waterlox and shellac fix

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Forum topic by scoutb posted 08-17-2018 03:15 PM 1156 views 0 times favorited 6 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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3 posts in 2253 days

08-17-2018 03:15 PM

I goofed and I do not have the knowledge base to fix this. I made a maple bathroom cabinet. To match it to the color and tone of the woodwork in the rest of our 1920’s house I used Zinsser Bullseye amber shellac, waited 24hrs, then I put a coat of dewaxed shellac (Zinsser Sealcoat) over it in preparation for using Waterlox Original to protect it from the humidity in the bathroom. Well at least that is what I thought I did, I’ve since realized that the can I grabber out of the basement wasn’t dewaxed shellac, it was just regular Zinsser clear shellac. I’m pretty certain that was my major oops. The first coat of Waterlox went on beautifully and dried smooth. I breather a sigh of relief. 24 hrs later, the second coat of Waterlox did not go so well. It gave the surface an alligator skin texture. For all the finishes I waited at least 24 hours between every coat. So I have a couple of questions. 1) Am I correct that it was probably my putting the Waterlox over the regular clear shellac that is the cause of my problem here? 2) If so, why did the first coat of Waterlox not react with the shellac and cause alligator skin but the second coat did? 3) And the big question now, how do I fix it now? I tried sanding the damaged surface with 320 and 400 grit and then sealing with a thin coat of the dewaxed shellac this morning but that also resulted in an alligator skin texture. In order to use the Waterlox as a final coat am I going to have to strip this and start again?

So far the damage is limited to one not readily viewed side of the cabinet.
Thanks for your help and knowledge

6 replies so far

View johnstoneb's profile


3145 posts in 2950 days

#1 posted 08-17-2018 03:28 PM

something contaminated the first coat of water lox after you applied it. The shellac had nothing to do with it. That said it was unnecessary to put on a second coat of shellac. You will need to sand backto bare wood reapply the amber shellac and go from there. And try to figure out what happened after the first coat of waterlox.

-- Bruce, Boise, ID

View bondogaposis's profile


5791 posts in 3128 days

#2 posted 08-17-2018 04:37 PM

I wouldn’t use any shellac that isn’t de-waxed unless it is the top coat. The fix, I’m afraid, is to sand it back to bare wood and start over.

-- Bondo Gaposis

View Aj2's profile


3090 posts in 2575 days

#3 posted 08-17-2018 05:10 PM

I would try to lift the shellac with the water lox together.
Lots of rags,neoprene gloves and good ventilation with a very wet rag of denatured alcohol.
If you try my suggestion don’t breathe the fumes or flood your hands it’s very bad for your health.
Good luck

-- Aj

View JAAune's profile


1880 posts in 3094 days

#4 posted 08-17-2018 06:53 PM

I’d recommend the same as Aj2. The base coat of shellac should soften and the topcoat of Waterlox will come off when that happens.

-- See my work at and

View OSU55's profile


2648 posts in 2767 days

#5 posted 08-17-2018 08:00 PM

Yep It needs to be stripped, and dna will do it – dont breathe the fumes. Scotchbrite or steel wool instead of rags will strip the finish much quicker. Lite sanding to prep. If you want more color than the waterlox apply dye (the top liquid part of ob stains is dye) or mix it into the waterlox. WD Lockwood has ob powdered dyes.

View TungOil's profile


1382 posts in 1272 days

#6 posted 08-18-2018 02:57 AM

I agree with aj, strip with alcohol back to wood. Next time skip the shellac and go straight to Waterlox Original. It has a very Amber color already you probably won’t need any additional color. If you want a different sheen still build your base with original then switch to the final sheen for the last few coats. Apply it very thin.

-- The optimist says "the glass is half full". The pessimist says "the glass is half empty". The engineer says "the glass is twice as big as it needs to be"

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