’t build up into a film finish, and thus provides little protection in that regard. Wipe-on poly is regular oil-based poly, merely thinned enough to make wiping on a lot easier and less problematic.

There is some truth that Watco, and other Danish oils, have resin varnishes mixed in, but again the level varies from make to make, and the ability to build up a hard film coating isn’t a strong suit with any such Danish oils…it’s just not practical. Many make their own concoctions with a lot of success, on ratios of solvent, varnish, and oil to whatever prescription is preferred.

-- jay, www.allaboutastro.com

View Fred Hargis's profile

Fred Hargis

1475 posts in 995 days


#5 posted 449 days ago

Mike, I’ve never been able to brush shellac and get it to come out smooth….and using a pad soaked in DNA will redissolve the coat and allow you to smooth it out. The pad should be a piece of lintless cloth (old T shirt will work fine, though the purists will suggest linen) stuffed with a pad, wool works best. Twist the cloth tight around your pad, and charge it with DNA. This is also the way I usually apply shellac, at least on smooth surfaces…doesn’t work too well around moldings/nocks and crannies, etc. My only other alternative is to spray it, it sprays quite well.

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

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Cosmicsniper

2199 posts in 1660 days


#6 posted 449 days ago

@Mike – Streaks or brush strokes? If brush strokes, then thin it a little more before application. Same thing with streaks when padding it…get it thinner. Other problems, like blushing, can also happen whereas the DNA might be old or contaminated with water OR it might be flashing off too quickly OR have a contaminate on the surface OR too much moisture on the wood. Regardless, whatever the issue, additional, better applied coats should eliminate the problem OR wiping it back with some DNA. When you wipe it back, stop at the point where you feel the surface tug at you…at that point, the stickiness will screw things up. When padding, whether with adding shellac or wiping it back, a few drops of mineral oil (it’s clear) will lubricate it for you. I typically just use a make-up sponge and work it quickly before the shellac gets sticky.

Regardless, using a fine cloth or sponge in conjunction with DNA should smooth things out pretty well, but I normally will use a fine 3M pad after every other coat (or so) when I feel there is something I need to level or smooth. When my shellac is tinted with dye, there can be little drips and runs that become somewhat obvious and I rub them back in that way.

But avoid doing too much at once. Work quickly and resist the temptation to put a ton of shellac on it in one session. Cover everything, and then stop. Wait to dry, then repeat. In our climate, it will often be ready for a new coat in 5 or 10 minutes anyway.

Oh, BTW, I normally spray shellac…the only time I wipe is when tinting it with a dye and needing to control where it goes…or when I have something else in the spray gun and am too lazy to switch it out. :)

-- jay, www.allaboutastro.com

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Cosmicsniper

2199 posts in 1660 days


#7 posted 449 days ago

BTW, really pretty dartboard cabinet, Scott. Love the inlay!

-- jay, www.allaboutastro.com

View HorizontalMike's profile

HorizontalMike

6701 posts in 1415 days


#8 posted 449 days ago

Jay,
Thanks for the info. I am on my 3rd coat this morning. Lightly sanded w/320-grit before 3rd. I am finding out just how quickly I do have to work… tough to not have drips around corners of chest and have had to use DA to rub down those areas an re-do. FYI, I am brushing on with a 2in brush. I keep an open container of DA next to the shellac/DA mix container. I am mixing 50/50 of the zinsser shellac and DA, what ever ratio that makes?

Over all with this being my first ‘shellacing’, NOT counting all LJs forum threads of course ;-), I am actually enjoying the experience. I would much rather smell the DA than all of the petroleum based solvents.

QUESTIONs:
  • Since I am brushing the shellac, just how much sheen can I expect? And when should I stop and call it done?
  • Can or should I use Johnson’s Paste Wax over this finish? Or leave it “shellac only” for future repair finishing down the road?
  • After my final coat, can or should I brush/polish lightly with #0000 steel wool? From what I am hearing above it may be too hard to keep from streaking when using a brush?

-- HorizontalMike -- "Woodpeckers understand..."

View MarkwithaK's profile

MarkwithaK

370 posts in 1679 days


#9 posted 449 days ago

I love using shellac as a final finish. Very forgiving and after a few coats I think it gives the wood a certain depth that I have yet to be able to get with poly. I will even do a couple coats of shellac and then follow that up with a few coats of wipe-on poly. I get that depth from the shellac and the protection from the poly.

-- If at first you don't succeed then maybe skydiving isn't for you.

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a1Jim

109331 posts in 2078 days


#10 posted 449 days ago

Shellac is a quick and easy finish that comes in a variety of shades plus it can be touched up easily ,it can be used on many projects, but IMO it’s not the appropriate finish for table tops and large projects because it does not afford good protection from water infiltration and it’s softer than many other top coats. Of all of the older finishes it’s the most versatile and still has many uses in modern finishing ,beside being easy to apply it can be used as a wood conditioner(although there are more effect wood conditioners),it can be used to seal one type of finish so another can be applied over non-compatible finishes because almost all other finishes will adhere to it and as a top coat .

-- http://artisticwoodstudio.com Custom furniture

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Cosmicsniper

2199 posts in 1660 days


#11 posted 449 days ago

@Mike

I think some people should be reminded of what high gloss really looks like. Brush on a shellac final coat and it WILL be glossy…but high gloss is kinda in the eye of the beholder. From there, any 0000 after the finish will rub out to lower sheens, so if you want super gloss, you have to buff it out to higher grits or polishing compounds. But a lot of the gloss can be achieved simply by spraying the final coat or using a fine cloth to “spirit off” the final coat.

If you want super high clarity in the finish, there is a certain amount of care you need to take early on in the process (think about the figure of a telescope mirror vs. the coatings themselves). This is because its not necessarily true that the more recent coat will melt into ALL the coats below it. So if the first coat had some issues, you need to take care of those issues because they might not be entirely fixed by the time you apply the 10th coat. In other words, shellac is great for its general friendliness and self-leveling capabilities, but for a true piano finish, there’s a reason why the French Polish technique is so tediously and rigidly followed. Clarify and sheen are simply two completely different things. I think this is what guys like Clint are trying to argue when they opine that sheen matters early on in the process whereas I would say that sheen is determined only by the final coat. For example, spray a cow turd with shellac and it will glisten in the sunlight. Rub it out with 0000 steel wool and it will be a well protected, satiny cow turd.

As far as paste wax, I use that for feel, which I think is as important in a project as looks. There’s just a different feeling of a shellac, poly, or lacquer finish and one that has wax on it. I don’t think it’s that big of deal to remove it…usually with mineral spirits or turpentine. If repair is ever needed, you would just remove the wax from the area to be repaired and then touch up that area. That’s the great part about shellac…you don’t have to strip the entire project, just touch up the part that needs it.

-- jay, www.allaboutastro.com

View pintodeluxe's profile

pintodeluxe

3032 posts in 1315 days


#12 posted 449 days ago

I have used 1# cut seal coat shellac, and full 2#cut shellac as final finish. One or two coats sprayed on makes a great finish where water or chemicals are not a factor.
Wax is optional.

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

View stevenmadden's profile

stevenmadden

174 posts in 1591 days


#13 posted 449 days ago

ScottinTexas: I just finished an armoire using a similar technique. The finish I used was a 1 pound cut blonde dewaxed shellac that was sprayed on; one coat on the entire piece and three coats on the internal components. The outside was then finished with General Finishes Arm-R-Seal oil and urethane topcoat; two coats gloss and one coat semi-gloss. I think it turned out great, and I did not have any problems adding the oil over the shellac. I hope this helps, good luck with your project.

Steven

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Cosmicsniper

2199 posts in 1660 days


#14 posted 449 days ago

BTW, Mark says that he can’t get the depth with poly that he can with shellac. I believe this is because a lot can go wrong with the clarity in a finishing coat during the time it takes poly to dry vs. the time is takes shellac to dry. Plus, because there’s no burn-in characteristic with varnish, subsequent coats just produce less and less clarity compared to shellac…hence, the reason why French polish is done with shellac.

-- jay, www.allaboutastro.com

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Cosmicsniper

2199 posts in 1660 days


#15 posted 449 days ago

Steven – I do that too because of the durability of those finishes and superior protection against abrasions and abuse for high use surfaces…like tables. But I still use shellac early for washcoating, grain popping, and compatibility issues between coats. I also use it for color delivery with dyes. Whereas you could use dyes or stains in a varnish or lacquer with similar effect, dewaxed shellac is a lot less expensive.

-- jay, www.allaboutastro.com

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