Ok ok what do y’all think about shellac ?

John Brock

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If you buy pre-mixed shellac, check the date on the bottom of the can. If you not sure how old it is, put a few drops on a metal can lid and let it dry. If you can easily dent it with your fingernail, it's old and dump it. If it's still good, you'll probably want to cut the pre-mixed stuff between 1/3 and 1/2 by volume with alcohol.
If it's too thick when you apply it, it will leave bubbles in the surface because the alcohol flashes off so fast. Don't use shellac on a hot, dry day unless you're applying a thin "spit coat". Use a good quality brush and apply it slowly and evenly again to avoid brush bubbles. I have a favorite badger hair brush that works well.
Years ago, my finishing expert friend gave me some leveler drops to put in fresh shellac that breaks the surface tension to help with bubbles.
I haven't spotted that little jar since we moved.
Time to do a little digging...
 
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I use shellac quite a bit. I purchase the premixed can of sanding sealer. While its thin I put some in a bottle and thin it with alcohol, usually about 50/50 but I'm not exact with it. I use the thinner mix as a first coating. It penetrates better, dries faster and raises the grain enough which I sand back. Depending on what the final finish will be I will continue with a couple more coats of the thinned shellac before doing a couple coats of sanding sealer straight out of the can. Spray lacquer goes over the shellac quite nicely. If I want an oil finish I just use a couple coats of the thinned sanding sealer first. Another reason I like shellac is I like to turn birch. Using oil darkens the wood significantly but if I apply a couple coats of thinned sanding sealer first the birch will darken just a hair. This works on some other lighter woods too.
 

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If you buy pew-mixed shellac, check the date on the bottom of the can. If you not sure how old it is, put a few drops on a metal can lid and let it dry. If you can easily dent it with your fingernail, it's old and dump it. If it's still good, you'll probably want to cut the pre-mixed stuff between 1/3 and 1/2 by volume with alcohol.
If it's too thick when you apply it, it will leave bubbles in the surface because the alcohol flashes off so fast. Don't use shellac on a hot, dry day unless you're applying a thin "spit coat". Use a good quality brush and apply it slowly and evenly again to avoid brush bubbles. I have a favorite badger hair brush that works well.
Years ago, my finishing expert friend gave me some leveler drops to put in fresh shellac that breaks the surface tension to help with bubbles.
I haven't spotted that little jar since we moved.
Time to do a little digging...
John, how do you keep your brush fresh for the next use? Do you just clean it in alcohol? Use a new brush every time? I've been applying very thin sanding sealer with the lathe off using a paper towel, its thin enough to flow well before the alcohol flashes. I would rather use a brush but if using a new brush every time, well, that would just get expensive.
 

John Brock

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This brush is 25 years old. I clean it in alcohol, and occasionally wash it with Dawn to keep it in good condition. Even if it dries, shellac is an evaporative finish so alcohol will dissolve it completely.
I also always condition my brush in it’s thinner before using it. A dry brush never gets dipped in finish ever.
 

John Brock

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Another great use for shellac is a refinishing sealer. A spit coat will adhere to any clean surface finish and even seal in silicone and avoid orange peel.
 

barry richardson

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Tom Smart

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I've used a few cans of Zinsser shellac with mixed results, I guess I should try making small batches from flakes, main gripe is the shelf life of the cans once opened is not great. And as John said, even un opened cans will go bad after a while. Here is a helpful article about that:; https://www.popularwoodworking.com/...log/user-unfriendly-zinsser-bulls-eye-shellac
Barry, John thanks, this whole thread is educational. I've learned a bunch and it's not even noon.
 

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Where do you prefer to buy your shellac flakes at? How much do you mix at a time? What do you store it in, glass/plastic, jar/bottle?

I've been using the premixed sanding sealer (thinned dewaxed shellac) and still have half a can left but when its time to replenish it I wouldn't mind just mixing my own.
 

phinds

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Where do you prefer to buy your shellac flakes at? How much do you mix at a time? What do you store it in, glass/plastic, jar/bottle?

I've been using the premixed sanding sealer (thinned dewaxed shellac) and still have half a can left but when its time to replenish it I wouldn't mind just mixing my own.
Can't remember where I buy my flakes (and too lazy to go look in the back of the fridge where I keep the bag). I mix one cup at a time. Sometimes I'd rather mix a bit less but measuring the very light weight of the right amount of flakes is a bit tricky for a small amount of 1lb cut. I keep it in a totally opaque plastic container just sitting out on a shelf but I keep the flakes in the fridge.
 

John Brock

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I haven't bought any for years but Rockler and Woodcraft both carry flakes.
Amazon has boat-loads too.
I think I probably got my last bags of flakes from Garrett Wade. I don't see it on their site any more.

I always use glass pint jars. These are left-over wide-mouth pickle or salad dressing jars.
I like the salad dressing jars best because they have big plastic lids.

Depending on the projects, I usually mix up a half pint or so at a time so it's always fresh. If you store it in a cold place it will last longer and you might get 6 months out of it. If it's warm, it won't last more than 3-months.
Use a Sharpie and add an expiration date about three months out so you know when to toss or give it the thumbnail test.
I also put the color name on the lid, dark, blonde, orange, garnet. I usually use dark or blonde and always dewaxed.

Start mixing about a week before you'll need it. Break up the flakes so they dissolve faster.
Bring the jar in the house where it's warm and gently shake the jar a couple times a day until all the flakes are melted and mixed into the alcohol.
 
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V. Kelly Bellis

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Great thread - thanks for all of the information. Wish Paul Sellers had chimed in as he is also keen on using shellac and is how I came to be introduced to this traditional finish. I've just finished my first quart of the stuff and had started seriously looking into making some home brew from flakes, but saw no cost savings. A pound of flakes cost $30 + a quart of BEHLEN BEHKOL Shellac Solvent with shipping is $17, so doing a 2-pound cut would be more than twice the price of the Zinsser, not including the time and trouble of cheese cloth straining, etc. And FWIW, the Zinsser has been wonderful to work with once its brushed behavior was learned, sanding with 240 between coats and finishing it off with paste wax applied with 0000 steel wool. As for clean up, this is yet another reason for my newly found friendship with shellac, as less than a capful of Ajax with ammonia in 8 oz of water super cleans my brush without any trouble.
Ajax.jpg

Before I glue up this carcass for the 3-drawer low profile dresser top TV support case (making it because the TV is wider than our dresser), last night I finished off the last 6 ounces, or so, of my first quart of Zinsser with 2 coats on the inside faces (up to the glue line) and then this morning applied 1 coat of wax. The finished size of the 3-drawer case is 3.652" high x 47.75" long x 17.25" deep.

up-to-the-glue-line-IMG_20200426_110059.jpg
1-coat-of-wax-IMG_20200427_102117.jpg

inside-finish-IMG_20200427_133222.jpg

I haven't written off making shellac from flakes, particularly am interested at some point exploring making black shellac, but for now am pretty happy with the Zinsser.
 
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