Things I've learned about shellac... - Woodworking Talk - Woodworkers Forum
 
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post #1 of 13 Old 02-28-2009, 03:28 AM Thread Starter
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Things I've learned about shellac...

The wife inherited a walnut and cedar chest that belonged to her great-grandmother. This once beautiful piece had spent more than a decade sitting in a storage shed in Florida's climate of high humidity, heat and sudden cold spells. The temperatures in the shed ranged from over 110 to 35. This had ruined the original finish and she asked me to try to make it look nice again. (The first photo is a portion of the damage on the chest before I started the repair.) However, she did not want me to use my normal methods of sanding and refinishing with clear polyurethane. She wanted it to be as close to the original as I could make it. So I started doing some research and learned all I could about the original finish.

After testing several different solvents, I learned that the finish was shellac. So I carefully took all the hinges, lock, and lid supports off and began stripping the old shellac. It turns out that this step is extremely easy. Just apply liberal amounts of denatured alcohol using #1 steel wool and the shellac just dissolves away. A piece of cheese cloth that has been dampened with more alcohol is used to wipe the surface down after the finish is softened, leaving a glass smooth surface.

Once I had removed the old finish, tightened up all the joints in the wood, and polished all the hardware, I got my spray gun out and was ready to start spraying some shellac. I used amber shellac that I bought for under $10.00 a quart at Lowe's just because I was in a hurry and didn't want to wait for flakes to be shipped to me.

I spent two days getting the unit ready to be finished, and another two days applying the five coats of new shellac. The second picture shows the finished piece. The blob like things on the side of the chest really aren't on the chest. Its a reflection of the bedspread.

The third photo shows more of the chest.

All that is left to completely finish the job is to rub out the final coat and add the paste wax for some protection on top. The wife is very pleased, and I'm also pretty surprised by the outcome since I'd never used shellac for anything before.

So what have I learned?

First... Whenever the wife starts a sentence with the words... "Can you"...... RUN!!!!!
Second... Shellac is one of the easiest finishes that I've ever tried to remove from anything.
Third... Its easier to apply than anything else I ever applied to anything. You don't even have to sand between coats!
Fourth... Since its safe for small children (heck they even have a special shellac that is used to coat pills, and candies), I'll be using it more when I make things for the little tykes in my family.

If you have trouble viewing the photos, I invite you to browse through the album that I've posted to the site.

If Woodworking is so much fun why isn't it called WoodFUNNING?

I've made a few videos
http://www.youtube.com/user/johnnie52

Last edited by johnnie52; 06-23-2013 at 01:26 AM.
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post #2 of 13 Old 02-28-2009, 08:04 AM
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Great looking chest, and you did a really nice job in refinishing. I agree with you, that shellac is very easy to work with...quick too. FWIW, I don't wax finishes that may need future repair or refinishing.






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post #3 of 13 Old 02-28-2009, 02:23 PM Thread Starter
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It all depends on how the final rub out looks whether or not I'll wax it. I messed up and brought it inside before the shellac had fully cured and our cat sat on it and left little paw prints that I need to remove. Darn cat! One day I'm going to have one of those flashbacks of Vietnam and eat that animal!

If Woodworking is so much fun why isn't it called WoodFUNNING?

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post #4 of 13 Old 02-28-2009, 03:46 PM
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Johnie,
Nice job on the chest and good explanation. Looks great.
Mike Hawkins
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post #5 of 13 Old 03-02-2009, 01:56 PM
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Yeah, shellac can be "re-charged" just by rubbing it out with alcohol. This is what they used for a "french polish". You probably didn't need to go to all the trouble of stripping this piece (unless you needed to sand it) you could have just done a rubout with a newly charged shellac pad. That is, a soft cloth or cheese cloth wadded into a ball like pad dipped in thinned shellac and rubbed in tight circles to even out the shellac. This will yield a high gloss finish that looks very nice.
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post #6 of 13 Old 03-06-2009, 06:38 AM
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Would you recommend shellac for cabinets in a mudroom?
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post #7 of 13 Old 03-06-2009, 07:33 AM
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How many beetles does it take to make one quart of shellac?

G
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post #8 of 13 Old 03-07-2009, 02:34 AM Thread Starter
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I would not use shellac in a mud room. I'd use polyurethane because of the kind of abuse that anything in a mud room gets.

As for as how many beetles it takes to make shellac..... you'd have to ask the people who collect the stuff in Thailand. I'm sure its more than a few.

If Woodworking is so much fun why isn't it called WoodFUNNING?

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post #9 of 13 Old 03-11-2009, 04:31 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by johnnie52 View Post
I would not use shellac in a mud room. I'd use polyurethane because of the kind of abuse that anything in a mud room gets.

As for as how many beetles it takes to make shellac..... you'd have to ask the people who collect the stuff in Thailand. I'm sure its more than a few.
Legal Disclaimer: "No beetles were killed in the making of this product."

(It is their 'by-product' - spit, I think.) But it takes a gazillion of them.
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post #10 of 13 Old 03-11-2009, 04:53 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by WDChew View Post
Legal Disclaimer: "No beetles were killed in the making of this product."

(It is their 'by-product' - spit, I think.) But it takes a gazillion of them.

i believe i read that it takes 1.5 million to produce 1 pound
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post #11 of 13 Old 03-11-2009, 07:25 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tom5151 View Post
i believe i read that it takes 1.5 million to produce 1 pound
Well, unless my math is off, 1.5 million for 1lb equates to a gazillion per month.
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post #12 of 13 Old 03-12-2009, 01:02 AM
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its bettle ummmmm.... droppings, enjoy :)
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post #13 of 13 Old 03-12-2009, 02:18 AM Thread Starter
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Its not exactly droppings either. Its some kind of goop that they excrete when they are laying their eggs to hatch their babies. Sortta like honey, only not as sweet. Heck the stuff they turn into finish has denatured alcohol in it, but they make a different kind using the same beetle goop and a different kind of alcohol as a coating on things like M&M's, Reese's pieces, and coated pills (like aspirin). So it is at least edible if a toddler decides to chew on it after the alcohol evaporates. Not that I'd really want to....

If Woodworking is so much fun why isn't it called WoodFUNNING?

I've made a few videos
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