water based stain - poly - over dewaxed shellac

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Forum topic by lepelerin posted 03-10-2014 05:38 PM 6023 views 0 times favorited 13 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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498 posts in 3658 days

03-10-2014 05:38 PM

Topic tags/keywords: resource question trick cherry walnut finishing sealing shellac water based stain arm-n-seal


I would like to know if I can use dewaxed shellac under a water based stain on blotchy prone wood.
I’ve read contradictory advice, yes you can and no you cannot.

What is the deal?

I would like to get Charles Neil product but to get that in Canada, it would cost me approx $60 which is out of my budget at the moment. Not CN fault at all. I can get dewaxed shellac for $10.

My plan is to use dewaxed shellac as a “sealer” and apply water based stain and Arm-N-Seal.

So if I “seal” the wood with dewaxed shellac can I use water based stain on top of it.

Thank you for your advice.

The wood I plan to stain is walnut and cherry.


13 replies so far

View jmos's profile


918 posts in 3703 days

#1 posted 03-10-2014 08:53 PM

I’m sure you’ll get more authoritative answers than mine, but dewaxed shellac is compatible with pretty much everything; you can use a water based finish or stain on top of it.

Depending on the cut of shellac you will seal off the wood to greater degrees. If you use a very thin cut (say 1/2lb to 1lb) you should still get some absorption of stain into the wood, it will just limit the penetration and help control blotching. If you use a fairly heavy cut (2lb+) the stain will be more of a glaze, sitting on top of the shellac and not penetrating the wood very much (which isn’t always a bad thing.)

I’d say try it on a few test boards and see if you like the results; vary the cut and see how the stain looks.

-- John

View Earlextech's profile


1164 posts in 4024 days

#2 posted 03-10-2014 09:17 PM

I use 1lb cut dewaxed under my waterborn stain and top coat. Test on a scrap until you know you’ll get the penetration you want from the stain. Too thick sealcoat and you wont get enough penetration. This is a technique that needs to be practiced before application.

-- Sam Hamory - The project is never finished until its "Finished"!

View SCOTSMAN's profile


5849 posts in 4919 days

#3 posted 03-10-2014 09:18 PM

A good idea with testing first. Let us know what happens please, as I am interested in the results of this too..My understanding is it should work ok. Alistair

-- excuse my typing as I have a form of parkinsons disease

View TheDane's profile


6029 posts in 4996 days

#4 posted 03-10-2014 09:24 PM

In general, shellac can go under any finish or over any finish.

-- Gerry -- "I don't plan to ever really grow up ... I'm just going to learn how to act in public!"

View lepelerin's profile


498 posts in 3658 days

#5 posted 03-10-2014 09:42 PM

Excellent news, thank you. This is what I thought that dewaxed shellac could be applied under and over virtually anything.
In “Wood finishing” by Joe Lerario” it says does not use any water based products over shellac. so his advice is completely wrong.
I just got the Bob Flexner “Wood finishing 101” at my library (the only book about finishing that they carry!) and it seems a decent book for a total noob like me about finishing. I wished they had “Understanding wood finishing” by B. Flexner or “Finishing Simply put” by Charles Neil but nope and they won’t order them. There is no demand for such books they told me. What did I just ask them!

Thanks for the advice. I will try on scrap pieces before.

View Fred Hargis's profile

Fred Hargis

7354 posts in 3827 days

#6 posted 03-10-2014 09:48 PM

The dewaxed part is only important to anything with urethane resins in it (oil based) or some water borne. The urethane resins inhibit adhesion, combine that with waxy shellac and it can (or not) be a problem. Lerario’s advice is probably referring to that circumstance. But dewaxed is safe under anything, including urethanes and water borne.

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

View CharlesNeil's profile


2501 posts in 5204 days

#7 posted 03-10-2014 09:49 PM

I just saw this, I understand about the cost, , it typically cost about 16.00 per qt to ship to Canada, and we have a concentrate that makes 2 qts.,HOWEVER, Tell me what wood your using and we may be able to find a solution, The shellac does work, used it for years, the issue is the “cut” and color retention, the frustration of it is what caused me to invent the Blotch control, but on some woods you can ” skate by ” with other means .. Glad to help if I can .

View upinflames's profile


217 posts in 3495 days

#8 posted 03-10-2014 11:48 PM

If you have the water based poly, just thin it down at around 75% water and 25% poly and lookie here, you have wood conditioner. You might play with the ratio to get the stain to penetrate to your liking.

View Gerald Thompson's profile

Gerald Thompson

1309 posts in 3568 days

#9 posted 03-11-2014 12:08 AM

I love CN’s Blotch Control. In the past and at times now I will make a sizing from hide glue, e.g., watery. I wipe this on and let it dry 24 hours and the dyes/stains go on evenly on pine, fir, etc. It even makes end grain absorb the color the same. I am looking at a fire place shelf made fro fir and the end grain and all of the other areas are the same.

-- Jerry

View lepelerin's profile


498 posts in 3658 days

#10 posted 03-11-2014 03:11 AM

@ CharlesNeil: My plan is to use Amber dye from General finishes and a top coat of Arm-N-Seal
I will be using the stain and A-n-S on Walnut, Cherry, beech and birch.
I would like to make the grain of walnut stand out.

My plan is to give a light coat of shellac, thinly cut, let it dry very well and lightly sand it with 400-600. Then apply the stain, lightly sand it, see if I want another coat of stain, if yes sand it again and topcoat with A-n-S.

Anything wrong in my plan?
PS: I asked Lee Valley to import your product in Canada, I hope they will.
Thank you

View CharlesNeil's profile


2501 posts in 5204 days

#11 posted 03-11-2014 02:04 PM

I think you will be fine, the issue is to get the cut of the shellac right, or any thing else, thats the tough part,. so yo uhave to test to be sure. My issue was it seemed when I had the cut working on one pieces of wood it was either too heavy or too light on another, I always used it from 1/4 lb cut to 1/2 lb cut, but again you have to test.

I have never used the Hide glue sizing, except for a veneer treatment, to stabilize a unruly veneer, but it may work. Again the issue is getting the ratio correct…

View Tony1212's profile


657 posts in 3068 days

#12 posted 03-11-2014 02:22 PM

Last summer I did a full wall of built in cabinets and a kitchen table from BB ply and maple (rather light woods). Here was my finishing schedule:

- Waterbased Dye to a dark reddish brown (I was trying for cherry, but I think I hit mahogany. Still looks pretty good)
- Zinsser Seal Coat Dewaxed Shellac
- Varathane Gel stain to darken the color even more
- Dewaxed Shellac
- 3 coats Water Based poly

I think it turned out pretty well. I put up a project here. My wife loves it and wants me to do the rest of the kitchen cabinets the same way.

-- Tony, SW Chicago Suburbs

View lepelerin's profile


498 posts in 3658 days

#13 posted 03-11-2014 06:04 PM

Thank you all for the answers and advice. I will definitively try on a scrap piece of wood before doing it on the final project.
I really appreciate your help.

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