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I am planning a bed/dresser combination w/ a bunch of birch plywood drawer boxes w/ 1" side lips and carved out front-scoops. I really want to use shellac, a finish I've never worked with before (I can hear the sighs from here!). I want shellac because its non-toxic, I can work with it inside w/ proper ventilation, and it looks great on birch.

From everything I read about shellac, it seems like finishing before assembly is a good option because shellac dries very fast and will be difficult to apply evenly inside the corners. But what about the dovetail areas? Will they look OK after I glue them up? Will I be able to "blend" them by padding on some alcohol, or is there something I'm missing here? I've never assembled a drawer box before. I am buying them pre-made.

Looking for any and all opinions and suggestions. Thank you
 

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Shellac can be applied prior to assembly and after assembly and you can plan on applying it a minimum of twice to all sides. Shellac is an excellent sealer and compatible for almost all other finishes. You can choose it for the final finish or come back with a top coat of something else. Birch plywood is an excellent choice for drawers. But I don't know if your drawers will be birch or not because you said your using pre-made drawers. I've never used pre-made drawer boxes, but it should really speed your project time.
 

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If you finish before assembly be sure to prevent the finish from getting on any place that will be glued. As far as shellac being non-toxic the alcohol solvent is more dangerous than the mineral spirits in polyurethane. Anyway it dissipates quicker so you don't notice it. Shellac is a finish that doesn't brush very well. Brushing it if you don't work fast you can remove as much finish as you are putting on because the alcohol will dissolve a dried finish. Once assembled you won't have any trouble blending the finish from the inside to the outside. Personally I would prefer to assemble everything, sand it and then finish last.
 

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I'd say prefinish if you can, just make sure to mask off any joinery, as getting finish on the joinery would interfere with the glue. You should be able to blend in the unfinished portions of the dovetails after assembly by just brushing some shellac on them, or alternately you could shellac over everything and just use epoxy for the glue up.

Also, I don't know how you plan on applying the shellac but if you're thinking brushing I'd recommend thinking something else. Fast drying as shellac is ive never had good results brushing it. Spraying is a much, much better option if you can manage it, and if you can I'd honestly recommend looking at a different finish
 
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