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Shellac Tests (total Noob!)


dpm99
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I've been working on a test piece of mahogany, just playing around, seeing what I can make happen. I sanded with 100 grit, 220, 320, and 400. Then I dyed it black. It didn't get black-black. It just darkened it. So I mixed 1/2 lb. cut shellac with black dye and have gone over it with about five coats now. I'm applying it with a ripped up t-shirt. Between each coat I lightly scuff with 400 grit sandpaper.

I noticed that it was coming out very uneven. Then I noticed that if I put shellac on a spot, it seemed to be taking off the shellac beneath it. I think this is because I was waiting only an hour or two between coats, but I read somewhere that was about right. It feels dry almost as soon as I put it on, because of the high alcohol content.

If something in there sounds really stupid, please point it out. I seem to be doing something wrong, and I have very little experience with finishing.

Thanks,

-Dave

P.S. If anyone has a good way of making the wood almost completely black without totally losing the grain, I'd be interested to hear about it.

Edited by dpm99
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Doesn't matter how long you wait with Shellac, the alcohol in what you apply will disolve the coat under it. I think you have two problems.

One, you are tinting the shellac black but want the grain to show. I don't think you can have black mahogany where the grain shows, the wood simply doesn't have that much contrast in the grain. You might have more luck with stain than dye, but I don't know.

I think your problem with the shellac is that you are applying 1/2# cut using a rag and sanding. It's so thin, that you're not getting enough built up and you're simply disolving the entire coat thickness each time you add a coat.

Because the second coat is going to disolve itself into the first, don't sand between each coat, just lay a couple of coats down with a very soft brush first. Once you get some thickness built up, you can sand.

Or, if you like using the rag, you may want to mix a 2# cut. With the 1/2# cut, you'll need to move very fast. Just wet it, wipe on a quick wet coat, and stop until it's dry. If you rub more than once, you'll simply wipe off the shellac you put on earlier because the alcohol you're adding will have disolved the lower layer. That's part of the beauty of shellac, you're multiple coats melt themselves together.

Have fun,

Todd

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I've been working on a test piece of mahogany, just playing around, seeing what I can make happen. I sanded with 100 grit, 220, 320, and 400. Then I dyed it black. It didn't get black-black. It just darkened it. So I mixed 1/2 lb. cut shellac with black dye and have gone over it with about five coats now. I'm applying it with a ripped up t-shirt. Between each coat I lightly scuff with 400 grit sandpaper.

I noticed that it was coming out very uneven. Then I noticed that if I put shellac on a spot, it seemed to be taking off the shellac beneath it. I think this is because I was waiting only an hour or two between coats, but I read somewhere that was about right. It feels dry almost as soon as I put it on, because of the high alcohol content.

If something in there sounds really stupid, please point it out. I seem to be doing something wrong, and I have very little experience with finishing.

Thanks,

-Dave

P.S. If anyone has a good way of making the wood almost completely black without totally losing the grain, I'd be interested to hear about it.

Not Sure what I said? Somehow my post didn't show?????

The alcohol is the solvent and you can wash off most of what you put on other than what gets into the pores. Even still you can lighten that as well. by doing alcohol washes. Now as I see it you will never get true Black from shellac unless you tint it until it's not opaque. Therefore, you just made black shellac!. I do this all the time for my burst.

YOU will not get complete black without losing grain. Now if you are trying to get the grain black and and sand back you will not get it black then as well. It is the the toner color that covers the darker ( from the black stain) that will make the grain appear DARKER. Hope this helps?

MK

Edited by MiKro
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Doesn't matter how long you wait with Shellac, the alcohol in what you apply will disolve the coat under it. I think you have two problems.

One, you are tinting the shellac black but want the grain to show. I don't think you can have black mahogany where the grain shows, the wood simply doesn't have that much contrast in the grain. You might have more luck with stain than dye, but I don't know.

I think your problem with the shellac is that you are applying 1/2# cut using a rag and sanding. It's so thin, that you're not getting enough built up and you're simply disolving the entire coat thickness each time you add a coat.

Because the second coat is going to disolve itself into the first, don't sand between each coat, just lay a couple of coats down with a very soft brush first. Once you get some thickness built up, you can sand.

Or, if you like using the rag, you may want to mix a 2# cut. With the 1/2# cut, you'll need to move very fast. Just wet it, wipe on a quick wet coat, and stop until it's dry. If you rub more than once, you'll simply wipe off the shellac you put on earlier because the alcohol you're adding will have disolved the lower layer. That's part of the beauty of shellac, you're multiple coats melt themselves together.

Have fun,

Todd

That was very helpful. Thanks. It's working a little, but I understand what was happening now. Now I just need to figure out what I want to do with it.

Edited by dpm99
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Couldn't you just mix water with the dye to darken the wood, then put shellac over it?

That's what I did originally. I didn't make the wood dark enough, so I went over it with multiple coats of dyed shellac. Late Saturday night I tried mixing up some more dye concentrate with water, but this time I put in about three times as much concentrate as was recommended. That got me closer to what I wanted. I'm basically experimenting at this point. I may or may not even use the shellac in the end, as I'm not liking it as much as just piling on TruOil, but if nothing else, I've got a much better feeling for shellac now. So that's a good thing.

-Dave

Edited by dpm99
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Couldn't you just mix water with the dye to darken the wood, then put shellac over it?

That's what I did originally. I didn't make the wood dark enough, so I went over it with multiple coats of dyed shellac. Late Saturday night I tried mixing up some more dye concentrate with water, but this time I put in about three times as much concentrate as was recommended. That got me closer to what I wanted. I'm basically experimenting at this point. I may or may not even use the shellac in the end, as I'm not liking it as much as just piling on TruOil, but if nothing else, I've got a much better feeling for shellac now. So that's a good thing.

-Dave

Have you had a look at Milburns french polishing tutorial? Look it up in a search if you have not.

The concept behind FP is to use a blend of shellac, alcohol and a bit of oil(lube, to help you not rip the shellac right back up as you polish). As you move the munica that is loaded with this mixture across the surface you will see a trail behind you. This trail is wet shellac that flashes quickly befor you pass over that spot again. This allows you to burn new shellac into the shellac that is on the surface already without actually ripping it right off. You would be supprised how smooth and thin you can apply the finish, and how little surfacing will be required as you get the hang of it. You don't want heavy layers of shellac because it will not cure well. If you are looking for a smooth surface you should grain fill with something like Epoxy first(it is about the easiest).

Spraying a light color coat of tinted shellac is sometimes the best bet for a nice even color. If you rub it on it is better not to get too heavy with the tint as it is harder to even it out(again using many thin layers).

This is a couple pics I had in my Photobucket gallery that were taken after applying building coats(prior to final sand and polish).

Finish2.jpg

link#2

Rich

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Rich, yours looks awesome. Wanna come over and do mine real quick?

Seriously though, I wasn't using a proper muneca with pumice and oil, so I wasn't doing it right. Thereby I demonstrated the ignorance to which I confessed. It would be worth it to me if I thought I was going to get a better effect with French polishing than with TruOil. I was really trying to use layers of shellac to get to the right color, but I'm thinking the right mix of dye and water will be more efficient. Then again, the shellac might give it a different look, even if I put another finish over the top of it. Do you have any thoughts?

EDIT: And yeah, I saw the tutorial, which was great.

Edited by dpm99
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Rich, yours looks awesome. Wanna come over and do mine real quick?

Seriously though, I wasn't using a proper muneca with pumice and oil, so I wasn't doing it right. Thereby I demonstrated the ignorance to which I confessed. It would be worth it to me if I thought I was going to get a better effect with French polishing than with TruOil. I was really trying to use layers of shellac to get to the right color, but I'm thinking the right mix of dye and water will be more efficient. Then again, the shellac might give it a different look, even if I put another finish over the top of it. Do you have any thoughts?

EDIT: And yeah, I saw the tutorial, which was great.

Your shooting for a tuff effect with your dye, especially with a wood that has a relatively homogenous grain. Something like Ash would make your life a lot easier. I think you were heading in a good direction. Tinting will allow for a bit more of the look to come through, but your mahogany is pretty dark and is not going to have areas that "pop" real well nor does it have dark grain lines like Cocobolo or similar woods. Best try tests on a bit of scrap till you get a look that approaches what you are after.

It is good to have a hand applied finish in your skill set. Truoil or shellac are both nice, certainly either will be great and I would just go with what you prefer. I like shellac because it is easy, and am pretty comfortable with it, although Truoil is outstanding for natural finishes. One skill you want to get down is the prep and grain fill. Pumice fill is ok(actually that Sapele in the picture is pumice filled, the Zircote in the link is Zpoxy filled), but Z-poxy(finishing epoxy, not to be confused with the type used as glue) is much easier and faster. If you fill with Zpoxy, level sand(around 400-600 grit), then do a quick 2nd coat of very watered down Zpoxy and a quick level with(600-800 grit), do not sand to raw wood. You will have a fine surface to apply one of the thin finishes(Truoil or Shellac). This is the key to getting that smooth finish(start with a surface that is leveled and smoothed to about 600-800 grit). The thing about filler coats is they build fast, are a bit harder than the thin hand rubbed finishes, and this makes them much easier to level and smooth. If your guitar almost has a dull shine before you apply the thin finishes you will never need to sand with anything ruffer than about 1500 grit(and very little sanding at that grit). The thin finishes are just that and you really can't sand them agressively because they build so darn slow(not designed for heavy sanding.).

Rich

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