Question On Homemade Shellac

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Forum topic by Lemos posted 10-29-2014 03:41 PM 1581 views 0 times favorited 15 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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5 posts in 1755 days

10-29-2014 03:41 PM

Topic tags/keywords: homemade shellac percussion drum instrument woodworking

My Question: Brand new to the whole woodworking work- never tackled a project on my own, until 3 weeks ago, when I chopped a chunk out of a tree in my yard, and now attempting to make a slit drum out of it. My plans after sanding it down are using a homemade wood finish out of freshly picked leaves, and rain water, (letting the plants sit in the liquid for an extended period of time.) The next move will be to cover it with some homemade shellac, and this is where I am kind of ‘stumped.’ I know I can just order some shellac flakes and let them dissolve in denatured alcohol, but I really want to make this an all natural project- using only natural materials. So I am wondering if anyone knows a way to liquify the shellac flakes, in order to apply the finish.

Side Notes: The part that will be struck will be wood covered in shellac. I am not sure what type of wood it is.



15 replies so far

View Fred Hargis's profile

Fred Hargis

5637 posts in 2942 days

#1 posted 10-29-2014 05:00 PM

I wish you luck with this endeavor, but I’m doubtful you’ll find a substitute solvent. Shellac will dissolve in other stuff but it’s pretty much all petroleum distillates like acetone. But denatured alcohol is technically (I guess) a natural product. It’s denatured so folks don’t try to drink it…if you can drink it it’s natural something (like the alcohol in beer, wine, etc.). If it wasn’t denatured it would also be subject to all the wonderful alcohol taxes that abound in this country. there is an ethanol (ethyl alcohol, used in DNA) plant near me that processes corn into the ethanol. They strip the carbohydrates from the corn, turn that into sugar, and the sugar into alcohol (at least that was the way a spokesman explained it on the news). Besides all this, the alcohol evaporates leaving only the shellac behind…’s only the solvent.

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

View mahdee's profile


4291 posts in 2216 days

#2 posted 10-29-2014 05:39 PM

Use some 110 vodka.


View bondogaposis's profile


5487 posts in 2800 days

#3 posted 10-29-2014 05:44 PM

I guess you could build a still and make your own ethanol. There could be some issues with ATF but legal issues aside, I don’t know of any other way to dissolve shellac other than alcohol. BTW, linseed oil and tung oil are naturally derived finishes.

-- Bondo Gaposis

View Lemos's profile


5 posts in 1755 days

#4 posted 10-29-2014 06:45 PM

Cool, cool, cool. Thank you guys for the swift responses. I have had this idea of boiling the shellac flakes in water, not sure if it is a reasonable idea or not- I obviously do not want to ruin a cooking pot or waste the shellac. Having tiny, microscopic lac bug parts in the shellac is not the problem, I guess it is just making it liquified enough to smear it onto the wood? I will make another post on this thread later to inform the community on my findings of the process of secretion to industry/store bought shellac.


View Lemos's profile


5 posts in 1755 days

#5 posted 10-29-2014 06:54 PM


I guess natural is not the whole definition… I want to make it with as much natural resources I have access to-if that makes sense? It’s like the difference between store bought corn, and homegrown corn, where with homegrown corn I have more control over the conditions, etc.

View OSU55's profile


2380 posts in 2438 days

#6 posted 10-29-2014 07:43 PM

Find a local moonshiner – grain alcohol works for shellac.

View mahdee's profile


4291 posts in 2216 days

#7 posted 10-29-2014 08:24 PM

There is not enough alcohol in wine or beer to do the job so, even if you make your own mash, you have to distill it to get a 80 or 110 proof alcohol. These folks probably have something as close as natural as alcohol can get.


View TravisH's profile


678 posts in 2384 days

#8 posted 10-29-2014 08:25 PM

I would just go buy some denatured alcohol and proceed. I guess it will all depend on where you are drawing your “purist” line but I find it hard to get hung up on some alcohol bought from the store versus an axe or saw made in China used to get the wood.

View Wildwood's profile


2689 posts in 2583 days

#9 posted 10-29-2014 09:10 PM

Denatured alcohol has poison added so folks will not drink it.

Read the warning label on the can or just read sections 2 & 3 on this MSDS.

So have to distill your own or find a moonshiner if want something non toxic.

People have played around drug & grocery store alcohol and shellac not sure would go that way.

-- Bill

View Lemos's profile


5 posts in 1755 days

#10 posted 10-29-2014 11:54 PM
At approximately 8:21 on this video, it displays a technique to process seed lac. I am wondering if I could do the same thing: just heat up the seed lac over a fire, and then smear it over the wood- just not sure how well it would stay on the wood after it is cooled.

View Texcaster's profile


1286 posts in 2122 days

#11 posted 10-30-2014 12:02 AM

Why not learn to french polish the ordinary way, then go into mad scientist mode.

-- Mama calls me Texcaster but my real name is Mr. Earl.

View GeneralDisorder's profile


45 posts in 1788 days

#12 posted 10-30-2014 12:18 AM

110 vodka has too much water. Use Everclear , it’s 196 proof or 98%. May not be available in your state.

View mahdee's profile


4291 posts in 2216 days

#13 posted 10-30-2014 12:25 AM

I brew my own beer and make wine as well. One of the best beer recipes of beer, “lazy boy stout” is here. It is not for faint in hearth as my favorite beer is Irish stout beer; each 12 oz bottle adds a pound or two whether you need it or not. My favorite wine, elderberry wine attracts more “friends” in the Fall than I care for to mention. It is almost that time of the year for me to make my 15 gallon gallons of stout beer and unfortunately there are no elderberries to make my famous elderberry wine for the past 7 years due to climate changes which are natural events; not what Al claims to be. My hops are fully matured and as always, I will be plating wheat and barely to feed the birds and harvest enough to make my beer. Living naturally requires you to have at least two full-time job aside from attempting to living naturally! It can be done. Try it because you may have no other choices.


View oltexasboy1's profile


255 posts in 2153 days

#14 posted 10-30-2014 12:37 AM

Why shellac? There are many “natural ” finishes that are easier and more durable. Are you making a kalimba or a regular single tone drum ?

-- "The pursuit of perfection often yields excellence"

View Lemos's profile


5 posts in 1755 days

#15 posted 10-30-2014 01:19 AM

To those promoting the use of alcohol: I like the idea of using Moonshine, adds a much more underground feel- not too many people are probably using this nowadays.

Texcaster: I think I am going to try some beeswax on either the interior, or exterior of the shellac- not sure which side it goes on. Maybe someone can clarify?

mrjinx007: I need to make sure to try one of your beers one day, where can I find it, is it in stores over here in Massachusetts?

oltexasboy1: I guess it is one of those, “What will this do?” ideas. Just seems cool, I guess. As the quantity of my woodworking projects increase, I will make sure to use a wider variety of techniques, being sanding, sealants, finishes, etc. I almost used a sharp rock as a chisel, and a bigger rock as a hammer on this project, thought that would throw some people off!

To everyone: I just ordered some Sealant Shellac from – The same people who made the video I posted above. I enjoyed the video, and the techniques that these people exemplify, seems like a friendly, close knit place. My next question is: I know I put the wood stain on before the shellac, but do I finish/polish the wood before or after I put the Shellac on?

Thank you guys for helping me out on my first project,

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