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

DSC_0017Rounding Up On Shellac

I was asked if the violet colourant makes a difference to the coat clarity or does it evaporate with the spirit as drying comes to completion. The answer is no. Even when wet and newly applied, the colour is not visible at all. I brushed the batch of shellac I just made two days ago from coloured meths and blonde, dewaxed shellac onto clear glass and could see no noticeable trace of colour at all, even when directly wet. So, even before the shellac has time to spirit off, the colour is imperceivable. This image with the arrow shows the glass placed over a piece of pine so you can see what I saw more directly.


Use a Reputable Supplier

Making your own shellac using a reputable supplier using known well tried sources results in a high quality product that can translate into twice as much finish as the stuff you buy ready made. My experience shows that the finish dries faster and I can brush on a heavier coat with a more even finish, which may be cause by surface tension as the evaporation of sprit takes place. I feel that I can create my own shellac products mixing lighter and heavier mixes to suit specific tasks, add colour if I want to and of course choose natural shellac in different shades from blond through amber to dar brown. I can make a clear or lighter coat to use as a sanding sealer, before applying a thicker brushing coat that allows flow-out for a smooth  or a traditional shellac for padding on using traditional French polishing techniques. I can adjust the weight for spraying with a high volume low pressure (HVLP) spray rig, which I especially like for speed and efficiency and a finished gloss coat that parallels French polishing but in a fraction of the time. After saying all of that I want to add a warning. I have bought shellac online from a no-known selling a no-name and found that it took days to dissolve and needed remedial work to remove globs of undesolved shellac even after a week of dissolving. The Liberon I used this week was dissolving within an hour and after 16 hours was completely dissolved with no need for straining at all.

These rounds have two coats of shellac. the one on the right was unsanded, on the left sanded. This is a 2.5# cut.DSC_0019DSC_0018

A Natural and Sustainable Resource

I like shellac because it seems so much more natural a resin than others. People scrunch their noses if, in answer to their asking where it comes from, I tell them that it is produced from product secreted by the lac beetle and that it’s generally extracted as a resin from what the larvae ingests from the leaves and stems of trees growing in parts of India and southeast Asia. It is not particularly costly, is very safe to use and its uses are as as diverse as you can imagine. If you have your fingernails painted, then the shiny results are most likely from the lacquer they use, which is shellac. The cosmetic, food and drug industries are the primary users of shellac, so if you pop a pill for health, eat shiny candy or almost any piece of fruit and some veggies such as peppers and cukes you are eating a waxy, shiny product mostly made from shellac.

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