Jump to content



Recommended Posts

Has anyone here had experience using shellac as the first coat for a dye / nitro finish? I have heard that it works very well with nitro and other laquers but I'm not sure what the drawbacks are to using it. I have a curly maple top that I hope to be finishing soon and was considering doing one of those finishing jobs where you don't directly stain the wood itself.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Yeah Dave, this is the 'deal' with shellac.

It's a GREAT finish, it has a lot of plusses going for it.

1) It's completely safe toxicity-wise.

2) It's easily brushable

3) It's easily sandable to flat

4) I recommend you buy a can of flakes, it comes in 3 varieties:

A. Clear and de-waxed

B. Orange

C. Garnet (dark)

Pre-made, store-bought shellac has a shelf-life, so if you're OK with what you buy in the store, OK, but I would really recommend buying your own can of flakes (Behlen) and mixing it yourself w/ denatured alcohol. Built-in guarantee that way.

When you mix your mixture (with denatured alcohol) in a glass jar, cut a slit in the top and permanently insert the brush into it so the brush stays 'wet'.

It takes a day or so for the flakes to completely dissolve. Keep stirring it until it's dissolved.

There are almost no downsides to brushing shellac, it's so cool.

Now, if you want a hint of color to the wood, you might want Orange Shellac flakes, and you will have to de-wax your mix yourself (easy enough to do)

BUT... the cool thing about shellac is that it's alcohol-soluble, which means that you can mix in Solar-Lux alcohol-soluble dyes straight into the shellac mixture, so you can still use the Clear De-Waxed Shellac, not have to de-wax it, and add your own dyes to suit.


Shellac is a great finish, easy to work, easy to sand, easy to buff, has great visibility/clarity, and it bonds to almost any other finish you put onto it.

Very user-friendly stuff.

PS, if you dilute shellac down with -more- alcohol, to the point where it's very runny, you wind up with what's called a 'wash-coat', a very thin coat that seals the wood and preps it for another finish, but adds very little of itself, if you follow.

Shellac is cool. :D

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'm with Drak, shellac is a great seal coat, easy to work with, and almost anything will stick to it. Zinsser has developed a universal sanding sealer called SealCoat, that I'm planning on using as a sanding sealer/basecoat on my next transparent finish. It's a pre-mixed dewaxed 2 lb cut with extended shelf-life, and it's "guaranteed to be compatible with oil-base polyurethanes, acrylic finishes, lacquers, catalyzed finishes and varnishes.". Lots of people still mix their own, nothing wrong with that, just don't keep it more than about 6 weeks after it's mixed. I don't french polish, but I've sprayed and brushed gallons of shellac on children's furniture, and it's both easy and fairly forgiving.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

hi there

in previous threads i have asked if it was neccessary to use primers or wood fillers to seal the pores. but i don't like the idea of using primers or wood fillers to seal the pores, and i want to do a clear finish over a stained finish but want to use a thin coat of poly. so would using shellac [or a product equivalent to sealcoat] to seal the pores, stain and poly be the best way to go about this? i have seen many products very similar to sealcoat so there is no problem in obtaining it.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

just a quick question. is a wax based product good for sealing pores?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hi Page.

Here is a great, safe, and easy pore filler that goes great with shellac.

Shellac will pore fill, but it will take a looong time.

This will be much faster.

PS, I lifted this from a discussion going on over at the MIMF right now on epoxy fillers. Just to give credit where credit's due...

This is actually 'hide glue' pore filling.

Pore filling with any kind of waxy stuff I wouldn't do, btw.


Here is a recipe for a wood sealer.

I do this after sanding the bare wood with 220 grit.

One small baby food jar.

2 individual packets of Knox Geletin.

Empty Geletin into jar.

Fill the jar with HOT tap water.

Mix/stir until geletin disolves.

Apply 2 coats with a 1" wide brush within 1 hour.

Sand first coat with 320 grit back to bare wood.

Then apply a second coat and sand again with 400.

Now your ready for topcoats.

Remember to empty what's left in the jar into a jello mold for something to play with later...:D

The Water Raises the loose wood fibers and stiffens for the next sanding. The pores fill with a nuetral translucent color.

It's really works!

Great binder for shellac or lacquer

Link to comment
Share on other sites

wow dude, thanx a lot. that really really really helps.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think the difference between mine and Page's is that I wanted to do the color coats after the shellac. I'm going to try it both ways on scrap but I remember someone saying that you should not apply the stain directly to the wood when dealing with curly maple (to try to get the best out of the figuring). Some people disagree with this but I want to see for myself. The only thing I wasnt sure of was which base coat to use.

Thanks for the info, Drak.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

If that's what you're doing, then this is the recipe I use (I know there are many, this I get fantastic results with):

Sand the wood thru every grit up to 4000.

I use the Abralon pads on my orbital sander from 500 up thru 4000.

They do a GREAT job.

I want the wood to shine like a Mirror, seriously, I want to be able to see a reflection come off of the wood.

Then, I'll use Tru-Oil. Tru-Oil is an oil finish, and here's the difference between oil and shellac. An oil finish will absorb itself very deeply into all the wood cells, getting the finish down very deep into the wood. Shellac and lacquer will only go so deep in penetration. Oil also reflects and refracts light better, I think.

Combine that property with the wood already being very highly buffed to a mirror-like finish raw, and you've got tremendous, as they like to say, 'chatoyance' in the wood figure.

Try it! Tru-Oil is only $5.00 a bottle, the Abralon pads I can't remember what I paid for them, but they last a -very- long time. I love my Abralon pads, couldn't do any finishing without them now.

You will still need to use shellac, just a coat or two, on top of the oil, letting the oil dry for at least a week first.

Not many other finishes like to bond to oil, but shellac will.

So in this case, shellac is used as a 'barrier' coat, a coat separating two dissimilar finishes, but will bond to both.

So you go buff, oil, shellac, then lac, or whatever topper you want to use, adding in your shader coats with the lac.

That's my recipe for bringing natural Maple to it's fullest potential. :D

As a sidebar:

If your doing any kind of blue finish, then you want the wood as white as possible.

You should probably bleach it first.

Oil, shellac, those finishes will add some color to the Maple, make it a little darker, either light brownish (oil) or orangy-amberish (shellac).

One of the few finishes that seem to leave Maple pretty light (I've found) is lacquer itself. It seems to have a lesser darkening effect than most other finishes I've tried. Stick that in the FWIW dept...

...and you probably already know you don't need to pore-fill on Maple... B)

...and the last parting shot-note...

there is a process called 'burnishing', where you take a big, heavy piece of flat metal and rub it over the wood as hard as you can, over and over. It will sort of separate and highlight the figure od the wood without using any stains or liquids. You'll start to see certain high areas in the wood start to darken a little.

Just a little 'dry' figure enhancer.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

the Abralon pads I can't remember what I paid for them, but they last a -very- long time. I love my Abralon pads, couldn't do any finishing without them now

Tell me more, Tell me more (Imagine "Grease" movie playing in background)

What is an Abralon pad? Never heard of it but from what you said about it I should have some!!!

BTW the wife was watching "Grease" this afternoon, that's where that strange music came from. :D

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Abralon pads are 6" circular flexable sanding pads. Kinda like micromesh on a flexable backing pad.

The rear of the pad is 'hook and loop' acceptable, and so is my orbital sander. They may make them with other types of backing, don't know.

But they last an incredibly long time as long as you keep blowing them out, I think I've only thrown 2 or 3 away in a 2-3 year span, since I got turned on to them.

They're great for bringing wood up to mirror-like sheen, and they're great for my final finishing.

Once I flat-sand my finish with 600 on a flat-backer w/ water and brought it to dead-flat status, it's on to the Abralon pads dry. (used)500, 1000, 2000, 4000.

Then on to the 3M Microfinishing Compound 06011, then the 3M Foam Polishing Pad Glaze, using Stew-Macs foam polishing pads chucked in my drill. Done.

The Abralon allows me to bring everything up with -no more water-. And they have made a difference in the quality of shine in my finishes too.

Water lifting my finishes has pissed me off more times than...well...GRRRRRRRR!!! :D

Screw water, I hate it now, and use it as little as possible, just with the 600 flat-backed, that's it.

And you can take them off your orbital sander and just use them by hand for the sides and horns. You can use them with water if you want (by hand) if you use water with your sander, the water will get sucked up and short it out and ruin it.

They're very cool, I love 'em.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Create New...