Blanket Chest #12: First Time Brushing Amber Shellac

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Blog entry by HappyHowie posted 12-23-2015 03:53 PM 2319 reads 0 times favorited 3 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 11: Brian Miller on Finish Brush Techniques Part 12 of Blanket Chest series Part 13: Taken Back »

Experience can never displace book learning, can it?

I tried to prepare myself by watching others brush on Shellac on YouTube, etc. The professionals make it look easy, but their eye and hand coordination and feel really cannot be taught on a video. It has to be experienced, I’m sure.

For my first time brushing Shellac, I assume I got a passing grade. Perfection, though, does not come right out the gate, on the first try does it?

I also suspect that the yellow tint I got was enhanced by my application of Zinsser’s sanding sealer, the dewaxed Shellac. Also now I understand why some have stated they prefer 1 1/2 pound cut when they brush. I wonder if I had a second brush to go to would that also have helped me to keep the application thin? There were a lot of surfaces to cover. As time passed it seemed it was becoming more difficult to lay a thin wet layer of Shellac with this loaded brush. Was my brush becoming tacky itself? Could this be true? Or, am I just imagining it?

Amber Shellac on Wormy Maple treated first with Zinsser’s Sanding Sealer
The Lid

The Case and Plinth

Note: After reviewing these posted photographs they do not seem to show as much yellow as I recall they had attained.

I did not have too much trouble with the edges. I was watching for runs. I did have some, but I kept a rag handy to wipe them off. I understand now why the pros do not touch the edges after just loading up the brush. Its too full of Shellac and it will run down the edge when it is this full..

I can be happy with this tint. I suspect it may get darker with additional coats.

Of course, I can change the tint with dye. I picked up some TransTint reddish brown yesterday at Woodcraft when I went there to buy my Shellac brush. I have a scrap or test piece of wormy maple that I brushed with this amber Shellac. I did this so I could determine how the tint will change with additional coats as well as to test if I added a few drops of reddish brown dye to the Shellac.

I watched a video of a guy that demonstrated his French polishing technique. He applied Shellac to a blondish color hardwood. His French polish application resulted in a very nice yellow tinted, high gloss finish.

I wonder if I tried a rubbing technique next if it would help smooth out the few spots that I touched with my brush when it was too tacky to do so. I will take a look at Black Cherry’s rubbing technique as suggested in a previous comment. I wonder if using it would help me fix some of this first coat issues.

Here is a link to his video.
How to French Polish 37:14 min

-- --- Happy Howie

3 comments so far

View Bobsboxes's profile


1405 posts in 3273 days

#1 posted 12-23-2015 04:52 PM

I have been following your post on this chest. I also have a large stack of ambrosia maple, that will be chests. The leaning curve is steep, for me on finishing large pieces. Keep posting, and finishing.

-- Bob in Montana. Kindness is the Language the blind can see and deaf can hear. - Mark Twain

View pintodeluxe's profile


6040 posts in 3423 days

#2 posted 12-23-2015 05:04 PM

The amber shellac will give it a yellow tone. Clear shellac imparts almost no color to maple or poplar. It really just depends on what look you are after.
Nice project build.

These poplar drawers were sprayed with clear shellac, and really didn’t change color at all.

-- Willie, Washington "If You Choose Not To Decide, You Still Have Made a Choice" - Rush

View gfadvm's profile


14940 posts in 3300 days

#3 posted 12-24-2015 12:57 AM

The amber shellac looks best on pine IMHO. I use the blonde like Pinto showed for all my rubbed on shellac finishes. Don’t hesitate to sand your brush marks/errors with some 220-320 grit before doing the polish/rub technique. Once you try this, I’ll be very surprised if you ever pick up a brush again. I use 1:1 dilution of Zinsser shellac:denatured alcohol for polishing with the occasional drop of mineral oil.

-- " I'll try to be nicer, if you'll try to be smarter" gfadvm

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