For more information on Finishes, see our beginner site Common Woodworking.
Here is the dovetailed box I did on YouTube; to show how to apply shellac with a brush. I am using an artist’s 1″ Hake brush, which I use for most of my finishing. For a more detailed article on shellac see my earlier blog from April 2011.
I think that we have been deceived into believing modern day finishes surpass shellac and that shellac simply doesn’t hold up like lacquers do. It’s not true. On the other hand, modern day lacquers that replaced shellac actually go gummy through contact with the oils from our human skin, and so it quickly deteriorates on pieces such as dining tables and the arms of armchairs. Shellac is the substance we use to achieve a French-polished surface. French polishing is the process, shellac the substance of the finish applied using the process of French polishing. Shellac’s main disadvantage is that it will not withstand alcohol spirit. Spill a drop of whisky onto a French polished table and it will dissolve the finish. For boxes, using shellac creates a wonderful and durable finish and I don’t really care too much about what any manufacturer or expert in finishing tells us.
I have used shellac as a finish for decades. I would not generally use it on dining tables, coffee tables or occasional tables. On beds, most chairs, chests and small projects. shellac is a great finish.