Hope Chest for Daughter #2 #24: Padding Shellac

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Blog entry by Mainiac Matt posted 03-07-2017 02:13 PM 1334 reads 0 times favorited 3 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 23: Interior done finish started Part 24 of Hope Chest for Daughter #2 series Part 25: Mission lacquer count down... »

Some people have expressed interest in the shellac finish I’m using…. Here’s a write up on how I do it, which I learned from Peter Gedrys. You can see some of his amazing work here

Here’s the finished front (in really bad light)

Here’s the top with just one coat on it.

Go to minute 25 in Peter’s finishing seminar video to learn this from the master.

Here’s the routine, as I’m doing it.

I sand through the grits on the RO jitterbug… 120-150-180-220. Then I vacuum, then I blow off with air (amazing how much dust is still left in grain and pours). The I wipe down with a clean white cotton rag wetted liberally with lacquer thinner (even more dust comes up).

First off, you definitely want to wear Nitrile gloves, as they shellac gets sticky. I wipe my fingers with an old cotton diaper damp with alcohol when needed.

Make a shellac pad by cutting ~18” x18” of cheese clothe and fold into a palm size, smooth thick pad. The cut a ~8” x 8” square of clean, tight weave, cotton clothe (or linen). Wet the cheese clothe pad with denatured alcohol and wrap cloth around it like a rag doll head. Then squeeze out the alcohol. Now your ready to roll. open up the clothe and dip the pad into the shellac. I’m dipping right into the can of 2# cut blonde shellac (Zinser) and then wrap the outer clothe around the inner ball (note… you unwrap and dip the inner ball, don’t just dip the whole thing, as that won’t soak it up and fully charge the pad).

Start wiping it on with a circular or figure 8 motion, maintaining constant contact between the pad and the surface. Start with zero pressure and as the shellac in the pad is consumed, start to apply pressure to squeeze out more. There’s a feel to this…. not to wet, not too dry…. but just experiment and you’ll quickly pick it up.

The best part is that it’s very forgiving, as the next coat can re-dissolve the previous coat and flatten out any wiping marks. Put on a thin coat and after ~30 min, your ready for the next one. I’m putting on 4 thin coats (the photo of the top above is only one coat). When your done, put your pad in a plastic zip lock bag, or a small plastic container, and you can re-use it again and again. Just recharge it with alcohol and it’s ready to roll.

I used a #12 sable artist brush for the detail work around the raised panels and it worked very well.

I let the third coat dry over night and then wipe any residual dust with the same damp rag (wetted with lacquer thinner, which appears to have no affect on the shellac finish at all). And then put the 4th coat on. I don’t get the uniform gloss until the 4th coat.

I intend to put on a coat of satin spray… probably rattle can lacquer… when I’m done, as my daughter doesn’t want a gloss finish (she thinks gloss looks fake, like melamine covered particle board).

The shellac will build a glossy sheen. They say you can rub this out with an abrasive pad to dull it back down to satin, but that sounded a little intimidating to me. I like easy.

-- Matt -- I yam what I yam and that's all what I yam

3 comments so far

View Roger's profile


21030 posts in 3415 days

#1 posted 03-08-2017 12:41 AM

Looking very good. Thnx for the link also

-- Roger from KY. Work/Play/Travel Safe. Keep your dust collector fed. [email protected]

View Don Broussard's profile

Don Broussard

3849 posts in 2862 days

#2 posted 03-08-2017 01:29 AM

Matt—Good write up on the padding shellac process/technique. I haven’t used shellac before but this technique looks like something I can use when I need a nice finish. Nice work on the hope chest.

-- People say I hammer like lightning. It's not that I'm fast -- it's that I never hit the same place twice!

View Mean_Dean's profile


7017 posts in 3758 days

#3 posted 03-08-2017 09:37 PM

Thanks for showing how you’re padding out the shellac—sounds a little like French Polishing.

You’re right that shellac is pretty forgiving—you can just sand out any mistakes, and then the next coat blends in with the previous one, thus completely removing the mistake.

Knocking the sheen down can be a challenge, though. I’ve had decent luck with #0000 steel wool, though you’ve got to really watch how it’s going, so that you can get a consistent look. So it can be some tedious work.

Good luck, and keep up the good work!

-- Dean -- "Don't give up the ship -- fight her 'till she sinks!" Capt James Lawrence USN

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