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Finishing Polish with Shellac

1286 Views 2 Replies 2 Participants Last post by  jkaras

I am new to finishing wood with shellac. I have a hardwood object that has lots of large sweeping curves. I have applied several brush coats of shellac using an abrasive pad between layers to keep the brush marks topped off. So it looks pretty good at this point but I am not sure how to treat the final layer as far as taking down the brush marks and bringing the finish to a nice streak free polished finish. How do I do this? What are the different steps used to achieve a gloss finish? What are the different steps used to achieve a satin finish? If I have to I would use a wax or oil to help with the finish, but I don't want the finish to have to be serviced too often.

Thank you in advance!
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Here is my procedure for a mirror shellac finish.

1. Brush on 3 to 5 coats of shellac. Lightly sand with fine sandpaper after the 1st coat. Then apply the rest of the coats.Let dry overnight. Porous wood like Oak will need a filler to fill up the pores.
2. Sand lightly with fine sandpaper until there are no glossy areas. I use a 2X Magnivisor and a bright light when doing this to REALLY see what the surface is like. (You are trying to fill in the pores/low spots with shellac and take off the high spots by sanding). If you sand through the finish, add more shellac coats and sand again. Do this until there are no pores/low spots that show gloss when sanding.
3. After sanding, burnish and polish the shellac surface beginning with with 00 grade steel wool. Finish up burnishing with finer 0000 grade steel wool.
4. Using a fine automotive paint polishing compound (not wax!), polish the shellac surface to a high gloss. Don't apply too much. Just a little bit and rub until the compound seems to be gone and keep rubbing. You'll get the hang of it.
5. Make sure the polished shellac surface is thoroughly clean, then apply some Johnson's paste wax. Buff until there is a mirror finish.

Note that this works will almost all finishes. And remember, the finish must be absolutely dry and HARD before sanding. I usually let my newly applied shellac dry overnight before sanding. Some other finishes are slower drying and can take two days to completely harden before beginning the sanding/polishing sequence.

"Satin" finishes don't need the polishing. the "satin" effect comes from a fine talc-like powder added to the finishing medium when it is manufactured. You buy "satin" finish varnish or "gloss" varnish at the store.

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Thank you for your thorough answer!
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