Finishing With Shellac – Enhancing Your Work

For more information on finishes, see our beginner site Common Woodworking.

We concluded the Tool Chest Build a few short months ago on the online instruction for woodworkers and it was a great success all round. Below is how it looked after we finished it using brushed-on shellac as a practical yet beautiful protective finish.

Finishing with shellac is very simple and effective and especially is this so if or when someone shows you how. I wanted to demystify this for you and you may not know that woodworking masterclasses posts all of the technique videos we make for free as online broadcast as often as they can. Anyway, to help you make an educated decision on finishing with shellac, we offer this video to get you started. I do hope that you enjoy it as much as I did making it.


  1. Informative and useful as always. I have only used shellac a little and this gives me a great deal to work with. I think that the best part was your finish, pardon the unintended pun, with an allowance for satisfaction in a job well done in your characteristically understated fashion. A quiet joy can be a tremendous thing to share.

  2. The shellac finish looks awesome. The Sapele grain that presented difficulties in the build process was well worth the end result. Stunning!

  3. Excellent instruction Paul. My past experiences with shellac have been poor, which means that I’ve only used it to protect shop drawer carcasses. However, your video gave me some great tips on how to apply it. And they’ve significantly increased the results I get from it as a finish. I’ll be using it much more in the future. Thank you for creating and posting this video!


    Denver, CO, USA

  4. Why are there blotches and globs after I use shallac? I use Zinnser. I sand the my pine boxes with 150 grit then 220 before I use the shallac. I use 2 coats. I sand with 220 after the 1st coat.

    1. Each coat dissolves the previous coats. Shellac is placed, pulled and left. You cant work it like say poly. If you go back and start brushing on it it pulls the whole mass. Its just technique.

      1. Thanks Paul. I’give that a try next time. Just finished a dovetail corner that’s 14 and a quarter tall. There’s a small crack though running maybe 5 or 6 inches down the side of one the panels. I’m guessing my dovetails were too tight?

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