Anyone using shellac these days

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Forum topic by GoPhillies posted 11-02-2011 08:42 PM 2279 views 1 time favorited 24 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View GoPhillies's profile


45 posts in 3227 days

11-02-2011 08:42 PM

Topic tags/keywords: shellac finish

I decided to use a shellac finish on a recent project (jewelery box) and the results halfway through (without sounding like I am patting myself on the back) have been great. I think shellac might become my go to finish on projects that do not need a super durable top coat. The coats dry in about an hour which allows me to place 5-6 coats in a single day. I sand with 400 grit between coats and after 6 coats the surface is smooth as glass. Topped it all off with a coat of wax. Really worked out well so far. Wonder why this isn’t more popular or is it just the durability thing???

24 replies so far

View richgreer's profile


4541 posts in 3633 days

#1 posted 11-02-2011 08:46 PM

In the past I have only used Shellac when I was in a hurry, because it dries so fast.

However, Tommy Mac (from Rough Cut) has me convinced that I should consider Shellac on some of my finer projects (jewelry boxes and things like that). I will soon be experimenting with Shellac from flakes.

-- Rich, Cedar Rapids, IA - I'm a woodworker. I don't create beauty, I reveal it.

View Fred Hargis's profile

Fred Hargis

5832 posts in 3052 days

#2 posted 11-02-2011 08:49 PM

I use shellac frequently…and would use it more if wasn’t so hard to apply. Right now I can pad it on (I can also do a French Polish) or I can spray it. But put a brush and a jar of shellac in my hand and I can ruin something much more quickly than I can with almost any other finish. With the padding technique, it’s very hard to apply finish into corners and nook/crannys on moldings and other details. Spraying solves that but I typically only spray larger projects. Besides, shellac isn’t durable enough for a lot of stuff; but it is a lot more durable than most folks think, and it’s so easy to repair.

-- Our village hasn't lost it's idiot, he was elected to congress.

View PurpLev's profile


8553 posts in 4207 days

#3 posted 11-02-2011 09:08 PM

yes, unless I need a hard protective finish for something that sees constant use shellac is great! and dries super fast that I can apply multiple coats in a matter of a day or 2.

-- ㊍ When in doubt - There is no doubt - Go the safer route.

View Richard's profile


1932 posts in 3249 days

#4 posted 11-02-2011 09:13 PM

I like shellac because it dries very fast and is easy to sand and get several coats on in a day and as you found out it gives a very smooth surface that has a good gloss but dosen’t look like plastic like moost of the poly does. I don’t think it would be as good as poly for a surface like a table or something that is going to get a lot heavy use, but for the jewerly boxes and other things like bookshelves and lamps Etc. it is very nice and also is cheaper that most of the poly finishes. I havent done a lot of finishing but I have not had the problems with useing a brush with shellac, but I mostly use the foam brushs if I need to get into a lot corners.

View dbray45's profile


3320 posts in 3335 days

#5 posted 11-02-2011 09:21 PM

I use it

-- David in Damascus, MD

View tr33surg3on's profile


21 posts in 2983 days

#6 posted 11-02-2011 09:26 PM

Not that I have experience with any other finish, but I’ve been using it because the fumes aren’t bad at all. I’m using dewaxed shellac, so it should be compatible with many harder finishes on top (Specifically, I’m looking at a water-based urethane varnish and the shellac layer should fill the pores and help a bit with grain raising).

I actually am using a brush with good results, but I hear the key is to use a good brush to get very thin coats and to not brush more than one pass until it dries. Mine’s a natural squirrel brush from an artist’s supply store, so I probably paid more for it way back when than I paid for some of my chisels. Cleans up with high-octane booze too. One other tip is I work from small jars so water and congealed bits don’t get in to the main batch, which would make it cloudy and require straining. Also stirring and anything that could cause bubbles is to be avoided.

-- Tim -- Tools to make tools to's tools all the way down.

View NBeener's profile


4816 posts in 3732 days

#7 posted 11-02-2011 10:47 PM

Scott Phillips—“American Woodworker.”

His blood type is (spray) Shellac +

-- -- Neil

View Jonathan's profile


2609 posts in 3609 days

#8 posted 11-03-2011 03:03 AM

I think there is certainly a learning curve associated with using shellac successfully, just like everything else. The rapid drying time of shellac is a bit less forgiving, but it can be feathered out/removed afterward with denatured alcohol. It isn’t as durable as some of the more modern finishes, but it’s so easy to repair that for things not getting a lot of use, it can be a great finish.

-- Jonathan, Denver, CO "Constructive criticism is welcome and valued as it gives me new perspectives and helps me to advance as a woodworker."

View blackcherry's profile


3343 posts in 4381 days

#9 posted 11-03-2011 03:18 AM

French polishing is a wonderful finish but take a bit of practice but once you get it you’ll be hook…Blkcherry

View Ripthorn's profile


1459 posts in 3543 days

#10 posted 11-03-2011 03:27 AM

I recently did my first shellac finish and fell in love with it. It’s not the only one I use, but I don’t shy away if I think it will work (pardon the photo size)

-- Brian T. - Exact science is not an exact science

View Alongiron's profile


654 posts in 3252 days

#11 posted 11-03-2011 03:32 AM

I use shellac on all my arts and craft period projects. 2 quick coats within 15 minutes of each other…Let that dry over night…Lightly sand with double aut (0000) steelwool followed by one more coat of Shellac….lightly sand one more time…2 coats of wax and I am good to go

-- Measure twice and cut once.....sneak up on it! Steve Lien

View William's profile


9950 posts in 3401 days

#12 posted 11-03-2011 03:33 AM

I use more shellac than any other finish. I love the stuff.
I used to have application issues as others have suggested. A friend (SuperDave, a fellow lumberjock) suggested something for me to try. I got a quart of Zinsser clear shellac. I cut it down with a quart of denatured alcohol. Yes, I know the can says not to thin it, but I do it anyway. This makes it quite a bit thinner, but it dries a little slower and with a smoother finish. Since I started cutting it down this way, it is by far my favorite finish.
I have to admit though, I recently tried brushable laquer on a project, and with some practice, this may give shellac a run for its money as my favorite.


View a1Jim's profile


117781 posts in 4135 days

#13 posted 11-03-2011 03:39 AM

I think shellac has it’s uses but it does not have very good protection against moisture so I don’t think it’s a good finish for large projects, even though it was used on many classic furniture pieces from days gone by, but there choices of finishes in the 19th centry and before was very limited. But Shellac does have it’s positive attributes that includes: it’s easy to use and apply plus it’s quick drying and the fact that almost any other finish will adhere to it makes it a great tool to use when you need to apply a different finish over an existing finish that other wise would not be compatible. I think Tommy Mc Donald uses shellac because he does not have a good working knowledge of finishing. At least that’s what he has stated in the past ,I’m guessing the same is true with Scott Philips.

View William's profile


9950 posts in 3401 days

#14 posted 11-03-2011 03:47 AM

You know what A1Jim, you just made me realize WHY I like shellac so much. You hit the nail on the head.
I, like the other example you stated, do not have a good working knowledge of finishes. I like shellac because it is easy to me. Most of the finishes I try besides shellac wind up turning into a lesson in what NOT to do while I unwillingly start sanding my @$$ off trying to remove the mess I’ve made. I am getting better with some finishes (I recently used poly on a project almost successfully). If I want something to turn out nice though, I know I can go to my trusted shellac.


View a1Jim's profile


117781 posts in 4135 days

#15 posted 11-03-2011 06:23 AM

Your not alone William. If shellac works for you great There are worse finishes out there.

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