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Author Topic: Shellac  (Read 2624 times)

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Offline lowpolyjoe

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Shellac
« on: February 08, 2013, 11:34:09 PM »
I should be ready for some finishing work on my current project shortly.  I've planned on shellac.  In the past i've used the Zinsser Bullseye stuff from Home Depot.   I know real woodworkers mix their own, but i thought it was just because shelf-life was better and you could tweak the mixture.  But recently i read the premixed stuff is "garbage".   

Sometimes people in a given field, such as woodworking, will say something is garbage because it's not their first choice.  It's hard for a novice to know if they *really* mean it's garbage or they're just being dramatic.

Can i get some advice on the difference between some HD premixed shellac and buying flakes and mixing my own?   How much difference is it likely to make?

I can type "shellac flakes" in google and get a bunch of people selling supplies, but if anyone has a supplier to recommended  i'd appreciate that too.

Thanks a lot,
Joe


Offline hackberry jake

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Re: Shellac
« Reply #1 on: February 09, 2013, 02:36:26 AM »
The only time I have used shellac was a spray on version. Right after I used it, it looked awesome and I was sold on shellac. Right after someone set the first cold can on it, it developed a white ring. Before you knew it there were 20 white ring marks. I think I'll stick to oil finishes and urethanes.
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Offline lowpolyjoe

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Re: Shellac
« Reply #2 on: February 09, 2013, 07:35:55 AM »
Yeah there are definite drawbacks to shellac.  Maybe not the safest topcoat for anything getting a lot of use or seeing any water.  I read it's easy to repair but have never tried.   Current project is speaker cabinets that should see very little physical abuse - except for the darn cat climbing on them and perhaps random stacks of clutter i'm prone to collecting  :).  A tabletop could be a tough sell for shellac.

I have to work in my garage and the wife gives me hell for any stink coming from my woodworking projects.  Shellac odor is much less offensive than some other finishes i've tried so that's a huge plus.  Tung oil is good like that too - until you cut it with turpentine :(   

Another issues is i don't have a spray setup.  I'm not sure how many other finishes are recommended to brush or wipe on.  I'm considering a spray setup (i have a thread around here somewhere) but this project has already gone over budget.

Offline Qweaver

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Re: Shellac
« Reply #3 on: February 09, 2013, 07:53:19 AM »
I use shellac all the time for interior wood work but only as a sanding/sealer.  I usually put 2 coats of lacquer over it.  I'm considering a coat of urethane for total waterproofing tho'
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Offline scsmith42

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Re: Shellac
« Reply #4 on: February 09, 2013, 11:08:51 AM »
I use shellac all the time for interior wood work but only as a sanding/sealer.  I usually put 2 coats of lacquer over it.  I'm considering a coat of urethane for total waterproofing tho'

What Quinton said.

I've used premix (Bullseye) as well as mixing my own, and find that my own mix is a better quality.  You can buy shellac flakes from Woodcraft; if you're going to topcoat with poly, lacquer or whatever be sure to buy dewaxed flakes.  Use a high quality solvent (Behlen Bekhol is pretty much the best one available), but in a pinch the regular Crown from Home Depot works ok.

Mixing is done by weight; usually I use a 2 lb cut (2 lbs of flakes to 1 gallon of solvent).  Plan on it taking at least 24 hours for the flakes to dissolve.  I only mix a pint to a quart at a time.

Shellac is a great choice for a first coat on highly figured woods, as it's clarity helps to pop the grain or curl.
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Offline Tree Feller

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Re: Shellac
« Reply #5 on: February 09, 2013, 02:19:39 PM »
While mixing your own shellac from flakes will render a fresher product, the pre-mixed versions are perfectly acceptable and are definitely not garbage. They are a 3 lb. cut.

Like scsmith wrote, if you plan on topcoating over it, you want to use dewaxed shellac. Zinnser markets their dewaxed shellac as "sealcoat." It will say dewaxed on the can. The regular Bullseye shellac is not dewaxed and top coats will not adhere well to it.

Shellac can be used as a stand-alone finish but I generally use it as a seal coat or as a barrier between non-compatible finishes. Just about any finish will adhere to shellac.
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Offline lowpolyjoe

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Re: Shellac
« Reply #6 on: February 09, 2013, 09:57:13 PM »
Thanks for the info guys.

Too bad about the dewaxed thing - i didn't realize that requirement for layering another topcoat on.  Out of curiousity, can you apply dewaxed over regular shellac and then apply another finish?

Glad to hear the premixed stuff is ok.  I'll probably stick with what i know for now. 

Offline jueston

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Re: Shellac
« Reply #7 on: February 09, 2013, 11:01:22 PM »
i thought this was interesting, far from conclusive, but interesting.


Offline SwampDonkey

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Re: Shellac
« Reply #8 on: February 10, 2013, 05:38:55 AM »
I've used probably a gallon of shellac the last year. I only use it on vertical standing projects, not table tops and chairs and things that wear. I have a long thread in here where I have used mostly shellac. I use linseed/turpentine on some areas instead where I want a smooth "softness" to the wood. I just used the Bullseye out of the can. Other than linseed oil, I'm too lazy to bother with any other method and never know how much I'll use.

Pre-commercial thinning pays off. :)

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Offline Dodgy Loner

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Re: Shellac
« Reply #9 on: February 12, 2013, 03:50:32 PM »
Too bad about the dewaxed thing - i didn't realize that requirement for layering another topcoat on.  Out of curiousity, can you apply dewaxed over regular shellac and then apply another finish?

Yes, of course. But you can use pretty much any finish over regular shellac - it does not need to be dewaxed. Water-based finishes are the only things that would be iffy, but I don't use them. The premixed stuff is perfectly acceptable. I've gotten bad shellac flakes that would not dissolve in alcohol, but I've never gotten a bad can of premixed shellac. Premixed is all I use any more. I prefer the stuff in a spray can, but I wish they sold it in orange shellac (ie, what Zinsser calls "amber"). All they sell in the spray can is sealcoat (a thin, dewaxed shellac) and blonde shellac (what they call "clear").

Shellac is a great finish but I almost never use it as the topcoat. I pretty much always finish it off with lacquer.
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Offline lowpolyjoe

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Re: Shellac
« Reply #10 on: February 12, 2013, 04:33:01 PM »
Thanks Dodgy Loner.    I would like the added protection of another topcoat finish but last time i tried something else i got nonstop hell about the stink coming from the garage for the next week   :-[      I think it was some sort of lacquer from Home Depot but i can't remember exactly what.

Pure Tung oil actually smells kind of nice, but the turps to cut it is pretty volatile stuff.  Also, that oil took forever to dry. 

If anyone has a relatively low-stink topcoat to recommend, that would be nice :)   

Temperature could be an issue too i suppose.  I'll be working in my cold garage (2car job inside a highranch / bilevel).  Not sure what the temperature swing is in there.  Don't think it ever hits freezing, but it's pretty cold.

I picked up some fresh Zinsser Clear this past weekend and hope to get to work with it by next weekend.

Offline Tree Feller

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Re: Shellac
« Reply #11 on: February 12, 2013, 04:38:34 PM »
But you can use pretty much any finish over regular shellac - it does not need to be dewaxed.

I would amend that to read any oil-based finish. I would not spray NC lacquer over regular shellac but then, I've mostly gone to water-borne "lacquer" anyway. As you noted, a waterborne finish over regular shellac is a definite no-no. It will crinkle. DAMHIKT   :embarassed:

Joe, I suggest that whatever finish you are using, you read the mfg's directions on the container and abide by them. Applying the finish to a test piece is a good practice, too. That way, any nasty surprises occur on scrap and not something you have put hours of work into.
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Offline Axe Handle Hound

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Re: Shellac
« Reply #12 on: February 12, 2013, 05:49:08 PM »
If anyone has a relatively low-stink topcoat to recommend, that would be nice :)   

Temperature could be an issue too i suppose.  I'll be working in my cold garage (2car job inside a highranch / bilevel).  Not sure what the temperature swing is in there.  Don't think it ever hits freezing, but it's pretty cold.

I use Minwax Polycrilic over my shellac base coats all the time.  Virtually no odor and no vapor induced high while using it.  It tends to dry fast so have your finishing plan worked out in your head before starting.

Offline lowpolyjoe

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Re: Shellac
« Reply #13 on: February 12, 2013, 05:58:59 PM »
you're right Tree Feller - i should defeinitely try on some scrap.  i've put a lot of time and money into my current project and would hate to screw it up.

I'll definitely look into the Minwax Polycrilic - thanks AHH

Offline Dodgy Loner

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Re: Shellac
« Reply #14 on: February 12, 2013, 06:33:27 PM »
Lacquer has nasty solvents, for sure. I always spray it outside. If I had to finish indoors, I would be looking for other options as well.
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Offline lowpolyjoe

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Re: Shellac
« Reply #15 on: February 21, 2013, 11:09:18 AM »
I'm having a hard time preventing drip ridges from accumulating on my project with the Home Depot shellac i've got.    I'm using it straight from the can with no additional cut.  On the second coat i was about as careful as i'm capable of being and i still got ridges built up along the bottom face of the cabinet (luckly not much anywhere else). 

Tree Feller said it's a 3lb cut - that's thick, right?  3lbs of flakes to 1gallon of alcohol or something like that?  I hear people who mix their own use 1lb or 2lb cuts.  If i dilute the stock mixture a bit, will it help at all to reduce these drip ridges?  Will i be able to apply a lighter coat with a thinner mixture?  This last coat i was keeping the brush pretty dry - felt like i was barely applying any finish at all, but still got some drips.  Can i do better with a thinner cut?

Also, i was thinking of a rule-of-thumb i heard a while back, but i couldn't remember which way it went: "thick over thin" or "thin over thick" or something like that?  Indicating the order you should apply thinner/thicker coats of finish.  Which way does it go?

Thanks for all the feedback so far.
Joe

Offline Dodgy Loner

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Re: Shellac
« Reply #16 on: February 21, 2013, 05:05:06 PM »
I like a 1.5-lb cut, so to get that, you would thin it using 50% shellac and 50% alcohol. Part of the problem is that you are using a brush. Try ragging it on instead. All of the coats should be thin, shellac does not have the surface tension of an oil-based finish, so it is prone to runs. Runs are not really problematic, though - let the shellac dry, then sand them out with a little 220 or 320-grit. Buff out the finish with a rag moistened with a little alcohol to get a beautiful sheen.

I'll go ahead and add here that I much prefer the spray-can shellac to brushing or ragging. Cleanup is easier and I find it very easy to get an even coat. You still have to be careful not to overdo it, because you can still get runs with the aerosol.
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Offline lowpolyjoe

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Re: Shellac
« Reply #17 on: February 21, 2013, 08:05:11 PM »
Funny - i had been wiping it on for my previous projects and just switched to a brush for this one.  I was using random rags previously and getting some lint  so i figured i'd try something different.  Since then i've heard brushing shellac is not the best idea  :D

That's several votes for spray-shellac too now... 

I will definitely try rubbing with a rag dampened with alcohol to see how that works out. 

Thanks for the advice.

Offline LeeB

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Re: Shellac
« Reply #18 on: February 22, 2013, 06:40:06 AM »
Careful when you rub, that you don't rub away the adjacent finish.
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Offline Schramm

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Re: Shellac
« Reply #19 on: February 22, 2013, 09:19:27 AM »
I use shellac almost exclusively on all my interior projects however I make my own.  The reason I make my own is I am able thicken and reduce the shellac by adding more or less DA.  I also do a lot of my projects using alkaline dyes mixed into my shellac which in my opinion can look much more authentic to an aged piece then simply staining.  Now keep in mind that shellac is interior only.

Another way where shellac can help you in a project is when you have multiple colors of wood and you want to make them uniform.  I take a furniture dye and spray a coat on the piece (dont worry it is translucent) this makes the entire piece look more uniform.  I then follow it with my dye (say dark walnut) in my shellac and that allows me a depth and richness that I cannot get with staining.  Shellac is not my finish coat though.  Normally I will follow it with either a low luster (less then satin in sheen) lacquer or simply apply 3-4 coats of furniture wax which also gives it a nice sheen.  Which way I top coat would depend on what the intent of the furniture is going to be.

In my opinion shellac has more uses then any other finishing product in your shop.  It also cut to a 1.5 cut is an awesome wood sealer, will keep sappy woods from causing any issues.

Rob

 


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